Artificial intelligence (AI) is real, albiet maturing slowly. You experience it when you talk to Alexa, when you see a creepily-targeted online ad, and when Netxflix turns you on to Stranger Things. Oh yea, and that self-driving car over there is AI super-powered! AI is indeed cool, but many are scared about how it ultimatley may impact society. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and even the Woz warned that "...artificial intelligence can potentially be more dangerous than nuclear war." In a nutshell, they are concerned about AI that may evolve to outsmart humans and kill people - a valid concern. But, I have another more terrifying concern that would likely be an insidious precursor to runaway, killer AI.
Just like a US President gives Congress information on the "state of our union", Forrester has just released a state of the union on the search marketing world. But instead of constant interruptions for applause or the opposition's response to the state of the union, let's cut to the chase.
The state of search marketing is strong. But there are cracks forming in its foundation. That's not to say that search marketing is under immediate seige from foreign adversaries, but it is to say that there will be challenges and opportunities for agencies, vendors, and marketers that are tasked with owning SEO and/or paid search.
Change is nothing new in the search world -- especially when you consider how often Google updates it's ranking algorithm. And 2016 was no different. There were a few major highlights in my eyes:
Google nixed right-hand rail ads. Back in February, Google confirmed that all ads (except PLAs and some knowledge graph ads) would no longer appear on the right hand side of desktop search results. The reason Google did this was to provide a more consistent experience across devices, which it did. The good news for marketers though? The decrease in total inventory didn't increase CPCs. In fact, CPCs on Google declined 5% since Q3 2015.
Organic search is still top of mind for marketers...and customers. Let's face it: SEO is not the sexiest digital marketing topic. But it works: according to Forrester's Consumer Technographics data, natural search engine results are the top way customers find websites. So it should be no surprise that my top inquiry topic in 2016 was on all things SEO.
Oh, hello friends, it's been too long! But I couldn't let today's news stay this far under the radar. With a relatively small announcement on its blog, Google announced that the first Instant Apps have gone live! As a reminder, Instant Apps are Android apps that are internally compartmentalized into individual views (atoms) that your users can interact with from web search results. For instance, if a customer only needs to find the nearest bank ATM, they shouldn't need to download your app (and use precious device storage) to do that -- now they simply interact with the appropriate screen within the existing app delivered via the web! This immediately changes how companies deliver mobile experiences. Why? Because it knocks down 3 major stumbling blocks of mobile experience development:
App discovery is hard. Users find content with web search engines. Instant Apps brings that same power to finding app experiences. Getting people into an app store is hard. Finding your app once there is hard (Our recent data shows that only 26% of smartphone users find new apps through app store searches). Ensuring their device has enough free space, and that no angry reviews scare them off is hard. Deep linking was a bandaid for some of these ills, but Instant Apps will solve them all by delivering a complete native experience as the result of a web search.
This blog post is co-authored by VP and Principal Analyst Michael Facemire and Analyst Andrew Hogan at Forrester.
Google held an event in San Francisco this week to announce several new consumer products – a smartphone, a wireless speaker, Wi-Fi routers, a virtual reality headset and an updated Chromecast solution. All showcased an emerging strategic direction for Google and some killer engineering and design skills.
None of it impressed as much as the demos of Google Assistant – Google’s virtual assistant.
What is a virtual assistant, you ask? A virtual assistant is another name for an intelligent (personal) assistant. Virtual assistants orchestrate agents or services from third parties on behalf of consumers. Bots are one form of an agent. Virtual assistants rely on context (e.g., user input, localization capabilities, and access to information from a variety of data sources) to refine the quality of responses to a user’s requests. These assistants guess, but the guesses get better over time. “Virtual” implies that the service is digital and not performed by a human you’ve hired.
Google Assistant is a natural extension of Google’s path towards becoming the agent that sits between brands and their customers. The “holy grail” of becoming a consumer’s primary virtual assistant will be hard for Google to obtain, but holds unprecedented business value. Google is not alone in this race – Amazon, Apple and Facebook in the U.S. also have their sights set on being the trusted assistant for consumers.
Today, Microsoft's Terry Myerson announced the new strategy for Windows in the classroom. Windows 10 -- which is now Windows-as-a-service, with periodic updates delivered from the cloud -- will see a big feature update this summer with the Windows Anniversary Update, announced a few weeks ago at the BUILD developer conference. Now we're learning about the education-specific features that will take on Chromebooks.
It's no secret that Google's Chromebooks have taken the education market by storm; they now constitute more than half of shipments of new devices sold to U.S. schools. Some schools are even re-imaging old Windows PCs into Chromebooks. As a result, both Apple and Microsoft have seen their positions in the educational market slide south over the past four years.
Why does this matter? Well, for the obvious device sales implications, of course. But it's part of a longer-term customer relationship issue, too: If young people grow up not knowing Windows, will they ever care about the platform? Tomorrow's Windows customers could be shaped in today's classroom... or tomorrow's Chromebook customers could be.
For schools, Windows Anniversary Update will address key issues in education:
First we need to define what we mean by “enterprise cloud”. For this definition, the minimal criteria set includes: robust security, reliable performance, disaster recovery, growing set of services, constantly investing and a great and growing ecosystem of partners. Based on this definition (along with the tremendous growth in public cloud), then all of the public cloud leaders are indeed “Enterprise-class”. In short, the term "Enterprise-class" is fundamentally a term targeted to allay the cloud fears of enterprise technology managers.
Providers are adapting to offer managed services for the megaclouds.
What role does mobile play in customer obsession, and how can businesses leapfrog their competition to deliver superior customer experiences? Here are three ways Forrester predicts mobile will change the ways business leaders operate in 2016.
Much has been written about Google’s foray into the wireless service provider arena. Now Google has announced its push into this market with its Project Fi offering, which is based on the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) business model.
There is nothing revolutionary about Google’s wireless offering. Rather than acting as a market disruptor, Google has opted to enter the wireless market by launching a package similar to the one that Republic Wireless has provided in the US since 2011. So why should anyone pay attention to Google Fi? Because Google is a very large and powerful player in the mobile market. My main observations are that Fi is:
Unlikely to disrupt pricing in the US wireless market significantly. Google Fi's pricing is a fixed $20 unlimited talk/text plan plus $10 per GB of data, plus tax; a 3GB data package will cost users about $55 per month. Interestingly, users don't pay for data that they don't use, and many Fi users will not use their full data packages: For instance, the average Republic Wireless user pays only $7.50 to $8 per month for data. Still, for penny pinchers, pure Wi-Fi plans are much cheaper. The most attractive part of the deal is the roaming aspect – but only for overseas travelers.
American and Canadian insurers are facing some big challenges in 2015. Customer experience expectations, their willingness to consider a growing array of new options to buy insurance, and new competitors creeping into the business of insurance are pushing traditional insurers into new digital strategies. It’s no longer a question of digital channels or “other” when it comes to the customer journey; they’re now intertwined. Digital-dependent customers are eyeing new and more digitally savvy market entrants, while demanding more control over the experience and how their personal information is used. This year, digital insurance teams are crafting agendas that satisfy their firm’s hunger for increase market share and revenue balanced with changing demographics, adaptations in response to extreme weather, and regulation that has lagged the changing realities of digital. One thing’s for sure: Insurance eBusiness teams can’t afford to wait around, but they also can’t afford to make the wrong digital decisions.
Just what are the factors propelling North American insurer agendas this year? For starters, it’s about:
Uneven economic growth in North America. The 2008 financial crisis? It’s a distant memory in much of the US, but not for all. By most measures, the US economy is thriving, driven by rising consumer demand for homes, cars, and consumer goods, and, by extension, insurance. And in oil-producing Canada the decline in gasoline prices isn’t good news: Canada is threatened with recession.
On November 20, Google released a report on the findings from a survey it conducted in collaboration with Forrester on online shopping trends in India. The report highlights what’s driving the growth of eCommerce in India, including mobile commerce, female shoppers, and the growing number of people in tier two and tier three cities making purchases online. However, the report also noted some barriers to online retail in India, such as its poor showing regarding customer satisfaction and trust; to make further progress, eCommerce firms must work hard to improve in these areas. The report’s key findings involved:
Mobile shoppers. Mobile is driving the market, especially in tier two and tier three cities in India. Half of the online shoppers in tier three cities are already on mobile, compared with just one-third in tier one cities. The percentage of online buyers making shopping queries from a mobile device has grown from 24% in 2012 to 57% in 2014. Forrester forecasts that mCommerce in India will reach $19 billion by 2019.
Women. Women are far more active buyers than men in tier one cities. They outspend men online by two to one, and one-quarter of women in tier one cities make mobile purchases.
New buyers. More than 70% of people in tier one and tier two cities who do not currently make purchases online are expected to do so in the next 12 months.
New growth areas. Home furnishings, cosmetics, and baby care are the next areas of growth for online retail after the success of online retail in the consumer electronics segment.