Mobile Marketing Search Marketing

Google Now Update Links Search Intent with Physical Stores

May 9, 2014

Retailers might not be able to read shoppers’ minds, but a new update from Google Now will help them come pretty close. The latest batch of Google Now cards will proactively alert people when they are nearby a store that carries an item for which they’ve previously searched.

Launched in 2012, Google Now is a mobile technology that learns from a person’s active and historic experiences to deliver useful information at just the right time, creating knowledge. The one caveat with this powerful technology is that users (not surprisingly) must grant Google permission to track device movements, monitor emails, and/or reference historic web browsing. That said, users can control a level of intimacy with Google or even opt out if they are not comfortable with these trade-offs.

Image via Google

What’s New in Now?

Google Now cards will proactively suggest products at nearby stores based on what the user has searched for recently. For example, if Google logs that a user has searched for “adidas soccer shoes,” Google Now could later provide a smart card to suggest several sporting goods stores that offer such products. The news closely follows the announcement that Google Shopping Express will now be expanded to the New York and Los Angeles markets.

Google Now’s product reminders are designed to support more drive to store activities. The reminders are presumed to be prompted at just right times, resurfacing intent for a specific product and offering stores where a purchase can be made – though, at this time there are no guarantees that the product will be in stock.

To that end, it is unclear how Google Now generates the retailer, price, details and product pairing suggestion, as Google does not claim to take on any in-store inventory feeds from retailers. However, capturing in-store inventory feeds is not a new endeavor for Google, and perhaps they are leveraging retailers in older BETA programs.

It’s reasonable to hypothesize that future in-store inventory feeds will be managed within AdWords PLAs (now called Google Shopping campaigns), which would enable advertisers to optimize in-store inventory feeds. AdWords PLAs can already support e-commerce product feeds related to a brand’s website, which begs the question of when sponsored product reminders might find a place within Google Now.

Marketer Implications

Google Now has not been widely adopted to date; however, given the buzz surrounding wearable technology, and Google Now’s seamless integration into Android “smart watches,” the platform could expand quickly over the next few years. Google’s Android powered devices have the most market share – a trend that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Though the update might seem futuristic, Google Now is something for marketers – retailers in particular – to watch in the coming months. Here are some things for brands to consider:

  1. Retail brands with physical stores will want to evaluate their product inventory management systems. Proper investments in these systems could help with data handoffs to third parties, including Google, supporting closer to “real-time” data feeds for products details, including pricing and stock levels specific to each store location.
  2. Google AdWords PLAs, soon to be Shopping Campaigns, are the likely platform to power any unknown opportunities that surface. If such speculation is accurate, AdWords would provide retailers more control to attract “in market” mobile consumers on-the-go.
  3. Since inventory and pricing can vary across a retailer’s website and physical store (and also vary based on market/geography), this update could grant brands more control when it comes to balancing online and offline product inventory and executing against geo-specific objectives.


Google Now has not made any official announcements about advertising opportunities within its mobile-friendly framework, but the introduction of product smart cards will undoubtedly turn heads for many retailers. These marketers will question more information around how they can deliver the right message (e.g. which product is most relevant and at what store?), to the right person, at the right time. We think the answer likely lies within AdWords, but we’ll continue monitoring Google’s moves as more updates are unveiled.