October 11, 2016

The Future of Search: customer journey’s are on the edge of a fundamental shift

So we all know how search works today, right? There is only one solution: Google. You type in something and if your brand is not found on the first page, you’re doing a lousy job and consumers will not go to your website. Well, that model could change fundamentally in the next few years.

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We’ve been working on “search” for the last 15 years. Companies around the world invested a lot in keyword buying and making headlines in their blogs so that they could work out their search behaviour in order to arrive on the first page of google. This is actually a sub optimal system if you think about it.  If you “Google” something, you get an overload of search results. Same thing is happening on e-commerce sites. If you want to buy a jacket on Zalando, you get 50 pages of jackets. But in fact, we don’t go behind the second page. So what if the jacket you really need is on the fifth page?  Search is not working as it should today. New technologies will change the way we search fundamentally.

Check out my video to hear my ideas on this topic!

Buzzword of the year? Bots!

If you look at the evolutions of 2016, one of the keywords is “bots”.

Facebook was one of the first companies to start with it. They allow brands to do customer service in Facebook messenger through small artificial intelligence engines. KLM was one of the first brands in Europe that started with it. If you book a flight with KLM, the last thing that they will ask you is if you want to send the customer service to messenger. If you opt in to that, you get feedback through messenger.

Last week Google officially started the sales of Google Home. It is a product similar to Amazon Echo. The interface is voice, no longer text. You can ask a lot of stuff. For example: “Hey Alexa” (that’s the name of Amazon Echo), I have a meeting. Can you book me an Uber? Or you can even ask to play a David Bowie song. In fact, you can actually talk to that device. Amazon echo has a installed based of about 1,7 million devices. The majority of the users ask Echo for quite simple favors, but about one out of three is using Amazon Echo to order products. So, about 500.000 households are buying products on a voice controlled device owned by Amazon. If this increases in popularity and effectiveness, this creates a new world of search.

In the near future, those devices will be personal services that we have with us all the time. And we have it on our phone as well, like the Siri tool of Apple. It is a personal service that actually works with bots.

Towards a new customer journey

Imagine that I ask my bot to look for an insurance for a short vactation, and it will start to search and talk to the bots of insurance companies. My bot will tell me when he has found something that copes with my needs. I will not have to go through all the search pages, but my bot will. In the future, we will have to try to make sure that our both as a company will find other bots of the individual consumers. Otherwise you will not be found. If you see the aggressive entrance of Google Home in the market, you can feel that they are worried. They want to create the future of search, but they have to chase Amazon. 

Many of Google’s investments are going into that direction. They have no other choice than to re-invent search at high pace as the current model is under pressure. Google is making the search process automated and based on locations. This means that it is hyper relevant for users. Today, we are not that far yet. But you see the first signs of the future of search. Take a look at the website of Northface for example. You can type: “I need a rain jacket”. Then the question “What kind of activity do you want to do with it?” will appear.  After that, they ask you: “What colour?”. Now, you see the jackets on the side of the screen. So you search through the possibilities in a very customer oriented search model. 

Disney will use it as well; I saw a demo of it. You will be able talk to the bot of Disney: Mickey mouse (awesome, right?).  Mickey will help you through the process. The first applications of bots are optimisations of the search process. If you jump to the second phase within a few years from now, that process will be completely automated and based on your personal profile and personal servants (bots) will go through the search process for us.

In other words: the way that we search today is going to end in the near future. We will experience these new two phases that will be fantastic for the customer but at the same time, brands and companies will have to rethink the way they want to be found in the search process of customers.