I recently attended the largest ever Google Premier Partner summit in New York. It was an honour to be in a room with 1000 other Premier Partner agencies to debate the future of digital marketing. It was a fantastic event, not just because we won the ‘Growing Businesses Online’ award, but for the new tech it showcased and the important issues it addressed for marketers today.
What interested me most was the keynote presentation delivered by Mary Ellen Coe, number 4 at Google. Her presentation summed up some of the bigger challenges marketers will face in 2018 onwards and was of note for the following reasons.
From the age of information to the age of assistance
Mary Ellen gave a clear explanation of where the internet and Google has been and where they are moving to. For the last 20 years the internet has been in the age of information. This describes the way in which people have viewed the internet as a place to go to in order to search for information. But increased usage of mobile, voice search, messaging apps and connected devices is driving us towards a new way of using the internet which Google are calling ‘the age of assistance’.
Google describes search in this new age as a more “unified experience in which hardware and software work seamlessly together to provide answers in the moment and in context”. We now have access to the internet in places and in ways that we’ve never had before. This is changing the way in which we use search to find answers. For instance, rather than ask Google what the weather is like today, you may ask Google whether you need to take an umbrella. This requires a much more sophisticated response based on an understanding of natural language, context and intent. Digital marketers have been talking about the importance of semantic search since 2014; now is the time to actively incorporate it into strategy.
This is a game-changer for marketers. It’s never been more important to stay ahead of your customers and to anticipate their needs before they are aware they have them. This will require a much deeper understanding of the full customer journey.
Realising the full value of the customer journey
It will come as no surprise that Mary Ellen talked a lot about the user experience, customer journeys and moving away from last click attribution. Our Premier Partner Rep at Google, Meaghan Rogers, has a great way of describing last click attribution: If you think about how everyone arrived in the room for the Google event, they will have used the stairs but, thinking beyond that, some will have used the car, others the train, some perhaps came by helicopter.
Whether its YouTube Instream advertising or Google betas such as In-market 2.0, over the next few years we can expect to see clearer ways of mapping the full customer journey. What Mary Ellen didn’t talk about however, is the value that understanding the customer journey can bring for marketers.
Marketing is all about selling the next step, moving people through the funnel from never having heard of your brand, through to purchase and then repeat purchase and advocacy. With a clearer view of the customer journey, businesses will be able to optimise every point on that journey and more effectively sell the next step. They’ll also be better able to prioritise the journey for their most valuable customers.
Optimising for mobile
With more than half of internet traffic coming via mobile, Google rammed home the importance of being relentless about removing friction. Google say that if a mobile site takes more than 3 secs to load you will lose 33% or more of your customers. Google were obviously talking about mobile accelerated pages – this is where Google serves mobile users a stripped-down version of a website that loads with lightning speed. Many businesses already do this but it needs to be rolled out faster.
If you’ve not yet got to grips with mobile, you need to make this a priority in 2018 – more about that in a future post.
2018 and beyond
In summary, it was a great conference. In 2018, we can expect more Google products that ‘assist’ and help us to understand the customer journey better and an even greater focus on a faster mobile experience. We can also expect a renewed focus on customer profiling in order to deliver the right message, at the right time to the right person. I expect marketers to automate some of the more monotonous optimisation jobs freeing up time to focus on strategy and employing technology more effectively.
30 November 2017
By Marcus Hemsley