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.
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.
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.
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.