Google redesigns the Assistant for touch and digital transactions


Much of the discussion surrounding Google Assistant is focused on Google Home. But the Assistant is far more widely distributed on smartphones.

Richer user interface on smartphones and displays. On Wednesday, Google is announcing a redesign of the Assistant that makes the experience on smartphones, especially Android, more touch-friendly and visually interactive:

The new design combines the best of text and talk on your phone, giving you the relevant information right when you need it. Just ask your Google Assistant for something on your phone, and then you can interact with images, sliders and buttons to get the help you need in a fraction of the time.

Transactional opportunities. It also paves the way for more transactional interactions and commerce. Among the changes in the new design are:

  • Larger images and visual tools
  • Controls and sliders (e.g., smart home controls for lights or speaker volume)
  • Interactive messaging UI that enables editing with touch

Many of these changes will be useful to consumers, but probably more important are changes for marketers and brands.

Subscriptions and digital goods use cases. Google Assistant will now support sales of digital goods and premium subscriptions. Actions for Google Assistant previously enabled the sale of physical goods by brands and retailers. Now the company is making it possible to sell premium content or services from within a Google Assistant interaction:

Starting today, users can complete these transactions while in conversation with your Action through speakers, phones, and Smart Displays. This will be supported in the U.S. to start, with more locales coming soon.

Google provides examples from the world of gaming (e.g., level upgrades). It also cites meditation app Headspace, which will enable immediate upgrades to paid experiences. And these subscriptions or digital goods can be purchased on one device and consumed through another (e.g., purchase on smartphone, use via Google Home).

Google Sign-In Support. Making that cross-platform experience possible and more streamlined, the company also announced Google Sign-In for the Assistant. Google says that Starbucks has been using single Sign-In and has seen “login conversion nearly double for their users versus their previous implementation that required manual account entry.”

While Amazon continues to have the dominant market share in smart speakers, Google has more recently beat Echo in device shipments according to third-party reports. It also an advantage in the massive installed base of Android users; Amazon doesn’t have a smartphone user base although it has Alexa apps for iOS and Android.

Why it matters. Google has a multi-platform Assistant strategy (smart speaker, smart display, smartphone), and these changes help further that approach. They also provide useful, new monetization capabilities for developers, publishers and brands.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.



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