The president of Google’s operations in the Americas discusses the critical nature of “micro-moments” and how companies can react to the high-speed climb in mobile device usage.
Margo Georgiadis has a unique perspective on the evolution of mobile commerce. As president of Americas Operations at Google, she leads the company’s commercial initiatives in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. And in the last few years, those projects have increasingly focused on mobile applications, particularly mobile commerce — or m-commerce, as it’s often termed.
ACCESS: What role will m-commerce play in the web’s future?
MARGO GEORGIADIS: We’re in the early days of m-commerce — both in terms of purchasing online and with mobile as a form of payment in stores. But both areas are growing. Smartphones are rapidly gaining share of online shopping, growing by more than 60 percent in the last year. The most recent estimates from Forrester note that mobile transactions will reach 54 percent of online annual sales — a staggering $293 billion — by 2018.
M-commerce is also gaining attention in stores as well. A Google Consumer Survey found that 40 percent of respondents would be likely to use their smartphones to pay in stores during the 2015 holiday season. The next generation of shoppers has been using smartphones since kindergarten. I wouldn’t be surprised to see mobile as a major driver of both online and store commerce within a few years.
ACCESS: You’ve spoken about what Google calls “micro-moments.” What is a micro-moment, and how does it fit into a consumer’s buying journey?
M.G.: The rise of mobile is completely reshaping the consumer journey. Rather than engaging in a series of longer digital sessions, consumers are engaging in thousands of micro-moments in which they turn to the nearest device to learn something, do something, watch something or buy something. These micro-moments are increasingly the new battleground for consumers’ hearts, minds and dollars. Furthermore, consumer expectations are higher than ever during these moments. They expect things right — and right away. For businesses, that means you have to win the micro-moment to succeed.
Our micro-moments research found that 82 percent of smartphone users turn to their device to help them make a product decision. “Showrooming” [searching via phones for a place to buy products online at a cheaper price] has been a buzzword in the industry, but a Deloitte study found that consumers who use their mobile devices while in-store are actually 27 percent more likely to convert.
Mobile is giving users the confidence to make more informed purchases. Whether it’s searching for “best running shoes” or checking tomorrow’s weather, each mobile touch point is an opportunity to inspire and influence consumers. And as consumers’ decisions are happening faster than ever, brands will have to adapt with the right content, product and purchasing options to stay in step.
ACCESS: What do businesses need to know to evolve with the m-commerce revolution?
M.G.: The big question businesses are trying to answer right now is how to make all their customer touchpoints — across the web, mobile web, in-app and in-store — work together. How can they create the seamless experience consumers increasingly expect?
Sephora is a great example of a company getting this right. Its executive team noticed how often customers would stand in store aisles looking up something on their phones. Worried that customers were showrooming, they talked to them to find out more.
Sephora learned that customers were actually looking up product reviews or trying to remember what they bought last time! So the company revamped its app and mobile website to answer those questions. This is exactly the type of thinking that will serve businesses well as m-commerce takes off — start with the user and provide unified, channel-agnostic experiences.
Many businesses are missing how critical mobile is to omnichannel shopping. An eMarketer study found that 72 percent of shoppers use smartphones to research, but only 23 percent use them to buy. Digital is the influence channel. As shoppers use phones to decide what and where they will buy, businesses will win or lose on digital — not at the storefront.
ACCESS: Do you think what’s happening on the web is a source of opportunity for communities that previously may have lacked access to global commerce?
M.G.: Absolutely. One of the most exciting things about digital is that it gives any business — from multinational retailers to small businesses — a global platform. One of my favorite examples is a family-run, Italian furniture company called Berto that started in the 1970s. When it decided to go digital, it ran Google ads, started a YouTube channel and a blog. The result is that the company grew fivefold and now sells furniture to customers around the world! We’ll only see thesestories multiply, especially with the promise of mobile bringing so many more people around the world online.
ACCESS: What relationship do you see between sources of digital connectivity such as Google and other sources of connectivity like transportation or logistics networks?
M.G.: When Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, they set out its mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That doesn’t necessarily stop where the digital world ends. In fact, a lot of our products help bridge the digital and physical worlds. For example, Google Street View collections make places such as the Great Barrier Reef or the British Museum viewable for people on the other side of the world. Or our Waze app makes sure I find the fastest route through Bay Area traffic to get to the office! That said, the core of our business at Google is very much about services anchored in digital.
ACCESS: How is consumer mobile usage and behavior reshaping advertising and marketing? What do business leaders need to understand about this?
M.G.: It’s time to rethink mobile. It’s not just a platform for commerce. It’s a way to interact with and help customers across every step of the purchase journey.
Mobile opens a whole new arena for meaningful digital experiences for customers. Users no longer go online — they live online. And with mobile, there are more capabilities, such as geotargeted ads and beacons that can make the mobile shopping experience increasingly timely and personal. For example, Best Buy allows mobile app users to request a customer service rep at their exact location in the aisle. Target and CVS are rolling out curbside pickup for mobile orders — allowing customers to buy online, get their product immediately, and bypass the store altogether.
Mobile marketing can be much more than sending a message to the masses. It offers the opportunity for businesses to be in exactly the right place at the right time — and consumers will be looking for the right message in that moment.
ACCESS: All of this mobile-driven change is happening at a light-speed pace. How does a company the size of Google stay nimble in the face of constant transformational change?
M.G.: It seems obvious, but the first step is for company leadership to decide that nimbleness is a virtue. We have a saying here: “Fast is better than slow.” Google’s leadership has made speed a virtue in everything from product design to organizational structure to decision-making. We tackle anything that slows down that innovation — whether it’s silos between organizations or technical resources — to make a product better and faster. We’re obsessed with gaining speed.
ACCESS: What insights could a smaller company draw from Google’s experiences with rapid change?
M.G.: One thing our leadership got right from the beginning was to set big, audacious goals. It’s easy to get bogged down trying to improve things by 10 percent when your focus should be on how to improve things by 10x. Setting your sights on a big, daunting target rallies people to do amazing things and ensures that the change will be transformational, not incremental. Push your teams to ask: Why not? Are we building for today or for what the future needs to look like? As [Google cofounder] Larry Page says, have a “healthy disregard for the impossible.”
ACCESS: M-commerce has outpaced desktop e-commerce, and it’s growing faster around the globe than in the U.S. How is Google enabling consumers and businesses to succeed in it?
M.G.: Mobile commerce is a big priority for us, as mobile is the primary shopping assistant for consumers today, both in and out of stores. Black Friday in the U.S. during 2015 was a clear sign of how seriously businesses need to be taking mobile. Shopper Trak reported that retail foot traffic was down 10 percent from 2014, but online sales for the 2015 Thanksgiving weekend jumped 17 percent year over year, with mobile driving the growth. Retailers saw nearly one in three digital sales taking place on mobile devices, with some even higher. Wal-Mart’s CEO reported that half of its online purchases were via m-commerce over the holiday weekend!
This was the first year where mobile traffic exceeded desktop on Black Friday, so every business needs to be turning a critical eye to its mobile experience — including Google.
As traffic shifts devices, we’re focused on making experiences on mobile better for both consumers and businesses. First, consumers on mobile devices expect simplicity and speed. We continue to make changes to the layout and controls to make it easier for mobile-first shoppers to quickly find what they want — whether it’s browsing available product options, checking inventory available near them now, finding store hours or directions, or connecting with customer service.
Second, we’re working on making the process of purchasing on mobile more frictionless. Earlier this year we introduced Purchases on Google, which is an easy way for consumers to make purchases on mobile directly from Google Shopping results with just a few taps.
And third, we’ve actually seen that mobile ads, beyond just helping drive m-commerce, can actually help drive purchases in physical stores, where 90 percent of sales still take place. We’re helping business and consumers capitalize on that as well. Local Inventory Ads show consumers when a product they’re looking for is in a nearby store. And online-to-store measurement lets retailers see when their mobile ads actually resulted in a store visit.
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