If you follow tech news, then you know Google launched an all-new messaging app at the end of last month. If you don’t, that news might surprise you.
The launch of Allo was met with much internet fanfare, but got ignored by most of the public because of the sheer volume of messaging apps that existed on the market prior to its arrival. It also proved a little confusing for those who are accustomed to using GChat on Google Mail as their Google-based messaging service. But for brands looking to achieve marketing transformation, some of Allo’s features could be very special.
Although it’s only been on the market for a short time, there’s already a lot to say about Allo. Here’s what we know so far:
It’s no secret that messaging apps are quickly usurping email and text as the preferred way to communicate digitally. They combine the searchability of email and the lightning-fast, conversational nature of texting into one endless thread.
With Allo, we see Google recognizing the trend toward messaging services and away from email—but there’s something bigger at play, too. Google is acknowledging the way people use technology and creating a top-to-bottom suite of products aimed at keeping people inside its ecosystem. Allo integrates things like restaurant recommendations, Google Calendar, and next-level AI that learns what you’d say and offers you predicted responses that you can insert with a single tap. This may sound like the next phase in tech-enabled laziness, but it’s promising for businesses that are tasked with offering human responses to customer service chats at massive scales.
Speaking of business transformation, Google is making a big change here with its first stab at consumer-facing artificial intelligence. And Allo does do something different from any other messaging app—which makes it a standout in an otherwise oversaturated market. Not only does it constantly look for ways it can use Google’s infinite wisdom to augment your conversations, it also offers a personal assistant that brings Google’s full suite of products into a conversation—so your Luddite dad can stop using Google like it’s Ask Jeeves and start asking his Google AI friend who won the game last night. (And the rest of us can use it to settle pedantic arguments with our friends, like when you’re wondering who’s right about the Rangers’ record in 2011 or what the population of Kyrgyzstan is.)
These humorous use cases hint at some serious potential. Google can already use its entire breadth of knowledge and search power to augment conversations or run them entirely off artificial intelligence. And it has a learning component that, over time, analyzes your speech and response patterns to offer prewritten options for chat responses.
Right now, there’s some seriously limited potential. The messaging app only works on mobile devices, so it definitely won’t feature a full-on business version like Facebook Messenger (at least not yet). But it does do something very intriguing. Michael Gauld, VP and Director of SEO at Digitas LBI offered a telling anecdote in AdWeek about the outsized importance of search engine relevance in Google Allo:
I tried some searches that are relevant to the clients we have, and I imagine that if my wife got a flat tire and I search “flat tire repair” or “new tires” and it gave the No. 1 search result but it didn’t give No. 2 or No. 3. I used to think being in Position 3 was good enough. No—I need to tell my clients that this is incredibly important that we need to get into Position 1.
This speaks to the importance of a great content strategy in general. SEO relevance is not dead, even in the era of messaging apps searching the internet on our behalf. In fact, it’s more cutthroat than ever before. But there’s more to Allo than search relevance—that’s where marketers need to look deep into their crystal balls.
Google is late to the messaging app party. Really, really late. But the company seems confident in its lateness—likely due to a combination of its power as a search engine and the integration of its AI capabilities. As a sign of the times, Allo signifies that people are growing more comfortable with quick, message-based conversations for professional and personal use, and businesses are expected to be a part of that ecosystem for customer service and paid placement alike. Just like there’s now Messenger for Business, there will absolutely be use cases for Allo in the business realm. That means brands should be sure they’re optimizing for this new messaging tool by using what they already know, and accounting for it in their SEO strategies.
What’s more, localization (and adherence to Google’s quality standards) is about to be key. Because businesses can buy placement on Waze and Google Maps, there’s no question that the treasure trove of textual and contextual data Google is mining through Allo will be monetized somehow, and likely in incredible new ways. Demographics can be identified through keywords and triangulated geographically, which means that asking your AI assistant for a restaurant recommendation could soon be one of the most valuable pieces of digital real estate extant. And if that remains the sacred realm of crowd-sourced reviews, plenty of smaller opportunities won’t. When you ask Allo what the closest coffee shop is and there are three equidistant, the one with the most Google clout will have to win.
If you build it, will they come? In a world that’s gravitating toward messaging apps, the answer is probably. But with a billion people already using WhatsApp, how many more are going to make the switch or sign up for Allo as their first choice? These are the questions that marketers looking to use Allo can’t yet answer. For most of us, it’s simply worth considering that any move Google makes is a telling one for the state of the tech world at large.
Between the AI and the fact that Google built a new, dedicated messaging app, marketing transformation moving forward will require mindfulness of messages. Whether that comes in the form of leveraging AI for better customer service, a renewed focus on SEO, unique paid placement opportunities, or some combination of all the above remains to be seen. But Google has put the world on alert. Now all we can do is wait for it to expand Allo’s capabilities, and for a legion of loyal users to make it work.