CES 2019 Reminds Advertisers about the Power of Voice

CES 2019 Reminds Advertisers about the Power of Voice

Marketing

In 2019, more than 74 million Americans will own smart speakers, up 15 percent from 2018. So it’s no surprise that the annual CES, occurring this week, has been showcasing products powered by voice interfaces. Within the first few days of CES, Google alone made a slew of announcements intended to show why Google Assistant is catching up with Amazon’s Alexa as a leading voice assistant. For instance, Google Maps now incorporates Google Assistant, and Google is working with Lenovo on a voice-activated alarm clock/visual display. Not to be outdone, Amazon announced a relationship with technology firm Telenav to make Alexa a more useful voice-based navigation tool in automobiles.

So where do these developments leave advertisers? After all, it’s not as if people are using their voices to buy products and services online. For the most part, consumers use voice as a way to find music and get weather forecasts. And most people do not use voice to search for anything online. But here’s the thing: people are using voice, and more than ever. They might not be using their voices to interact with your brand just yet, but the day is coming when they will. For a number of businesses, that day is here.

For quite some time, we’ve been advocating that advertisers prepare for a voice-first world. As I noted in a 2017 blog post, advertisers can do a number of things now to be savvy about the rise of voice. For instance, advertisers should evaluate your search queries and look for conversional text. (“Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great phrases to focus on.) Also, pay attention to any long-tail queries that include a natural phrase such as “near me” or “can I get the number for . . . ” Use these queries to understand what consumers want to know about your products or services. That’s because consumers exercise a more natural and conversational language when they use their voices, thus altering their search behavior. You can then gather those learnings to strategize a personal user experience for voice searchers.

CES should serve as a reminder that a voice-first world is coming. You don’t want to be a laggard in that world. Contact True Interactive to make your online advertising flourish.

 

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Social media

Unless Snapchat figures out a new game plan to create proprietary features and experiences, 2019 will be the end of the popular photo-sharing app. The stock of its parent company, Snap, is scaring away investors. Its user base has plateaued. Each time Snapchat introduces a new feature, Facebook and Instagram copy it. For instance, Instagram users can share permanent photos on their profiles as well as more temporary content on stories that disappear within 24 hours, a feature that was once unique to Snapchat. Instagram is also becoming more engaging for users with the option to share public comments, likes, as well as create polls in stories, all features that Snapchat lacks. With the launch of its latest feature IGTV, Instagram is on the rise for 2019.

Where does the rise of Instagram leave Snapchat? In a very difficult place. That said, Snapchat still has cards to play, such as monetizing its location data for advertisers and building up its content platform as a broadcast media for businesses such as the National Football League, which told Advertising Age that it doubled viewership of its highlights video to 2 million during the most recent season. Another ray of hope for Snapchat: Facebook keeps hurting its own brand, to the point where it is vulnerable to losing advertisers.

What Snapchat needs is a proprietary feature that makes it so lovable to advertisers that they remain loyal no matter what Instagram or Facebook do. To that end, its R&D center is looking for a solution, perhaps involving augmented reality, where Snapchat has succeeded.

But Snapchat needs to work fast before investors’ lack of faith in Snap and pressure from other platforms brings the fabled platform to an end.

Get Ready for AI Everywhere

Get Ready for AI Everywhere

Artificial Intelligence

In 2019, artificial intelligence (AI) will make digital advertising more targeted, thanks in part to the efforts of Google. But marketers will need to invest more time and effort to make AI pay off.

It’s clear that AI is essential to Google’s growth. In February 2018, CEO Sundar Pichai said AI is more profound than electricity or fire. A few months later, he published a statement of AI principles in which he outlined seven ways Google will use AI (and ways that Google will not). The post focused on the importance of using AI for social good. Pichai did not mention using AI for advertising, but Google is certainly applying AI to make advertising smarter.

For instance, in 2018, Google launched a number of products that use machine learning (a form of AI) to improve online advertising performance. I recently blogged about one such product, responsive search ads. As I noted, responsive search ads make it possible for advertisers to enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to four) when creating a search ad. Then Google Ads applies machine learning to automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. In addition, per Google, advertisers can add a third headline and second description to your text ads, and your descriptions can have up to 90 characters.

2018 was just a warm-up for what’s to come in 2019. Businesses demand more accountability and ROI from their online ad spend, and AI does just that. I expect Google will focus more on using AI to make YouTube more effective. Google has already injected AI into YouTube with features such as maximize lift, which is a smart bidding tool that automatically adjusts bids at auction time to maximize the impact a company’s video ads have on brand perception. Maximize lift is supposed to help businesses reach people who are most likely to consider their brand after seeing a video ad.

One concern we often hear from advertisers is that YouTube is not as useful for direct-response campaigns as it is for brand building. In 2019, we’ll see the emergence of tools that do a better job targeting video ad content to people who are in shopping mode and ready to buy as Google makes YouTube more of a lower-funnel platform.

AI will make online advertising better. But AI will also require marketers to invest more time and energy to make it pay off, as I discussed in my post about responsive search ads. It’s important that businesses understand its uses and requirements. For more insight, contact True Interactive. We help businesses maximize the value of their online advertising and understand where the industry is headed.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/artificial-intelligence-robot-ai-ki-2167835/

A Reckoning for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg?

A Reckoning for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg?

Facebook

One year ago, I predicted that Facebook could be facing a tough year due to the steady decline in users and the admission by former Facebook executives that the social media platform was designed to get its users addicted and was ripping apart the fabric of society. For those reasons, I cautioned Facebook advertisers to expect diminished performance from their Facebook ads. And as we enter 2019, we’re experiencing a serious case of Facebook déjà vu.

With the most recent revelation that Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies including Bing, Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify more intrusive access to users’ personal data than previously disclosed, Facebook once again finds itself in hot water. Much of the negative publicity in 2018 focused on privacy concerns about Facebook. A few months back, news broke that Facebook could face a fine of $1.63 billion by the European Union for a massive data breach, and in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by Congress over data privacy concerns. Two questions loom large:

  • Could 2019 be the year Mark Zuckerberg is forced to step aside? Zuckerberg accepting a diminished role is not out of the question given the reality that Facebook has failed to address its problems on its own. What Facebook does not want is tight government regulation, and the company may need to offer up a C-level sacrifice to avoid such an action.
  • Will advertisers scale back? Businesses have continued to advertise on Facebook despite its scandals, partly because Facebook is too big to ignore and partly because there’s nowhere else for Facebook’s users to go. But Facebook is vulnerable to another platform coming along and challenging its dominance – which could change things for users and advertisers.

Advertisers may want to think twice about associating their brands with a social media giant under such scrutiny. Given the current tumultuous state of Facebook, I once again recommend advertisers proceed with caution when it comes to their investment in Facebook marketing and also lower performance expectations.

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Video Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Video Ads

Amazon

Earlier this year, advertisers complained in a Digiday article that Amazon lacked a robust video ad platform, which made Amazon less attractive to Facebook and Google as an ad platform. Amazon must have been listening. The company launched video ads as part of a broader reorganization of its ad offerings under Amazon Advertising. In recent weeks, I’ve been blogging about various Amazon Advertising products. Here’s a brief overview of video ads to help you understand them.

1 What is Amazon’s Video Advertising Solution?

Amazon’s video offerings are very similar to their display offering in the sense that they use specific audiences with custom creatives to target people on Amazon as well as Amazon-owned and third-party sites (such as Twitch) and devices. Unlike the display offerings, there isn’t a self-managed option – so you must work with a team throughout the whole process.

2 Why Would an Advertiser Use Video Ads?

Video ads are a great way to tell a story. They complement display ads by sharing the same sentiments but with the ability to expand beyond a single image to show the entire story. Video ads are mainly seen as a branding play, but by using highly specific targeting available on Amazon, video ads can also drive people to complete a purchase.

As reported in Digiday, Lego tested video ads in search results on the Amazon app in the United States in 2017. And Lego liked what it saw. James Poulter, Lego’s head of emerging platforms and partnerships, told Digiday, “The test reiterated the importance video and rich media can have when it’s part of the buying journey, especially when 70 percent of all purchase journeys start on Amazon. Surfacing your content in the same place that people are having those journeys has the potential to widen the funnel.”

3 Are There Any Limitations to Video Ads?

As with Amazon’s Display ads, the main limitation with Amazon video ads is the price. Amazon requires a $35,000 budget for both video and display ad campaigns. This hefty price prevents smaller advertisers from being able to test out these advertising features.

4 How Can Advertisers Maximize the Value of Video Ads?

Maximizing the value of video ads requires a goal, good story telling, and smart targeting.

  • Goals – Since most advertisers on Amazon are selling a product, getting a consumer to complete a purchase is the most obvious goal. Generating brand awareness and recall is another goal that would work well within the Amazon universe.
  • Stories – Visually show someone how purchasing a product will solve a problem for them. Walk them through a product demonstration, but without it feeling like a sales pitch. Showcase testimonials and reviews. Create an instructional video illustrating specific features of a product.
  • Targeting – Leverage Amazon’s targeting options to find highly relevant audiences. Take what you know about your customer and match that up with products they buy and shows and videos they watch. Be very specific to the product you sell.

If you’re interested in Amazon video ads, but don’t know where to start or need assistance strategizing and managing them, please reach out to us at True Interactive.

Here are the other posts in my series about Amazon: 

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Display Ads 

Advertiser Q&A: Amazon Sponsored Ads

Online Retailers Are Winning Big This Holiday Season

Online Retailers Are Winning Big This Holiday Season

Retail

We’re off to the races with the 2018 holiday season, and retailers are showing some strong results with online sales. Here’s what Adobe Analytics reported:

  • Cyber Monday hit $7.9 billion in sales, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the United States — a 19.7 percent increase year-over-year.
  • Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday brought in $3.7 billion (28 percent growth year over year) and $6.2 billion (23.6 percent growth) in revenue.
  • Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, set a new record as the biggest online shopping weekend in the U.S. ($6.4 billion) growing faster than Black Friday and Cyber Monday with more than 25 percent on each day.

Not every retailer is winning this holiday season. Only retailers that do these things are reaping rewards:

  • Focusing on mobile. As we have shared on our blog, technology giants such as Google have been launching tools that make it easier for businesses to showcase inventory with shoppable ads. That’s because shoppers are using mobile as a tool to buy, not just search for places to buy. PayPal, for instance, processed more than $1 billion in mobile payments on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday (a first for PayPal on either day). On Thanksgiving, mobile accounted for 54 percent of online sales, surpassing desktop for the first time, according to Salesforce.
  • Prepared their websites. According to Multibriefs, more people were hit with “out-of-stock” messages on websites than they were last year. “Even worse, some didn’t even make it to the company website,” wrote Multibriefs. “Lowes, Target and PayPal all experienced crashes on Cyber Monday.” The companies that failed to prepare for the online buying spike lost out to sites such as Amazon, which reported its biggest shopping day in history on Cyber Monday. Who says websites are dead? If you were ready as Amazon was, you won big.
  • Moving products quickly. Amazon long ago set the standard for speedy product delivery. But many retailers such as Best Buy are catching up. This holiday season retailers are using free shipping and convenient returns as a proving ground, as this news report discusses. Last month, I predicted shipping would provide an edge to retailers this holiday season — but this prediction applies only to those who have figured out how to fulfill the uptick in demand that online ordering brings. Walmart struggled to fulfill online orders during the 2017 holiday season – let’s see how the retailer does when the dust settles on 2018.

If you took steps to prepare yourself for the onslaught of online holiday shopping – especially by attracting mobile shoppers with a strong investment into online advertising and digital commerce – the 2018 holiday season is looking very bright. For more insight into how to win with mobile shoppers, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/holiday-shopping-smartphone-phone-1921658/

Advertiser Q&A: Google Showcase Shopping Ads

Advertiser Q&A: Google Showcase Shopping Ads

Google Uncategorized

Google has been beefing up its showcase shopping ads product to help retailers spice up their holiday advertisements. Showcase shopping ads make it possible for businesses to group together related products to merchandise them more effectively. The format is tailored for mobile viewing. Recently Google added new features such as video to make these ads more powerful. At True Interactive, we’ve been applying showcase shopping ads with favorable results. One of our clients running showcase shopping ads has seen an 80-percent higher click-through rate over standard shopping ads. This blog post explains showcase shopping ads based on questions we’ve received.

What exactly are showcase shopping ads?

Showcase shopping ads appear as a collection of shoppable images displaying different products offered by an advertiser. The ads are built to capitalize on broad keyword searches such as “winter sweaters.” The showcase shopping ads work this way:

  • Someone making a non-brand search for, say, winter sweaters will see in their search results display ads from different retailers with winter sweaters and promotional ad copy.
  • When the shopper clicks on the ad, they are taken to a landing page with a merchant’s line of winter sweaters. The shopping ad display, or showcase, resembles a brand page to the user, consisting of products the advertiser wants the user to see.

A shopper may click on an inventory and complete a purchase.

A business can create multiple showcase shopping ads. The header image can be different based on what is uploaded into each showcase shopping ad. In the above example of winter sweaters, a retailer could run a header image that focuses on sweaters but have another header image that focuses on outerwear for a “winter coat” search. The Google algorithm chooses which products appear based on variables such as the product titles, description, and type.

Who is this a good fit for?

It is highly recommended that you have at least 1,000 products in your inventory. There is no minimum budget. The format is effective for anyone who wants to get their products in front of a large audience because it’s based on broad keywords. It’s not for people competing for specific keywords. For bigger advertisers, showcase shopping ads are a good way to display multiple products for broad keywords. You can create an engaging photo and additional messaging that smaller businesses may not be able to afford.

Why is Google beefing up showcase ads?

The main reason Google is pushing showcase ads is that they are optimized for mobile. Salesforce recently predicted that mobile devices would dominate both traffic and orders for the entire 2018 holiday shopping season (68 percent of traffic and 46 percent of orders). On Black Friday alone, retailers saw $2.1 billion in sales from smartphones, accounting for 33.5 percent of Black Friday sales. The rise of mobile reflects broader shopping trends, and Google wants to capture a share of ad revenue associated with mobile shopping by offering a shoppable ad format.

What is the pay model?

The pay format is cost per engagement, not cost per click. The user has to be on the ad for 10 seconds or more, at which time the advertiser is charged. This approach can be a drawback. A click is a specific action. But having a page open for 10 seconds is a passive way to measure user intent. A person may not be really engaged with a product while a screen is open.

Any tips for getting the most out of Google showcase shopping ads?

Yes. Advertisers need to do two things:

  • Ensure all your products are grouped together in an easily findable way.
  • Have your products accurately labeled in each ad group.

Bottom line: Google showcase shopping ads give multiple advertisers a way to showcase multiple products for generic keywords that can otherwise be very expensive. If you compete for generic keywords in a mobile centric world – and who isn’t? – then you should consider Google showcase shopping ads. If you need help getting started or if you are running Google showcase shopping ads and want to take your game to the next level, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.