The AA's free online route service, which provides directions and advice for motorists across the UK and beyond, is an important tool for driving online advertising and raising the profile of the AA's other services. With the popularity of satellite navigation systems and other online route planners, the AA realised it needed to overhaul its offering to keep up with the growing competition, particularly as visitor download numbers began to stall in 2008. Its home-built system had also become resource-intensive and its existing servers were reaching capacity.
Rather than buy and maintain new servers, the AA opted to outsource the mapping element of its route planning. Google Maps API Premier is now embedded into its web pages, but the AA is able to add additional features on top of the maps to create its unique service for visitors. Details about hotels, restaurants and other local attractions can easily be added on top of Google Maps internally by the AA team.
"The Google API was quick and easy to work with and we were able to build a prototype very quickly. We've had about a 12 per cent increase in downloads in the last year and before we changed over, growth has started to slow down because the solution was starting to look a bit dated," said Steve Wing, manager of mapping services at the AA.
Alongside the 12 per cent upswing in downloaded routes, the amount of time visitors spend on site has also increased markedly, with 20 per cent staying on the site for at least five minutes, compared to 6 per cent with the previous route planner.
The benefits have also been felt within the team, as IT employees have more time to focus on adding new features to the website rather than supporting the mapping hardware and software.
This week, the AA is extending the service to iPhone users and plans to add support for other mobile devices in the near future.