Scene from a past Google I/O. Registration, common-hallway walking area with a Google I/O label on the wall.
News Analysis

6 Takeaways for Marketers From the 2021 Google I/O Conference

6 minute read
Dom Nicastro avatar
Google I/O conference was last week. Here are the major takeaways for marketers.

Google made some announcements that marketers should take note at its Google I/O developer’s conference last week. The announcements include advancements from the search engine giant in the arenas of AI and machine learning, search engines, connecting users with apps and ecommerce and shopping.

Let’s dive into some of the updates in more detail.

LaMDA Brings Search Changes for Marketers

Google unveiled LaMDA, short for “Language Model for Dialogue Applications,” a machine learning model designed for dialogue and built on Transformer, a neural network architecture that Google invented and open-sourced.

“We think that this early-stage research could unlock more natural ways of interacting with technology and entirely new categories of helpful applications,” Google researchers noted in an I/O blog. “Human conversations are surprisingly complex. They’re grounded in concepts we’ve learned throughout our lives; are composed of responses that are both sensible and specific; and unfold in an open-ended manner.”

Google wants to make searches more human and natural, according to Jon Buchan, the CEO of email campaign platform Charm Offensive. This will have a direct impact on marketing, and marketers will need to create strategies that are laced with an intent to connect, he added.

“With the launch of LaMDA, Google aims to humanize the search engine, which will bring a new set of changes in marketing,” Buchan said. “It's set to become more human. Also, LaMDA works on an open-source platform, which means it will be able to give responses on any topic, expanding the whole spectrum of searches for users.”

Related Article: As Google FLoC Trial Rolls Out, What's a Marketer's Next Move?

MUM’s the Word on Search

Google’s new AI language model, MUM, will eventually help make Google Search a lot smarter, according to Google officials.

In 2019, Google launched BERT, a Transformer AI model that can better understand the intent behind search queries, according to Google. However, Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is 1,000x more powerful than BERT, according to Google officials, and can learn across 75 languages at once.

“It can understand information across text, images, video and more,” officials wrote. “We’re still in the early days of exploring MUM, but the goal is that one day you’ll be able to type a long, information-dense, and natural sounding query like, ‘I’ve hiked Mt. Adams and now want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall, what should I do differently to prepare?’ and more quickly find relevant information you need.”

With this addition, Google search will better understand natural language and context, according to Buchan. “As a marketer, I see that SEO practices will take a new turn with a heavy focus on natural and long-tail keywords that are different from what we’ve been targeting,” he said. “This step will surely add a new layer of convenience for users.”

Personalization Stepped up on Android

The biggest takeaway from Google I/O is that personalization in Android has been taken to a whole new level, according to Casey Allen, CEO of Barista Warrior.

Google announced “Material You” at Google I/O, a new way to think about design for Android, for Google, and for the entire tech industry, according to Google officials.

“In addition to making it easy to adapt to different screen sizes and types, Material You uses motion to help understand space, convey brand, and elicit trust,” Google officials said. “The UI reacts to screen changes, context changes, and input in a way that is consistent but also human. Little surprises and playful quirkiness augment basic storytelling — making technology approachable and comfortable.”

Until now, users had a handful of themes to choose from, Allen noted. Thanks to "Material You," the engine creates new themes based on the color palette of the user's custom wallpaper image.

“Google has always had the negative PR of using tracked data for personalization in their products,” Allen said. “This is a refreshing step where each person's theme will look extremely personalized without the involvement of any background tracking.”

Learning Opportunities

Understanding Users Better Via App Experience

Google unveiled new ways to reach more people and activate insights to help improve app performance. App campaigns help companies reach new app users across Search, YouTube, Google Play, Discover and over three million other sites and apps, according to Google.

In June, Google is expanding the reach of App campaigns on Android to users in the desktop versions of and the Google Display Network. Users that click on a company’s app ad in desktop browsers will be directed to the Google Play Store desktop website. From there, they can install apps directly onto any Android device linked to a Google Play account.

The Google Analytics for Firebase SDK helps marketers measure events that matter to the business and get insights about how users engage with your app.

“Previously, both coding and an app update were required if you wanted to create a custom in-app event, like logging a ‘purchase’ when users reach your confirmation screen,” Google officials wrote. “We’re now introducing event creation and modification directly from the Analytics interface so you can configure the right in-app events based on your marketing objectives — without requiring any code updates.”

Shopping Graph Debuts, Shopify Partnership Extends

Google announced The Shopping Graph, an AI-enhanced model that understands a constantly-changing set of products, sellers, brands, reviews and the product information and inventory data Google receives from brands and retailers directly — as well as how those attributes relate to one another, according to a blog post from Bill Ready, president of Commerce and Payments for Google.

“With people shopping across Google more than a billion times a day, the Shopping Graph makes those sessions more helpful by connecting people with over 24 billion listings from millions of merchants across the web,” he said. “It works in real-time so people can discover and shop for products that are available right now.”

Google also announced an expanded partnership with Shopify, introducing a new process that will let Shopify’s 1.7 million merchants feature their products across Google. “This new collaboration with Shopify will enable merchants to become discoverable to high-intent consumers across Google Search, Shopping, YouTube, Google Images and more,” Ready wrote.

Google Lens Opens New World for Marketers

One of the most important takeaways when it comes to ecommerce is the new Google Lens update, according to Stephan Baldwin, founder of Assisted Living Center.

Google Lens enables you to search what you see — from your camera, your photos and even your search bar, according to Google officials. Google is updating the Translate filter in Lens so users can copy, listen to or search translated text in over 100 languages.

“Google's AI will allow people to shop for products by using pictures users take, which opens a world of opportunity for marketers in online and physical settings,” he said. “The company will use user data to suggest products and companies with a more extensive set of variables, including values and opinions, meaning marketing strategies will need to change to address their audiences in a more personal way.

Early adopters will benefit greatly while everyone else catches up, Baldwin added, meaning that businesses should already start thinking of innovative ways to reach their audiences through Lens.

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