A colleague recently forwarded me an article from Newsweek circa 1995. The article espoused the idea that the Internet would never catch on. I'm sure some savvy multi-channel businesses may have read that and decided not to invest in a real web presence. And the article could have spawned what used to be a common question: "Do I really need a website?" Of course, over the years the question evolved to: "Do I really need to optimize my website for search engines." And more recently to "Do I really need to be involved in social media? And do I really need a mobile web site?"
Reading the article, it's easy to play Monday morning quarterback and say that the author was wrong. It's also emboldened me to take my own shot at prognostication.
So if you'll indulge me, let's look past the recent revelation of Google Instant, (If you missed the announcement on Google Instant; think of an active version of Google suggest. If you don't know what Google suggest is; you should read our articles more often). Now for my prediction: Over the next ten years the growth of searches on Google.com will stagnate and will be a secondary source of search traffic.
By no means am I envisioning the end of the search giant. This is not an article about the long sought out and often blogged about "Google Killer" that comes up with a better way to search. It's about a shift in the way users will interface with Google's database. Out with the constraints of your keyboard and mouse; in with voice based search and data collection via the camera or GPS receiver on your web device, smartphone, fridge or car.
Cooking in the kitchen and need a butter substitute? Ask your refrigerator or the latest version of your web device to discover that you can use shortening and water instead. (And by the way, check your to-do list. Based on the RFID tags on everything you buy, your fridge and pantry have already created your shopping list and butter is right there at the top.)
You decide to buy the butter, so it's time to shop. Based on your grocery list, Google was nice enough to find you the best overall price and shopping experience in a 3 mile radius, and as you head to the market in your flying car, (Every futuristic discussion of Americana is required to have a flying car) it's nice to know that it will be a quick shopping experience. Google Maps has not only auto-piloted you to the store, but has also plotted the most efficient way through the aisles to get the items you need, while sponsors recommend alternate brands along the way.
No need for coupons – Google has taken care of that as well by matching manufacturer's offers to the items on your list. It even allows advertisers to suggest complementary products based on the overall composition of your list. Have turkey and vegetables on your list? Pillsbury® wants you to consider some ready-made pie shells, gravy and an easy recipe so that you can make a potpie with your leftovers.
Which wine with dinner? Hold that smart phone of yours in front of the bottles in the wine aisle and say to Google that you're having escargot and chicken cordon bleu. Google will match the best source of wine and food pairings or recommend a retailer across the street that has the same bottle for half price. (The folks at RecipeLabs.com recommend a nice sparkling wine or Pinot Noir.)
When you've filled your cart, skip the checkout lines and push it right out the door. As you leave, Google Checkout will ring it up for you and debit your account based on the items you've selected.
Once your dinner guests arrive, you won't have to type in the name of your daughter's new boyfriend to check him out, just take a picture and let Google tell you all of his deep dark secrets and status updates about your little girl.
All of this may sound a bit far fetched, but Google has already accomplished most of it and marketers need to pay attention. Google started doing voice based search in early 2007 via its GOOG-411 service. It leverages local results and Google Places to give search results to users of this phone-based, automated service. And simply by snapping a photo with your Android phone, Google goggles can already tell you everything you want to know about a bottle of wine or all the details of important landmarks. Have you registered your business yet? What's your Google Places strategy?
And as for your daughter's boyfriend, Google's Image technology can differentiate sub-species of animals or, as they put it, "… did you know that there are nine subspecies of leopards, each with a distinct pattern of spots? Google Images can recognize the difference, returning just leopards of a particular subspecies."
As the online landscape evolves, so will the way users access the enormous Google index. The challenge for marketers remains to stay engaged and connected to new opportunities. At MoreVisibility, we believe that significant testing of new channels and tactics has to be a fundamental part of your approach and as opportunities show promise, your budget should ramp up accordingly. Beyond the basics, you must honor channel preference by having a presence that allows your customers to interact with your brand as they desire. You must stay engaged on an ever-changing playing field and remember that the answer is "Yes!" to any question that involves a new channel and starts with, "Do I really need to have a presence in Google ___________?"