Why Facebook Acquired Kustomer

Why Facebook Acquired Kustomer

Facebook

Facebook continues to turn itself into an advertising and commerce destination. On November 30, Facebook announced the acquisition of Kustomer, a customer relationship management platform that specializes in conversational commerce, or forms of commerce derived from chat, messaging, and other interactive channels. The acquisition is clearly intended to beef up Facebook’s messaging and chat features as revenue generators.

We’ve been blogging about Facebook’s growing role as an advertising powerhouse for quite some time. Facebook is now the second-largest online advertising platform behind Google, according to eMarketer. Despite some occasionally bad publicity (and ad boycotts) Facebook’s ad revenue just keeps climbing in 2020, as I discussed on our blog in August.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been steadily building out messaging services as ways for brands to build and manage customer relationships. Businesses regularly use Facebook Messenger to engage with customers (as Spotify does) and manage transactions (as Paypal does). Developing Messenger as a form of conversational commerce is important to Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. As Sandberg told investors in 2019,

Messaging is one of the fastest growing areas for online communication–especially between businesses and people. We’ve seen businesses use Messenger to reach customers, generate new leads and even sell cars. For example, French auto manufacturer Renault used a combination of Instagram Stories and Click-to Messenger ads to drive sales of a limited-edition vehicle, the Captur Tokyo. Facebook was their only advertising channel, and over the span of 30 days, they sold 100 cars—20 directly through Messenger. This quarter we added a Click-to-Messenger feature in Stories so businesses can grab someone’s attention in Stories and then continue the conversation.

In fact, Kustomer already helps businesses manage apps such as Messenger and WhatsApp effectively. It’s the software that makes it possible for business to aggregate and respond to customer inquiries via Facebook Messenger. Kustomer must be doing its job well. By purchasing the company, Facebook will provide capital and resources to scale Kustomer’s platform across Facebook’s global business. As Bloomberg tech reporter Kurt Wagner wrote on LinkedIn:

Facebook has a vision to turn its messaging services into de facto websites for businesses. In Facebook’s perfect world, a business could post its product catalogue, process payments, and handle customer service requests — all within WhatsApp. Buying Kustomer should help Facebook with that third part.

Indeed, in announcing the acquisition, Facebook said more than 175 million people contact businesses via WhatsApp. By acquiring Kustomer, Facebook will certainly become even more appealing to advertisers. Why? Because Facebook will be able to own both awareness building (via advertising) and customer conversion (via conversational commerce). As CNBC noted,

By bringing Kustomer into the fold, Facebook will be providing small businesses that use its service to advertise and sell goods more features to close sales through the social network’s services. This should seemingly lead these businesses to spend more on Facebook advertisements. That’s key for the company, which makes nearly 99% of its revenue from advertising.

What Businesses Should Do

  • Take a closer look at Facebook’s conversational commerce features such as Messenger and WhatsApp. Messenger Ads can spark interest, for example, and the Messenger the app can be a brilliant customer service tool. And combine Messenger with Stories for an engaging and ultimately personal customer experience.
  • Watch how competitors such as Amazon Advertising and Google respond. Google especially has a huge opportunity to help businesses build out their Google My Business listings with conversational commerce tools such as chat.

Contact True Interactive

How can your brand benefit from digital advertising? Contact us. We can help.

No More Shopping Stampedes: How Black Friday Is Changing

No More Shopping Stampedes: How Black Friday Is Changing

Retail

Black Friday is changing radically in 2020.

A Google-commissioned Ipsos survey found that 74 percent of U.S. shoppers said they plan to shop online more than they have done in previous seasons. And people who shop in stores will rely on services such as curbside pickup to limit their contact with other people. In response, retailers are taking a hard look at their Black Friday experience.

Retailers Reinvent Black Friday

Consider what some of the heavy hitters are doing to re-imagine what Black Friday means during a year when many people simply don’t want to go into stores.

As noted in RetailWire, “Walmart has long been one of the retailers noted for performing at a high level when facing down natural disasters and economic tumult.” The retail monolith’s response to Black Friday is no exception. As reported by CNBC.com, Walmart is taking an innovative approach, staggering three holiday sales events through the month of November. Each sales event will begin on the Walmart website. Brick-and-mortar stores will continue the sales a few days later, after some demand has presumably been satisfied online (thus mitigating crowds). On the holiday sales days, stores will open at 5:00 a.m. local time. Shoppers will encounter COVID-era precautions: single-file lines; limits on the number of shoppers inside at any given time; sanitized shopping carts; and store “health ambassadors,” who will greet shoppers and remind them to wear a mask. Bargain hunters who prefer to bypass in-store shopping can shop online, or take advantage of Walmart’s curbside pickup.

As Scott McCall, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., shared in a news release, “By spreading deals out across multiple days and making our hottest deals available online, we expect the Black Friday experience in our stores will be safer and more manageable for both our customers and our associates.”

Walmart’s not the only one to re-think what Black Friday looks like this year. Many other retailers have announced that they are redefining the traditional in-store Black Friday sales as a digital experience that occurs over days, weeks, or even months. Home Depot set the tone early, announcing in September that Black Friday prices would be available throughout the entire holiday season, both online and in-store. Though a few “unique deals” are planned to launch later in the season, the store is orchestrating a campaign that consciously sidesteps that single day of crowded, feverish shopping.

Retailers are also capitalizing on opportunities like Amazon Prime Day to generate a surge in sales that businesses often associate with Black Friday. This year’s event ran for two days, October 13 and 14, during which marketplace sellers netted $3.5 billion+. Third-party merchants on Amazon generally reported good results. As noted in practicalecommerce.com, along with the increased sales came increased advertising costs. At the same time, the results speak for themselves: for one of our clients, we secured 44 percent more revenue and a 33 percent increase in return on ad spend on Prime Day — with only an 8 percent increase in advertising costs. We were happy with the outcome, as our client was.

Shipping during the 2020 Holiday Season

As retailers respond to a changing retail landscape, they must also face the reality that with a surge in online ordering throughout November comes the potential for shipping delays as businesses send more packages. More packages being delivered puts more of a strain on shipping services – and possibly a strain on retailers’ fulfillment capability. On the other hand, FedEx has said it is hiring 70,000 seasonal workers to manage an expected surge, and bellwether retailers such as Target are hiring aggressively to ensure they can handle the increased volume in online orders.

What Should You Do?

How do you plan to stay competitive during an unprecedented year? We recommend:

  • Don’t wait for Black Friday to promote your holiday deals. Activate your display advertising, search marketing, and paid social media programs now.
  • Consider creating events of your own. Don’t worry about creating a blowout on the scale of Amazon’s Prime Day. Instead, take a page from Walmart’s book and ask yourself how you might create your own “Black Friday” digital events. Learn from the bellwether brands!
  • It goes without saying, on the operational side, prepare yourself for the expected uptick in orders. Assuming you have done so, promote any deals you’re offering on shipping (something we’ve blogged about here). In addition, set expectations with your customers. Let them know that waiting until the last minute to order and ship may incur additional delays this holiday season in particular.
  • Be mindful of tone in everything you do. People want to shop, yes—but as we’ve blogged here, they are also under stress. Many shoppers will be ordering gifts for loved ones from whom they will be socially distanced this holiday—and feeling a sense of loss as they do so. Others may be overwhelmed by COVID-19 news: fearful of a spike in the virus, or a lockdown of stores and businesses. Be sensitive to these anxieties in your messaging.

Contact True Interactive

In a year like 2020, even traditions like Black Friday are going to look different. We can help you maximize digital and rise to the occasion. Contact us.

Photo by Justin Lim on Unsplash

Convenience Is King This Holiday Shopping Season

Convenience Is King This Holiday Shopping Season

Advertising

This is going to be a different holiday season. Many shoppers will be planning for holidays apart from their extended families and friends as they practice social distancing. And shopping itself will look different: consumers will likely be very careful about going into brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, shoppers will seek convenience. We’ve blogged about the importance of customer-friendly shipping in the past; this year, as consumers order gifts for shipping abroad to their socially distanced loved ones, convenient and cost-effective shipping will be more important than ever. Shoppers will also rely on services such as curbside pickup that make it easier to purchase gifts without needing to go into stores. It’s important that retailers adapt online holiday advertising strategies accordingly.

Rise of Convenience

Signs are everywhere that shoppers will place a heavy emphasis on convenience:

  • Retailers from Home Depot to Macy’s are downplaying Black Friday, focusing instead on spreading out holiday deals over a period time. This is a big shift: no longer will customers be expected to queue up in front of physical stores on retailers’ timetables. It’s simply not safe to do so.
  • Instead, retailers are stressing their ability to manage—and support—how people want to shop on their own terms. For example, Walmart has launched Walmart Plus, a new subscription service through which the retailer, among other things, manages delivery of purchases. For $98 a year, participating consumers receive in-store and online benefits like unlimited free delivery. The service, a direct competitor to Amazon Prime, demonstrates how retailers can pivot to meet customer needs during a year of radical change.
  • We also see retailers expanding their curbside pickup services, which makes it possible for shoppers to minimize in-store shopping while still getting what they want on their own timetable. As noted in eMarketer, curbside pickup is booming: “We now expect US click-and-collect ecommerce sales to grow to $58.52 billion, up 60.4% from our initial forecast of 38.6% growth.”

What Retailers Should Do

There are steps retailers can take to stay competitive during a holiday season shaped by an unprecedented year. What do we recommend?

  • First off, start now to advertise your holiday sales. Why? Because people are probably shopping earlier to accommodate more time to ship things. eMarketer recommends capturing accelerating holiday traffic by setting suitable budgets, not to mention competitive targets, for Smart Shopping campaigns and Smart Bidding.
  • But don’t just promote merchandise. Promote convenience; send the message that you are recognizing shoppers’ needs during an extraordinary year, and working hard to make life easier. For example, if you offer curbside pickup, use Google advertising tools to promote it: retailers can now indicate in their local inventory ads that curbside pickup is an option. And features like the local inventory ads curbside pickup badge, currently in beta, allow retailers to highlight contactless pickup available for products next day or even same day.
  • Capitalize on location-based advertising such as advertising on Google Maps. As we have blogged in the past, Google Maps advertising offers unique possibilities; why not use this tool to highlight your shipping and curbside service offerings?
  • Put video to work. Explain how your shipping and curbside services work via tight, thoughtful video segments. Per eMarketer, “Viewers are three times more likely to pay attention to online video ads than television ads, and 70 percent of viewers say they bought a brand after seeing it on YouTube.” YouTube’s value, in fact, can’t be overstated: the article goes on to detail that the video-sharing platform has a 97 percent audience reach. Internalize these tendencies and strengths, and capitalize on them by planning a video strategy that reaches more people, and inspires those people to come shop this holiday season.
  • Make sure you promote services such as shipping through Google search ads. As eMarketer notes, almost 75 percent of U.S. respondents who indicate they plan to shop this holiday state that they will shop online more than they have in past holiday seasons. And the time-honored joy of browsing for gifts? A similar percentage say they will indulge their browsing online rather than on-site. Meet these online browsers and shoppers where they are at, letting them know, in their online search results, what you are offering in terms of shipping.

Contact True Interactive

A year ago, no one could have predicted the ways 2020 would shape consumer need—or the imagination and agility that would be demanded of brands responding to that need. Let us help you create online holiday advertising strategies during a singular time. Contact us.

Three Ways Retailers Can Succeed during the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Three Ways Retailers Can Succeed during the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

The 2020 holiday shopping season will be unlike any other as people plan amid the reality of social distancing. And yet in a few important ways, the season will reflect the direction that consumer shopping behavior has been headed already, especially with people putting digital at the center of their shopping experience. Here are three ways retailers can prepare:

1 Be Digital-First

A Google-commissioned Ipsos survey found that 74 percent of U.S. shoppers said they plan to do more online shopping than they did in previous seasons. These findings should surprise no retailer. The holiday shopping season has been going increasingly digital for years. According to Salesforce data, there was an 8 percent increase in digital spend overall for the 2019 season, with $723 billion in digital revenue worldwide. The difference in 2020: digital will dominate.

If more people are buying online, that means they’re spending more time online searching for things to buy. In the past, we’ve counseled retailers to aggressively embrace digital advertising tools to prepare for this shift in behavior (for more insight, see this post from 2018 and a sample post of mine from 2019). What’s different about this year is that online advertising where your audience is – such as on Amazon, Facebook, and Google  – is essential, not optional, especially as social distancing has created a surge in people spending more time on digital.

2 Level up Your Mobile Game

Consumers prefer digital, but they have not abandoned in-store shopping by any means. According to a new survey of more than 1,400 U.S. consumers by CodeBroker, 53 percent of shoppers intend to shop at physical locations. Among those who said they were not planning to shop at their favorite stores’ locations, 61 percent said they would change their mind if they received a high-value mobile/digital coupon for a product in which they were interested.

In addition, the Google/Ipsos research says that 53 percent of shoppers that plan to shop this season said they’ll choose to shop at stores that offer contactless shopping. And 47 percent of said they’ll use options to buy online, pickup in-store, or use curbside pickup.

These findings tells us that retailers that use mobile wisely to improve the brick-and-mortar shopping experience will win. Here again, this trend is not new. Holiday shopping has been going mobile for some time, and as we blogged in 2019, retailers that had already responded to the rise of mobile orders were already enjoying a distinct advantage over those that had not. What’s different about 2020 is that retailers need to prepare for a surge in curbside pick-up orders with consumers using their mobile phones to manage the process of ordering and picking up their purchases. Moreover, retailers can and should deploy advertising strategies that use mobile coupons where possible and appropriate.

3 Adapt to a Different Shopping Mindset

How shoppers feel about the holiday season will be radically different. Consider these realities:

  • Many shoppers will be planning for a holiday apart from their extended families as they practice social distancing. As shoppers inevitably order gifts for shipping abroad to their socially distanced loved ones, their moods will be affected.
  • Shoppers are already planning amid a threat of COVID-19 cases spiking again during the winter and possibly triggering state-by-state lockdowns. The ongoing news reports about COVID-19 are likely creating a sense of urgency among shoppers as they work around the possibility of their favorite stores closing. Moreover, shoppers are likely experiencing understandable anxiety and fear.

Retailers should respond by:

  • Activating holiday shopping campaigns now. If ever there was a year when shoppers are planning ahead and are receptive to holiday campaigns that promote services such shipping and curbside pickup, 2020 is that time.

In addition, be ready for a surge in queries from shoppers about details such as product order status as people shop with caution. The Google/Ipsos survey found that 67 percent of holiday shoppers will confirm online that an item is in stock before going to buy it. This means retailers should expect more customer queries everywhere you interact with customers, including email and your socials.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed this holiday season with online advertising, contract True Interactive. We have extensive experience helping businesses thrive with digital.

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

6 Reasons Why Facebook Continues to Succeed

6 Reasons Why Facebook Continues to Succeed

Facebook

Is Facebook the most resilient brand in the world? It sure seems that way. Here is a business that has weathered one public relations storm after another in recent years, and yet the global business is getting stronger than ever. In the past couple of years alone, we’ve seen Facebook experience some serious threats, such as:

  • Widespread criticism that the platform tolerates hate groups.
  • Accusations that Facebook has been used as a tool for malicious parties to interfere with the election of public officials in the United States and internationally.
  • Anger over Facebook’s failure to contain egregious breaches of user privacy.
  • Speculation that Facebook’s internal culture is imploding.
  • Anxiety that Facebook exerts an unfair advantage over its competition and needs to be broken up.

What have I missed?

These, and many other concerns, have resulted in some concrete actions that normally would cause some serious problems for a business, such as:

  • An advertising boycott by a number of powerful brands in July.
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg being hauled into public hearings to face a public grilling by Congress, most recently the week of July 27 over Facebook’s competitive practices.

And yet, in Facebook’s most recent quarterly earnings report, the world’s largest social media network reported:

  • $18.7 billion in revenue, up from $16.9 billion a year earlier and above analysts’ expectations of $17.34 billion.
  • Profit for the second quarter nearly doubling to $5.18 billion, or $1.80 a share, exceeding Wall Street estimates.
  • An increase in monthly active users to 2.7 billion, from 2.6 billion in the first quarter. More than three billion people now use at least one of Facebook’s products on a monthly basis.

Now look at Facebook’s stock price, rising year after year:

Facebook’s resilience has prompted many to ask, Why? Well, I can think of a number of reasons:

  1. Clearly, the negative PR does not speak for everyone.
  1. Facebook continues to enjoy an advantage of being the first major social media network to break through globally. When you gain a foothold on a market, it’s awfully hard for anyone to dislodge you.
  1. Facebook has stayed true to a fundamental brand promise of connecting people. If you want to stay connected with Aunt Mary in Topeka or your old college buddy Jim in Montana, Facebook delivers.
  1. It’s not the only social media network fraught with controversy over free speech versus fringe activities. Every major platform – TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and others – faces the same fundamental challenge Facebook does, and no one has anywhere near a perfect solution. Investors and advertisers understand this reality, and so long as social media platforms appeal to them, Facebook does, too.
  1. Facebook continues to make smart moves to expand its global reach, a recent example being its investment into Jio Platforms of India.
  1. The company is delivering on its 10-year growth plan unveiled in 2016, including continued investments in virtual reality.

Reason 6 above is especially important. Investors like to see businesses create a compelling growth plan and stick to it. Facebook has never lost sight of its own aspirations to grow globally and to use technology to connect people. As a result:

  • Facebook attracts more investors.
  • Those investors fuel the company’s expansion.
  • The company’s expansion attracts more users.
  • More users attract more advertisers. And advertisers are crucial to Facebook’s future.

My advice to advertisers:

  • If Facebook is delivering the audiences you want, continue to rely on Facebook as a crucial element of your game plan. Capitalize on new tools to reach your audience, such as Facebook’s recently unveiled ways to connect people and businesses on WhatsApp. If you work with an agency, ask them about how they’re using these tools to help you.
  • Be patient, and don’t let negative PR distract you (but if you’ve stuck with Facebook thus far, you probably know that already).
  • As with all social networks, assess your own tolerance for the risk versus reward of having a presence on Facebook. As I blogged recently, being on social media presents the possibility that your ads and organic content will appear alongside questionable content. At the same time, being on social also means benefitting from the surge in traffic on social media occurring in 2020. Bottom line: be vigilant (and your agency partner, if you have one, should be vigilant, too).
  • Keep a close watch on all the news affecting Facebook, especially Facebook’s ongoing issues with Congress. It’s important to understand the potential changes that legislation could have on Facebook. Being aware is always a good course of action.
  • Get comfortable living with the wild card in the deck: the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest impact the pandemic may have on Facebook is fluctuating advertising revenues from businesses looking for ways to reduce their ad spend as they react to uncertain economic conditions. But one thing is clear: the Facebook community itself is only getting bigger, and it probably will as people increase their usage of online platforms amid spikes in COVID-19 rates.

Contact True Interactive

At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize Facebook’s growth to build their brands. We can help you, too. Contact us to learn more.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

 

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Facebook Social media YouTube

One of the more interesting aspects of the ongoing Facebook advertising boycott is the concern over brand safety. Advertising Age reports that boycotting advertisers want assurance that the ads they place on the Facebook News Feed will not appear next to objectionable content such as hate speech. And who can blame them? But advertisers may not get everything they want. And they may have to live with an ongoing reality: so long as your brand lives on social media, you will always need to manage risk (whether you advertise, manage organic content, or both) against the ROI of having a presence on the world’s most popular digital destinations.

Social Media Controversies

I’ve been following how brands have managed occasional controversies on social and have commented on them in posts such as “Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots” and “Social Media Remains a Messy Place for Brands to Live.” Many of the issues I’ve been writing about remain today, and Facebook is not the only platform wrestling with them. They include:

  • The inherent tension that exists when businesses exist on platforms designed to give people and organizations an open forum. An open forum means that anyone can have an opinion, which means that fringe content will always make its way on to social.
  • The reality that malicious parties are actively looking for ways to game the platforms and disrupt them. Twitter is reeling from a major hack July 15 in which the accounts of high-profile individuals such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk were hijacked as part of a Bitcoin scam. Of course, the bad guys out there are also going after brands’ websites, too, but on social media, your account is only as secure as the platform where you are renting space.
  • The difficulty of combating malicious content. As I discussed in a post about Twitter trying to combat trolls, social platforms continue to struggle with the fact that they can employ only so many people to monitor and combat inappropriate content. And when the platforms use automated tools to root out trolls, those tools make mistakes by overreaching and going after innocent accounts, too.

But brands simply cannot decide to ignore social media. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are among the Top 20 most visited sites in the world according to Ahrefs. And as online traffic has surged across the board in 2020, businesses continue to succeed with social media advertising.

What You Should Do

So what’s the answer for brands wanting a safer experience? Well, there is no easy one. But:

  • Artificial intelligence is going to get better. Remember, we’re still in the early stages of AI’s development. As AI improves, social platforms are going to do a better job rooting out objectionable content.
  • Social platforms can and should be more transparent about how they monitor and react to objectionable content. It’s unrealistic for any social media platform to promise brands that their ads will never appear alongside offensive content. But according to Advertising Age, Facebook is figuring out how to more proactively report to brands how it monitors content and responds to flare-ups. This is a step in the right direction. It’s just not a good idea to leave advertisers in the dark. Being candid and including them in a solution goes a long way.

Advertisers should demand that social media platforms work with them to manage their brands. But social media more than ever will always be a risky place for brands to live. I suggest that businesses:

  • Have a strategy for how social media attracts and keeps customers both with advertising and organic content.
  • Measure success – but also measure your risk tolerance. Assign a numerical scale to assess the level of risk you are willing to accept on each platform and for various types of incidents ranging from security breaches to your content appearing alongside inappropriate content.
  • Monitor your ROI as well as incidents you experience. How much ROI are you getting? How frequent are the violations you experience? Does the ROI outweigh the costs of dealing with negatives? (Your mileage will vary.)
  • Keep applying pressure to the major social platforms to hold themselves accountable.

What have your experiences been on social media? I’d love to hear from you.

Contact True Interactive

Do you need help making decisions about advertising on social? Contact us.

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

 

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Outsmart Your Competitors with Manual Bidding

Advertising Google

Automated bidding with Google Ads continues to take hold among advertisers. And it’s easy to see why: with automated bidding, Google does all the heavy lifting. But my advice to advertisers is to proceed carefully with automated bidding. In fact, as businesses around you adopt automated bidding, you might want to do manual bidding carefully and thoughtfully. Zig while your competitors zag.

For context: with an automated bid strategy, Google Ads automatically optimize bids based on a simple goal that the advertiser sets. But with manual bidding, an advertiser sets a maximum CPC bid at the ad group or keyword level. In addition, the advertiser can use targeting to modify bids based on variables such as income, location, and time of day, among others. Google’s own website mentions how automated bidding saves time and effort. And that’s certainly true. But, also consider this:

  • If you adopt automated bidding, you’re competing with everyone else using the same tool. You’re using the exact same algorithm that other advertisers are using, which eliminates your ability to gain a competitive edge by customizing your own bid strategy.
  • With automated bidding, you miss an opportunity to achieve the results that you can get with manual bidding. We know from our client work that manual bidding gives an advertiser more flexibility and control. For example, with manual bidding, you can set and adjust bids based on multiple KPIs (such as online orders and online leads). By contrast, with automated bidding, you give Google one goal, and Google sets your bid based on that goal. That’s it. No flexibility. No nuance. In addition, manual bidding lets you set your own maximum CPC for your ads and adjust them as needed. You are in the driver’s seat.

At True Interactive, we are zigging while the others zag with bid strategies. We have used manual bidding for clients and have experienced dramatic increases in year-over-year results. For one of our clients, a cable company, we realized a 67-percent year-over-year increase in online orders and an 80-percent increase in online leads thanks partly to using manual bidding. Why? Manual bidding has enabled us to adjust bids as needed based on our customer acquisition experience and knowledge of the client’s industry. We can be more targeted in our approach, refine our KPIs, and adjust our bids as needed.

Contact True Interactive

Bottom line: as more competitors use automated bidding, we see opportunities to outsmart them and achieve better results with manual bidding. Contact True Interactive to learn more.