Google’s I/O conference is an annual preview of coming attractions in Google’s software and hardware development that, more often than not, gets digital professionals talking. For all the hype and industry bluster, this year has presented some interesting innovations that could well reshape how we engage with the mobile internet. Again. Perhaps the most notable announcement this time round is what Google is calling Instant Apps – and at first glance the implications for e-commerce retail and general ‘impulse engagement’ from users seem very compelling indeed.
Instant Apps from Google
These days pretty much all of us make use of apps on one level or another, but the average mobile user will tend to use a select few, rather than dozens upon dozens.
Personally, though I download a lot of apps for research and curiosity, I stick to a core five or six that alternately entertain and make organising things a bit easier. One of the main barriers to widespread and habitual usage of new apps is the time it takes to download something new that may not be of immediate use.
Instant Apps is a means to get people to engage more with apps and (let’s be serious) help companies to benefit from the data they share about themselves. Where there’s money, there’s Google.
The Instant Apps development approach is designed to encourage companies to make a basic (but immediately usable) version of their app with just an initial 4MB of space to play with.
By making it easier for developers to slim down their apps, the hope is that user doubts about download waiting times will be removed and they can get on with engaging with a modular app that is usable in its first form in the time it takes to load up a mobile web page.
Google Instant Apps for mobile payments and retail e-commerce.
When the time (and data) barrier of app use is minimised or removed, some compelling uses start to present themselves.
The most obvious is in the area of mobile payments. One of the examples given by Google related to parking.
Without conventional cash an Instant App NFC link on a parking metre would allow for swift payment via an app (presumably via Android Pay) without the requirement to keep the app forever after. However – scope would remain for more advanced functionality (say pre-booking parking) and creating or adding to an account could be downloaded later.
By allowing customers an easy way in to engaging with a company, Google hopes to increase scope for firms to sensitively build out that relationship into something more longstanding, capitalising on the appetite for consumer convenience.
In a conventional retail scenario, it is also easy to envisage quick and easy in-store payments that help avoid queues while also enabling retailers to capture customer data for subsequent marketing and inevitable data analysis.
Bridging the online and offline and providing more of the joined-up experiences that increase consumer convenience while increasing insight and reducing costs for retailers will carry Instant Apps into the mainstream if the technology is right.
Google seems to be getting off on the right foot in that regard – adoption won’t be inhibited by technology as 95.7% of Android users (those running Jellybean and later) will be able to get started right away.
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