Google updated Google Play last week, affecting over half of smartphone users in the US. The update, which involves improvements to location services, shopping and maps reflects Google’s recent moves towards integrating shopping online and offline.

Google’s mobile update will affect over 50% of smartphone users in the US who are on Android (compared to 41% f mobile users Apple) with features that allow users to find their vehicle in a parking lot, navigate in-store and locate products at brick and mortar locations that they’ve viewed online. Below are more details about the Google Now update and how it affects retail both online and offline. 

Google Meshing Online and Offline Experience for Android Users

Below are the major Google Play updates for Android released this month and how they affect digital marketing and retail search.

Parking Location Card

For those of us that don’t have a panic button on their keys, this Google Play feature serves the same utility for absent-minded parkers. Google saves your parking location on Google Maps, where you can access that information when you return to your vehicle. To find your car you need to login to Google search and use Maps and the location card to navigate .

Offline Support

Offline Support reminds me of Google Offline Mail. If you are unable to access an internet connection, Google Now maintains access.

Indoor Maps

Google’s Indoor Maps feature for Android users seems a bit much at first, but then I think about walking about Costco aimlessly or desperately seeking the “you are here” icon on a mall map. Although only available for certain malls in the US and Japan (you can find them here), Google Indoor Maps helps users find stores within malls and items within select stores. Google’s in-store maps feature is only available for select stores (e.g Ikea and Best Buy) but poses itself as a very useful feature.

Product search reminders

Although all of Google’s updates can be tied to the delicate dance between online and offline purchases, the product search reminder update is by far the most clear connection.

Product Search Reminders from Google Play prompt mobile users who are near a store that carries products they previously viewed online or on their phone. So if I look at a running shoes and I happen to be near a Shoe store, Google’s Now card will alert me that my shoes are nearby, and how much they cost, and feature a product image.

What’s neat about this feature is that it uses Google user search history across devices to inform their future purchase decisions. As someone who does a significant amount of online shopping, this feature could actually prove to be quite annoying- I’d get a lot of alerts!

But this update also provides a significant amount of utility for both shoppers and retailers- both online and offline and across devices.

The major issue with Google Play’s Product Search Reminders currently is that they don’t reflect quantity for out of stock items, but this likely will only become an issue with high demand or limited supply items.

Google vs. Showrooming

CPC strategy Nii Ahene“For a number of years we’ve seen the emergence of the phenomena known as show-rooming, where a consumer visits a retail location to see product physically only to end up purchasing the product from a online outlet.

The functionality that Google Now is surfacing with this new feature are first steps to providing an opportunity and platform for physical stores to reverse the trend by capitalizing on retail intent earlier in the purchase cycle when potential buyers are still in the research phase. ”

If done correctly this new retail search layer could be a powerful ally in assisting physical retailers in capturing and increasing sales from buyers who are passing in their vicinity that are either sensitive to shipping times or prone to buying on impulse.“- Nii Ahene, CPC Strategy COO

As always, Google is in-tune with user needs, and arguably knows more about what users want then they do. Google’s Play update hammers home this trend, and the growing importance of understanding interplay between offline and online shopping behavior.

Cross device shopping is a reality for consumers. Particularly in conjunction with Showrooming and Reverse Showrooming. 49% or US shoppers actively showroom (try products in store to purchase online) while 69% of US shoppers Reverse Showroom (view products online to later purchase in-store) on a regular basis. Today’s purchaser doesn’t follow a traditional sales funnel trajectory, but instead interacts with stores and products across devices, platforms and modes seamlessly.

Google’s Android Play update reflects this mobile shopping behavior offering the best utility for shoppers.

How Shoppers Browse and Buy CPG Products Online And Offline

The Consumer Packaged Goods Shopper Survey 2017
 

About the AuthorMary Weinstein is the Director of Content at CPC Strategy, and an expert in Retail Search, Google Shopping and Digital Marketing. A NY native, Mary spends her time educating online merchants, hiking and drinking copious amounts of coffee. You can also find her work on SEW, SEMRush, MOZ and Practical Ecommerce. See all posts by this author here.