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.

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Advertising

When COVID-19 first took hold in 2020 and the world entered a time of seismic change and uncertainty, we urged businesses to stay in the ring with a strong digital presence. We wrote, “You don’t want to be caught flat-footed when consumers shift their behaviors again as the current disruption subsides. And subside it will; not knowing when is different from not knowing if.”

As we look to the new year ahead, this truth resonates more strongly than ever. Here’s what you should know about why digital advertising remains important, how digital presence relates to consumer—not to mention competitor—behavior, and what you can do going forward:

Consumer Behavior Has Shifted Online — Have You?

IBM’s U.S. Retail Index indicates that the pandemic has deeply informed the way people shop: the shift from visiting brick-and-mortar stores to shopping online has in fact been accelerated by approximately five years. The types of goods consumers deem essential has come into sharper focus, too. Clothing shopping, for example, has dipped in an era when more people are attending school and working their jobs online. By contrast, sales in categories such as groceries, alcohol, and home improvement materials have all accelerated.

The question to ask yourself: when people go online to shop, will your brand be present with targeted online advertising, such as paid search, that is relevant to what consumers are looking to buy?

Your Competitors Are Connecting with Consumers Online — Are You?

Ad revenues for the Big Three—Amazon, Facebook, and Google—can also shed some light on what a successful path forward can look like for brands. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the Big Three are enjoying a surge of online revenue: Amazon and Google have reported strong quarterly sales, and Facebook has also enjoyed record revenue. All three had a great third quarter, evidence that businesses continue to connect with people, online, on multiple levels, from retail to social media to digital advertising. Even the StopHateFor Profit ad boycott did not seem to take a lasting bite out of Facebook’s advertising revenue, which was up 22 percent in the third quarter as compared to a year ago. (It’s worth noting that changes in consumer habits have manifested themselves not just in terms of venue—e.g., the move online—but timing. As Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos notes, “We’re seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts.”)

Social media ad spend overall is also on the rise. In the third quarter, global social media ad spend increased 56.4 percent. According to The Drum, that’s almost double the average spend recorded during the COVID-19-related spending nadir of late March.

In short, brands that understand where, and when, to connect with consumers will benefit. If you are ignoring trends in online advertising, you are probably falling behind competitors who are speaking to these tendencies. Are you taking the prevailing trends to heart?

What Businesses Should Do

To stay competitive, we recommend that you:

  • Keep focused on digital. That’s where the action is, according to the data.
  • Invest in creative advertising. As more people go online and interact with brands, it’s going to be harder to stand apart from the pack. As we’ve blogged, it’s critical to invest in strong creative—and creative that is consistent across all your touch points.
  • Keep growing as digital tools evolve. An understanding of—and investment in—new technology helps brands communicate that what they have to offer is cutting edge. And that new technology is out there for the taking. For example, Consider Google’s new visual search tools:
    • Google Lens allows shoppers to tap and hold an image in the Google app or Android Chrome browser in order to find it in an online store.
    • AR Autos will soon allow shoppers to look for a vehicle in Google Search, then see it rendered in 3D or augmented reality. The result? A more immersive look at key features before consumers even arrive at a dealer lot. This advance “peek” is particularly beneficial at a time when many shoppers are trying to limit in-person contact during the pandemic.

Google’s offerings are just a taste of the new opportunities out there. The headline is this: staying on top of new technology can help position you for success.

Contact True Interactive

The changes brought by 2020 won’t go away with the flip of a calendar page. Rather, they have invited brands to adapt. Curious as to how digital can elevate your brand in 2021? Contact us.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/apps-blur-button-close-up-267350/

Three Reasons Why Snapchat Is Back

Three Reasons Why Snapchat Is Back

Social media

Snapchat has come roaring back. Its parent company, Snap Inc., was once on the verge of collapse, but recently it posted stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings: according to a FactSet poll, while analysts had estimated revenues around $557 million, Snap’s quarterly revenue in fact enjoyed a 52 percent rise to $678.7 million. And its stock value is soaring, with shares gaining 74 percent this year through the October 20 close.

Why is Snapchat rebounding?

Reasons for the Rebound

Understanding Snapchat’s renaissance means understanding the factors in play during a complicated year:

  • Snapchat’s user base has grown. According to Adweek, the social media company has seen 249 million daily users in the third quarter of 2020: that’s an 18 percent increase from the 210 million users noted for the same period last year, and 11 million more new daily users since last quarter. Notably, the growth is not restricted to the United States: in India, for example, daily active users in the third quarter are up almost 150 percent from the same time in 2019. The growth makes sense: as The New York Times reported earlier this year, “Stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic . . . Americans have been spending more of their lives online.” That online phenomenon has been repeating itself again and again around the globe during this year of COVID-19, and at least some of those users are gravitating to Snapchat.
  • Advertisers are spending money on Snapchat. The July ad boycott of Facebook, which protested the company’s policies on hate speech, may have helped Snap in terms of where advertisers are channeling their dollars. TikTok’s troubles, both domestically (attempts by the Trump administration to ban it) and abroad (India’s successful TikTok ban) also likely gave advertisers pause. While Snap has declined to draw a direct line between other companies’ struggles and its own resurgence, Chief Business Officer Jeremi Gorman said in a prepared statement, “As brands and other organizations used this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to evaluate their advertising spend, we saw many brands look to align their marketing efforts with platforms who share their corporate values.”

In another example of innovation, Snap Inc. worked with Headspace to mark World Mental Health Day on October 10, releasing two new meditations in Snapchat’s Headspace Mini. During a year when Snapchatters in the U.S. are feeling significant stress — a survey by independent research company GroupSolver indicates that COVID-19, finances, politics, and school are leading sources of that stress —the meditations, called Snap Minis, are “bite-sized utilities” that require no installation and are accessible via chat and search. Headspace director of meditation Eve Lewis guides the meditations, which run approximately six minutes each and focus on practicing kindness and navigating uncertainty during the school year.

What Should Advertisers Do?

What does this news about Snapchat mean for brands? We recommend that advertisers:

  • Consider Snapchat if you are interested in the Millennial and Gen Z markets. As we’ve blogged, the app appeals to these demographics. Meet your desired audience where they are at—and right now, these powerful demographics can be found on Snapchat.
  • Consider Snapchat to be a complement to your advertising with Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Snapchat is not going to challenge the Big Three. But if you are interested in experimenting with technologies such as augmented reality, Snapchat is a good platform to try.

Contact True Interactive

Should Snapchat be part of your digital plan? Contact us. We can help.

How Adjusting Your Facebook Ad Objectives Can Deliver More Conversions

How Adjusting Your Facebook Ad Objectives Can Deliver More Conversions

Facebook

Facebook’s user base keeps growing as a reflection of an increased adoption of digital among the general population in 2020. Businesses want to use advertising to squeeze as much revenue as they can from this massive audience, as well they should. At True Interactive, we’ve been helping advertisers succeed on Facebook for years, and one way we do that is by trying different approaches with Facebook’s advertising tools. Recently, we’ve been demonstrating to our clients how a fresh approach to choosing Facebook ad objectives can make Facebook ads more effective.

The Conventional Wisdom about Facebook Ad Objectives

When businesses set ad goals, they typically have two strategies in mind: build brand awareness with prospects (i.e., people who have never been to their site before) and also retarget website visitors and existing customers to drive conversions. From there, businesses select ad objectives for a given campaign. Now, conventional wisdom says that when a business wants to attract new customers (as opposed to retargeting existing ones), it’s best to choose brand awareness or consideration ad objectives such as reach, traffic, engagement, and app installs (among others). But for a retargeting campaign, it’s better to choose conversion-based objectives such as conversions, catalog sales, and store traffic.

Makes sense, right? Why set the bar too high for brand awareness by actually trying to measure conversions? It’s far better to save conversion-based objectives for retargeting existing customers, who already know about your product and are more likely to buy it.

Setting Conversion-Based Goals for Prospects

And yet, we’re delivering results by setting conversion-based goals for prospects, too. It sounds like a simple thing to do: set a conversion goal for a prospect. And you can literally do it with a click. By experimenting with some of our campaigns, we’re learning that a powerful ad targeting prospects can indeed drive them to conversion.

Now, I’m not talking about running the same ad for a prospect that you would for a current customer. You still need to customize different ads for different audiences. Ads for prospects require different calls to action than ads for existing customers, and indeed you may need to do completely different ads for each, such as special offers that apply only to new customers.

To be sure, conversion costs for retargeting-oriented campaigns are lower. But so far the conversion rate for prospects justifies the effort of running brand-awareness ads on Facebook – because these ads can do more than raise awareness.

What Happens If You Lack Conversion Data?

What happens if your business lacks enough conversion data to set up a conversion goal? In that case, we suggest that you use the conversion step before your final conversion so that the Facebook algorithm will have more data to optimize towards (example: if you don’t see a lot of sales, then don’t set your conversion goal to sales — set it to “add to carts”).

So, why might conversion-oriented ad objectives work for prospects? I believe that social media in general is becoming less of a lean-back-and-scroll experience. More users are spending time on social with intent to learn more about products and buy them. That’s because more Gen Zers and Millennials are growing up with a social experience that includes the presence of ads, more so than their predecessors did. They’re more comfortable viewing social as an intent-based platform. So they’re more likely to convert on an ad that introduces them to a new product.

Have you been experimenting with ad objectives? What have your results been?

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Facebook Lifts “20 Percent Rule” with Ads – but Should You?

Facebook Lifts “20 Percent Rule” with Ads – but Should You?

Facebook

Many marketers had reason to rejoice recently when Facebook lifted a longstanding requirement that Facebook ad images contain no more than 20 percent text. But at True Interactive, we believe marketers need to tread carefully. Just because you can pack more texts into your ads, it doesn’t mean you should.

What Is the 20 Percent Rule?

The “20 percent rule” means that ad images on Facebook can contain no more than 20 percent text. Advertisers who run afoul of the requirement have had their ads penalized or blocked on Facebook. But recently, Facebook began letting advertisers know it was eliminating the rule:

Search Engine Journal confirmed the accuracy of this update.

Why Facebook Is Lifting the 20 Percent Rule

Why is Facebook changing course? As an agency that creates ads for many clients on Facebook, we believe the COVID-19 pandemic has made the Facebook staffed overburdened as it has for Google. Reviewing and flagging advertisements requires human intervention. We have noticed that since COVID-19, the platform was mis-flagging quite a few ads we’ve created that should have been acceptable. Lifting the requirement is probably Facebook’s way of reducing the amount of work on their end.

What Advertisers Should Do

We believe lifting the 20 percent rule is good because advertisers have more flexibility. There are times when a banner ad on Facebook would be better off containing a bit more text than Facebook has allowed. At the same time, advertisers should be very careful about increasing text size. Facebook notes that ads with more images perform better, which should surprise no one. We’re living in a visual age, and advertising is no different. People are more likely to pause their news feed and explore your ad when you lead with visually arresting content.

So, we recommend to our clients that they consider using more text only if they have to. We suggest performing A/B tests, as well: run one image with minimal text against an image with more text and see how it serves on the platform. Let the performance numbers be your guide.

In addition, lifting the restriction might be signs of Facebook relaxing creative constraints in other ways, too, depending on how long the pandemic affects the company’s operations. Stay tuned.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

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

Walmart Takes Aim at Amazon, Facebook, and Google with Online Advertising

Walmart Takes Aim at Amazon, Facebook, and Google with Online Advertising

Advertising Amazon Facebook Google

When Walmart recently announced that it was joining Microsoft in a bid for TikTok, the news had many people scratching their heads. But the bid makes perfect sense in context of Walmart’s growing online advertising business, an aspect of the Walmart empire that is beginning to catch more attention among brands. Read on to learn more.

The Growth of Walmart Advertising

You might not know it, but Walmart operates its own digital advertising business under Walmart Media Group. Under CEO Doug McMillon, Walmart Media Group has been building an advertising business to compete with Amazon, Google, and Facebook (the Big Three of online advertising). As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “deep-pocketed companies with large amounts of data on their customers are in the best position to mount a challenge” to these competitors.

Walmart feels ready to play in that sandbox. The retail behemoth aims to tap into its own trove of shopper data (about purchases made both online and in brick-and-mortar stores), and sell advertising services to businesses with products in Walmart stores and across the entire digital world, on sites including Walmart.com. As Steve Bratspies, the chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., has noted, data can give advertisers a leg up by providing insight into what a consumer might really want and need.

For example, as noted in The Wall Street Journal, a customer might buy a bicycle in a Walmart store, then subsequently see ads for bike helmets on platforms like Facebook. The ads would direct the shopper back to Walmart.com to make the purchase. It’s a win/win, with consumer needs being anticipated and met, and brands making the connection to a motivated shopper.

Walmart’s Advertising Services

How does Walmart propose to make those connections? The retailer currently offers advertisers services such as:

  • Sponsored Products ads, which consumers encounter when they are browsing Walmart.com. These ads can take many forms:
    • A brand’s products can get premium placement on the first page of a shopper’s search results.
    • An advertiser’s logo might appear, along with a custom headline, at the top of relevant search results.
    • Products can appear as part of a product carousel of relevant alternate purchase options.
    • Items can be highlighted in a “Buy Box” as the most relevant alternate purchase option on a product detail page.

Walmart Sponsored Product Ad

  • Visually compelling display ads, which keep a brand in the forefront:
    • Across Walmart’s digital properties. Content and advertising can be seamlessly merged on Walmart.com, pickup and delivery, and Walmart apps.
    • Offsite, across the web and social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. As noted earlier, relevant ads will re-engage customers and send them back to Walmart for products.

Walmart Display Ad

Where Does TikTok Fit into All This?

Walmart’s motivation for acquiring TikTok probably has much to do with digital ad dollars. As Mark Sullivan of Fast Company points out, TikTok is a prime space for digital advertising. And Walmart clearly recognizes that, sharing in a statement that TikTok might represent “an important way for us to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.”

Sullivan elaborates:

TikTok is itself in the early stages of selling ads on its app, and it has data on people’s video content choices, but it lacks data on the things people buy. If Walmart owned TikTok it could use its ecommerce user data to help advertisers put ads in front of the right TikTok users. And Walmart could be the exclusive seller of targeted ad space on TikTok.

One advertising industry insider told me that a brand—say a car company—might use a cookie to capture data on a consumer that came to its site to look at cars, then use Walmart’s ad-tech to show an ad to that same consumer on TikTok.

If Walmart had an ownership stake in TikTok, Walmart could connect its advertisers with TikTok’s young demographic, too. And let’s face it — TikTok is hot. In early August 2020, the video-sharing social networking service reported about 100 million monthly active U.S. users, a figure that is up nearly 800 percent from January 2018. Walmart clearly sees the opportunities inherent in connecting its brands with that audience.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.