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Google Retail Seasonal Summit

On May 28, The Reference went to Google's Retail Seasonal Summit. We gathered best practices and insights on seasonal events and got up to speed with the latest innovations at Google. Because being well-prepared should result in successful & future-proof campaigns.

With important seasonal moments like Black Friday, Sinterklaas, Christmas, but also Single's Day peeking around the corner, it is important to be well-prepared and getting your online strategies aligned on time. Because the season… starts in September. Ashley Abraham Thomas, analytics consultant at Google, presented several insights that showed the rapid adoption of American and Chinese traditions such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Single’s Day. And when he says ‘rapid’ he means that in 2014 barely no retailer offered Black Friday promotions, while in 2018 even the small fashion retailer on the corner offered huge discounts.

Who needs a website anyway?

In a world where consumers have less time and more options, it is crucial for brands to anticipate what consumers want and need. Once brands possess that information, they can use it to stand out from their competitors. Google is therefore investing heavily to reduce friction in the customer lifecycle. An upcoming feature that really stood out, according to our lead advertising expert, Malika Meddour, were Google Shopping Actions. In other words: shopping without leaving the Google ecosystem.

Google Shopping Actions are new and immersive ways for online users to discover products online. Instead of only having the choice to purchase products on the website of the seller or in their nearby store, Google now offers the possibility to buy directly in Google, eliminating the intermediate step of checking out and paying on the brand's website.

google retail shopping experience

Omnichannel, omnichannel, omnichannel, oh, and also local

We are getting used to the key insights that Google launches at us at every summit. However, they really overdid themselves this time. In France, there was an increase of 30% of searches related to customer service and contact. In the United Kingdom, 40% of customers stated that online reviews have an enormous impact on their purchase decisions and there was an increase of 220% for ‘near me’ queries. There is an uplift of 70% in conversion rate when local information is available, of course on average. Half of all shoppers do stock checks when the option is available. The customer journey for beauty and electronics is 55 ~ 77 days, while for consumer electronics, it is only ~34 days.

It has become clear, again, that digital is omnipresent in the customer journey. Treating online and offline as two different channels makes no sense anno 2019.

google retail omnichannel

Using AI to leverage data for improved marketing efforts

For Roel Peters, lead data & AI consultant at The Reference, this was the first time Google Cloud and Google Marketing products seamlessly integrated - like finally seeing the pieces of the Google puzzle fit together.

Google is investing in three phases of the customer journey: (1) making it easier for retailers to connect to prospects, (2) driving action and (3) acceleration.

Making images on a website shoppable and by showing ads in Google images’ search results, customers now possess an intuitive and visual way to find retailers. The technology that enables this is Cloud Vision, an AI-driven Google technology that is available in the Google Cloud stack that can detect objects within an image or a video. Secondly, the voice hype is far from over. Voice queries should allow retailers to connect to prospects when their hands are not on the device.

Driving action is the second phase in the customer journey. By plugging in Google Cloud Recommendation Engine, retailers have access to state-of-the-art machine learning to offer their customers a personalized experience. Furthermore, as we discussed earlier, users with a Google Payments account (anyone who ever bought an app on the Play Store), will be able to make a purchase without leaving the Google ecosystem using Google Shopping Actions.

Finally, Rutger Zonneveld, retail lead at Google, concluded his talk by expressing the importance of automation in marketing, in order to accelerate marketing efforts.

A returning key feature of modern marketing is the integration of several data sources to establish a full 360° view of your customers. By combining transaction data, online behavior data, socio-demographical data and many more, retailers can tailor their message to the audience they want to reach and offer their customers a truly personalized experience. This is nothing new, but our experience has taught us that many retailers are still struggling to open up the siloes. At this point, repeating the benefits again and again can do more good than harm.

This is a mobile’s world, but it would be nothing without PWA

Congratulations! Although the cited study on shortening attention spans has been debunked, offering a fast mobile experience is a rewarding investment, according to UX growth lead at Google and former colleague, Nuria Gonzalez-Candia. Not only does it offer a good experience to the user, Google also rewards it through its search engine algorithm. More importantly, it is a key factor in making your store easily accessible through voice queries.

If speed is key, should your company make more investments in mobile web or in mobile app? What about the best of both world: progressive web apps (PWA) and accelerated mobile pages (AMP).

Voice assistants, again

Despite the long anticipated official launch of the voice assistant service in Belgium, many nerdy co-workers at The Reference have long been experimenting with Google Home and its Google Assistant.

Google Assistant functions as a service on devices that add a smart layer to it. Think about smartphones, cars, tablets and hubs. Through voice commands, you can ask questions, order products or services from supported retailers and control IoT-enabled devices ranging from smart light bulbs and smart speakers to thermostats and TVs.

Currently there are a handful of specific features tailored to the Belgian market with many more to follow. Using ‘Action on Google’ Dutch multinational bank ING facilitates clients to interact with them through the Google Assistant, allowing customers for instance to ask what their balance is.  Railway company NMBS will soon allow you to ask when your train is leaving and VRT NWS has been added as a news service, allowing you to ask Google to stream audio news on your devices.

Given the widespread adoption and growth of voice search in other markets such as retail, the introduction of the Google Assistant in Belgium may in time impact search engine strategies. Given the nature of voice search with a more conversational tone, a shift geared towards long-tail keywords and website speed will be the two strategies par excellence to ensure prominence in voice search results. Apart from this, voice search queries tend to be more nuanced and often feature a strong intent within the query, forcing retailers to invest -- or partner up -- in content for all phases throughout the customer journey.

google retail voice commerce

For many things in life, proximity is a number one determinant. So finally, although not new, being local will be a prominent factor in the ranking algorithm. 
 
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