Monday 16 May 2011

GOOGLE: Legacy - The Game Has Changed


In film Tron Legacy apart from some fantastic music from Daft Punk, there is an underlying story of the online world trying to break out into the offline world. They come close but with the risk of spoiling it for those that haven't seen it - Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges senior) manages to hold back Clu (Jeff Bridges junior) and his armies of "programs" - and in the process saves the free world.

However fantasy is great, but when fantasy starts to become reality things get a whole lot more interesting.

Google has steadily been taking control of the online world; beginning with search they have increasingly permeated all aspects of our online interactions from browsers, tablets, mobile, mapping and online tools.

You can almost imagine them uttering the words of Kevin Flynn in the film when he says:-

In there is a new world! In there is our future! In there is our destiny!

But things are changing.

Google are apparently looking to trial the use of coupons at till with retailers using NFC Android phones. Working with eftpos terminal manufacturer Ingenico they will look at a series of trials at retailers in New York and San Francisco.

Philippe Lazare, CEO of Ingenico was quoted as saying:-

Google wants a system where, when you enter a shop or supermarket, you receive a special offer on your telephone. At the checkout, you can take advantage of this offer" by touching your phone to the Ingenico POS terminal, which will be capable of reading the coupon and will automatically apply the discount to the shopping bill.

This may seem like a small piece of news but what's interesting here is the combination of online and offline services from search to location based services through to NFC and POS integration. In theory a customer could search for a product online via Google, be presented with an offer which they can then immediately use to purchase that product when walking into a store.

This ability to track online interactions through clicks and onto online purchases is something that Google and affiliate networks have been doing for years. However the ability to track these right through to offline purchases in-store really brings multi-channel retailing to life.

It also promises to change how loyalty programmes operate. You only have to looking at the number of loyalty programmes with online shopping malls to understand that these programmes really benefit from the affiliate revenue generated when they get members to shop in partner stores. Being able to drive these purchase decisions into everyday transactions however is the real key here.

But Google isn't the only player. Facebook is increasingly linking online and offline with Facebook Deals allowing offline merchants to create deals for online members. While this doesn't (yet) directly link the interaction to the transaction you can bet Facebook will be looking at how they increasingly make it relevant within bricks and mortar retailers.

There was an interesting blog by Adrian Hon in the Telegraph recently about the battle between Google and Facebook and while on the face of it they would seem to have very different businesses, in reality as Adrian points out:-

Google and Facebook are increasingly set up as competitors [for] sorting through the material on the Web.

While each has a very different approach; Google with its highly sophisticated search algorithms and Facebook with it's personal recommendations from friends they are both in the same business - namely monetising interactions between consumers and brands.

Google has done well in providing a more direct and accountable channel for marketing budgets but if Facebook can demonstrate better "bang for buck" through the power of personal advocacy they could see their revenues slowly eroded.

Not one to sit back and accept the status quo Google are firing on all fronts. From taking ownership of the channel itself (mobile/tablet via Android / PC via Chrome) to trying to develop their social strategy (and tying their employees bonuses to the success of this).

This latest effort of linking offline and online through POS is another step in this battle. Making marketing budgets increasingly accountable and in the processes owning the consumer interaction from search to purchase.

As Clu says in the film when looking to break out from the online world to the real world:-

Out there is a new world! Out there is our victory! Out there is our destiny!

While the battle for our attention online is intensifying, Google making a move offline suggests a whole new game and one worth keeping an eye on.