Travel-industry companies and advocates are complaining that Google is abusing its power, according to The Wall Street Journal. Because Google controls the search market, which it has done through better innovation and timing than its competitors, detractors say it must limit the other products or services it offers.
This latest skirmish highlights that Google Travel now shows airline rates in the top search results of flight information. It also links to the airlines’ websites where customers can buy tickets.
Whether this deserves anti-trust action is up to the U.S. government and travel advocates. I don’t think Google's move is unethical or incorrect.
Just as Amazon.com's price checker is not the enemy of local businesses, these moves by big companies are to be expected.
What should businesses affected by these moves do?
Any size business can do several things.
Build great products. If your products are superior, you’re building a self-defense mechanism. Current and prospective customers won’t want to leave you. Too many companies build inferior products or services, and then wonder why their competitor comes up with a new product that so easily attracts their customers.
Listen to your customers. The founder of Tripit told me that when you’re building products that your customers want, you are (building strong relationships with those customers. This practice makes it difficult for them to leave you for the competition.
Innovate your marketing. Ensure that your current and potential customers know what you are doing. Continuously remind them of your value. There is a lot of noise in the digital content that constantly surrounds us. It is critical that your business break through the clutter on a regular basis.
Make direct contact with your customers. While social media is great, it's also important to have a customer database (even through an e-mail newsletter) so you can directly reach your customers without needing a middle person.
Treat your customers as if they are special, and continue to find ways to add value to your relationship with them. They won't leave you. They'll instead be your rabid fans and evangelists.