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3 Reasons Small Businesses Should Watch Google IO

By Chris Bates-Keegan - MD at Lighten

For the majority of UK Small Business owners Wednesday 25th June will pass with little more of note than the unseasonably clement weather. But at 5pm that day Google will launch its annual developers’ conference Google IO, the event which really defines Google’s direction for the year across so many areas. What you should understand is that Google is a developer focussed company, it’s therefore fitting that they choose the developers conference to make significant product announcements affecting everything from Android to GMail to Search.

These days Google affects many parts of our lives beyond Search and small businesses are not immune to that influence. So we thought we’d put together a list of our predictions of how small businesses might be affected by Google’s announcements at this year’s Google IO.

Android and Android Wear

Android and Android Wear

Traditionally Google announces a ridiculously large number of Android users and a large number of news users every day. To put it into perspective at the last Google IO Google announced 1.5m new users every single day and a total of 900m users. By Autumn the number had passed 1billion users.

This year I’d expect the daily new users to have plateaued if not dipped slightly but the total users will most likely be at or very close to 1.5billion (out of 6.5billion people on the planet). We’ll most likely see another release of Android but we’re not expecting anything too earth shattering beyond the continuing integration and enhancement of Google Now Google’s proactive search assistant of which more later.

2014 is looking set to be the year of smart watch, with manufacturers (including Apple with their much talked about iWatch) looking likely to bring several devices to market in the second half of the year. Google announced Android Wear earlier this year and Samsung, Motorola, LG and possibly Sony will most likely be launching products in or around IO this year. We predict that these will be the first devices to gain significant usage, starting in the US with the UK following in numbers next year. The killer feature of Android Wear devices is the integration with Google Now and it’s voice recognition tools; you can create location and time reminders, look up facts (how many cups in grams?), even get world cup results, all of which benefit from immediacy and a small handy screen. This writer hasn’t worn a watch for well over twenty years but I can see myself getting one of these. The Motorola 360 looking the most sane of the devices seen so far.

Small Business Takeaway

With the explosion of smartphones, the arrival of new wearable devices and tools like Google Now, it’s never been more important to make sure that your business is well represented geographically on google as well as in traditional search. The last few weeks have seen significant change already with Google My Business launching and to find out more about that read our first impresssions of Google My Business article. You can also take a look at our how to get your google business page article that walks you through setting yours up step by step.

It also goes without saying that it’s vital to have a website that works well across a wide range of devices, although don’t worry too much about how your website looks on a watch!

Google launched Google Now a couple of years ago shortly after Apple launched Siri. But where Siri was meant to be a kind of Digital Assistant that helps you achieve things that you want to do, Google Now’s key feature is that it tries to predict what you want to do and provide you information without you needing to ask for it.

For instance when researching a product, Google Now will recognise this and recommend articles that are worth reading relating to your research. If you are visiting a new town Google Now will recommend local places, restaurants and activities nearby – great if you’re looking for the best cafe. All of which require Google’s various services from Android to Search to Chrome to Gmail to pool their collective knowledge of you.

This usually sounds either terrifying or mind-blowing (maybe both) but like it or not this technology is coming from Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon. It’s not a question of if but rather when.

But what can we expect that’s new from Google Now this year? Our guess is that we’ll see significant improvements to the conversational voice recognition of Google Now, at the moment it feels quite clunky. I’d also expect to see it begin to understand our relationships better. For instance it needs to know your wife and children’s names, which it doesn’t at the moment. There will also be new features that make the Android Wear experience better, generally expect to see the vocabulary increase and improve.

Small Business Takeaway

Google Now works best with accurate markup on web-pages and information through Google My Business. Make sure that your Google My Business presence is up to date, complete and populated with photos, reviews and ideally social posting. All of these factors influence whether or not your next potential new customer sees your business or your competitor’s.

Google Apps for Business

So far we’ve looked at some of the likely consumer facing announcements but I’d expect (maybe that should be hope?) to see some news around Google Apps for Business. This catchily titled product wraps up GMail, Google Drive, Google Docs and Hangouts and almost every other Google service into a white labelled box that allows businesses to use Google’s tools under their own domain name; so where a consumer may have joe.bloggs@gmail.com a Google Apps for Business customer would use their own business domain. The benefit is a fully manageable interface to all Google Apps with your own business identity used throughout. Very powerful indeed.

Over the past few months rumours abound of [Project Hera], the aim of which is to unify Google’s design language across Products (like GMail and Google Docs) and Platforms (Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, Smartphone). We’ve seen leaked screenshots suggesting that Gmail will receive its most radical design overhaul since it was launched just over ten years ago.

Our prediction is that we’ll see some kind of significant overhaul to all of the main Google Apps for Business products to bring them all under one banner, possibly something like Google for Work? With the naming of Google My Business, Google for Work could sit well and finally put an end to the ambiguity.

Small Business Takeaway

There are significant benefits to moving your business onto Google Apps for Business and we reckon with a somewhat overdue facelift coming in the next few weeks it might be the perfect time to make the switch. Of course if you’re already on board with us you’ll be well versed in Google Apps!

Conclusion

Google IO is always worth paying attention to because of the sheer volume of information that pours forth about our favourite search engine. This year promises to be very interesting indeed as Google have made some tremendous strides in areas as diverse as machine learning, voice recognition and wearable devices. And that’s not considering the work they do with balloons [Project Loon], 3d scanning phones [Project Tango] and satellites [Skybox].
Regardless of how far we are off the mark in our predictions, as ever made difficult by their being in the future, we’re in for an interesting week in the Googleverse.

By Chris Bates-Keegan - MD at Lighten (24/06/2014)

www.wearelighten.co.uk