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4 Best Google Maps API Alternatives

You can use the Google Maps API to build your own product locator, but it may not be the best choice. Here are four great alternatives to Google Maps API.

Google is known the world over as a provider of powerful, easy-to-use web apps. Tools like Google Search, Gmail, Google Docs, and others make everyday life easier. Google Maps, one of their most recognizable, consumer-facing apps is responsible for getting untold millions from Point A to Point B daily. Brand owners can also use the Google Maps API to build their own product locator, making it possible for local consumers to find stores nearby that stock what they’re looking for. However, the Google Maps API may not be the best choice for every brand. 

In this post, we’ll explain what the Google Maps API is and why it’s popular with both developers and those looking to build their own DIY store locator. We’ll also highlight four possible alternatives to the Google Maps API and explain why using a turnkey product locator solution makes more sense for many brand owners. 

Google Maps API: What Is It, and Why Is It So Popular?

The Google Maps API allows your website to communicate directly with Google Maps to access the features it needs to power a simple store locator. Google Maps is compatible with just about every internet-enabled device imaginable, uses world-class mapping data, works with over 80 different languages, and has an interface that’s instantly recognizable to most users. 

The Google Maps API has two main categories of users: professional developers and brand owners with the time, desire, and tech savvy to build a basic product locator from scratch. For these users, Google provides a number of developer resources, including their own guide for building a simple store locator using Google Maps.  But this solution isn’t for everyone. Setting up even the most basic store locator requires some HTML and Javascript know-how. If you’re not familiar with the basics of these coding languages, or don’t have time to learn, using the Google Maps API for your store locator might not be the most viable option.

The Downside of Using Google Maps for Your Store Locator

Unlike many of Google’s tools, the Google Maps API isn’t free for everyone. If you exceed 28,500 map loads per month, you’ll have to pay a fee. Google has also decreased the number of features included with the free version, which has driven many professional developers and DIY brand owners to search for other options. 

Furthermore, following the steps in Google’s official guide to use the Google Maps API to create a basic store locator renders a simple, unattractive interface. To create a store locator that elegantly blends into the look and feel of your website requires the help of a professional developer with the expertise to handle the advanced backend coding needed to customize the look of the store locator. 

Finally, this simple store locator will help you find a store location close by, but that’s about it. So its ideal use case would be a small chain of stores with only a few locations that don’t change much. Advanced features like which stores stock particular products will require the help of a professional developer to enable. 

4 Alternatives to the Google Maps API

Fortunately, there are some great free options that integrate well into most store locators. Here are four of the best free maps APIs to consider when looking for alternatives to the Google Maps API.

Mapbox

Mapbox makes it very easy to switch from Google Maps. For those with some coding know-how, Mapbox has published their own guide to building a store locator using Mapbox GL JS. Here at Grappos, Mapbox is our top choice, and it’s what we use to power our custom store locator. 

OpenstreetMap

This is the only open-source mapping solution to make the list. OpenstreetMap is powered by a constellation of mapping websites, engineers, open source fans, and apps that feed them the information they use for routing and mapping tasks. Since it’s open source, OpenstreetMap is free to use for both personal and commercial applications. 

HERE (+ Amazon Location Services)

Spot-on mapping accuracy courtesy of near-daily mapping updates has made HERE a serious contender as a Google Maps API alternative. HERE provides Amazon Location Services to unlock convenient map rendering, geolocation, and search features.

TomTom

Better known as a satellite navigation provider, TomTom’s mapping service offers a good bit more functionality than Google Maps. Add-ons include the ability to see current traffic density and advanced routing capabilities. 

Choosing the Right Store Locator for Your Brand

Free maps APIs like the one offered by Google Maps can be used to create a free, basic product locator. But for most brands, the limitations outweigh the benefits. Professionally designed product locators, on the other hand, include powerful features packaged in an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Here are just a few reasons why a turnkey store locator is a better alternative to a free maps API for most brands.

Learn How to Add a Store Locator to Your Website →

Seamless integration 

The very best product locators are the ones that match the look and feel of your website to a tee. A product locator should look like it is part of your website, not a noticeable add-on.

Get inspired with these Store Locator Examples →

Powerful features that enable consumers to locate your products easily

The core mission of a store locator is to connect local consumers with products close by. Store locators use technology to create a search experience far beyond just basic mapping. Advanced features like automatic geolocation use the user’s location to connect them with the closest store that carries exactly what they’re searching for. Once they’ve located the product, directions can be sent to their phone with all of the store’s contact details right at their fingertips. 

Actionable analytics reporting capabilities

Product locators are capable of collecting a wealth of data about users and where they’re located. Knowing who is searching for what products, and where, can help businesses better understand which of their offerings are the most sought after and observe variations in regional or local trends.

Support social media marketing and local SEO efforts

Product locators aren't just for websites. You can also share product locators via your social media pages and create unique locator URLs to support your marketing efforts.  

No separate billing hassles

Store locators like Grappos don’t require you to have a separate billing account or API keys for mapping. It’s all included in your monthly subscription. 

Don’t Overcomplicate Your Store Locator Solution

The Google Maps API can be a viable solution for those with coding experience, time to build a product locator from scratch, and the ability to spend additional resources when consumer searches exceed the free monthly search limit. But for most brand owners, commercially available product locators are a better choice. With more robust features, analytics capabilities, and a thoughtful user interface, they make life easier for everyone. 

Grappos offers a beautiful, easy-to-use store locator solution. Want to see the Grappos store locator in action? Get a demo.

Eric Kunisawa

Founder & CEO

Eric Kunisawa is the founder of Grappos. He's been successfully helping businesses connect customers with their products since 2008.

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