Going Beyond Search for Loyalty

May 24, 2005

By John Hennessy

Google has enjoyed great success, but it isn’t content to simply be a great search engine. They entered email with their gmail services. They offer a terrific map service and even have a ride finder service that shows cab locations in real time.

One of their latest prototype customer offerings (found at labs.google.com) is a personalized home page called Google homepage.
This service lets Google provide an expanded level of service for their customers. It also makes sense as a convenient way for customers to access Google search, their gmail account,
content and whatever else Google has up its sleeve.

This personalized home page prototype also puts Google in more direct competition with Yahoo! and AOL for visitors and ad dollars. Not lost on these companies and advertisers is that this convenient collection of resources will give customers even more reason to rely on Google to satisfy a broad range of needs.

Moderator’s Comment: What else can businesses do to expand the benefits they deliver to customers and consequently get customers to rely on them more?

In considering what makes sense, don’t start by considering what makes sense to you. Try to figure out what would make sense for your customers.

Just because you can do it doesn’t mean your customers will see value in it. Just because you and no one else has done it yet, doesn’t mean your customers
won’t find great value in it.

Hot dogs at Home Depot come to mind. There’s nothing in their core business that suggests selling hot dogs. But when you’re doing a project and running
back and forth for stuff, being able to grab a dog and keep moving is a huge plus.

John Hennessy – Moderator

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7 Comments on "Going Beyond Search for Loyalty"

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Rick Moss
15 years 9 months ago

I just put together my personalized Google homepage. Just like most of what Google designs, the process was as streamlined as possible…very quick and easy. Aside from the immediate gains Google should see from this, in providing yet another time-saving convenience for its users, the service represents a move towards collecting individual user preferences to presumably better-target ads and return more accurate search results.

With the user’s permission, Google can improve offerings by taking into account, beyond what Web site searches are being made, the user’s news source preferences, geographic location, stock market interests and even where they are driving.

Google, of course, is in an enviable position for gathering preference information from its customers, but this can serve as an example to retailers that the more you know about your shoppers, the better you can serve them.

James Tenser
15 years 9 months ago

I like Google very much, especially its drive to keep pushing the envelope on its service offerings. Lately, I’ve been toying with Google Scholar (check it out in the lab), and I’m impressed so far. Of course, its variations on the user-customizable portal resemble MyYahoo! and similar service bundles. But Google is savvy enough to set itself apart in two ways:

1) That “search only” home page is the heart of Google’s brand identity. Cramming in every RSS feed and dashboard under the sun would make Google seem like just another portal offering.

2) Google’s search simply works better than anyone else’s most of the time. It’s my first stop on most searches – even when I know what I’m looking for, because its engine usually gets me there faster than my memory.

Surrounding its core proposition with more services simply gives loyal users more reasons to return, and new users more reasons to try. It’s the supercenter concept in a nutshell – fantastic, until the size and complexity begin to work against the customer experience.

Charles Magowan
Charles Magowan
15 years 9 months ago

My takeway from Google is that they made searching a breeze thanks to an uncluttered design and the use of human interpretations of relevance (as expressed by links) rather than trying to teach an AI system to judge relevance.

If a store was on the Google model, they’d make it easier for the shopper to find the items they want and complete the shopping trip quickly.

Whereas, a lot of retailers appear to be designed to get the shopper lost and/or make them walk all over the store in hopes of stimulating an impulse buy.

Bernice Hurst
15 years 9 months ago

Short answer – be better at what you do or offer than anyone else. I’ve just had an argument with my car insurers over what I believed was an excessively large increase in the premium since last year. Without going into boring details, I won the argument and got them to reduce it back to only slightly more. I am not really satisfied with the company and have had other problems with them but when I shopped around for an alternative yesterday, the cheaper policies didn’t have the same features. The fact that their laziness and/or incompetence could have cost me a great deal extra and that I had to waste my time getting it altered has not endeared them to me but the benefits they offer have kept me hooked, at least for the time being.

PS My husband read me an article yesterday about the newest Google gadgets and this afternoon he personalised his home page. He said it was a gas.

Jeff Weitzman
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 9 months ago
This thread wins my vote for “best use of Google to generate interest in almost anything!” Oh, just poking fun. Certainly a well-executed strategy to grow revenue through complementary lines of business is great. But I’m not sure Google is the best role model. Google is an engineering company, where every engineer spends 20% of his or her time working on their own projects. There are all sorts of things bubbling in the Google Labs, some of which will never see the light of day. There are a whole range of projects cooking that take advantage of a powerful search engine sifting through tons of data. When you’ve got the biggest hammer, there are an awful lot of nails out there. But Google can afford this. They are growing rapidly, they are playing with “funny money” in the form of rapidly rising stock values, and people are dying to work for them and prove how smart they are. How many mature retail operations does this describe? Not many. Retailers should certainly keep their eyes open… Read more »
Al McClain
Al McClain
15 years 9 months ago

For Google, this one is a no-brainer. You can, of course, already make Google your home page, but all you get is a search function in the middle of a huge amount of white space. This is in some ways akin to a retailer having shelves with just a few items (or one big one) and the rest of the space is empty. Makes no sense.

I am really amazed at all the goings-on at Google Labs, and will check some of them out during down time. As Jeff has pointed out, the trick for all retailers is to separate the good ideas from the bad ones and be sure to go back and jettison the poorly performing ones regularly, so there will be mental and physical space for the winners.

I like the uncluttered look Google has, even with the customized home page, and their site is more comfortable for the user than the mega sites like Yahoo!, AOL, etc. that throw in everything including the kitchen sink.

Ken Wyker
15 years 9 months ago
John is dead-on with his suggestion to think of what makes sense to your customers instead of what makes sense to you. The concept of personalization gets talked about a lot, but I think it means different things to retailers and consumers. Retailers typically think of personalization as “targeted marketing” and pursue it with the goal of being more efficient and effective in their marketing efforts. Many targeted marketing efforts attempt to leverage customer data to get customers to buy more than they normally do or to buy items they don’t usually buy. In focusing so much on their own goals, retailers running these programs often don’t get the response they are looking for and end up frustrating customers in the process. But when a consumer thinks of personalization, they’re thinking more along the lines of what Google is providing. Save me time or money by personalizing the experience…help me find the best deals on what I want to buy…use your knowledge of me to make it easier for me to do what I want… Read more »

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