Google I/O 2018 and the Future of Local Marketing Image credit: Techcrunch

Techies, marketers and first-adopter consumers alike await each new Google I/O with bated breath. The first day of the tech giant’s 2018 developer conference at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View didn’t disappoint. From the innovative Duplex to Google Photos enhancements to a new Smart Compose feature for Gmail, a theme in the future of local marketing emerged: AI is here in a BIG way, and it’s here to stay.

Before the keynote, Google announced it is rebranding its Google Research division to Google AI. This rebranding signals how Google has increasingly focused R&D on natural language processing, computer vision and neural networks.

The Google I/O 2018 announcements include exciting feature updates on local search search engine visibility that marketers won’t want to miss:

Augmented Reality (AR) finally becoming part of Google Maps

Google kicked things off by teasing augmented integration within its Google Maps navigation app. After opening your Maps app, you’ll soon be able to jump into a “first-person” mode within Street View. This helps guide users through unfamiliar locations via on-screen directional notifications. The update to Google Maps’ walking navigation system also includes the option to have an augmented-reality fox leading users to their destinations, providing a friendly, furry guide through strange new lands.

Google Maps Augmented Reality and the Future of Local Marketing

Google Assistant is getting a “voice-lift”  

The system’s current voice, Holly, will be joined by six new voices, each of which is more conversational.

Google used WaveNet technology to underline raw audio, allowing its voices to understand the human voice, syntax, and natural pauses. This development makes the assistant more natural and comfortable to speak with. This is all part of Google’s wish to make Google Assistant into the most natural voice assistant around. One of the voices is legendary singer-songwriter John Legend.

Adding more (and more powerful) push results within Google Maps, Android and iOS applications

Google Maps is getting new features designed to engage users and drive traffic to local businesses. A new tab called “For You” provides local restaurant recommendations based on what is trending in the user’s immediate vicinity. To help ensure that restaurant recommendations match a user’s preference, Google is also adding  a “match score,” which uses machine learning to identify which establishments would be preferred based on past search behavior and localized geo-footprint.

Going social with Shortlists for discoverability

The new “Shortlists” function will provide users the ability to create a restaurant list and share them immediately with friends. This is so they can use this feature for evaluation and decision on which place to go to for the next night out.

Google Duplex will revolutionize the way we complete everyday tasks.

Perhaps the most exciting and innovative development announced at I/O 2018 was Duplex, a machine intelligence-powered, human-sounding virtual assistant designed to conduct natural conversations with humans over the phone. The company plans to begin testing Duplex publicly this summer. Your locations may receive more AI-powered calls than human in the future.

Google Maps gives business users additional tools in the future of local marketing.

Updates to Google Maps also mean businesses will have more ways to engage searchers through the Maps platform. Google Posts, Events and Offers have already been launched with the recent addition of videos provides business with an opportunity to connect with consumers outside the traditional social media norm. Also being added to more categories will be: calls to action for booking appointments or ordering online.

Google Lens Gets Upgrades and has major merchant implications.

Apart from getting new features for increased online customer engagement, Google Lens will no longer stay buried inside Google Assistant and the Google Photos app. Google is now merging the feature into the native camera apps in some smartphones. Three new features promise increased functionality for users include:

  1. Smart text selection, which will recognize and understand words, enable copying photos to text, and utilize Lens for Q&A. Users will be able to to copy and paste text from the real world directly to their smartphone. Examples: recipes, gift card codes, or Wi-Fi passwords. Google Lens, in turn, helps in making sense of a page of words by showing relevant information and images.
  2. Style Match, which will match an item and allow users to search based on an image. Style Match will give results that are different from the original, but still in a similar style. Google is able to achieve this by running searches through millions of items. But it also does this by understanding things like different textures, shapes, angles and lighting conditions.
  3. Real-time Results: Users no longer have to specifically select an item and patiently wait for results to load. You will be able to browse the world around you by pointing your camera. This is possible because of the advances in machine learning, using both on-device intelligence and cloud TPUs, allowing Lens to identify billions of words, phrases, places, and objects in a split second. Moreover, it can also display the results of what it finds on top of things like storefronts, street signs or concert posters.  

In summary, Google I/O 2018 gave marketers a great deal of AI-infused tech to get excited about, especially for the future of local marketing. This was just day one of Google I/O, so we look forward to the next day of continued surprises.

Finally, you can learn more about prompting “Near Me” intent for local search optimization opportunities in this recent Rio SEO POV. Or Audit Your Local Presence to discover your greatest opportunities today.