What Google’s AI-First Direction Means for Marketers

Written by: on May 24, 2017

This article was originally published on The Drum. 

For many years, the idea of delivering robust personalization and relevance was aspirational, causing some marketers to pause. The recent Google I/O conference told us that it’s time for those who hesitated to take another look.

Google focused on artificial intelligence (AI), moving on from the mobile-first mentality. Whether it be through text, voice, or visual input, Google’s strategy hinges on knowing everything it can at that exact moment for providing maximum context to the user. Simply put, enabling marketers to meet users where they are and with context to most accurately provide value.

Understanding where Google is going is important. Advertising opportunities were not the key feature of this conference, but all of these new data points mean there will be new data points for targeting. It also means that the new experiences Google demonstrated could be potential vectors for the insertion of advertising in future iterations.

Among the new or enhanced products featured at the conference were Instant Apps and Picture-In-Picture (PiP).

Just what do those mean for marketers?

Google positioned Instant Apps as an on-boarding tool for new users of the full app. However, marketers will now also have the ability to provide a slimmed version that may suffice in scenarios like one-day visits to a city or attendance at a two-day music festival. These apps appear in Google search results and there could be multiple versions of the slimmed down app in order to match the users search term and needs. The experience is very seamless to the user and will create a new vector to generating a sale or an app install. The ability to execute a transaction in the app may actually downplay the need for a full install in some instances. The difficulty of getting a full app into an instant app will vary; Google provided a 4 to 6 week level of effort.

As for PiP, how this plays out remains to be seen. Some marketers likely will see the benefits of users multitasking. Others could suffer from the lack of undivided attention that PiP facilitates.

In all cases, Google is looking to bring user learnings into play.

An example is the new Smart Reply feature with Gmail, which will suggest to the user quick responses to his or her emails automatically. The Smart Reply feature utilizes machine learning to adapt to the user, and gives more appropriate responses the longer one uses it. Smart Reply suggests three responses based on the email received.

Google has beefed up several other offerings, including Assistant. Assistant can now be leveraged by manufacturers building new hardware with a new software development kit (SDK). This approach is similar to Amazon’s where we are now seeing devices hit the market with Alexa built in.

The Actions developed for Google Home are now available from the Assistant. Actions are similar to Skills on Alexa. With Google Assistant released for iOS and already on Android, this is a significant increase in addressable audience, which will make marketers looking for scale happy. Actions were also demonstrated with the ability to complete purchases based on the google user interacting with the device. Addresses and credit cards available to Google could be used in the transaction flow with fingerprint verification at the end of the process. These types of workflows are going to be extremely important as the next generation of consumers come of age, they will be more comfortable than any previous generation using their voice to drive interactions.

Google Lens is also powered by this underlying AI and will be layered into multiple Google Products including Assistant and Photos. Lens can recognize things within photos. For example, it could read a Wi-Fi username and password off a router to login, understand a building in a photo, or recognize art. There are many potential uses for marketers, including the ability to drive sales and increase engagement.

Google Photos was augmented with the ability to suggest photos to share and with whom to share them, shared libraries, and photo printing. Marketers are likely to create more user-generated campaigns and contests as a result of this.

Google’s strategy truly is device-agnostic. Google is just as happy to meet a user on an iPhone as an Android. That said, users need to be users of a variety of Google services in order to have the best experience. For example, if you try to initiate email from Assistant it will prompt you to install GMail, and if you ask about your next meeting without Google Calendar it will be unable to answer.

Google also laid out a clear vision for how the developing world will be brought online. Starting with Android O, each version of Android will have an Android Go configuration for less capable smart phones. This version will be optimized to use less bandwidth, less power, and provide apps specifically designed to use less resources. An example included YouTube Go which allows users to select the quality of a video, download a video, and even share that video with other users while offline.

Apple is hands down winning the mobile profitability battle. In terms of sheer users with two billion monthly active smartphones and tablets, the Android Go strategy will help to ensure that as mobile infects the planet, Android will likely be the platform it is done on and that is important for marketers to consider.

Ben Reubenstein

Ben Reubenstein

Ben Reubenstein, CEO of Wunderman Thompson Mobile where he leads a team of highly dedicated, mobile-centric professionals who create native mobile apps and engaging consumer experiences. He also developed one of the first 150 iOS apps for Apple's app store.

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