Google Keynote: Marketing in the ‘Age of Assistance’

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Google Keynote: Marketing in the ‘Age of Assistance’

By Dan Ochwat - 01/31/2018
Google's Betsy Vankula

Google’s P2PSummit keynote will address how retailers can leverage digital to meet shoppers who are using smartphones as shopping assistants

To Betsy Vankula, head of retail at Google, retailers are smack dab in the “Age of Assistance,” an era of shoppers not just using a mobile phone to shop but relying on that device to be a real-time shopping assistant at all times. Vankula will deliver a keynote address on this topic March 14 at the Path to Purchase Summit.

Behavior with the phone has already evolved. For example, a shopper today doesn’t search for “men’s shoes near me,” she says. Shoppers simply search for “men’s shoes,” because they assume the phone already knows their location. “People are becoming much smarter; the tools are becoming much smarter – to the point where people have this incredibly high expectation that their mobile assistant, their mobile device, is going to make smart decisions for them.”

More Information

Main-Stage Keynote

‘Moonshot Thinking: Are You Ready, Willing & (Most Importantly) Able’

Speaker: Betsy Vankula, Google

When: 12:15-12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14

Where: Schaumburg (Chicago), Illinois

For more information:

The challenge for retailers is to deliver on this high expectation. When a shopper clicks on a mobile ad for “men’s shoes,” he expects that ad to tell him how many pairs are in stock at the nearest store, size 12, black. “The thinking is why would you go to a store if the store doesn’t have what you’re looking for,” Vankula says. “What a waste.”

In her 13th year at Google, Vankula currently oversees digital advertising, marketing and technology solutions for Google’s big box retail clients. Her team plays a point of contact for retailers, helping them leverage Google Ad Words, build search programs, develop strategies around video and YouTube, and bring in AI teams, cloud teams or analytics teams.

Vankula understands that the store is the center of the universe, saying that 80% of sales happen at the store. “What [retailers] aren’t spending enough time thinking about is that 80% of sales is impacted by some sort of digital engagement, primarily on a mobile device.”

Google feels its job is to help retailers make digital connections between inventory, search and the ads that appear on devices, while providing data and education on AI and machine learning and more as consumer expectations rise. “In particular at retail, we can’t afford to not change,” she says. “We’re not going back to the good old days. Retail is never going to become less digital. Data is never going to become less important. What do we do to make sure we’re embracing that wholeheartedly?”

Vankula will speak to the need for more “moonshot thinking” inside retail offices, a term that references Google’s research and development arm Google X, also known as “The Moonshot Factory.” She understands the difficulty shopper marketers face to enact change within their organizations and hopes to inspire attendees to apply “moonshot thinking” to their own situations and “get uncomfortably excited,” as Larry Page, co-founder of Google has been known to say.

The goal is getting retailers into a culture of “learning, trying and iterating, because that’s where real transformational change can come from,” Vankula says. Looking at the reports coming out of the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in January, assistant-type products are everywhere – in the car, in the kitchen, in your hand, she says. “What’s the retail industry doing to better understand how the assistant can help their customer make better informed decisions?”

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Registration is now open for the Path to Purchase Institute’s Path to Purchase Summit (P2PSummit), which takes place March 12-14 in Chicago.