Each year, Google I/O gives the world of digital search engine marketing a whole new suite of toys to play with. From mobile first to AI first, there are always significant platforms and announcements that shake up multiple industries. Google CEO Sundar Pichai and his team certainly did not disappoint. This year’s conference seemed to be all about doubling down on the benefits of their artificial intelligence technologies.
In order to ensure that I am not burying the lead, we have to begin with the most impressive as well as controversial moment of I/O 2018. Google Duplex debuted as the company’s new AI-driven framework for accomplishing practical, routine tasks through natural phone conversations. The hauntingly effective video demonstrates how this new technology can be applied, by using the Google Assistant to schedule an appointment at a hair salon.
While there have been questions as to the validity of this being a real phone call made to an actual hair salon by the Google Assistant, the impact of the technology should not be questioned. As Google’s AI systems and natural language processing ability continue to improve, this demo will look like child’s play.
The applications of this technology will be significant for digital marketers. In fact, the example Pichai used on stage during the keynote, references using Google Duplex to verify aspects of local listings. Essentially, placing one phone call to a business to verify and update their Google listing’s hours for Memorial Day, can save that business and its potential customers thousands of phone calls, which of course saves time and money.
It is certainly possible to envision as a next step, the reverse of Google’s demo in the future. Could advertisers utilize Google Duplex to proactively call our customers with reminders and promotions? Instead of the customer calling the hair salon, the hair salon could automate an advertising call to the customer reminding them that it has been a month since their last visit, and offer $10 off their next appointment.
Yes, automated calling has been a thing for years, but this level of personalization and actual conversation has not been possible until now. Pichai mentions that 60% of businesses do not have any sort of online booking system. This can certainly help to close that technology gap, to the benefit of consumers.
A reimagined version of Google Maps with social features was the other standout announcement of the keynote. Again, championing the use of AI, Google Maps is trying to better understand your interests and behavior. The soon to be released “For You” feature adds personalized and trending suggestions into a feed within your Google Maps app. According to Google Maps VP of Engineering and Product Development, Jen Fitzpatrick, “It’s designed to tell you what you need to know about the neighborhoods you care about.”
“For You” recommendations will be paired with a “Your Match Score” to add an element of relevance to the suggestion. This will be a great way to find new places, and get out of dining routines and ruts! However, I have a feeling there will certainly be a dollar amount that can make a business all of a sudden a great match for me.
Another great local advertising opportunity will come in the form of Google Maps’ new augmented reality integration with navigation. This image brought a huge round of applause at the keynote:
Apparently, we’ve all been burned by walking directions in navigation one too many times. Adding street view and camera elements alongside Maps will not only make navigating through city streets easier, but also provide opportunities to explore businesses along the way.
This is all possible through Google’s new VPS (Visual Positioning System) supplementing existing GPS technologies. VPS uses visual landmarks in your immediate area to know exactly where you are, and figure out exactly where you want to go. These visual landmarks will likely be businesses with fully verified, optimized and thereby trusted, Google My Business listings. However, VPS could also include advertisers wanting to display their businesses along the way, as it navigates similar to current Waze advertising models.
These were just a few of the highlights from a great conference which brought a wealth of new potential technologies for advertisers. Being prepared to take advantage of these opportunities will assuredly separate local businesses as they compete for the digital attention of their potential customers.