Google's Allo: an app that challenges marketers

Will Allo, Google’s new messaging app, lead the new charge of chatbots and AI? Probably not, but the official announcement has a few lines that should definitely make any marketer sit up and take notice.

Allo isn’t that different from other messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp but it does have one major difference: the Google Assistant chatbot that returns the answers so you don’t have to leave the app.

It’s easy to see how useful this could be, especially if you’re making plans with friends or want to share content from YouTube. Just looping in the Google Assistant to find restaurants adds a slightly different dimension to group chats.

But it’s these lines from product manager Amit Fulay on the official launch blog that should give pause for thought:

“Make plans with friends. You can easily move from discussing dinner with friends to making plans for the night, right in your chat. Just add the Assistant to your group chat and ask for movie times, local restaurants and more. You can also research travel destinations, flights and hotels together with friends.

“Get answers. Get the latest info on everything from news, weather, traffic, sports, or your upcoming flights status. Ask the Assistant to send you daily updates on the information you care about.”

It’s not a huge step from this to, at some point in the near future, asking the Assistant to send you the cheapest flights to a destination (and then book it), book an eye test or find the cheapest insurance quote. 

Take a bit of time asking the Assistant these questions. While some of the answers the Assistant returned weren’t hugely sophisticated, they largely had a tendency to return only one result. That alone should alarm marketers.

The right bot will remove that consideration element that’s so crucial to successful campaigns. Appealing to emotion will get you nowhere if the entity doing the consideration is a machine.

Similarly, repeat purchase patterns will be hard to break. Always go with a particular brand or service? Your Assistant will as likely default to these.

Allo may not be the app that delivers all the above. As with any chat app, convincing people to actually use the product is a challenge within itself, and one Google ran into with the launch of Google Plus.

Even if Allo fails, Google’s latest app, as well as Amazon Echo and Facebook M (a personal assistant within Messenger) is a sign that the initial stage of purchasing power is moving to sit with AI.

For smart companies, this presents a real opportunity. Get your tactics right and you could be that top level recommendation. For brands who aren’t looking at how chatbots could disrupt their purchase journey, the next few years could be a rude awakening.