Google Assistant

Google’s Assistant strategy and what it means for your brand

Google’s Assistant strategy and what it means for your brand 1800 1200 Kane Simms

Google’s recent integration of Google Assistant with Technicolor set-top-boxes further shows that Google’s strategy for Assistant is more than timers, alarms and web searches.

You might think of Google assistant as the thing that you use to search the web on your phone or the speaker you use to play music at home. But with every new partnership, Google adds another string to its assistant’s bow that sees a slightly different Google Assistant appear on different surfaces. All the while, the Google Assistant umbrella expands and it edges closer to becoming the default assistant in your life and the default access point to the internet.

For example, the partnership Google has with auto manufacturers like Ford, Volvo, Nissan and more, sees Google gain in-car control capabilities. You can turn your heating on, check your tyre pressure or wind your windows down, just by asking Google Assistant.

You can still do the standard things you’d typically do with Google Assistant on your phone or smart speaker, like play music, get directions and ask questions, but its appearance in the car gives it new capabilities, which expands its role in your life, and expands its role in the world.

The recent integration with Technicolor set-top-boxes means that you’ll now be able to control your TV, switch channels, play on-demand content and more by asking Google Assistant.

This has been possible for a while, as well as native integration with TVs, with brands like Logitech being one of the first to implement it. But as these capabilities mature, one partnership at a time, Google is drawing a vale over an increasing number of surfaces, each with their own unique flavour of Assistant.

So what’s really happening? And what’s Google’s strategy?

History repeats itself for Google

We wrote previously about Amazon’s Alexa strategy, but Google’s is slightly different, and you have you look back a few years to figure out what’s really going on.

As the adoption of the internet grew in the 90s, and the predominant access point to the internet was the web browser, Google became the default front door to the internet with its unrivalled search presence.

With #GoogleAssistant, #Google is jostling to reestablish itself as the front door to the internet by providing the default access point to anything and everything that can connect to it. Click To Tweet

Now, though, the internet is accessible from everywhere: web browsers, apps, TVs, speakers, watches, cars, household appliances and increasingly more surfaces. With Google Assistant, Google is jostling to reestablish itself as the front door to the internet by providing the default access point to anything and everything that can connect to it i.e. all connected devices and surfaces.

Think of Google Assistant as the layer that sits over the top of the internet. Over time, perhaps, your default access point to the entire thing.

What does that mean for brands?

So what does that mean for brands? Should you integrate with Google Assistant? Should you build your own assistant? Or should you sit this one out?

At this stage, sitting on the sidelines looks like it’ll become an untenable position. Brands are competing on customer experience and when the world’s largest companies adopt a voice-first, AI-first strategy (as they are), customer expectations change. Over time, those expectations will be placed on your brand. In the same way as the search box on your website is expected to work reliably. In the same way as your website should work seamlessly on mobile. So too will you be expected to offer 24/7 speedy access to products and services via voice user interfaces across surfaces and channels.

At this stage, sitting on the sidelines looks like it'll become an untenable position. #Brands are competing on #customerexperience and when the world's largest companies adopt a #voicefirst #AI first #strategy (as they are),… Click To Tweet

What about integrating with Google Assistant vs building your own assistant?

Well, that depends on the kind of brand you are, the kind of products you have and the kind of relationship you already have with your customers.

If you’re a brand that provides a high degree of utility, with a low degree of brand loyalty, low frequency of interactions on owned channels and your customers have a relatively low degree of emotional attachment with your brand, then you might as well play the game and integrate with Google Assistant.

For Technicolor, not many average people really know what the brand is. As long as your set-top-box gets you the content you’re looking for, then who cares who provides the operating system or the assistant?

Same for a brand like Whirlpool. As long as your washing machine is cleaning clothes, you’re happy. How you control it is really neither here nor there.

However, for brands like Nike, Apple, Tesla, NatWest; people have emotional connections to these brands, a high degree of brand loyalty, the brands have a high degree of traffic on owned channels, and, yes, while they do provide utility, they also have an experiential nature of the product or service and customer experience matters. So, for these brands, it might make more sense to invest in your own assistant.

It doesn’t have to have a name or be a character like Domino’s Dom, Capital One’s Eno or Vodafone’s Toby. That’s surface-level stuff. What matters is your strategic approach to the future of brand and customer engagement.

Your #voiceassistant doesn’t have to have a name or be a character like Domino’s Dom. That's surface-level stuff. What matters is your strategic approach to the future of brand and customer engagement. Click To Tweet

You may have a presence on Google Assistant for some use cases, but that would be an extension of your assistant, rather than it’s home.

In the same way as Google Assistant expands into new areas and acquires new capabilities, so too would your assistant as it expands from owned channels onto voice assistant platforms.

Considering the temptation

The temptation though, when you see the increased presence of Google Assistant across a wider range of surfaces, is to run to the shiny new thing. So you’d be forgiven for riding the wave.

What matters most, though, is that you consider your options and make the right call for the right reasons based on your brand, your customers and your desired future.

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The future is multi modal

The future is multi modal 1144 762 Kane Simms


A good digital assistant will take context into consideration when providing a user experience.

Now that context can be related to the device that you’re using, could be related to the environment that you’re in, could be related to how much time and attention you have available at any given time.

So for example, if I’m in the kitchen washing up, I might have a bit of time but you might not have my attention and so the experience might need to be different to if I’m sitting in the front room watching the TV, where I do have time and I do have attention or if I’m out for a run wearing headphones and I don’t have either and so in the headphone example, maybe your interactions need to be really short and sharp and transient. In the living room example maybe you use visuals a little bit more and you lean on visuals more and in the kitchen, maybe you use audio first and you try and emphasize using earcons and things like that to make more of an audible experience.

Now, those are just real high-level examples and it’s difficult enough to create one conversation that’s intuitive. That’s natural. That’s easy to use.

Now think about doing that for all of these different devices and think about doing that not just for one third party app that you create but if you are the designers behind Google Assistant, it exists on over a billion devices, in over 90 countries and 30 different languages.

How do you create conversations that, yes, adapt to the different devices that you create as Google, but also the any number of devices that could be created by third-party manufacturers putting Google Assistant in their own hardware.

That is a very complex, very big task but it has to be the task for someone, and that someone is Daniel Padgett, Head of Conversation Design at Google.

He and his team work on creating consistent conversations across modalities for Google Assistant and we had the opportunity to interview Daniel and chat multi modal design for Google Assistant on the VUX World podcast this week.

We talked to Daniel about just how you go about creating genuine multimodal conversations that change depending on the device and context the user is in and where the future of multimodality is going from Google’s perspective.

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Google Assistant: 500m active users, popular Alexa skill: 300,000 daily users

Google Assistant: 500m active users, popular Alexa skill: 300,000 daily users 1800 1200 Kane Simms

At Project Voice in Chattanooga, TN, we saw some light shed on just how many people are using the Google Assistant, and some updated numbers on the kind of traffic one of the most popular Alexa skills handles.

Cathy Pearl, Head of Conversation Design Outreach, Google, towards the end of her presentation shared some numbers on how many monthly active users Google Assistant has.

500 million per month.

Thats across all surfaces and devices, but it’s a lot.

Google is the first of the big players to share numbers like this. Maybe it was waiting for the number to be high enough to warrant talking about.

I’d like to see the same numbers from Amazon. Now I’m wondering whether Amazon is also waiting to reach a noteworthy milestone before releasing them.

Nick Schwab, founder of Invoked Apps and creator of some of the most popular skills on Alexa, including Sleep Sounds and a host of ambient sounds, shared how much traffic his skills handle per day.

300,000 per day.

2% of users try the premium service and 90% of those convert into paying customers.

That’s doubled since we spoke to Nick on the VUX World podcast last year.

Of those 300,000, 15% of them were using a smart display of some kind, such as the Echo Show 10, 8 or 5.

So now that we’re starting to see some solid numbers coming from the platforms and smiths successful developers on those platforms, it would be good to see others follow suit and share the metrics behind their successes in order to validate the opportunity that these platforms present for organisations and individuals.

If you’ve been uncertain about the kind of opportunities that exist on these platforms for your company, or cautious about jumping in and investing, maybe these numbers will start to help you paint a clearer picture about whether you should and the size or the market and opportunity that you could take if you do.

Google Assistant will replace Google Search in its entirety within 5 years

Google Assistant will replace Google Search in its entirety within 5 years 1800 1200 Kane Simms

Here’s a prediction for you: Google Assistant will replace google search entirely within 5 years.

Sooner, even.

Think about it. What is Google’s ultimate aim? To find THE right result for the user.

That’s why it’s taken on the burden itself of finding hotel rooms, flights, deals and just about anything else it can right there in the search engine results pages.

It’s consumed all facts (more or less) within its knowledge base and it’s even pulling website content into the search results pages in featured snippets to save users the trouble of visiting the site.

Now Google Assistant will replace the voice search on Google search.

And what does a voice interface mean for search results?

Result Zero wins. The holy grail. One result. The best result for your needs based on your context.


Google Assistant is also text-based. So why not replace the search bar entirely with a conversational AI? One where search refinements aren’t refinements at all, but clarifications:

“What year was Rob Williams born?”

“Did you mean actor Robin Williams or singer Robbie Williams?

“The actor.”

That’s not a search refinement, it’s a clarification statement.

Google is able to take your first search term and turn the interaction into a turn in a conversation.

When you have a follow up query, there’s no need to head back to the search bar and delete what you’ve just typed, you can just continue:

“And when did he die?”

Google has been working at integrating the web into Google Assistant for a while starting with the beta launch of speakable markup. This allows web editors to mark up specific sections of content to be read by Google Assistant.

Then look at the last I/O ‘19. Google released the ability to turn YouTube videos into tutorials on the Assistant and web-based ‘How to’ tutorials, too. And featured snippets appear in Google Assistant all the time.

It doesn’t stop there

It goes deeper than that. In-app actions mean that not only can Google Assistant serve website content, but it can also pre-populate Android apps with spoken or typed phrases from Google Assistant.

If you say:

“Hey Google, book me a small hire car for Tuesday”

In-app actions will allow Google Assistant to pre-populate the Enterprise Car Hire app with ‘small car’ and pre-select ‘Tuesday, all day’ as the date.

Once this has been rolled out, it’s obvious that the next step is to work on an integration that goes the other way: from the app, into Google Assistant.

This way, you’ll be able to book your car, hotel, flight, cinema ticket or do anything else you use apps for, right there in Google Assistant, without needing to open the app at all. It’ll just use the app’s APIs and a conversational layer that you’ll be able to include in your apps through a more robust in-app actions feature.

At I/O’19, Google changed its mission from ‘organising the world’s information’ to ‘helping people get jobs done’ and in-app actions aren’t part of that.

So, once you have in-app action integrations working both ways, the APIs and language models can be broken out of the apps and surfaced through Google Assistant on the web, which will add reliable capability to ‘get jobs done’, right from within the most popular website on the planet.

So my prediction, again: Google Assistant will be the front end to the entirety of Google Search within 5 years.

Imagine that. The words information condensed into a simple conversation. All of the Android app functionality available instantly over the web using the same APIs.

So if you have a website or an app, regardless of what your business does, you should consider whether to brace or embrace.

Brace yourself to be forgotten or embrace voice first and jump into Google Assistant this year.