Big things have small beginnings.
On May 12, Google unveiled Gboard, a new keyboard for iOS devices that makes it possible for users to perform Web searches, look for images, and scour the earth for emojis without needing to leaving the keyboard. When you use Gboard, searches are pasted instantly into a text box.
To casual observers, Gboard sounds like another cool function that increases Google’s presence in our everyday lives. But I think Gboard points to a couple of bigger trends that influence location marketing: accelerating the growth of micro-moments and increasing Google’s influence.
Rise of the Instant Micro-Moment
Gboard is an example of how Google is inventing the future by influencing consumer behaviors. In 2015, Google published popular research on the rise of the micro-moment, which Google defines as times when people use their mobile devices to decide what to do, what to buy, and where to go. And those micro-moments increasingly occur in context of near me searches. As Google reported, the number of near me searches has increased 34-fold since 2011, and 88 percent of them occur on mobile devices.
As SIM Partners CMO Tari Haro has noted, micro-moments represent a big shift in the way brands and consumers interact with each other. In the era of micro-moments, consumers accelerate the customer journey down to a single moment of research and decision making how they will spend their time and money. The launch of Gboard takes some friction out of the customer journey.
As Google noted on its blog, Gboard makes it possible to conduct near me searches right from your keyboard and share those results with others without even needing to leave your Google search app. I think it’s telling that on its blog, and in a one-minute video, Google chooses to focus on a search for a local meatball shop to illustrate the power of Gboard: two friends decide on where to grab a meal by doing a search from Gboard and sharing that information right from the Google app on their iPhones. As the video narrator points out, “It’s like having Google search in any app . . . right from the keyboard.”
As SIM Partners Senior Vice President of Product and Technology Adam Dorfman noted in a recent Search Engine Land column, Google realizes that traditional methods of search are giving way to more wide-ranging forms of discovery — and Google intends to be an active participant amid that change.
Battle of the Data Amplifiers
The launch of Gboard also represents something else: Google taking a swipe at Apple. As SIM Partners Vice President of Product Gib Olander discussed in a recent Street Fight column, data publishers such as Google, Apple, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, and Yelp are becoming more influential as they muscle aside other platforms to capture and share brands’ location data across the digital world where near me micro-moments occur. We call this small group of publishers, along with data aggregators such as Neustar Localeze, “data amplifiers.”
Google is a data amplifier because it not only serves as a platform for search, but it ensures that the brands on the other side of those searches are visible when micro-moments of discovery occur. If your business operates hundreds and thousands of locations, you need to ensure that you share your data with Google to spread to consumers when they use their devices (and features such as Gboard) to figure out what to buy, where to go, and what to do.
But Google isn’t the only amplifier in town. Apple is another one, and Apple continues to extend its reach into search as we have seen with its iOS 9 predictive search feature, unveiled in 2015. With Gboard, Google is finding another way to compete with Apple for search traffic — by acting as a Trojan Horse and embedding itself into consumers’ everyday behaviors on Apple’s own turf, iPhones.
As Google Principal Engineer Rajan Patel noted on Google’s blog, “iPhone users—this one’s for you. Meet Gboard, a new app for your iPhone that lets you search and send information, GIFs, emojis and more, right from your keyboard.” Within the first two sentences of the post, Google cites the iPhone — making sure we get the message.
And not only does Google become more embedded into our search behavior, it also collects more information from iPhone users whether they are searching or not. Trojan horse, indeed.
What the News Means
The launch of Gboard points to the importance of brands maintaining strong relationships with data amplifiers — not just Google but the other major players, Apple included. When you actively share your data with data amplifiers, you not only make your brand visible where near me searches occur, you also reap more benefits when the data amplifiers unveil innovations such as Gboard.
The news also should remind brands to understand the rise of micro-moments and have a strategy in place to turn those moments of consideration into next moments of purchase. It’s not enough to be present when near me searches occur on mobile devices. To win during those micro-moments, businesses need to be present with content such as mobile wallet offers that give consumers a good reason to visit your location. If you don’t, you’ll lose to someone else who is present at the right place and right time — without the consumer ever leaving an app.
Contact us to discuss how you can win in an era of micro-moments.