3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

3 Ways That Retailers Can Win During the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season

Retail

The holidays are always in season for retailers. Even though holiday shopping traditionally does not begin until the week of Black Friday, advertisers need to constantly anticipate and respond to shifts in consumer behavior and any factors that affect how people shop during the holidays. Here are three ways retailers can succeed in the 2019 holiday shopping season, based on our experience:

1 Be Mobile

According to Adobe, the 2018 holiday season marked the first time that smart phones accounted for more than half of all visits to websites during the holidays. With 51 percent of shoppers using their phones to address shopping needs, retailers better have a strong mobile advertising presence.

To be mobile, brands need to first and foremost capitalize on tools that maximize the value of the mobile format. For example, Google Gallery Ads, available in beta, consist of swipeable images that display on multiple pages on a user’s mobile phones. Shoppers can swipe through the images or click one to expand the gallery into a vertical view that users can then swipe down. At the end of the gallery, a call to action to visit the advertiser’s site appears. A company such as ours that has access to Google can fast track you into using tools such as this one.

In addition, Google has launched tools that make it easier for brands to make your inventory sparkle, such as Google Showcase Shopping Ads. These types of tools are especially useful for making inventory more attractive (and literally shoppable) as people are using their mobile phones to browse for holiday ideas before the season officially kicks off.

Being mobile also means providing a great follow-through experience on your site, whether that site is accessed from a laptop, a PC—or from a smart phone. As I blogged last year, a number of businesses encountered turbulence because their online experience didn’t deliver well after shoppers clicked through on ads to buy things.

Be ready – across the entire mobile journey. (Note: check out this case study about our work with Snapfish for more insight into how we’ve helped a business succeed with mobile advertising.)

2 Prepare for Black Friday Week

Black Friday not just a day anymore. It’s a shopping state of mind.

Black Friday remains the single most important shopping event of the year. But winning retailers understand that Black Friday has become, in fact, an entire week. As the popularity of Cyber Monday shows—four hours on that day were, in 2018, the busiest period of the entire year. People are in Black Friday shopping mode hunting for deals during Thanksgiving Week and immediately afterwards. That shopping rush includes Thanksgiving Day, which incidentally shows buyers relying more on smart phones than they do on Cyber Monday or even Black Friday itself.

To maximize the opportunities afforded by an expanded Black Friday phenomenon, online retailers need to be ready with advertising strategies—paid search and display, for example—that attract customers to buy during the entire week.

3 Compete with Shipping

One of the major stories of the 2018 holiday season was the rise of shipping as a competitive tool: Amazon, Target, and Walmart all tried to outdo each other with attractive shipping offers. Amazon, for example, famously extended free shipping, with no minimum purchase required, for a limited time starting November 5.

Shipping will be a big story for the 2019 season, too. With Thanksgiving taking place later in November, the official holiday season will be shorter. And a shorter season usually means a sense of urgency, as consumers try to make up for lost time by having products shipped to them faster. While smaller retailers may have a harder time matching the efforts made by behemoths like Amazon, it’s important to stay competitive by having your act together and your shipping strategy sorted. Achieving more efficient product fulfillment and shipping may involve hiring more labor. It might also demand tweaks to your online advertising.

Contact True Interactive

Bottom line: brands want to stay abreast of the trends in order to maximize the holiday shopping experience they provide for customers. If you need help, contact us.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-shopping-lifestyle-beautiful-3040029/

Amazon and Samuel L. Jackson: The Future of TTS Technology?

Amazon and Samuel L. Jackson: The Future of TTS Technology?

Amazon

As Samuel L. Jackson character Ray Arnold said in Jurassic Park, “Hold onto your butts,” because the iconic actor’s voice is coming to Alexa. Later this year you can enable Jackson’s voice to respond in different capacities: fill you in on the weather or play your favorite music, for example. And given the colorful, expressive style of some of Jackson’s characters—FBI Agent Neville Flynn in Snakes on a Plane comes to mind—you’ll have a choice of either an “explicit” or “clean” version. (Note that Alexa won’t suddenly start speaking to you as Samuel L. Jackson across the board: he can’t help you with skills such as shopping or lists.) The new skill, which Amazon will offer at an introductory price of 99 cents (regular price will be $4.99), is an example of neural text-to-speech technology (TTS) in action. And it’s instructive for businesses examining how voice might play a role in their advertising going forward.

What Is TTS?

TTS, sometimes referred to as “read-aloud technology” or text to speech, essentially converts a digital text string to spoken word. Early on, TTS applications lacked nuance: the resulting speech, while accurate, sounded robotic. But with advances in artificial intelligence (AI), it’s becoming possible to render voices that sound more human, with all the cadences we associate with how real people speak. As a result, businesses are exploring TTS as a viable way to inject personality into voice-based interfaces such as bots, or content that requires voice-over narration. Parameters can be established, too: as noted, you can’t make Alexa talk like Samuel L. Jackson all the time. The skill is limited to whatever it’s been programmed to do as Jackson.

“Fill It With Gravy”

Common applications for TTS include educational ones, in which a tablet or computer reads words on a screen out loud to a student who might have difficulties reading or seeing. Sometimes they border on the wondrous, as when sound engineers from Scottish company CereProc made it possible for listeners to finally hear the 21-minute speech President John F. Kennedy never got to deliver on November 22, 1963: in his voice.

And there are the fun applications, as witnessed by Alexa’s sanctioned use of Samuel L. Jackson’s recognizable voice. Of course, Amazon is not the only business using TTS to make their brand more familiar and fun. In 2015, KFC teamed up with the navigation app Waze to give motorists a fresh voice option for their audio directions: Colonel Harland Sanders. Users who opted in to be directed by The Colonel got clear directions as well as humorous Colonel-isms such as, “Pothole on the road ahead. I’d fill it with gravy.” More recently, KFC celebrated National Fried Chicken Day by using speech recognition, AI, and TTS to playfully make drive-through operators sound like The Colonel, too.

Sonic Branding

TTS is in a position to create even greater impact as the technology continues to grow. Businesses are wise to recognize that potential, and to pursue voice personality as a way to differentiate themselves. Forrester Analyst Dipanjan Chatterjee notes:

Forrester predicts that 50% of US households will have smart speakers by 2022, accounting for 68% of all smart home devices. Voice will be much more than assistants and speakers. It will fundamentally alter how consumers and brands interact . . . If you don’t have a voice strategy in the making today, it’s time to move now or risk falling behind.

The big picture Chatterjee alludes to is the phenomenon of “sonic branding”—that is, anything that uses voice, music, or sound to express a brand. In some ways, sonic branding has been going on for years: think about the brands that have hired an actor for voiceover advertising, or jingles that long after the fact still resonate. TTS is just the latest example of how sonic branding can be used effectively.

What You Should Do

As Chatterjee points out, sonic branding—specifically, voice strategy—is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. Assess the role of voice in your marketing and advertising. No, you don’t need to worry about one-upping Amazon and hiring a famous movie star to narrate your online and voice bots. But consider how you can inject personality, and even humor, wherever people encounter the “voice of your brand.”

Contact Us

Call us. We can help.

Why You Shouldn’t Move Your Online Advertising Budget From Google to Amazon

Why You Shouldn’t Move Your Online Advertising Budget From Google to Amazon

Google

In the advertising world, the meteoric rise of Amazon Advertising is capturing a lot of buzz and inspiring commentary, including posts we’ve published on our own blog. At the same, Amazon Advertising’s biggest competitors, Google and Facebook, are as strong as ever. Consider the growth of Google’s own advertising business, which dominates the world of online advertising, even as Google’s share of the online ad market drops slightly, per eMarketer. Here’s the skinny:

Alphabet Reports Strong Earnings

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, surprised analysts recently by reporting stronger-than-expected earnings. As reported in Search Engine Land, Google produced $32.6 billion in advertising revenue in Alphabet’s second quarter. That’s a 22 percent increase year after year, and an uptick after several quarters of slowing growth.

The surge in advertising revenue for Google has a lot to do with Alphabet’s strong earnings. And advertising simply grew a lot better than expected. As Business Insider reported, “A resurgence in Google’s core advertising business, after a weak performance in the first quarter of the year . . . pushed Google’s net revenue up.” Interestingly, the earnings report came out on the same day that Amazon announced mixed results.

Why did Google Report Strong Growth for Its Advertising Business?

No one knows exactly why Google’s been nailing it with its advertising, because the company remains mum about the details. But as The Street pointed out, YouTube probably had something to do with it. Ruth Porat, Google’s Chief Financial Officer, revealed that YouTube revenue represented the second-highest growth of any segment for the search behemoth. And as management noted, “[W]e are building momentum with our subscription services, YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, now available in over 60 countries, up from five markets at the start of 2018.”

We also believe Google is succeeding because the company isn’t standing still and taking success for granted. As we discussed on our own blog, Google continues to launch new features and tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) to help advertisers launch smarter, more targeted campaigns. The headline is this: whether through paid search ads or display ads, Google has been making it easier for advertisers to do the work.

What You Should Do

What does Google’s trajectory mean to the savvy marketer? We recommend that you:

  • Stay abreast of the industry, and keep your options open. That includes staying calm in the face of inevitable fluctuation. For example, according to ad industry sources, some advertisers are defecting from Google and moving 50 to 60 percent of their ad budgets to Amazon. But news like this isn’t a reason to get rattled—or abandon Google. It doesn’t mean advertising should be an either/or between Amazon, Google, or Facebook. Ebbs and flows notwithstanding, the opportunities Google represents can’t be discounted. And no matter how much Amazon grows, Google is not going away. Brands that devote all their advertising resources to one outlet are likely to get burned—or miss out on opportunity.
  • Understand how Google is evolving. Google will continue to grow its ad business, drawing on several key advantages:
    • A head start in using AI with the specific aim of making advertising smarter and more effective. It’s true: AI is hot, and Google faces competition from Amazon and Facebook in this arena. But as noted above, the company is holding its own with a battery of AI tools.
    • An established global presence that reflects Google’s efforts to tailor advertising products in support of international ad campaigns.

Google continues to sense and respond to consumer tastes, even when Google’s profit motive is not evident. A good example is the forthcoming release of Stadia, the cloud-based gaming platform that Google announced recently. How Google will make money off Stadia is not clear immediately. But one thing is clear: Google is finding a way to keep people using Google by launching new products accessible through Google.

Contact True Interactive

Contact us to learn more about how online advertising might figure into your strategy. We’re here to help.

What Advertisers Should Do about the Rise of Voice Search

What Advertisers Should Do about the Rise of Voice Search

Search

We’re living in an era in which people are using their voices to do everything from shop to check the weather. Signs continue to indicate that the rise in voice is more than a passing trend. In fact, recent data shows that businesses need to pay closer attention to voice search and the impact it can have on advertising and organic content.

What Are the Latest Statistics about Voice?

  • According to a 2019 report from Microsoft, 72 percent of people use voice search through a personal digital assistant, and 75 percent of households will be outfitted with at least one smart speaker by 2020.
  • A 2018 BrightLocal study reveals that over a 12-month period, 58 percent of surveyed consumers used voice search to find local business information. In addition, Forbes notes that consumers want voice search to help them with myriad tasks, including:
    • Making reservations.
    • Gathering price data on services and products.
    • Confirming whether an item is available.
  • According to estimates from eMarketer, more than 74 million Americans — almost 27 percent of the U.S. population — will be using smart speakers in 2019, a 15 percent uptick from 2018.

What Should Businesses Do about Voice?

In short, it’s becoming a world in which businesses must be prepared to use voice for advertising. As Jelli CEO Mike Dougherty shared with Forbes, voice will “open up opportunities for marketers and brands to get creative and interact with customers in new ways . . . The goal of any marketer is to establish a genuine connection with customers. Voice is their chance to get one step closer.”

Jennifer Hungerbuhler, the EVP and managing director, local video and audio investment, at Dentsu Aegis Network, concurs. She also notes that voice search will not only be important in the marketing, advertising, and media worlds, it will continue to evolve.

How Should Businesses Prepare for Voice?

Part of staying relevant in a world of voice search means understanding voice, and creating content that optimizes how voice works. For instance, as we have discussed on our own blog, advertisers should evaluate voice search queries and pay attention to the conversational text that occurs.

Conversational text, which tends to be more complicated than simple Google searches, is a clear indicator of how people express themselves during voice search. It can be an excellent resource when companies want to write copy consistent with how people are using their voices to search. “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great words to focus on. Long-tail queries that include natural phrases such as “near me” or “can I get the number for” can also be useful/telling. These queries can help identify what consumers most want to know about a company’s products or services—and how they parse their request via voice.

As Hungerbuhler notes, “Advertisers will need to get better at understanding how consumers want to find them in voice, the language they will use to do so, and how they can get onto a shopping list.”

The bottom line? Search behaviors are different when consumers use voice. Because brands, increasingly, want voice assistants to find their site, savvy businesses will tweak their advertising and organic content accordingly.

What You Should Do Next

What are next steps in this brave new world?

  • Prepare now by rethinking your approach to content.
  • Don’t panic. Realize that even though people are using voice assistants, it doesn’t mean they are doing so in droves. According to research firm Stone Temple, voice assistants still rank behind other choices such as mobile browsers or search engine apps.
  • But do act. Voice search isn’t going away. Andy Franco, the founder of Facebook advertising agency Live Surge, explains, “Just like search has become second nature to people who used to use card catalogs, voice is likely to be well used by those who are multitasking and need hands-free tools.”

Contact True Interactive

Contact True Interactive. We can help you better understand voice search as you craft your strategy.

Photo by Sebastian Scholz (Nuki) on Unsplash

Three Ways to Capitalize on Amazon Search

Three Ways to Capitalize on Amazon Search

Amazon

We already know that Amazon is the Number One website for people to do product searches: according to a 2018 Jumpshot report, from 2015 to 2018, Amazon overtook Google in this area, with Amazon growing to claim 54 percent of product searches while Google declined from 54 percent to 46 percent. Now we know something more. According to Marketplace Pulse, a majority of Amazon searches—78 percent, in fact—are nonbranded. Instead of pinpointing a specific company like lululemon, say, many customers are making broad searches such as “yoga pants for women” and seeing what comes up.

This data demonstrates the opportunity that exists — indeed, just how wide open the playing field on Amazon is for businesses that sell products there. People are searching with intent on Amazon: they want to buy something. But they haven’t yet decided on what to buy. And here’s where the savvy marketer can make inroads.

Amazon Is Growing as an Ad Platform

The data also underscores just how big Amazon has become as an advertising platform. As we recently blogged, Amazon continues to grow, and is biting into other companies’ share of the spoils. eMarketer’s report that Amazon is projected to capture 8.8 percent of U.S. digital ad spending in 2019 is telling. So was the GeekWire article from January 2019, which discussed record 2018 profits for Amazon, and gave props to advertising for contributing to that success. According to GeekWire, “Fueling its bottom line is Amazon’s growing advertising arm that generates revenue by charging companies to promote their products on Amazon properties.”

Three Ways to Capitalize on Amazon Searches

How can a business take advantage of these developments? That is, what sort of strategy should businesses embrace in order to capitalize on the possibilities Amazon affords?

1 Advertise on Amazon

First of all, make sure you advertise on Amazon and that you know how to do so. Familiarize yourself with the complete listing of Amazon Advertising offerings.

And check out our blog. We’ve published numerous posts to help businesses understand Amazon’s many advertising options, including:

  • Sponsored ads, the pay-per-click (PPC) advertising approach that takes a shopper directly to a product page or brand site within Amazon. Sponsored ads are available to sellers, venders, book venders, and Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • Video ads, which complement display ads by expanding beyond a single image to tell a compelling story. Video ads can be used to target a certain audience on Amazon as well as Amazon-owned and third-party sites (e.g., Twitch) and devices.
  • Display ads, which, like video ads, can be employed to reach people in a specific target audience.

Additionally, be aware that Amazon is constantly refining and improving its advertising offerings and creating new ones. Stay abreast of the changes.

2 Make Sure You Have Good Reviews on Amazon

Reviews carry a lot of weight and can help you. According to an oft-cited 2012 Nielsen release, 70 percent of respondents had some or complete confidence in online reviews of products, whether they knew the reviewer or not. Online reviews also tap into basic human psychology. In a description of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion, the Influence at Work website describes consensus as the phenomenon where “people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own . . . especially when they are uncertain.” Note that in the case of consensus, at least online, more is more. Five hundred positive reviews will impress consumers more than three will, no matter how glowing those three reviews happen to be. Ask customers to review you.

3 Be Aware That Advertising on Amazon Is Not a Slam-Dunk

Amazon has flooded its site with its own private label products. Understand Amazon’s generic product strategy — it’s huge —especially if you are a commodity brand such as a seller of batteries, vents, or paper towels. You’ll have to work hard.

There’s a lot of money to be made on Amazon. If you already have products there, know how to capitalize on Amazon’s tools to attract customers. If you don’t, think about making that happen.

Contact True Interactive

True Interactive knows how to build your business via advertising on Amazon in context of broader online advertising strategies. Want to learn more? True Interactive can help. Contact us.

Why the Amazon/Sizmek Deal Matters

Why the Amazon/Sizmek Deal Matters

Advertising Amazon

On May 31, Amazon said it will acquire assets from Sizmek, an advertising technology firm. The announcement consisted of three paragraphs with little detail. But the deal is valuable for Amazon as the company builds a stronger advertising platform to compete with Facebook and Google.

Amazon Advertising Gains Market Share

Amazon’s advertising business is slowly taking market share from Facebook and Google. According to eMarketer, Amazon will capture 8.8 percent of U.S. digital ad spending in 2019. This amount trails far behind Google (with 37.2 percent market share) and Facebook (22.1 percent). But Amazon is building its advertising operation from scratch, and in a short time it has emerged as a threat primarily to Google, as consumers shift their product searches away from Google and toward Amazon.

How Sizmek’s Assets Will Help Amazon

Amazon purchased Sizmek’s ad server and dynamic creative optimization tools, the latter of which helps personalize ads using data. Sizmek’s tools will bolster Amazon’s already strong warehouse of customer data with even more data from ad serving. Doing so will give Amazon more targeted ways to advertise to the millions of people who search for products on Amazon and willingly share their personal information with the company. The deal isn’t making Amazon bigger, but it will make Amazon smarter.

What Advertisers Should Do

At True Interactive, we help businesses capitalize on Amazon as an advertising platform as part of our broader digital advertising offerings. We’ve been actively blogging about the many features Amazon Advertising is developing, such as video ads on Amazon’s mobile app. Based on our own experience, we suggest advertisers:

  • Examine how partnering with Amazon Advertising will help you attract and acquire customers, even if you don’t sell products on Amazon. As The New York Times reported recently, Amazon is tapping into its rich vein of customer data to help companies create more targeted ads across the digital world – an “insanely powerful” capability, according to the article.
  • Watch as Amazon’s competitors evolve their platforms to compete with the Amazon threat. For instance, Google recently announced new features intended to make it a stronger mobile advertising platform (which we discussed here). And, don’t forget Microsoft. Its own advertising business, while small, gives businesses an alternative to the Big Three of Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Online advertising is changing rapidly as the major players make acquisitions and develop their products organically. Advertisers will benefit so long as you remain vigilant and capitalize on these improvements. True Interactive can help you. As an outside party, we constantly evaluate new tools and ensure that our clients benefit from them with effective digital advertising campaigns. Contact us. We’d love to make your online advertising more powerful.

Coming to the Amazon App: Video Ads

Coming to the Amazon App: Video Ads

Amazon

As consumers increasingly shop online, Amazon’s app is a popular go-to destination, and the company is clearly paying heed. Recent Mobile Marketer and Bloomberg articles underscore Amazon’s sensitivity to consumer habits and the way the company is responding to what it sees: for example, by testing video ads in the Apple iOS version of Amazon’s shopping app. The move makes Amazon a stronger advertising alternative to Google and Facebook, and signals not only the e-commerce giant’s increased focus on advertising, but also its recognition of the public’s hunger for mobile ads.

Savvy and Lucrative

Incorporating video ads on the Amazon app is a savvy move. As an intent-based app, Amazon tends to draw consumers who already possess a desire to buy. The video spots, which pop up in response to users’ search results in Amazon’s shopping app, are meant to capitalize on this intention. It’s also a lucrative move for the company: though prices range depending on the ad category and not everyone pays a fixed rate, Amazon is charging roughly a $35,000 ad budget to run the spots at five cents per view for 60 days. The plan is to start with iOS, then expand to Google’s Android mobile operating system later this year.

Growing Along with Digital Advertising

As we’ve been discussing at True Interactive, the news is a sign of Amazon’s continued growth as a platform for businesses to advertise on—not just sell products on. And although Amazon’s April 25th first quarter earnings announcement reports a slowdown in that growth, the announcement also makes it clear: Amazon’s advertising business remains strong and highly profitable.

Furthermore, Amazon is making inroads into others’ share of the spoils. eMarketer reports that Amazon’s advertising business will capture 8.8 percent of U.S. digital ad spending in 2019, eating into the percentage enjoyed by the duopoly of Google and Facebook (Google, while still enjoying the lion’s share of digital ad spending, is projected to drop by one point in 2019). And Amazon, though still trailing behind Facebook and Google in advertising spend share, seems uniquely positioned to step up. As eMarketer forecasting director Monica Peart notes, “Amazon offers a major benefit to advertisers, especially CPG and direct-to-consumer [D2C] brands. The platform is rich with shoppers’ behavioral data for targeting and provides access to purchase data in real time.”

It’s a good time for Amazon to expand in this way: as we discussed in a recent post, mobile ads are on the rise. Forrester reports that between 2017 and 2022, mobile will drive 86 percent of growth in U.S. digital ad spending. The digital dollars are being siphoned from other, more traditional ad spending shares, according to eMarketer: directories like the Yellow Pages, for example, and traditional print resources like newspapers and magazines. “The steady shift of consumer attention to digital platforms has hit an inflection point with advertisers, forcing them to now turn to digital to seek the incremental gains in reach and revenues which are disappearing in traditional media advertising,” Peart said.

What You Can Do

Whether or not you advertise on Amazon, the news offers a compelling reason to have a mobile ad strategy. We recommend that you:

  • Remember that mobile is its own beast. Take a page from Amazon’s book: listen to the signals of consumer behavior and shape your mobile advertising accordingly.
  • Watch for Facebook and Google to respond with more mobile ad products, and see how they do it. Watching these giants maneuver and attempt to one-up one another can be a great way to learn what works.
  • Consider how video plays into your advertising mix. Video has its own set of requirements for production and creative concepting: what does that mean for your business and the resources you have at hand?

True Interactive works with businesses all the time to develop their video advertising campaigns Call us, and see our recently published case study with Snapfish, to get an idea of the kind of work we do.

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash