Google Duplex and the Future of Marketing

Stuart Elmes

If you haven’t seen the video of Sundar Pichai unveiling the Google Duplex’s spectacular capacity for using and understanding real speech yet, we recommend you watch it right now (it can be found below)

If you’re too lazy, you’re missing out on two real conversations, one between AI and a hair salon, and the other between the digital assistant and a restaurant. In each, the person answering the phone creates obstacles and misunderstandings that the AI seamlessly navigates. 

The technology also realistically mimics actual human speech, pausing for “thought” and drawing laughs from real-sounding vocal tics like “umm” and “mm-hmm.” 

Google has revealed a tool that will allow you to book appointments, order lunch, or make reservations with a simple voice command, and trick the person on the other end of the line into believing they’re talking to an actual human. 

It’s an astonishing feat, and a tribute to years of investment in deep learning, natural language generation, and text-to-speech, but what does it really mean?

 

 

The Future

We can assume that consumers will gravitate towards a technology that allows them to complete mundane and unpleasant tasks with such ease. As Pinchai noted in his presentation, a parent with sick children will be very happy to avoid actually calling for a doctor’s appointment. As people get used to accomplishing more and more of their everyday tasks through voice-assisted AI, we can also assume that more and more shopping will be carried out by digital assistants and voice. But what will this mean for marketers?

 

The New SEO

One major thing to note is that consumers buying toilet paper or booking a haircut will probably cut out any human search. The AI will almost certainly perform an unaided search for a nearby salon or grocer, or default to major chains like Aveda or Amazon. The emergence of this technology means that businesses should IMMEDIATELY move to optimize voice search results. They should also note that consumers will now be searching for actions, rather than things. Not “dog groomer near me” but “make dog grooming appointment for 3 PM next Tuesday.” Also, as Smart Insights noted in a recent article, another “potential impact could be that rankings on SERPS that form the basis of SEO knowledge, could be disrupted, if the AI assistants are utilised to skip the search process and automatically attain search results. This could also cause a further decline in the transparency of search ranking algorithms, making it harder for businesses to ‘crack the code.”

 

Goodbye Screens?

The Duplex technology also seems like it will accelerate the shift from visual to audio marketing. We’ve already written about this shift, but Google’s recent announcement will likely accelerate things. As the following graphic shows, younger consumers are quickly shifting to voice searches:

As technologies like Google Duplex advance, more and more of the actions, tasks and searches people make will be conducted without a screen. As a recent Westcounty article notes, “it’s hard to imagine a future in which Google does not monetize voice search in some way.  Paid advertising via Google Home may be a direct path into the living rooms and lives of your prospects in the future.” Along with this, we can certainly expect savvy brands and marketers to find a way to reach consumers through digital assistants. Whether the answer is voice signatures, more audio advertisements, or bumping your brand up to the top of Google voice searches, you can rest assured that your smartest competitors are already looking at ways to leverage voice searches.

 

New Opportunities

Google has already told us that voice searches are 30 times more likely than typed searches to be “action queries.” For brands looking at conversion rates, this means you are far more likely to gain in sales from voice searches than typed queries. Making sure that your business is optimized and up to date on Google My Business and taking advantage of any other optimization trends will result in sales. As one observer has noted, “With spoken language being the core of Google Duplex, marketers can potentially get their hands on even more, in-depth customer data, which could lead to microscopic views of customer journey and mapping, allowing marketers to improve their products and services through increased personalisation.”For larger brands and retailers, grabbing an early chunk of the voice search ecommerce pie will likely pay huge dividends down the line.

 

The Dark Side

Critics have already observed that Duplex could cause a number of privacy-related problems. As Smart Insights has noted, “AI assistants like Google Duplex are likely to add another reason [for] concern to the already-existing data privacy issues, from a consumer’s point of view.” In fact, the product rollout has been slow in part because it violates some local phone recording laws. Other critics have noted that the technology might empower more customers to cancel and postpone appointments and reservations more often, since they’d no longer face the embarrassment and discomfort of any actual interaction with another person.

 

The Conclusion

While we at Adimo have long been trumpeting the potential of AI and voice, Google’s astounding new technology has accelerated the timeline for mass adoption of digital assistants and voice based ecommerce. The disruption to traditional ecommerce will cause a few headaches to brands and retailers, but we would strongly urge you to focus on the opportunities it will create. And remember, we’re here to help!