Here’s What Marketers Need to Know About Google’s Mobile Upgrades

Now on Tap has ad potential

The future of marketing on Google devices is Now. The search giant held its annual developers conference today, providing a look at the future of its mobile operating system, the next iteration of what is tentatively called M—the next letter in the alphabet after the current OS, Lollipop.

At Google I/O, there were plenty of new features for developers and marketers to consider with an upgrade to Google Now, the hub of user activity that manages calendars, commutes, reservations and other daily tasks by integrating with apps.

Google is taking all the user habits it can learn, making suggestions and offering immediate choices like which restaurants to visit, reminders and offerings.

"This is the future of how we interact," said Michael Facemire, a principal analyst at Forrester. "It could come off as a little scary, or it can come off as very convenient."

In addition to the Google Now update, there were new features enabling offline use of Maps and YouTube, and there was a new operating system—Brillo, for the Internet of Things—that connects homes, cars and screens.

Here's what marketers should look for:

Google Now on Tap

On Tap was the biggest improvement to Google Now. It's all about deeper integration of the service with the rest of Google. Google Now on Tap is immediately accessible when consumers are on the Web or in apps. The service also deep-links directly into apps, right to the spot users need, without having to navigate from the homepage. There are no ads yet in Google Now, but Facemire said they are not hard to imagine.

"It could be awfully similar to how you can bid for ad space on search pages," he said.

For instance, if a person is asking Google Now for a pizza or for a retailer, promoted options could be served up, as well.

"Google can set up an environment so that there can be an auction," Facemire said. "Brands could get their content to the top of that list."

Push notifications

Another small but helpful new offering from Google involved notifications, which are among the most important ways apps and brands get their messages to users. Google Cloud Messaging, the system for managing push notifications, gives developers one place from which to send their messages to any contact, whether that user is on a Google or an Apple device.

"Before today you had to use two sets of pipes," Facemire said. It should be interesting to see how Apple responds to Google's attempts to insert itself into this process on iPhones, Facemire said.

Notifications are increasingly important for getting users back to apps and engaging with services, according to Urban Airship, a digital marketing firm that specializes in targeting pop-up messages based on the location and interests of users.

The more targeted the notifications, the more likely users are to appreciate them. To that end, Google also is giving apps the capability to customize notifications based on topics users say they want to hear about—and avoid sending ones that don't interest them.

App ads

Google is doing more with app-install ads, introducing Universal App Campaigns that run through AdWords. This hub is a one-stop shop, mostly for smaller developers and advertising newcomers, to run app ads all over Google—Search, Play Store, YouTube and more.

Buy button

This was discussed before Google I/O at the Code Conference put on by re/code. Google's chief business officer Omid Kordestani said shopping ads that appear in search and offer a direct line to inventory will feature a buy button. It's an important link for retailers that are finding success with shopping ads but need a hook to close the sale.

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