Finance@Google 2017: Mind the Gap


Earlier this month Carat’s Sam Hall attended Finance@Google 2017 and shares with us some of the key takeaways.

Sam Hall Sam Hall Director Carat Financial Services; Google

Joining marketers from across the EMEA region at Google’s European head office in Dublin for the annual Finance@Google event, I was excited at the prospect of hearing from experts across different specialisms, Google’s insights into the Finance marketplace, and their relevant new product advancements. Having attended in previous years I had high expectations, and this year did not disappoint.

The title of this year’s event was ‘Mind The Gap’ in reference to how the Banking & Insurance industry can work to bridge the gap that is created by continuously increasing consumer demands and technological advancements. The event fell across two days with Day 1 billed to focus on the customer, their changes in demand and behaviour, and the opportunities which arise from this. Day 2 focussed on how technology and machine learning is shaping the industry and the consumer of the future.

With over eleven experts speaking across the event there was an abundance of insightful content which we were all eager to devour, within this post I will share with you what I thought were the best and juiciest bits.

The Customer

To kick off we were invited to get under the skin of customer psychology with Web Psychologist, Nathalie Nahai. There were 2 main themes which stood out to me from the content which Nathalie shared:

Firstly - and I think we are all familiar with this - the change in customer expectations with the improvements in technology; convenience, removing barriers to purchase, and personalisation are all areas which fall into this. We were advised to “lower the mental effort to maximise conversion” and “give customers a reason to start and give them a head start”, the closer a customer is to completing a task the more likely they will be to do it. After all every online experience is competing with the best online experience a customer has ever had.

However, this is coupled with increasing distrust from consumers, the second theme. Increasing customer awareness around data usage and privacy, the rising use of ad blockers, all factors which underline the importance of earning trust from customers. Repetition and structure can help here; increasing memorability, familiarity, which can mean customers are more likely to convert. BUT you need to find a way to keep people engaged, give them a reason to keep coming back with onsite tools, new products and features, and make rewards unpredictable.


Naturally when talking about audiences at a tech company’s event, a huge area of focus was around data. Oli Petas, UK Search Audiences & Automation Lead at Google, outlined Google’s vision of the search ad of the future, blending context + business data + Google data to drive efficiencies and in turn enable further segmentation over time.

There are some new Google launches in the pipeline to enable this:

  • Business data: Customer match uploader programme - the ability to match beyond just email, but via phone number too.
  • Google data: Using not only gender, age, and similar audiences, but very soon in-market audiences and household income (it was noted that 20+ segments for In-Market audiences will be launched for finance alone).

Anyone who has used business data within marketing strategies will appreciate the potential challenges around not only collation of data, but also data segmentation. Too many segments will spread data too thinly. Doing this will increase management time and increase the time taken to make any meaningful learnings. Oli provided some guidance on what segmentation could look like at a basic level across the search funnel:

  • CRM: People who have bought before
  • Remarketed traffic: People yet to buy
  • In market data, similar users, demographic data: Relevant people yet to interact

Of course, data lists should be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Bid modifiers and negative lists are also tools to use here. There is also an argument that consideration should be given for expanding audiences via relevant new search auctions without a data overlay to ensure this is a truly future facing strategy.


When asked, ‘What do you dislike most about visiting a mobile website?’ over 46% of people said waiting for the mobile site to load. The average load time of a mobile site is 7 seconds; however, conversion rate increases the quicker the page load time as a general trend. Bounce rate is also lower for mobile page load speeds of 1 second vs. 2 vs. 3. All as you would logically expect. Page speed is also an ad ranking factor in Google mobile search results, so not only does it affect onsite conversion but it also impacts visibility in the competitive mobile search space.

The best target for page load time? That should be 1 second, but anything under 3 seconds in Google’s eyes is ‘good’. Not quite there yet? Google gave us some hints and tech tips to improve it:

  • AMP (accelerated mobile pages)
  • Prioritise above the fold
  • Optimise images
  • Minifying code – extra characters take time to load
  • Reduce requests to the server & redirects

Getting your mobile experience right is really important. In the past a ‘Mobile first’ strategy was king, yet David Sneddon, Google Export Leader, gave a different perspective - an ‘AI first’ strategy.

Google is focusing on a number of different areas which fall within Artificial Intelligence, including Machine Learning. Machine Learning can be used in a number of different ways beyond just bid strategies and programmatic. One example we were given of this, was, an ecommerce food retailer who is improving how they handle customer feedback with machine learning. What is good feedback vs. what is an enquiry which needs response, along with identifying a bad ‘sentiment’ through classifying the main topics. By doing this they improved business efficiencies and customer experience. Ultimately Google’s point around being ‘AI first’ is stressing that it’s not just about a device, as their belief is, that very soon, the concept of device will fade away.

Attribution & Measurement

In the final session we jumped on the attribution and measurement train with Reemda Tieben, Measurement & Attribution Consultant at Google. As we know, the journey to conversion has many paths, but there are ways to track and measure different types of journeys, and some of Google’s tools which enable this were outlined:

  • Call: Click to call in search ads (you can offer just this for no ecommerce or poor sites) and call extensions (offering options to consumers). Imported conversions are also to be launched soon, which will enable you to import CRM data into adwords.
  • Branch or Store Visits: If a person clicks on a search advert and goes to store, following this a store visit can be reported. This is possible via location history in mobile and android technology from Google. You can then overlay this data with in store conversion rates and AOV to give a value indication.
  • Failure to covert: Tracking on micro conversions will give you learnings on people who leave the journey but come back later. Micro conversions are indications or signals of intent and although are not conversions are still important. Reporting these and macro conversions will provide granularity - this can then be overlaid into segmentation or bidding strategies.
  • The consideration to the role of activity across the journey was also referred to, brand search may be a best linear performer but generic can reach a new audience and have a greater attributed value.


The core themes of being customer centric and making the conversion process as barrier free and easy as possible remain true, particularly for mobile as it continues to grow in importance. But like for the Google Next 2017, which our Head of Digital Pete Metcalfe attended earlier this year, the main development themes coming from Google were around Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning - albeit the importance of humans in setting up the right rules and inputs remains unquestionable, especially when setting up the right data strategies.

So how can we all ‘Mind the Gap’ and deal with change? In the words of Google cofounder Larry Page ‘You need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant’, don’t get comfortable doing the same thing as your competitors’ won’t and your customers expect more.


Sam Hall Sam Hall Director Carat Financial Services; Google
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