Retail Customer Experience: Google+ Launches With Mobile Hangouts
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Customer Experience, a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.
Google recently ended its invitation-only Google+ test run, opening the network to everyone. With an estimated 25 million (beta) users, Google+ has been upgraded with a search capability and enhanced "Hangouts" feature that lets smartphone subscribers broadcast their video chat conversations for others to see.
Google said on its official blog its well-received Hangouts feature — where up to nine people can link up and chat with a user on video — will be available on camera equipped smartphones powered by its own Android software with support for Apple iOS devices "coming soon." The user can also host an online broadcast with the feature, effectively recording a session and broadcasting it live for public access online. Black Eyed Peas singer, will.i.am, hosted the first Hangout on Air on September 21.
"Hangouts should keep pace with how you socialise in the real-world, so today we’re launching it on the one device that’s always by your side: your mobile phone," Google’s senior vice president of engineering Vic Gundotra said on the blog post.
The launch, especially the availability of a video-chat-and-publish feature, is big news for researchers seeking to put their finger on the pulse of their ever fickle consumers.
"As part of the research mix, video chats are a valuable part of the qualitative information needed from customers," said Mark Michelson of Threads Qualitative Research. "The videos will give researchers the opportunity to validate their quantitative findings, better understand demographics, and put numbers into perspective."
For retailers, video chats will let them see with their own eyes how well the brands they carry and the services they offer are performing for their customers — in real time. Video chats will also inform retailers about the emotional side of the buying experience by providing visuals and spoken phrases that reveal how their experience design is making their customers feel. The immediacy and vividness of "video evidence" will bring retailers face-to-face with service and experience design issues that need attention now.
"The challenge for retailers will be to listen to the right things and make sense of them. Just because something is interesting doesn’t make it something to respond to," said Simack Salari, founder and director of ETHOS, a research and software company that specializes in ethnographic research. "The big interest to retailers in video chats should be the mundane, not the exciting, because exciting things don’t happen that often. This technology will create unprecedented transparency for retailers because more people are prepared to capture and share their experiences than ever before."
The viewable hangout chats now available on Google+ may mean that certain research services are needed less by retailers. On the other hand, new expertise will be required to find meaningful patterns in the new data types. As customers begin using their visits to stores, hospitals, airports, theaters, and theme parks as backdrops for their conversations with friends, they will become a valuable new kind of feedback channel for those experience designers and service designers willing to listen to them.
- Google+ is now open to all – what that means for retailers – Retail Customer Experience
- Google+: 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99… 100. – Google Blog
- Google Plus now open to public, invitations not needed – Reuters/Straits Times
- Google+ open to the public with new search, ‘Hangouts’ video chat features – Los Angeles Times
Discussion Questions: What do you think of video chat features as a consumer research tool able to capture consumer experiences in real-time? Do you see more potential for such features as a marketing and consumer engagement tool?