Google envisions digital shopping assistant as next stage of personalisation

The future of personalisation could involve a digital personal shopping assistant to “help users through the fragmented customer journey” according to Google’s vp of product management Jonathan Alferness.

Speaking with Marketing Week at the Think With Google event in London today (7 July), Alferness said the customer journey has become increasingly fragmented, adding that “the online existence is shifting from one where folks would sit down and spend all of this concentrated time online in one chunk to essentially those micro moments of time throughout the day that add up in reality to even more time than we were spending online before”.

He said the tech giant is trying to address by “connecting consumers to merchants and measuring that in meaningful ways” by reaching them in moments of transaction.

“If you don’t have a sense of how to connect with users in these moments and if you can’t provide your brand or experience in a frictionless method, users in this minute or two of time are going to see it as too much frustration or as a waste and will let it go and move on to something else,” he said.

“If there are obstacles in their way they simply give up. It’s not like there aren’t other brands, merchants and marketers out there willing to capture the user’s attention and time.”

Cross-device measurement

One way of doing this is cross-device measurement according to Alferness, who said Google is developing a framework called Estimated Total Conversions that will provide marketers with the total value they’re getting from their marketing spend across different devices.

“We’re now able to report back to marketers how much of their advertising spend actually drove consumers into stores,” he explained

The next stage of personalisation

He stressed that it is also important to provide a more personalised experience for the consumer.

“The more personalised the experience you can give the user the less forced it will feel,” he added.

“As we evolve we’re going to get to the point where I understand you and what your needs are well enough that I can give you the answers to the question before you even ask it.”

This is all in an effort to “evolve the digital advertising ecosystem” through the “massive shift” Alferness said is occurring in mobile.

Digital personal assistants

He added that personalisation is one step along the way to what he sees as the future – a digital assistant.

“I still think that we are at the beginning stages of digital marketing, especially of mobile digital marketing,” he said. “In the shopping context I think a lot about the future and how we can develop a personal shopping assistant.”

The service he imagines would provide recommendations to a user based on previous purchases, preferences and location.

“I see more of an intersection of the work that we’re doing in personalisation and machine and artificial intelligence and tying that to make a assistant that helps the user through this fragmented journey,” he said.

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  1. Katharine Hulls 20 Jul 2015

    I read the above article with interest. In order to build the picture of the customer that is referenced by Alferness, brands must understand the
    customer data that they are handling. This means going far beyond purchase,
    preference and location data: understanding intent through adding browse
    data can give brands even more richness and insight – it gives them actionable

    With a single source of data brands can be sure that they are
    working with not only a consistent, but also a highly granular dataset, rather
    than relying on trying to merge disparate sets of data from a potentially wide
    variety of sources. Having data consistency and clarity means the data should
    be put into the hands of the decision makers throughout the business and
    constantly used to inform decisions – whether that is making long-term
    decisions such as product planning using website interaction behaviour to
    indicate latent demand, tactical decisions such as in-store merchandising on
    any given afternoon based on online product browsing and purchase behaviour
    that morning, or complex decisions such as price optimisation and revenue
    management. Data is critical and should be the driving force behind all

    Forward-thinking brands are putting good quality, comprehensive
    real-time data at the heart of their organisation. It is no longer about
    looking at the numbers and reacting a week later. The path to the future of
    marketing is no longer single track and one way – it has become a roaring
    motorway that twists and turns at a moment’s notice. Those organisations that
    have an agile approach can react at the speed of the consumer, real-time or
    otherwise, and achieve the flexibility needed to be winners in this customer
    driven marketplace.

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