Google’s main developer conference of the year, I/O is usually brimming with search developments but the focus of this year’s keynote address was very much on voice assistants. Much has been made about the advent of voice search over the last 12 months and this was reflected in the two hour speech.
While less was said about search, plenty was revealed about Google Assistant and a slew of new features were revealed along with the latest user figures, which revealed half a billion users and a multitude of devices including TVs, cars and home devices.
The big announcements focused on product development. It was revealed six new voices will be made available, including some voice content from US singer, John Legend, along with more personalisation and customisation options, powered by AI.
Google says it has improved natural language processing, meaning users can ask follow up questions without having to say ‘Hey Google’ to trigger the device. Custom routines are also incoming along with scheduled routines, while smart displays and video calling will go live later this year. Google Assistant on smartphones has also been overhauled, with the search engine previewing an improved visual experience.
One of the most interesting updates concerned Duplex. Powered by AI, Duplex will allow appointments to be booked via phone for local businesses. Google says that this gives Assistant users the power to carry out natural conversations with their device in order to carry out everyday tasks over the phone – such as having the Assistant book a haircut or make a restaurant reservation.
Read the full story here: https://searchengineland.com/google-assistant-takes-center-stage-at-i-o-search-takes-a-back-seat-297867
Retail foot fall drops further
The worst two month average since the 2009 recession has heaped more misery on the high street as the latest figures reveal 3.3% year-on-year decline in footfall for April. This follows on from a 6% drop in March.
While this paints a depressing picture for bricks and mortar stores (everywhere but London also reported an increase number of vacant stores) analysts say it’s not all doom and gloom. British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said that retailer are increasingly weighing up a physical presence against a digital investment and are adapting to changing consumer shopping habits which have seen shoppers transitioning to online orders.
Read the full story here: https://www.retailgazette.co.uk/blog/2018/05/april-footfall-dampened-bad-weather/
Walmart cements largest ever e-commerce deal
The US grocery store Walmart has acquired shares in the Indian Amazon rival, Flipkart. Valued at $18-20bn, the investment is being earmarked as the largest e-commerce deal ever. The agreement means Walmart will finally get a foothold in the lucrative Indian retail market, estimated to be worth $20 billion per year according to Forrester data and projected to reach $77 billion by 2022. Flipkart says it will use the Walmart link to tap into its experience running offline stores, access to manufacturers, supply chain and grocery know-how.