Last week's Google Marketing Live 2019 event in San Francisco gave us a glimpse into the future of marketing through Google Ads. Our Local Solutions team was there in person and captured the following key takeaways for you.
From improved visuals and better audience targeting, to privacy and machine learning, they covered a lot of ground—and introduced some new tools to make our lives easier. While there are plenty of other marketing platforms out there, Google's dominance in search makes it well worth paying attention to. With that in mind, let's look at some of the highlights and biggest potential game-changers of the event.
The Changing Customer Journey
The days of the traditional marketing funnel are long gone. In today's world, the typical customer's journey is much more complex and can vary significantly depending on the product, service or industry, which requires a move to smarter, more seamless marketing that allows for a larger variety of paths. All moments when you need to convince people to pick your brand and select your products and services instead of those from your competitor. Staying on top of all of these moments might seem overwhelming, but mapping your customer’s journey can help. It can give you and your team a greater understanding of how your customers are currently interacting and engaging with your brand, and help illustrate how your products and services are then best selected by your end customer. To this end, Google announced a number of changes to their various ad types, enhancing both visuals and placement.
Google's newsfeed, Discover, will now become a potential advertising environment, allowing marketers to create an image carousel, with limited text, through which consumers can swipe. As Google noted, the newsfeed is a particularly great location for ads because it allows you to reach consumers when they're most open to seeing new things. These Discovery ads, as they're called, will also become available on YouTube and in the Gmail promotions and social tabs. Native advertising formats are a great opportunity with Discovery.
Showcase Shopping Ads
The introduction of Showcase Shopping ads in 2017 was already a sign of how the customer journey is transforming, with these ads serving to bring users who click on them to a page of related products instead of a page for a single item. This was indicative of changing online habits, in which users are as likely to be looking for inspiration—and thus interested in seeing a variety—as they are seeking out one, specific product. It's no surprise, then, that this year's event brought an expansion of these ads. Like Discovery ads, Showcase Shopping ads will soon become available on YouTube, and they will also begin to show up in both Image and Discover search results.
For all of its expansion in recent years, Google hasn't forgotten that Search is what made it a household name, and its new Gallery ads are aimed at making Search pay off for marketers as well. Gallery ads are similar to Discovery ads in that they consist of a swipeable carousel of images, but, instead of appearing in a newsfeed, they appear at the top of a Search results page. This allows you to reach consumers with up to eight images and accompanying taglines to promote your brand at the best possible moment: right when they're searching for relevant keywords. The advantage this offers over the previous text-only search ads is enormous. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Purchase-Enabled Shopping Ads
In a final ad type update, Google announced that consumers will be able to make purchases directly from the ads in their Shopping results, while still retaining the option to click through to a brand's website, as is the current method. Tied to the idea of supporting a variety of customer paths, this enhancement gives consumers themselves the ability to speed up the conversion process and represents a big move into retail by Google.
Improvements on the Marketer's Side
It wasn't all about the customer—Google introduced a number of changes aimed at improving the marketer's experience as well. In recognition of the fact that many marketers' lives are lived on the go, they're adding enhancements to the Google Ads mobile app that will allow you build out ads in the app itself, as well as to receive notifications on your phone related to a campaign's performance or relevant marketplace data. They're also allowing marketers to better fine-tune the analytics side, including personalizing the metrics for your preferred Key Performance Indicator.
Another improvement to the marketer's arsenal is the introduction of Bumper Machine. In recognizing the effectiveness of their six-second bumper ads—rolled out on YouTube in 2016—Google has also acknowledged that creating those short clips can be costly and time-consuming for marketers. Bumper Machine will use machine learning to generate six-second ads from your longer videos, optimized to help your brand take advantage of every moment in reaching mobile viewers.
AI and Privacy
Yet another changing trend is a shift from keyword-driven marketing to a more targeted approach—anticipating customers, instead of waiting for them to seek out you. Google is attempting to get ahead of this curve in a number of ways, including a redesigned concept of custom audiences and a new audience expansion tool, which will allow marketers to reach more easily those consumers closest to their target. The biggest driver of success in this sort of predictive targeting is machine learning. As Google's models learn and improve over time—with the help of their wealth of data—we will see these capabilities become both more accurate and precise.
As society's trend toward privacy continues, this improving artificial intelligence will become even more important. Google acknowledged that as more users are reclaiming their data and opting out of various sharing settings, marketers have less information to work with. Smarter machine learning models will help us to make up for that gap in data, allowing us to continue showing more relevant content to consumers and creating a more seamless ad experience, while prioritizing privacy and data security.
While many of the topics above are geared at online sales, Google emphasized the fact that brick-and-mortar retail is far from dead. With a majority of overall sales still happening offline, digital ads play a role in driving not just online commerce but real-world foot traffic as well. Google cited its success with local ads in improving sales and announced updates coming for local campaigns, which will optimize ads across Search, Maps, and YouTube, in addition to enhancing the platform's measurements and reporting in order to better capture offline customer interactions.
With all these upcoming changes and the constant evolution of the marketing world, it can be difficult to know whether you're maximizing available options and positioning your brand well for the future. For help with everything from high-level marketing strategies to the nitty-gritty of campaign creation, contact us.