The Google Assistant, a virtual “helper” that is embedded as an app within smartphones, connected home devices, car dashboards, smart TVs, watches, and laptops, debuted over two years ago and has rapidly taken on a more central role in the products and services the search giant is working on.
Over the past year, brands have been just as rapid in trying to take figure out their respective places within the Google Assistant.
For example, Paragon Honda, which is billed as the “largest certified pre-owned Honda dealership in the world,” used Google Assistant earlier this year to generate dealer visits. The dealership found that with Google Assistant, search results were nearly 5X more cost-effective per vehicle sold compared to other media.
That’s the kind of thing marketers of all kinds want access to.
Finding and crafting the right opportunities and brands is the job of Alana Brown, Global Partnerships for Google Assistant. We caught up with Brown at last month’s The Chief Digital Officer NYC Voice + Audio Summit.
GeoMarketing: What does your role at Global Product Partnerships for Google Assistant?
Alana Brown: Essentially, what we do is work with our partners to grow adoption of the Assistant through the creation of unique and engaging experiences. Our entire goal is to attract users to the platform at large, so we’re trying to find partners to work with that are going to either think innovatively about new use cases or who’ve already demonstrated innovative business practices today. In other cases, we like to seek out partners who show promise for developing use cases for Assistant due to the way they engage with their customers in the real world, but their teams haven’t thought about voice in a deep way. We just think it’s so important to help activate that and help them think through the use cases associated with voice.
What is the process like when crafting partnerships for Google Assistant?
It’s a good push and pull. On one hand, our team, specifically in the Global Product Partnerships world, is focused on reaching out to select partners who can enable Google’s vision of how the Google Assistant can be the most helpful to users. But on the flip side, we know there are partners that Google already works with in other contexts that are now thinking about developing actions for the Google Assistant. We want to connect those dots and engage with those partners too.
Can you share any examples of how your team has partnered with another brand to expand the uses of Google Assistant?
We’ve worked with several brands to expand use cases on the Assistant, including Domino’s, Ticketmaster, Disney – to name a few. Each partnership is different, but generally speaking, our team helps brands understand what developer tools are available to them on the Actions on Google platform, shares best practices for creating a voice user interaction and helps answer questions as they build out the user experience.
How do you generally see the use cases of voice activation, whether on a smart home device or smartphone? Most of the studies we’ve seen so far show uses largely revolving around accessing news, music, and the weather.
[Google Assistant VP of Engineering] Scott Huffman released a blog post last month talking about those use cases, so they are largely true today. But I think the use cases will evolve quickly. I sometimes wonder if people ask Google Assistant about those topics because they know they will receive a response. I also wonder if those use cases will evolve as we continue to experiment with voice-first experiences and as users feel more comfortable talking to computers in different environments.
To illustrate what I mean – in Scott’s blog post, he focused on the role of daily routines, recognizing just where people are in that context: if you’re home, or if you’re in your car, or at work, commuting, whatever. That is ultimately what matters to users: where they are in the moment and what the need in that context is. This past summer, we announced that the Google Assistant is now available on Smart Displays, a new type of voice-first device (with a screen!) for the home, which started launching this summer. You can imagine that this will lead to new types of voice user interactions and likely encourage the rise of new voice use cases – all due to the change of a user’s context and type of user experiences available for engagement.
As you look at the ongoing evolution of voice activation, what is top of mind for you?
I do wonder about people’s sense of comfort with voice assistants. We’ve seen what’s happened globally and the resulting impact of differing perceptions of technology. Depending on how that sentiment evolves – particularly if voice assistants don’t prove their value fast enough – it will be a big conundrum for the growth of voice-first experiences. People need to feel like they’re in the driver’s seat of their data, and leaders of the voice evolution should take care to remember that. That’s certainly our priority at Google, and why I believe we can really help advance the adoption of voice technology in a real way.