SPOTLIGHT ON TRANSITION: This post is part of a series of insights into the ways technology is reshaping marketing, the enterprise, and the world. Join us on July 16 for our Transition conference, where leaders from the fields of technology, marketing and global business – like General Electric CMO Beth Comstock and Unilever SVP of Marketing Marc Mathieu – share stories and examples of organizations successfully making it through times of transition.


Earlier this month, Google hosted its annual developer conference, I/O, and announced a number of major updates, news, and new features. Though primarily aimed at app developers and software engineers, there were a number of important takeaways for marketers. Here’s your cheat sheet:

The Future of Mobile Marketing is Big but Fragmented

The major announcement at Google’s I/O conference: Google’s Android has reached 1 billion active users. That’s more than twice the 470 million people on Apple’s iOS equivalent. We’ve written about the astronomical rise of mobile before, but Google’s stats — 20 billion text messages are sent each day from Android devices, 93 million selfies are taken every day, and Android phones are checked 100 billion times each day – are staggering.

Amongst these 1 billion active users, however, Android usage is problematically fragmented. Only ~5% of Android devices currently run its latest OS, with a majority still using one released two years ago. On the other hand, 87% of iPhone users are on Apple’s iOS 7. The reason? Manufacturers like Samsung, LG, HTC or Sony have to wait longer to personalize and approve the Android firmware for their devices, as Google initially pushes out its new OS versions only to Google-tied devices in the Nexus series. And now, Google has also announced its latest Android version – “L” – which emphasizes animation and object interaction… but will most likely be adopted by only a fraction of Android users once it’s released. What does this mean? More than ever, brands and marketers need to include even more operating systems and platforms as part of their mobile strategy.

Incidentally, another I/O announcement will further stratify Apple/Google market share, with Android becoming more dominant in less wealthy regions, while iOS expands its market share in richer areas. With its new Android One project, Google will work directly with low-cost smartphone manufacturers in emerging markets to produce region-specific models. It’s a strategic move to prevent the adoption of other devices in important markets like India, China, and the rest of the developing world — aka where we’ll see the next big wave of mobile growth.

So Marketers Can’t Develop a Mobile Strategy Based on iPhone or Android Alone

A big theme at I/O was the need for developers to think in terms of experiences for people, rather than software for individual devices. Google knows we’re living, increasingly, in a multi-screen world – so it’s making it easier to have a connected experience across a range of devices, from your phone to tablet and then to your TV, car dashboard, and watch.

Enter Android TV,  Google’s newest streaming video platform. Where in the past, the Google TV team was separate from Android with its own developer tools, features and software, Android L now pulls them together, with apps and a UI that stretches across platforms. Theoretically, this means that mobile and TV experiences might finally be synchronized, and Google might realize its vision for the mobile device as a universal remote control across systems and networks.

Marketers are no longer constrained to one device, and need to continually strive to optimize their websites, emails and other content not only for different operating systems, but also for a range of devices and mediums. The competition for all these new screens will be fierce.

Google is Also Racing To Get In Your Car

Surprise, surprise: Google’s Android software will also find its way into a dashboard near you this year, connecting Android phone apps to a car’s center screen for seamless use while driving. All you have to do is plug in whatever phone you have, and send the software to the car. The system, Android Auto, will use Google Maps for navigation, and Google Voice for tasks and information: like finding out when the closest museum closes and then navigating there, reminding yourself about your upcoming doctor appointment, finding a well-reviewed bodega along the highway, or texting your friend with an ETA, all while keeping your hands on the wheel.

Where It Can Offer Information Proactively

As Google begins to realize its vision of unifying multiple screens in seamless coexistence, it will continue to develop products and services that are “contextually aware,” predicting what you need and when you’ll need it through an intelligent understanding of your device activity (enter Google Now). As Google gets better and better at making sure the right content is delivered to its users, marketers should be similarly aware of how they can increase the chances that their content is delivered in tandem. Let’s call it behavior-based marketing.

And Maybe Even Help You Get Healthy

Speaking of behavior-based marketing, Google has also leapt on the growing bandwagon of health and fitness tracking. Its new fitness platform, Google Fit, will collect and aggregate data from popular fitness trackers and health-related apps. Now Google is a one-stop shop for all your health information, and can create thoughtful interactions – like personalized running routes based on number of hours slept, or communication between your wearable devices and cloud-based Google accounts.

Average daily sessions with health and fitness apps among mobile users grew 62% between December 2013 and June 2014, while overall daily app usage over the same period is up only 33%. As this space continues to grow, marketers should take a look at their business models and target audiences to find opportunities to integrate.

So We’re Excited

Percolate’s Android developer Cliff Kim was in attendance at I/O and says its emphasis on UX resonated. “As Google prepares for the next billion users, [the product] has to be very well-rounded, not just in the content but also in the experience. Getting that engagement is very critical. Even simple things, like giving depth to an app by adding shadows, really immerse the user right into it. Here, we’re always in dialogue with the design team, and there is a lot of back and forth in terms of what the flow should be.”

I/O’s most interesting moment, according to Cliff? The watch. “[At Percolate] we can do a lot of cool things with that. If there are very high priority notifications, we can push those specifically to a watch, not just a phone, so we can really stay connected with our clients if things are being flagged. It’s a whole other level of alertness. It could be an interesting space for us.”