Google I/O 2016 & the New Digital Horizon

Google’s 11th annual I/O event has been underway this week, and there have been several noteworthy headlines popping as a result.  Here are some of my initial thoughts on the news coming from the west coast this year:

CEO Sundar Pichai said that artificial intelligence and innovative products are going to continue to propel Google/Alphabet forward. I think Google satisfied in the innovation area with their I/O announcement releases. I would love to be privy to some of the timelines and backstory on Amazon Echo vs Google Home in terms of the following: Which one actually came first? Was info leaked in either direction? Did Amazon rush Echo to market in order to be first to market, or did Google just see Echo and downright copy the technology and further improve upon it as well? In terms of effectiveness, it seems that Amazon’s primary value-add is to infiltrate the ordering and purchase behavior of homes with seamless, voice-activated buying capabilities from Uber rides to Pizza to Amazon Prime. For Google, leading with Group Chats and personal assistant capabilities seems to be the more fully-baked strategy.

Voice-Activated Pizza Delivery or Scheduling Alerts?

I say that mostly because these IOT devices do pose some concerns around privacy and unnecessarily expanded reach of corporations, brand advertising and potentially hackers with malicious intent, into your home. To overcome those concerns, at least for me, you have to offer more than allowing me to order my Uber ride without exerting the Herculean effort of moving my hand the necessary distance of two feet to raise my phone closer to my face.

If you offer me scheduling alerts, tell me when I need to head out the door to pick-up my half day kindergartner because my wife is out of town and I’m on client calls while changing a diaper. That’s truly adding value to me. Order simplification doesn’t really help me all that much, so I personally see more value in the Google approach. Their approach at least feigns an interest in serving the consumer, whereas Amazon’s approach seems like an outright intrusion to make more money, more quickly, off the consumer. Sure, making money will eventually come to fruition with Home via improved ad targeting and messaging, as well as more integrated user associated data, but it’s less obvious to consumers as the ultimate goal and thus less intrusive, in my opinion.

Universal App Campaigns

One of the other areas Google prioritized at I/O again this year involves helping nurture app growth through Universal App campaigns via Google properties (Google Play, YouTube, Search, and Gmail). This year they announced expansion to drive iOS app campaigns on YouTube, Search and GDN. These capes are also launching on DoubleClick for integrated management and tracking capabilities, which is certainly exciting. Google also announced their growing effort to target more qualified customers for app downloads, such as users who are more likely to make purchases. As a result, you can set your goals for in-app events and you’re off and running.

In addition, they are finally releasing an app-specific analytics tool Firebase (long overdue) the Allo and Duo apps for chat and video, and a new Virtual Reality viewer DayDream.

Lastly, one last innovation to cap off Google’s evident focus on tying together the entire Internet of Things (which really needs a better name), comes in the form of a release of Android Auto, powered with Waze, as an app. This release opens up the audience beyond new car buyers that can now gain in-dash access.

The New Digital Horizon

In summary, each of these areas plays a part in the future of a new search landscape that escapes the previous confines of a one dimensional search engine results page. It’s fairly easy for us in the marketing world to look at the all of these seemingly unconnected innovations and start to put together the bigger picture of what the future of digital experiences is evolving into. What’s really cool is that Google is able to have a vision for what that future should look like, and the ability to choose to pursue each element somewhat independently with a holistic vision of tying it all together to craft a new digital horizon. Overall we are seeing a lot of growth areas here for Google: AI, Apps, In-home, in-car and more. All add value to the user, expand the digital confines that currently exist, and increase Google’s potential for effectively targeting users with relevant ads. It’s exciting to be a part of – heck it’s even exciting to sit back and watch!


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