Google Unveiled its Amazon Echo challenge with much fanfare recently with many projecting that over time Google Home will become the preferred choice of interface replacing the touch screen based interface with a voice-based interface. Being a digital marketer I was keen to understand the interface and also as a consumer I wanted to play around with the latest toy in the town. Bought one recently and here are my views on this product.
Google Home – Is not really home ?
One of the first things which you notice is that this product is locked to your Google account which means it really is not a device for ‘Home’ a.k.a family as all actions which are done using this device will reflect on my account/phone. So the Home in the name is because it can also control stuff inside your home(though very limited now restricted to Philips Hue and Nest).
The second thing you notice about Google Home is this rather odd ‘Ok Google‘ or ‘Hey Google‘ trigger for the device to start listening to you for tasks. This is an extremely unnatural form of interaction because I need to add ‘OK’ or ‘Hey’ in the beginning , I think ‘Alexa‘ from Amazon is a rather good and intuitive way to have the conversation. Google have not given it a personality/name yet, hope in future they allow us to choose our own names for the trigger that would make it a truely person experience.
US Centered – A big let down
The second thing to notice is that it is a device made exclusively for the US market thus many of the integrations like news , music & services don’t work properly in India. The news gives us US news sourced from Audio/Podcast feeds of popular providers and the Music is tied to US service providers like Spotify, Pandora etc. But one of the integrations which work very well in India is the Uber integration . Understand that globally also Google Home only supports Uber integration as of now. This shows that this a really early version of the product and things will only improve from here.
Interface holds a lot of promise- But is still nascent.
The interface holds a lot of promise as one can perform a whole variety of tasks using the device. Reminders , Alarms , Calendar , Music, News and Youtube can be accessed directly using voice.
But the bigger use cases of sending a text /WhatsApp, reading/sending email are yet to be supported. This means that this product is not going to become a mass market app as yet but the interface surely holds promise and will need many interations to become a replacement interface. Knowing Google this will happen rapidly with newer updates rolling out very frequently.
Impact for Digital Marketing – What does future hold ?
The most important thing to notice is that in a voice-based interface , the search engine can only return one result most of the time.. This means that the current 7-10 results in the SERP have no value in the voice-based interface and the system will have the ability to return only one response to most questions. Though it is not one response all the time(e.g nearest restaurant gives 3) but 90% of the time it will be a single response. In a way, Google has been laying the foundations for being able to respond with a single response by having the ‘Featured Snippet’ in the SERP which shows the answer to the query right inside the search result. This featured snippet is constructed using machine learning by a mixture of content from Wikipedia and in a good number of cases also includes excerpts from other websites. Google Home does read the brand name before reading the excerpt extracted from a page.
This means that it is going to get more difficult for brands to be discovered organically as opposed to now as the top 3 SERP results are able to gather only 50% of traffic and the rest go to the remaining 7 results in a SERP. In future the result would only come from one brand which is gonna make the fight harder and will result in new winners in the race for organic brand discovery.Though it is early days in this change as the interface is not fully work for many usecases.
But as marketers we need to watchout as the uptake can happen very rapidly if it hits a crictical mass of being able to achieve 70% of tasking using Voice. Till then this is a nice experimental device to play around at home and offcourse it is a fun toy for kids!