This is a guest column by Aroon Kumar, General Manager, cricHQ
Local consumers are now using mobile technology more that has affected how marketers engage with and convert the local shoppers who are always curious about deals and discounts. This means search must be an integral part of a strong marketing strategy in a smarter way which can’t be a one-size-fits all approach and need to be planned meticulously to understand the consumer activities. Data available from social media channels is a great example of the way in which new digital technologies provide business with a more comprehensive understanding of the consumer.
Social media has become embedded within nearly every sphere of life. News stories circulate social media channels side-by-side business promotions and the everyday sentiments of users (consumers). The daily actions and interactions are smartly recorded and collected by marketers and brand owners to be used to get ahead of the curve.
From 1998 when there were about 300 million people online, to 3 billion people whom Google the search leader is catering today are searching for information on various devices including their mobile phones. As per Sundar Pichai, the Google CEO – “the mobile phone has really become the remote control for our daily lives and we are communicating, consuming, educating and entertaining ourselves, on our phones in various ways unimaginable just a few years ago”.
Google has come a long way from organizing world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful to helping them organize their day, get them from one place to another and keeping in touch with their peer group and to the world. And with the dominance of mobile phones in daily life and majority of searches for various types of information are coming from mobile devices where people are looking for more local, more contextual information at their finger tips. Here Google Now becomes really helpful in providing contextual information like the weather at your destination city where you are intending to visit next, airport crowd and traffic in a busy lane by saving us from inconvenience and time; making people rely more on the search giant for information. Depending on the context or need, people may want to know what time is best to avoid the crowd, whether the salon is open right now or what are the best things to do in a new city where one lands for the first time. Based on upcoming trends Google customizes products for example people across the globe collectively will take 1 trillion photos this year with their devices and seeing this in advance, Google launched ‘Google-Photos’ (currently 100 million active users per month) to make it easier for these photo crazy people to organize their photos and videos, storing their personal memories digitally through mobile devices.
Mobile web is becoming prominent and a vital source of traffic for the large majority of websites across the globe. And Google is closely working with publishers, developers and stakeholders in the ecosystem to help make the mobile web a smoother, faster experience for the users. There are two examples for this; one is the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project which was launched as an open source initiative in partnership between Google and news publishers to create mobile optimized content that loads instantly everywhere. The second one is Progressive Web Apps (PWA) which combine the best of the web and the best of apps – allowing companies to build mobile sites that load quickly, sending push notifications, having home screen icons and much more. And all of these are integrated with Chrome which is having 1 billion plus monthly active users on mobile. All of these indicates towards machine learning and artificial intelligence as the next important factor for Google Search.
The world is getting smarter with the people living in it and the ever evolving technology advancements are making them empowered with information that is pervasive. From Vishal Sikka, the CEO of Infosys to Sundar Pichai of Google, all are advocating heavily on artificial intelligence in computing, cloud and search. As per Sundar the next big step will be for the very concept of the ‘device’ to fade away.
Over the time the computer itself will be an intelligent assistant (in its next form factor), helping people throughout the day. Its like moving from mobile first to AI (Artificial Intelligence) first world. By analyzing humungous amount of digital data, Google’s AI (which includes deep neural networks, mix of hardware and software networks that approximate the web of neurons in human brain) can learn all sorts of useful tasks, such as identifying photos, tracking specific communication logs, recognizing commands given into a smartphone and going a step further by responding to internet search queries. In some cases, these specialized algorithms are will perform the tasks so well that they will outperform the humans, faster and much at a large scale. This approach termed as deep learning is fast reinventing so many of the most popular services across internet from Facebook to Twitter, Skype to Slack and many others. And this approach has reinvented Google’s search business as well, where the internet giant generates most of its revenue. On 26th October 2015, Google rolled out a deep learning system called RankBrain which helps generate response to search queries and currently RankBrain plays crucial role in a very large fraction of the millions of queries that go through the search engine with each passing seconds.
In the past Google relied mostly on algorithms that followed a strict set of rules set by humans and as per some of the search marketing specialists it was more difficult to understand why the artificial neural net behaved in such way and difficult to tweak their behavior. The neural networks work in their own mysterious ways which the experts including internal Google experts don’t understand completely. But the fact is if one feeds enough photos of a platypus into artificial neural net, it has the ability to learn to identify a platypus, if it sees enough computer malware code, it will learn to recognize the virus. If it gets enough raw language (words and phrases that people might type into a search engine) it will learn to understand search queries and help respond to them. In many cases it can handle queries better than algorithmic rules hand coded by human coders. Artificial Intelligence is the future of Google Search and if Google is betting its future on it then it’s the future for so many existing and new things in the world.
The implications on marketing are very encouraging as people can expect more accurate search results and RankBrain will better understand what users are searching for. Along with RankBrain it will affect the other Google algorithm Hummingbird. This will enable customers to play a bigger role with their reviews and remarks. Customers who are providing reviews use real languages and mention it in ways that other users might also ask a question through Google. AI will help in improving mobile search with better relevancy that will help marketers in better conversions justifying higher ad rates. Least not the last, Artificial Intelligence can help search engines deliver better search results that is personalized for a specific point in time – a micromoment when users might be most interested in a certain set of results.
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