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USA: How Google’s retail toolkit reaches the tech savvy consumer

Source: Retail Customer Experience

When 25-year-old Amanda, from Tennessee, wanted makeup that won’t irritate her skin, she embarked on a two-month journey with more than 100 touch points. She searched her mobile phone for what brands of makeup are hypoallergenic and which have the right foundation for sensitive skin. In her search, she learned to avoid aluminum-based products.

«She wants the results that are tailored for her, and she wants them immediately,» said Daniel Alegre, president of retail shopping and payments at Google Inc.

Alegre, speaking at the recent ShopTalk show in Las Vegas, used the makeup shopping example in a presentation on how retailers must prepare for today’s technology savvy consumer.

Google Cloud went through millions of sites to find her answer in Nano seconds, explained Alegre.

The search continues

Following her search engine research, Amanda went to YouTube to see makeup products in action.

«YouTube is an incredible discovery platform,» Alegre said. «Ninety percent of people discover new brands on YouTube,» while more than half say video helps them make a purchase decision.

Amanda then went back into Google Search before finding the product she wanted. She then looked for retailers to see which ones sold it.

«Once she landed on ‘Fresh’ (a makeup brand), you better believe she was ready to purchase,» Alegre said.

«The problem here is, if the retailer does not customize the offering for Amanda and makes her aware that that product is close by to her at the right price point, they’re going to lose the sale.»

Search engine search on the rise

Google has seen a 140% increase in searches for makeup foundations, a 150% growth in searches for things to avoid, such as makeup brands and ingredients, and a 60% gain in searches for «things for me.»

Such searches are not unique to cosmetics, Alegre said. A journey for cream spanned more than 120 touch points and took 55 days; one for a party dress covered more than 400 touch points in 77 days, while one for headphones included more than 35 touch points in 34 days.

«The user wants deep, personal information over and over again,» Alegre said.

Consumers want customized information

Seventy-percent of consumers are more likely to buy when information is customized to the location, he said, while half confirm inventory before going to the store and half say they buy elsewhere because the information was not customized to their current mobile situation.

«Consumers are looking for the information of where stores are available, their open hours, the inventory available, and that’s increasing and accelerating at an exponential rate,» said Alegre. «The consumer continues to embrace new technology and innovation, and it’s keeping all of us on our toes. Awareness is really about being there when the consumer is looking for you, with the right information.»

In the last year, the search engine giant has seen a three-fold increase in «open now» and «near me» searches compared to last year, which Alegre said witnessed a doubling in these areas over the prior year. In addition, 59% of users expect shipping and billing information to be remembered, and 58% want promotions based on purchase history.

«When you go to a site, you don’t want to have to type in your name and your address over and over again; consumers are expecting a seamless checkout,» he said.

After reviewing thousands of pages of click screen data, the company realized no two consumer journeys are alike. Many retailers mistakenly think the consumer «purchase funnel» is one way.

«The reality is it’s not really like a funnel, it’s like a zig zag,» he said.

Meeting the customer in this environment requires a retailer to «connect, drive action and accelerate,» Alegre added.

More tools for retailers

To achieve this goal, retailers need new ways to connect to consumers, such as voice assistants, as well as data and insights. Google has focused on helping retailers by providing tools such as Google Assistant, Google Images and Google Cloud.

In under a year, the number of devices with Google Assistant, which can advise users when an item is in stock or on sale, has jumped from 500 million to more than a billion. Meanwhile, Google Cloud offers access to artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Alegre used the occasion to announce that Google has recognized that half of digital shoppers are inspired to purchase based on seeing an image, and is introducing shoppable ads on Google Images that show multiple products that can be purchased within a sponsored ad.

«Click, intuitive and easy for the consumer to buy,» was how Alegre described the shoppable ads on Google Images.

The company first introduced shopping ads showing lifestyle and product imagery on Google Search two years ago before introducing the feature to Google Images in response to user requests. He said the top questions on Google Images are what price and where can it be purchased?

To help consumers connect with products more easily, Alegre said Google is also providing product data across all Google properties.

Retailers can upload product information to the Google merchant center to be shown on both paid and unpaid experiences on Google properties, he said. In many cases, the data is provided by the product manufacturer.

Retailers raise the bar

Retailers Alegre cited as doing a good job with technology include Sephora USA Inc., L.L. Bean Inc., DSW Inc., Ocado Group PLC and Target Corp.

When Sephora recognized there were more than 81 million «how to» beauty searches on YouTube last year, the beauty retailer partnered with the Google hardware team to bring their video content to the Google Assistant home hub. When a user asks Google Assistant for a Sephora video, the video appears.

L.L.  Bean improved customer satisfaction and IT efficiency across different sales channels.

DSW improved its customer rate by 9% with a loyalty program launch on Google Cloud, while Ocado was able to respond to customer emails four times faster and experienced a 7% gain in contact center connectivity by automating its customer emails with machine learning.

Target has used Google Cloud, Google Pay and Google ads to create a frictionless guest checkout to drive more business. Users are able to link their Target account to their Google account for a Google shopping experience.

«Once the account gets linked, we can provide a deeply personal experience,» Alegre said.

Users with Google linked accounts spend more monthly at higher value baskets in more categories and are more likely to buy again, he said.

«Who cannot love that?» he asked.

According to Alegre, retail in 2019 is about learning how all these different technologies work together rather than the technologies themselves.

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