Google’s New Voice-Activated Analytics Fueled by AI Will Simplify Data Queries

It could help free up analysts

Google's adding voice capabilities for Google Analytics.
Sources: Getty Images

Google is adding a way to understand data with voice-based navigation that’s fueled by artificial intelligence.

Today, the company is launching a tool for Google Analytics that will allow marketers to ask questions about data, which could free up analysts to focus more on strategy and less on basic queries. The feature—which begins rolling out Wednesday and will become available for Android and iOS devices in the next few weeks—is meant to cut down the number of steps it takes to perform tasks such as checking online revenue data or website traffic.

According to Babak Pahlavan, Google’s senior director of measurement and analytics, the feature will allow users to speak to the system in a way that’s similar to Google’s flagship search product. Natural language processing will guide the voice-based navigation, and the technology uses artificial intelligence so that the more it’s used, the smarter it gets, both on a macro level and on a user-by-user basis.

Think of it sort of like Google Assistant for Google Analytics—only it doesn’t talk back.

“It feels like you’re actually talking to an analyst,” he said. “Imagine the possibilities. Anyone who is walking around, walking to a meeting, you should be able to ask it now. You don’t necessarily need to know the segmentation—it does all of that for you.”

According to a Google-commissioned report from Forrester surveying 150 marketing, analytics and information technology executives, 60 percent of respondents said they felt their existing tools were too difficult for their teams to use. A separate Google report from February found that 61 percent of marketing decision makers struggled to access or integrate data in 2016, while the same amount expected the struggle to continue this year. Meanwhile, about a quarter (26 percent) said they didn’t have the right analytics talent or enough of the right talent to properly use their data.

While many of Google’s voice products have been more consumer-focused—such as Google Assistant or Google Home—this is one of the first tools for the business world, Annissa Alusi, Google product manager, said.

The same team that’s working on natural language processing across other Google products is also working on this voice feature, according to Google, which allows for more rapid and relevant R&D.

“This is kind of proactively pushes you things that you might look at, and if you know what you might want, you can say in plain English what you’re looking for,” said Alusi.

AI-driven features within Google Analytics have helped to increase engagement with the mobile app, according to the company. For example, usage increased 55 percent year over year from June 2016 to June 2017, with more than 700,000 users using the app every month.

Over time, Google plans to add more complex features that could help to explain more of the “why” questions: Why online sales are low, why a certain product is popular in a specific region of the world or why web traffic is up or down.

“When you think about the applications of this, as the technology further grows, the analysts that are considered precious resources companies can be more focused on strategic questions that only the human mind can answer for quite some time,” Pahlavan said.

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