The Latest from Google Marketing Live 2019

May 29, 2019

Two weeks ago, teams from both our UK and US offices attended one of the most critical industry events of the year, Google Marketing Live. We checked in with our experts to see what aspects of the event they thought were most valuable, what’s crucial for clients to stay aware of and where the latest innovations from Google are coming from.

To view the replay of Google Marketing Live 2019, follow this link.

1. What was the most memorable part of the event (aside from the Katy Perry performance, of course!)?

Jon Harper – Industry Director, Clients Services, ForwardPMX UK: The keynote speeches on the first day displayed some really interesting new developments. Networking with others around the event and hearing their responses to them, especially the developments in Shopping and Travel, was a really insightful experience.

Meg O’Connor – Director of Paid Media, ForwardPMX US: I thought the Sandbox Experiences offered something really unique and valuable. Here, you could interact with specialists in the different Google products, and there were immersive experiences that showcased all of the incredible advances in technology that Google is leading.

Kim Brown – Director of Paid Media, ForwardPMX US: I also thought the Sandbox is where we really got to see the meat of the innovations and announcements. There were specialists who are really “hands on keys” at Google, and they could tell us about products that really impact our day-to-day jobs, and ultimately, our clients’ business.

Matt Boland – Director of PPC, ForwardPMX UK: For me, it was seeing the product developments, especially within Shopping. Google’s obviously seeing a threat from the likes of Amazon and it’s interesting to see how they’re reacting and attempting to compete more when people are looking to buy things, rather than just to search for information about things.

2. Who did you enjoy hearing from most?

Matt: I really enjoyed one of the non-Googlers, like Benedict Evans, partner at Andreessen Horowitz (a venture capitalist fund). Some of the initial talk was about the impact of electric cars on retail – a big shift in where money’s spent (especially as people won’t be stopping off at petrol stations in the same way). He then covered more about e-commerce, and how the US is still lagging behind many other countries with a reasonably low share of retail spend being done online (and with it a great opportunity to grow).

Meg: Benedict Evans was also a favorite of mine. You could tell that this guy’s brain works faster than you could ever believe. He gave such an interesting perspective on the way retail is evolving, especially in relation to how people’s behaviors are changing so rapidly. He instilled a little bit of fear in the audience, but in a good way. I left knowing that we need to be extremely agile as digital marketers to evolve with this changing landscape.

Link to Benedict’s talk here:

Jon: I really liked Prabhaker Raghavan – especially when he said that he turned down a move to Google in the early days, as it would never make money!

3. Talk to us about the revamp that Google Shopping is getting. With a universal cart, and more personalized experiences across Search, Shopping, Images and now YouTube, does this give Google a competitive edge (possibly over Amazon)?

Jon: It’s a bold move, that’s for sure! It feels like they’re trying to get in on Amazon’s patch for shopping and OTAs (Online Travel Agents) such as for the new travel proposition. It’s a win-win for them really – drive revenue through their own platforms or revenue from their advertisers. Amazon and are two of their biggest spenders, so it’s brave but commercially makes sense.

Matt: It certainly will strengthen the case and make Google more competitive. However, Google will need to change the mindset of consumers who are probably quite stuck in their ways. Much like how people have stuck with Google as the default search engine in their heads, people have Amazon as the place to go to buy things. While the information you will receive from Google will likely be much richer, the jury is still out on whether they can compete with Amazon when it comes to the purchase experience (especially with things like delivery).

Meg: It felt like Google is pulling from different ad units and shopping experiences. It was a little bit of Pinterest, a little bit of Amazon and even Facebook.

Kim: They definitely have other platforms in their sights. There’s a push to make Google Shopping more of a marketplace. Like Matt said, not sure if they’re quite there yet, the new Shopping experiences are still relatively conceptual at this point, it seems, but it’s still important for advertisers to stay aware of. I don’t anticipate these changes will have a major impact on Holiday this year, but it’s important to understand where Google is heading, just in case!

4. And, what about Shopping ads more broadly? Any noteworthy new betas that brands should be thinking about?

Matt: There’s a lot happening with Shopping to try and unify the product. Shopping is going to become more prominent depending on the search terms, but Google also wants to make the process smoother. The biggest thing is the Google Shopping Cart – enabling customers to purchase directly from results, and bypassing the merchant’s website. This will eventually be rolled out to feature on YouTube and Google Images (and the Google home assistant), so wherever you see something you like, you’ll be able to purchase it quickly. It will be interesting to see how this works and compete with Amazon.

Kim: Yes, there’s a definite increase in shopping in YouTube and Discover. Having shoppable ads on YouTube used to be a separate program, but now if you’re opted into the Search Partners network, you’ll have access to this. And like most new rollouts, advertisers will be automatically opted into the placements, so this is something to keep an eye on, and we actually recommend that brands test into these properties to see what kind of value they offer ahead of Holiday.

5. Anything to speak of about some of the new ways advertisers can connect their online and offline goals?

Matt: Google spoke several times around how much of retail is happening offline still, so they’re very aware that although they’re an online platform, they need to influence what’s happening in-store as well. Google talked about a case study from Dunkin’ and how they increased monthly store visits in some locations by 400% with Google’s location-based advertising. There’s definitely a push to make the Local Campaigns feature easier to adopt and for a wider range of clients.

6. Any other important new developments or takeaways we should know?

Matt: One of the opening speakers mentioned something around the fact that, “it’s becoming harder to understand meaning through just keywords,” inferring that what people are searching for isn’t always what they need or want. This could also mean that Google is preparing us for a world were keyword level bidding and targeting is not at the core of Google. With the likes of shopping and DSAs already becoming popular, will Google remove keyword targeting? They’ve already been stripping back control, so surely it’s just a matter of time.

Jon: The new Travel platform is definitely worth watching.

Meg: I liked hearing about the ability to understand conversion value at the campaign level – or essentially being able to break out/track different types of conversions at different campaign levels. For instance, you could have one campaign where you’re optimizing for store visits, and you can use automation against whatever those different metrics are. Not the sexiest announcement, but it’s something that’s really impactful to my day-to-day.

The other line that really stuck with me: “Respond to great separation with great anticipation.” 90% of the world’s data at this point has been created in the past two years, and we’re only using about 1% of it. That’s crazy to think about! The point is that the best marketers are going to be the ones that use data to run the best programs we can, and create the most enriching experiences for consumers. We can anticipate customer wants and needs through much more sophistication. So, the divide that they were talking about is the people who are going to use the power of data versus those that won’t.

Meg O'Connor
Kim Brown
Matt Boland
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