We live in a great age. In the past 15 years we have seen Facebook grow to nearly 2 billion users worldwide from an idea that started in a college dorm, the iPhone giving birth to the Apple App Store with 2.2 million applications to date and Google currently investing in driverless cars and robots. Amazing times indeed.

Yet despite all of these advancements the greatest conundrum still exists for many marketers – explaining exactly what your role is to people outside of the industry. Especially your family and friends who can be the most honestly ruthless in this regard.

To say that you work in search elicits emotions anywhere from anger to bewilderment. Anger from the idea that you have been the bane of their existence for their user experience with all of those “spammy” ads put in front of them and bewilderment from them thinking that your role is to sit at your desk from 9 to 5 and click on every ad that Google has to make them money. Both scary thoughts. Thanks for the understanding Mam and Dad.

However it’s from these analogies of being at a loss of the role of the modern day marketer that helps us formulate just what our part is in regards to search. If you ask the older generation of how 25 years ago they would hire a local plumber for a clogged sink they would probably answer with the use of a phone directory. They would search through the directory to find a reputable plumber, call them to arrange a date and time and then expect the problem fixed. Transaction complete and issue resolved (printed versions of the Yellow Pages have fallen by 4 billion worldwide from 2002 to 2010).

Now try explaining to anyone born after the year 2000 how a phone directory works and expect a blank look on their face followed by a frown as a response. “Why wouldn’t you just Google it?” is a phrase which is commonplace in most conversations today and has inspired countless memes.

Here lies the issue facing the modern marketer – how do we facilitate the correct technology for users to search for their needs and how do we match this to consumer habits in the future?

Any technophobes should take a deep breath for the next part.

Now envision that you have just moved into your new apartment. Completely unfurnished. First thing you need is a bed. “Okay Google,” you say to a device in your hand, “I want to buy a double sized bed frame and matching size mattress”.

Let’s pause there for a second. We are expecting a device to be able to search Google using data from what was said out loud, decipher that the key component of the sentence is “double sized bed frame”, search the wide range of furniture companies advertising this and understand that “matching size mattress” means a double size.

“Here’s what I found in Google shopping”. What is presented in front of you is a list of double sized beds with matching mattresses listed by location and user reviews of the product. Genius.

“Would that first one fit in my room?” You say very nonchalantly.

“I’ve placed the dimensions into your camera. Use this to decide where you would like to place it” An augmented reality bed then appears on your phone from which you can visualize the bed in your room. Mind boggling.

“It fits. I’ll take this one. Where can I pick it up from?” Again very difficult for a non-human to interpret.

“I’ve ordered the product. You can retrieve it from one of these locations” Google Maps appears on your phone.

“I’ll pick it up from here at 5pm on Tuesday” As you place your finger on a chosen destination.

“That’s all taken care for you. Anything else I can help with?”

“Yeah loads …” You really like talking to devices it seems?

This above conversation could very much happen within the next 5 years. Our habits in this regard are already changing with Google seeing a “57% decline in foot traffic in-store with visit values increasing by up to three times” – people have already researched exactly what it is they need before even visiting a store and this will surely continue.

The amount of automation that would need go into that is difficult to comprehend, however this is not our greatest challenge – the challenge remains in how to best facilitate this technology when it does become available to ensure our clients are appearing in spaces where users are searching.

At iProspect we are already seeing this consumer behaviour change and embrace the challenge that this poses us. This year saw us create our first multi office team dedicated to the purpose of automation through improving feed management and utilizing AI for our clients. This involves direct contact to a Google feed specialist with specialised training on all areas of search where feeds are used including personalised creative. This team will also look to drive new search tactics and tools including scripts and auto-bidding to ensure a greater reliance on all automation for our clients.

That is what our role is for search. And that is our exciting challenge to keep us at the forefront of the industry to inspire new and creative ways to match users to their needs. Talking to machines about bed sizes will just be the start…

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Gary Cook

Gary is a Senior Account Manager at iProspect Australia. Gary works closely with retail clients to best achieve their business objectives through strategic media planning and execution across a range of marketing channels.