In the retail sphere, there is a constant need to innovate and approach consumer needs from a different paradigm, with more and more of an overlap between the digital experience and traditional methods.
Consider Redbox, the thing I never knew I wanted and now can't live without. Redbox has more than 34,000 locations and 68 percent of the U.S. population lives within a 5 minute drive to a Redbox kiosk. Redbox has only been around since 2002, and literally pushed Blockbuster out of the rental industry, a company which had over 9,000 physical stores and 60,000 employees. On a smaller scale, Ellen's new app Act It Out is basically charades, but has over 2,354 recommendations on Google+. If you like One Generation, you probably don't even remember Kodak.
It's a no holds barred retail world, with $225 billion ecommerce dollars at stake in the U.S. In this crazy competitive ecosphere, major players like Google grapple to re-invent existing systems, and gain ground in spheres of influence.
Here's an interesting look at Google's search evolution:
Google 2013 Ventures
During 2013, Google announced more than 70 launches for Google Analytics alone. Here's a quick look at some of the major areas Google made some headway in for 2013:
Siri advocates have some major competition with Google Now, which has a strong focus on Google learning and adapting to users. During 2013, Google continued to make updates to integrate vocal commands and queries for search. Google's Hummingbird update is largely involved in providing better answers to questions which mimic speech patterns or conversational search. Similarly, Google Glass functions using voice commands.
Wearable tech is the new smartphone for the next generation. Google Glass takes traditional wearable technology and integrates all of the wonder that is Google for augmented search, and arguably an augmented reality.
YouTube is Google $1.65 billion investment, but represents the huge impact of video on retail and the consumer experience with over 44,281 subscribers. Piggybacking on video, Google+ Hangouts are an underutilized Google social resource. This year Google also announced Google Helpouts which integrate with Google Wallet and Google Shopping.
Sixty-three percent of smartphone users under the age of 30 sleep with their smartphone. The mobile experience dominates a large part of the retail experience, as well as navigation, social interaction and daily activities. With devices, Google Now, Google Nexus and Android are giving Apple a bit of a run for its money.
In relation to search and Shopping, Google's mobile experience is seamless with Google Wallet, Google Play and Google Offers.
This year Google updated Maps to include Google offers, updated search and news for mobile users, expanded Google Hotel Finder to mobile, and updated ad display on mobile for AdWords. Google Play is a major destination for apps, games, and more recently books, which are also available on Google Shopping.
Google Shopping paid product ads or Product Listing Ads (PLAs) converted at almost 3 percent last quarter, with over 1 billion products advertised on Google Shopping. Google expanded Google Shopping to include eight new countries, updated the retail experience for Google Shopping campaigns, added more opportunities for site exposure with Google Maps ads, Google+ reviews (shared endorsements), and Google local updates(which are arguably the foreshadowing of a Google Marketplace).
Moving into the tangible shopping world, Google expanded its already promising Google Shopping Express service to include brick and mortar giant Costco, and continues to dabble with self-driving cars.
Analytics and big data are not as vogue or fun as video or social, but it's a huge factor for retail merchants. Google Analytics continues to be a major resource for retailers. At the GA Summit Google announced 70 Analytics product announcements, among which included updated Tag Manager and Cross Device Management. Google Shopping campaigns, Google's latest PLA update also provides a more fluid experience for online merchants to break out product ad groups and track product performance.
Google+ reportedly beat out Twitter with its 359 million users. Although far behind Facebook's 701 million active users Google+ made multiple updates this year including Google+ Google reviews, Google+ and YouTube integration, Google Hangouts, and Google Helpouts.
The retail market is massive, so please note that the above Google 2013 highlights are only a fraction of the places Google is vying for a toehold in retail, let alone within the last year. For a more in-depth look at the various places Google is experimenting with in retail, check out this Google vs. Amazon analysis for 2013.
Awesome Things Google Could Do For 2014
Google has done a lot over the last year, but the opportunities and places the search giant could grow based on its current technology and resources are a bit mindboggling.
Here are some areas that Google could potentially grow in:
- Google Same Day Delivery: Google has all the ingredients to create an even more amazing shopping experience. With Google+, Google Shopping, Google Glass, Google self-driving cars, and Google Shopping Express it's possible that Google could deliver items to your door same day. Yes I'll have the chicken sandwich, HIMYM DVD, and that bike tire today please.
- Google Marketplace: Taking retail out of the physical world, Google could expand its ecommerce Google shopping experience for more of a Marketplace feel. Google+ and linked Google user profiles with Google Now could provide some interesting product recommendations and prevent packages from arriving when you're not home.
- Google Snapchat: Google+ is missing some of the greatness that comes from video and photo sharing you find on Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram.
- Google Online Dating: Taking Google+ a step further, Google should consider getting into the matchmaking game. Google's user knowledge definitely covers a lot of user preferences when you consider data collected from Gmail, Google Maps, Google Hangouts, Google+, and Google Now. How about live dates on Google Hangout or shared experiences through Google Glass?
OK, it would be awesome if Google got into the matchmaking game, but it's probably unlikely. What's awesome about Google's opportunities for 2014 ventures and growth is that they could get into the matchmaking game. And chances are they'd do a pretty good job at it, possibly upending the current model of online dating and ousting eHarmony. This is the company that decided to obliterate free Google Shopping, and successfully launched paid PLAs with a Q3 2013 revenue of $4 billion.
It's been an interesting year Google, and I can't wait to see what area of retail gets revolutionized for 2014.