by Tom Wentworth
I've been spending a lot of time with Google services lately as I explore switching from my trusty iPhone and iOS to Android, specifically the Nexus 5. It's been a surprisingly smooth transition, and I've started to prefer Android to iOS, in many ways because of the deep integration with Google Now, which gets me the right information at just the right time.
When I wake up, I get a weather forecast for the city I'm currently in, and if I'm traveling, the city I'm heading to. Before my morning commute, Google Now tells me the time it will take to drive to work, and help me navigate around delays. If I have a meeting during the day, Google Now will tell me exactly when I need to leave to make the meeting in time, taking traffic into account. If I have a plane flight, Google Now will show my boarding pass when I get to the airport, and recommend restaurants and bars in the area when I arrive at my destination. You get it, Google Now is super helpful.
Google Now is available for nearly all Android and iOS devices. On the Android side, it's become a core part of the Android 4.4 "Kit Kat" release, where Google Now is always just a swipe away from your home screen. A recent update to the iOS version allows it to proactively push notifications.
Google Now is a core part of Google's strategy to drive contextual relevance to the user every time a user accesses a Google service. Google uses predictive technology across a growing number of its applications, including search with the release of the recent "Hummingbird" update. Hummingbird recognizes that search queries are becoming increasingly conversational, and Google uses keyword search intent, the inter-relation of words, geo-location, and more to try and do more than just bring back a list of search results. Ask Google "How tall is Empire State Building", and it will tell you.
Google is trying to recreate the experience of having a conversation with an expert who is always there to answer your questions. For example, if you asked a sports expert "who won the world series" they would quickly reply Red Sox, not send you elsewhere to do the research yourself. Google understands the importance of context, and it betting their future on it with products like Google Now, Google Glass, and their core search experience.
I've been talking for years about the intersection of content and context, and how if content is King, context is its Queen, and together they rule the fiefdom of the user experience. Google Now has absolutely nailed the intersection of content and context, and it makes me want the same experience across every digital interaction. But most digital experiences are completely devoid of context, presenting the same content to the same user, over and over again. And that just doesn't make sense when digital marketers have access to nearly limitless amount of data about their customers. Here are some examples I've come up with:
- A commerce site might know that my niece's birthday is coming up, and make product recommendations for her. Amazon, I'm talking to you, because every time I buy a gift for someone else, it messes up my recommendations :)
- A B2B marketer could match the site experience to the buyers journey stage and offer me the next relevant piece of content to move me forward.
- A news site could recommend stories based on articles I've previously read.
- An airline site could present me with special travel packages based on its knowledge of my prior travel patterns.
Those are some simple examples, but I'm sure you get the point. Matching content to context is a huge opportunity for marketers, and users who engage with services like Google Now are going to increasingly expect all digital interactions to provide a personalized, relevant user experience. The tools to transform your website with context already exist, and I won't go into them here, but if you'd like to learn more you can watch an on-demand webinar I recently presented on website personalization.
Okay, that's it for now since Google Now just reminded me I'm missing out on football :) What do you think about content and context? Let me know in the comments.