Why Changes to Apple Maps Matter to Online Advertising

Why Changes to Apple Maps Matter to Online Advertising

Advertising

Businesses, keep your eyes on Apple Maps. The increasingly popular wayfinding app is making some big changes with the roll-out of iOS 14 this fall. As widely reported, Apple will:

Empower Visual Storytellers

People who visit businesses may upload photos of those businesses on their Apple Maps listings, just like they can do on Google Maps. The next time someone wants to post a photo of their stay at your hotel, they can do just that on your Apple Maps listing. Or if they want to depict the quality and safety of their dining experience at your restaurant, you can expect them to do so on your listing.

Rate Your Business

For the first time, people can rate their experience at your location by giving you a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Now, this is a pretty basic change. On Google Maps, people can actually write reviews, not just ratings. But even still, allowing for ratings is probably going to move Apple Maps closer to being a full-fledged site for reviews and ratings. This development means businesses will need to pay more serious attention to Apple Maps as a source of reputation building. Customer ratings and reviews are increasingly important. Nine out of 10 people read them.

Why the News about Apple Maps Matters to Online Advertising

So why should businesses that advertise online care about these changes? Well, for one thing, anytime Apple changes its products, businesses need to pay attention. Apple is a bellwether brand with a wide-ranging influence across the business landscape. When Apple acts, the world is affected. We believe that the Apple Maps changes mean a few things:

Mind Your Own Visual Storytelling

Businesses need to strengthen their ability to create compelling visual content, including images and video, in their online advertising. Apple is responding to the reality that in the age of Instagram, visual content creates lasting impact. Apple is appealing to the same consumer who follows sites like Instagram closely. The question for any business: how powerful is your visual content? How well do you capitalize on visually appealing ad formats on sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat to connect with customers?

Think of Maps Apps as Brand-Building Tools

True, Apple Maps is not an advertising destination. But apps such as Google Maps and Waze evolved beyond consumer wayfinding a long time ago, as we have discussed on our own blog. And Google Maps is easily the most dominant map app. As Apple continues to position Apple Maps as the ad-free, pro-privacy alternative to Google Maps, businesses should expect Google to go in the opposite direction. Rather than allow Apple to define its brand, Google will roll out more advertising options for businesses on Google Maps. Watch for them and capitalize on them.

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

 

 

 

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

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

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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.

The Online Opportunity for Higher Education

The Online Opportunity for Higher Education

Google Higher Education

In April, when I first blogged about the impact of COVID-19 on higher education, I assumed the issue would be how colleges addressed finishing out the spring semester of 2020. Perhaps I was naïve in thinking the worst would be behind us by the time the fall semester rolled around. Now with the 2020-21 academic school year deadline upon us, there are still many obstacles and challenges ahead for higher education institutions. Meanwhile, thousands of students (and parents) are either anxiously awaiting more guidance or bracing themselves for a disruption similar to what the University of North Carolina just experienced when the school abruptly halted plans for an in-person school year amid a COVID-19 flare-up on campus.

Learning in the Age of COVID-19

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s most recent list of College Reopening Plans, 21 percent of colleges are planning “primarily in person,” 24 percent are planning “primarily online,” and 27 percent are still currently “TBD.” A very small percentage (2.5 percent) are planning “fully in person,” 2.9 percent will be “fully online – no students on campus,” 16 percent are planning on a “hybrid” approach, and less than 1 percent are planning on “fully online – some students on campus.”

All said, as of now, most colleges are leaning toward either an online approach or a hybrid option, offering some online courses and some in-person learning. And while the format of classes for the fall semester continues to be worked out, many students and (even more parents) are discovering how tuition will be affected. Harvard has come under harsh criticism after recently announcing it will still be charging full tuition as classes go online amid the coronavirus outbreak. Harvard, Smith, Tufts, Duke University, and others did say they will refund students for unused room and board on a prorated basis.

Assessing Costs

However, room and board costs, while still a considerable investment, are far less than tuition expenses; many parents may find themselves questioning the value of paying for a “top-tier” school education if classes are 100 percent online. Without a doubt, the college experience will be vastly different when learning is online versus on campus. Parents and students may instead opt for classes at a community college if they are within their first two years of their college degree. The financial savings are substantial, and with the lack of a traditional on-campus college experience, there certainly is a case to be made for saving money. Additionally, students will have more options available for online courses —and where they take them — as more and more schools expand their offerings.

So, what does all this mean for higher education from a marketing perspective? Two things: more opportunity, and more competition.

Opportunity

This is an opportunity for schools to promote their online offerings, whether they are new to the online learning format or a veteran in this department. Colleges who have traditionally featured online offerings may find themselves attracting a whole new demographic of students — students who might not have considered online learning before COVID-19. These students might think, “If I have to study online right now, I’m going to go where they’ve been doing it a while.”

But colleges just embarking on an online learning program may also appeal to a new demographic: students who, for reasons such as geography, might not have even considered a particular school before. With online learning, schools may suddenly become “in reach.”

Competition

Competition for online degrees is stronger than ever before, as more and more traditional on-campus programs are now entering the online space. In Google Ads, we have seen steep increases in keyword cost per click, primarily due to increased competition. To maintain an acceptable cost per lead, it is becoming even more important to leverage as many targeting options as possible within the Google Ads platform. Those options include audiences, device, location, age, income, and more. It is also essential to evaluate performance based on day of week and time of day in order to find the most efficient time to invest your advertising dollars.

While the increase in keyword CPCs might make it more difficult for smaller schools with smaller budgets to compete in paid search auctions, we’ve also seen a significant investment in Google Display Ads and social platforms as schools attempt to expand their reach. That’s because Google Display Ads and platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have much lower cost per click (or cost/impression) than traditional paid search in Google. So, for colleges with smaller marketing budgets, Google Display Ads, Facebook, and Instagram can be an effective method of reaching potential students.

Contact True Interactive

In short, great opportunity exists for higher education in the online market, but the competition is fierce. Now, more than ever, you need to have a comprehensive marketing plan in place. At True Interactive, we are well versed in the higher education vertical and are ready to help you navigate this ever-changing market. Contact us. We can help.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

New Report Underscores Importance of Google My Business

New Report Underscores Importance of Google My Business

Google

Software provider Moz has released its 2020 State of Local SEO industry report, and the insights are revealing. The report, which surveys the priorities of website owners across several industries, focuses on organic content, but it’s still a useful tool for advertisers. That’s because a brand’s priorities for organic content are usually a good indication of its advertising priorities; in short, the Moz report provides insights into digital marketing that can influence online advertising. Two headliners, according to Moz? Google My Business (GMB) and Maps. Read on for more details about these tools, and how they might support your business.

The Growing Importance of Google My Business

One of the big take-aways of the report is the growing influence of businesses’ GMB listings. In fact, according to Moz, businesses are increasingly viewing GMB listings as critical to their local search result rankings: “75% of marketers believe that the use of Google My Business profile features impacts rankings in the local pack.” The report recommends keeping abreast of GMB features and management, making sure details such as categories, and descriptions, are up-to-date. In short, more businesses are investing time in their GMB page, and you should, too.

Google Maps: More Than a Wayfinding Tool

Another recommendation: mind your presence on Google Maps. The report casts a spotlight on Google Maps’ rise, describing it as “a go-to tool for how consumers navigate their community.” And as consumers find their way around an area, it behooves brands to position themselves front and center. The benefits of learning the nuances of Maps, and keeping one’s map intelligence accurate, cannot be overstated.

These findings underscore how significant GMB listings and Google Maps are to businesses. Google continues to dominate the online landscape even if it is having a down year in the advertising sector.

What You Should Do

  • We recommend that you maintain a strong strategy for maximizing GMB as a platform for paid and organic content. As we have blogged here, more than half of search queries on Google result in no ensuing clicks to brand sites. That’s because users frequently find what they need on GMB pages—when businesses have taken the time to make them rich and informative, that is. Make sure your GMB page has substance, from compelling images to accurate location data. As we recommended earlier on our blog, it’s important that you link your GMB account to your Google Ads account. As Google discusses in this tutorial, linking your GMB account to your Google Ads account makes it possible for your ads to appear with location extensions, which encourage customers to visit your storefront. Through location extensions, customers can see your ads with location information such as your address. And then they can get more information about your location by clicking on location extensions.
  • We also suggest that you have a plan for maximizing Google Maps as a platform for paid and organic content. As we blog here, Google has managed to effectively accommodate advertising without corroding user experience on Maps. That’s good news for brands and users alike. A satisfied user will continue to use Google Maps—and subsequently see content, such as promotions, posted by savvy advertisers.

Note the mention of organic and paid content in both suggestions above. The rationale is this: if you are going to spend more time building up your Maps and GMB organic content, why stop there? Google makes a plethora of advertising tools available, tools that can increase your visibility even more—and attract more customers. Get to know those tools.

Contact True Interactive

Through offerings like Google My Business and Maps, Google can help your brand achieve the visibility you desire. Not sure how to make the most of these platforms? Contact us. We can help.

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Advertising

One of the big stories of 2020 is, of course, the surge in people going online. It’s not just that people are spending more time online watching movies and connecting on social media. They’re also making purchases: as consumer behavior moves online, we’re seeing a surge in eCommerce. As reported in Forbes, the latest research suggests that COVID-19 has accelerated the progress of ecommerce adoption by four to six years—within a matter of months. What does that mean for your brand? A look at what the tech giants are doing provides some clues:

Instagram Shop

Instagram is embracing the online shopping trends with its July roll out, in the United States, of Instagram Shop. The online shopping feature allows consumers to view products on Instagram: personalized recommendations drawn from brands you as a consumer follow, plus recommendations suggested by Instagram’s @shop team.

Businesses can also add hashtags to product descriptions to make those products more likely to be featured. On Instagram Shop, shoppers can save items of interest, contact businesses, and place orders directly using Facebook Pay. In short, the feature allows brands to set up a single online store consumers can access via Instagram. Instagram Shop is set to go global in coming weeks.

Google’s Shoploop

Meanwhile, Google is making its own bid to snag the attention of online shoppers with its video shopping platform, Shoploop. Introduced by Google’s experimental Area 120 division, Shoploop spotlights products in short videos of 90 seconds or less. The videos illustrate how to use the product, and interested shoppers can make purchases online, directly from the app. They can also like, share, and save videos.

As reported in MediaPost, Shoploop “helps brands get product reviews from real people who know and use the products.” One of the beauties of Shoploop is that it streamlines a process that used to involve several apps or websites. Consumers can now discover products, see how they are used in real life, and make a purchase—all in one place. Currently, most Shoploop clips highlight skincare and makeup, but plans are already underway to expand reach to products including clothing, jewelry, and electronics.

What This Means for Brands

Store closures/state lockdowns during COVID-19 undoubtably spurred development of shopping experiences like Instagram Shop and Shoploop. But there’s a good chance that consumer habits formed during lockdown will persist indefinitely. “We are seeing signs that online purchasing trends formed during the pandemic may see permanent adoption,” notes Taylor Schreiner, Director, Adobe Digital Insights, in the Forbes article cited above.

And because companies like Google and Instagram are making it even easier for people to buy things online by giving them more access points, shoppers will have more reasons than ever to continue those habits forged during the pandemic. The headline for advertisers is this: online advertising not only creates visibility for a brand, it is becoming an increasingly important, even mandatory, strategy for brands to draw shoppers directly to their commerce engines.

The Challenge for Advertisers

The challenge for advertisers is to capitalize on all these access points, while understanding what types of advertising work best to attract engagement online. That is, what kind of ads does a brand now need to create in order to draw shoppers to their Instagram page, as opposed to their website? How should a business build an advertising presence on Instagram that complements the organic content it posts, especially for brands that sell products on Instagram? Different access points can mean different audiences: online ads will not necessarily all be the same.

Contact True Interactive

Need help navigating these new opportunities? Contact us. We can help.

Advertiser Q&A: Microsoft Digital Marketing Center

Advertiser Q&A: Microsoft Digital Marketing Center

Advertising Microsoft

Microsoft has been in the news lately. The tech company has expanded its Microsoft Digital Marketing Center, which provides small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with a central site on which they can manage, online, both advertising campaigns and organic content. Read on to learn more about the Microsoft Digital Marketing Center and what it might offer your brand.

What is the Microsoft Digital Marketing Center?

The Microsoft Digital Marketing Center is a product from the company’s experimental project lab, Microsoft Garage. When it came onto the scene in October 2019, it empowered SMBs to use one interface to manage digital campaigns across multiple networks, from Microsoft to Google and Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In late June 2020, Microsoft announced a major expansion of the product, with additional features such as:

  • Social management inbox, which serves as a central hub for managing likes, direct messages, and replies on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Image ad suggestion, which allows brands to easily create their own effective image ads by choosing from suggested ads.
  • Improved tools for ads, such as a field for an extra headline. The benefit? Advertisers can include more information in their ads and subsequently enhance location targeting.
  • The ability to appeal disapproved ads from Bing and Facebook.
  • A new home page experience that combines social and ad metrics into one user-friendly dashboard view.
  • Twitter support, which is now enabled.

Who is the target audience?

SMBs are the target market. SMBs have captured even more attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. As McKinsey points out, SMBs face an even tougher road to economic recovery. They need all the help they can get.

Who are Microsoft Digital Marketing Center’s competitors?

Microsoft Digital Marketing Center is competing with platforms such as:

  • HubSpot, which is already positioned as a one-stop shop for SMBs. Though Microsoft Digital Marketing Center doesn’t have all the CRM features of a HubSpot, it brings its own advantages to the table. (It’s currently free, for one thing.)
  • Google, to some degree. As Search Engine Land explains, “Similar to Google Smart campaigns, which aim to simplify campaign set up and management for SMBs, Digital Marketing Center uses Microsoft AI to power ad keyword and audience targeting and bidding.”

But Digital Marketing Center gives customers more autonomy. Advertisers can build their own ads. They can also use automated ad copy or modify auto-suggestions.

Why did Microsoft launch this product?

Microsoft probably launched Digital Marketing Center to gain a toehold with the market of small-to-medium-sized businesses, which have more aggressively embraced digital advertising to acquire customers amid the spread of COVID-19. And as noted above, they are not alone in their efforts to win the hearts of this group.

What should I do next?

If you are interested in trialing the Digital Marketing Center, start here. The beta is open to U.S. businesses only at this point.

Is there a “gotcha”?

As with many free products, be aware that you get what you pay for. Digital Marketing Center is totally self-service: you’ll be on your own in managing this tool. In short, it invites self-sufficiency! Also, just because it’s free now doesn’t mean the features will remain free.

Contact True Interactive

Do you want to learn more about the Digital Marketing Center and what it might offer your business? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

It’s Amazon Advertising’s Year — So Far

Amazon Facebook Google

Good news for Amazon. Bad news for Google. According to a new report from eMarketer, Amazon’s share of online advertising continues an upward trend. Google, by contrast, continues to lose marketshare. Read on to learn more.

The What

Amazon’s share of online advertising, which has been rising every year, will reach 9.5 percent in 2020, eMarketer says. Google’s share will drop to 29.4 percent, as Google reports its first-ever decline in advertising revenue since eMarketer began tracking advertising revenue in 2008. Meanwhile, Facebook’s share of online advertising is predicted to rise to 23.4 percent (note, however, that eMarketer published its analysis before an advertising boycott of Facebook took hold—those numbers will likely be re-evaluated).

The Why

Why is Amazon Advertising increasing its share, while Google sees its marketshare drop?

  • Amazon’s advertising unit, known as Amazon Advertising, is probably benefitting from people shifting their purchasing online during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. As we have blogged, Amazon without question became an especially attractive place to make purchases as shelter-in-place mandates took hold. And Amazon was prepared to help advertisers build their visibility during this surge, with a tool kit including products such as Sponsored Ads and Display Ads.
  • Meanwhile, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, Nicole Perrin, explains that “Google’s net US ad revenues will decline this year primarily because of a sharp pullback in travel advertiser spending, which in the past has been heavily concentrated on Google’s search ad products. Travel has been the hardest-hit industry during the pandemic, with the most extreme spending declines of any industry.”

What the News Means

The news creates some nice press for Amazon Advertising, but as we have blogged, Google’s ad business remains healthy and solid. And as eMarketer points out, Google is being hit by the economic downturn in travel. There is nothing inherently wrong with Google’s ad products, however.

In fact, Google continues to make its ad products better. We have blogged about some of its innovations lately:

Facebook likely has more to worry about than Google. An advertising boycott is gaining traction with big brands such as Unilever and Starbucks pulling their ad business because they believe Facebook is not doing enough to police hate speech, among other grievances. As reported by cnbc.com, the big names already responding to the #StopHateForProfit campaign have the potential to influence more companies to join the boycott.

Our Recommendations

We suggest that regardless of your platform of choice, businesses continue advertising online. Despite the turbulence among the big online ad players, we know that businesses that continue to have an online ad presence are best positioned for success.

Contact Us

Do you need help sorting your digital ad presence? Contact True Interactive. We can help.