History Repeating Itself
Google Glass offers every marketer an opportunity to engage with more people, create buzz and press around their brand and to sell more product. Every time a successful platform for interacting with the web succeeds, companies that get in the game early reap large rewards.
After eBay launched their iPhone app they saw $5 billion in transactions through the app in their first year. The note taking service Evernote has built a user base in the tens of millions based on their strategy of being on every device possible – in a 2012 interview on getting to 34 million users their CEO Phil Libin noted that 75% of their users originally came from mobile devices. Much of Spotify’s global success can be tied to the fact that they were one of the earliest and strongest adopters of Facebook’s Open Graph API.
What Is Google Glass?
Google Glass are clear glasses that come with a heads up display, video camera and voice activation interface. They will retail for ~US$1,400 and the first 8,000 Glass customers have been chosen through a competition run by Google that promised to give the chance to purchase the product if you gave them a good enough reason. In the coming months, expect to see videos of various Glass users doing crazy things with the product (aside – grade A product launch from Google).
How Does It Work?
Glass wearers will interact with the hardware in one of two ways. The first involves initiating actions by asking something, ‘Glass, find a good Italian restaurant close by’. The second interaction will come in the way of notifications (much like a smartphone notification). Notifications can come from services, I may subscribe to a service that tells me the weather on the hour. Notifications can also come if one of my contacts interacts with me through Glass, one of my contacts may send me a holiday photo that they just took.
The Main Concepts
There are four main concepts that you need to know to understand how users interact with Glass:
• Cards describe one screen of information – think of them as Glass’ version of a webpage. Cards need to be simple given their limited size. A Card can be made up of plain text or media elements (images, video, icons).
• Timeline is a series of cards in chronological order. Timeliness is important to Glass – it’s all about interacting with things in real time based on a user’s current context.
• Contacts are other entities a user can interact with. Contacts can be made up of other people or services. As a marketer you want to create a reason for people to add your brand to their contacts. Think of this action as being akin to gaining followers on Twitter or likes on a Facebook Fanpage, but with a lot more potential functionality.
• Menu Items allow users to interact with a Timeline Card. For example they can ‘Store’ an email, ‘Like’ a photo or ‘Rate’ a movie.
Other/Technical Points Of Interest
• Applications and services built specifically for Glass are known as Glassware.
• You can bundle relevant Timeline Cards e.g. a series of emails.
• The screen aspect ratio is 16×9 (most common aspect ratio).
• The screen resolution is 640×360 pixels (iPhone 5 is 640×1136).
• The menu option icon size is 50×50 pixels.
• Supported media include: MP4, H.264/H.263 baseline video and AAC/MP3 audio (all standard).
• There is an alternative to the voice interface in the form of a touchpad in the temple of the frame.
Optimising For Glass
In my opinion it generally pays to stay in Google’s favour. When they released their Panda changes to their search algorithm they decimated hordes of businesses and made many others successful. Optimising your web properties to respond to Glass queries is a great start (see getting started below) and will probably help you gain new customers directly from Glass searches or queries done through the various new companies that will launch on Glass. Ensuring you are actively syndicating your social content to Google+ will also probably pay dividends if Glass takes off. Given social’s importance in Google’s overall strategy you can expect there to be deep integration between Google+ and Glass.
Disrupting With Glass
Engaging services designed specifically for Glass will undoubtedly disrupt industries (if Glass reaches critical adoption). By that I mean a single brand has the potential to disrupt their entire industry and gain unequivocal category share of voice if they execute an innovative service on Glass (again that needs to be accompanied with the product’s success). I can immediately see some use cases I’d like to see fulfilled that a brand should be offering me:
• Budgeting I add my bank to my Glass contacts and when I see a product I like I send it to my bank which automatically adds that product to my budget plans.
• Campaigning there have been a few brands that have experimented with scavenging competitions, Glass would provide the perfect interface for this experience.
• Research if you own a retail store why not offer people a discount on their purchase if they agree to let you record their experience through your store? This data would be invaluable in creating better shopping experiences.
• Fashion take a photo of someone’s wardrobe and send it to a retail brand contact. They put the outfit together as a package and optimise for price/your favorite brands.
• Piggyback there is also a big opportunity to partner with the next great Glass app. Ford has moved a division to Silicon Valley to work with start ups on their Sync platform, Nike has created an incubator for their Nike+ Fuelband. Some of the 8,000 Glass owners will undoubtedly be Australian developers looking to make the next Angry Bird app. Why not talk to the guys at Fishburners and see if there’s any interesting Glass start ups in your space you can partner with?
You Need To Think Differently
You need to think differently in two ways. If you want to pull the trigger on Glass as a strategic business opportunity you need to think about the benefits your customers could potentially receive from seeing the world through the lens of your brand. More broadly you need to stop thinking about a ‘mobile strategy’ or ‘social strategy’ and you certainly need to stop designing ‘web pages’. These are isolated parts of a far more important picture: in digital your brand, content and services can and will be everywhere. You can either optimise this for business performance or ignore it and be inaccessible.
You can’t get access to the Glass Software Developer Kit (SDK) without owning the product. From Google’s docs: “Glass is a unique platform that is mobile but fundamentally different than existing mobile platforms in both design and use. To develop great experiences and effectively test them, you need to have Glass and use it in your everyday life. This is why the Google Mirror API is in a Developer Preview and actual access to the API service will be rolled out slowly, starting with the Glass Explorers as they get their Glass.”
What you can do right now is start challenging your colleagues to think about structuring your digital properties to be able to cope with Glass and the myriad of other similar devices that are cropping up everywhere. The first fundamental concept in this change is to stop thinking about creating websites and begin thinking about web-services (a topic for another post).
Google have failed in the past – they’ve just announced they’re closing their Reader service, Google Wave was possibly the most over-hyped product in history second only to Google Buzz. Even so I’d be recommending that you optimise your digital properties to be able to deal with Glass. A day will come soon where we stop building websites and start building web-services that enable any device or service to interact with your brand optimally.
By designing and creating your business’s web-service today you’ll be far better armed to syndicate your content everywhere and anywhere, because soon it will be in people’s glasses, their watches, their toasters and probably even their kitchen sinks.
Vlad Ivanovic is digital strategist at Holler.