[YDM Week@nd] Digital Personal Assistant, The Future of Search


daily Pulse
01.15.2016 No. 29
Digital Personal Assistant, The Future of Search


Aiming at “Micro-Moments”

With the availability of sophisticated data analysis, more marketers are focusing on “micro-moments,” a specific point in time when someone wants to know, buy, do something, or to go somewhere. The significance of micro-moments induce marketers to focus more on the intent of users than their identity. Immediacy matters more than brand loyalty for digital, especially for mobile users since one of the core advantages of mobile search is its instant accessibility.

The ability to capture users’ intent can be a major advantage for marketers since intent often leads to a transaction or to buying something, which translates to monetization of brands over time. Enhanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can help better deliver personalized search results at micro-moments. By learning how, why, what and where people search, AI can process ever more advanced search.


Artificial Intelligence for Advanced Search

Google utilizes RankBrain, its AI system, to handle complex search queries. Even for search queries that are very new, RankBrain can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly. This way, Google is able to deal with ambiguous queries and “connect people to information based on the intent of their search.” Understanding the context of what users are searching for, the search engine can suggest answers that are most relevant to the users’ needs and wants.

Naver is also preparing to launch a search feature which presents results in consideration of the users’ interest, location and demographics. Called “Live Search,” the feature concentrates more on grasping the intent of users’ search than finding the correlation between the search word and the result. With “BREW (Burst, Real-time, Event-Wise)” search system, Live Search can apply users’ feedbacks and the context of their search in real-time. This way, when different people search for the same word, Naver can provide each user with different results that are most relevant for the purpose of his or her search.

This type of technology is reaching further towards advanced voice search. Improved ability to process natural language is enabling voice-based assistants to better understand complex requests and meaning behind users’ questions. As more people utilize voice search, technologies behind it will keep improve through learning, and the kind of natural back-and-forth between human and computer will eventually be possible.

Search as the Ultimate Personal Assistant

Behshad Behzadi, director of search innovation at Google’s Zurich lab, underlined that “The future of search is to try to build the ultimate personal assistant.” It is expected that the search industry will move beyond keyword search to intent-based search, and ultimately towards something that behaves like a digital personal assistant which can understand and predict a users’ needs, and automatically deliver on them the corresponding services or products.

Last summer, Facebook introduced M, the A.I.-powered personal assistant inside of Facebook Messenger, which can order gifts, book appointments, make restaurant and travel reservations and so on. Whereas search used to be the most direct bridge between users’ intent and the transaction where that intent is fulfilled, M actually goes out and completes transactions on behalf of them. In other words, this new feature disrupts the entire process which traditional search engines used to have control on.

In response to this dramatic change in search, Google recently announced its plan to build a new mobile messaging service that integrates its artificial intelligence know-how to answer users’ questions. The service will utilize chatbot software programs which understand conversational commands and respond in kind. Users will be able to text a chatbot, which will browse the Web and other sources to answer the question inside the messaging app. It would be interesting to see if this new feature will be the search giant’s step towards offering a more convenient way to find what people are really looking for.

Besides Google and Facebook Messenger, several other messaging platforms are already offering services that resemble digital assistants. is building a messaging service that also answers questions and performs other tasks. Slack, which focuses on workplace communication, offers chatbots to automate tasks such as translating text. Messaging platforms like Kik or WeChat allows users to chat with bots that are managed by brands, which can be a unique form of advertising for brands.

Editor's Note

Google has been investing in artificial intelligence technology for long, and certainly is leading this field. On the other hand, Facebook Messenger is rapidly expanding its users with 800 million MAUs so far. It would be interesting to see how these tech giants integrate personal digital assistants into messaging platforms and bring about a new wave in search industry. Brands will need to be flexible enough to adopt to these changes when utilizing search for marketing purposes and measuring the results.

ydm's View on This Week's Theme by SuokWon Chang, Director, DoDam communications

The evolution of search centered on personalization and accuracy requires more sophisticated strategies and execution of search advertising. (Search industry and search ad inevitably affect each other.) Since search industry, once dominated by Google and Naver, is expanding to Facebook, commerce and other mobile vertical sites, marketers need to analyze even more diversified user behaviors. Through these data, solutions to increase ROAS (Return On Ads Spending) can be developed to lead enhanced search ad industry. However, it is uncertain whether this industry will continue to be called search ad industry or not.

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