Convenience Is King This Holiday Shopping Season

Convenience Is King This Holiday Shopping Season

Advertising

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

Rise of Convenience

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

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

What Retailers Should Do

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

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

Contact True Interactive

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

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Businesses Balance Risk with Reward on Social Media

Facebook Social media YouTube

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

Social Media Controversies

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

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

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

What You Should Do

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

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

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

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

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

Contact True Interactive

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

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

 

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Facebook

Having a strong social media presence pays off for your brand – literally. That’s what research from Sprout Social shows. Sprout Social surveyed consumers and social marketers between February 28 and March 4. As reported in Mobile Marketer, the survey reveals:

  • Nine out of 10 people purchase from brands they follow on social media.
  • Seventy-five percent of people have increased their spend on companies they follow on social. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2019, a leap that’s particularly noteworthy given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moving Forward

These findings validate what we wrote in a recent post: brands advertising on social media can connect with people who are willing to spend money even during the coronavirus era. Knowing this, how does a company move forward during such an unprecedented time? Here’s what we suggest you do:

  • Make sure you have a strong social media presence. As we’ve noted, use of social media has surged in the first quarter, with engagement on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram spiking 40 percent or more — this despite, or even because of, the pandemic. In short, not only are people willing to spend on brands, there are more people on social, period. Brands that advertise on social will reach that larger audience.
  • Make sure your content is engaging, and that you engage with the audience. According to the Sprout Social report, 61 percent of consumers say that engagement with the audience is the brand characteristic that is most meaningful to them.
  • Complement your advertising with strong customer service. What does strong customer support look like now? Per Sprout Social, responding to people quickly is a strong barometer of customer service. As noted in Mobile Marketer, 40 percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of connecting through social media; and 79 percent expect a response in the first 24 hours.
  • Reach out to younger consumers in a way that matters most to them; that means a strong presence on YouTube and Instagram. Gen Z is the largest age cohort in the United States, and Millennials remain sizeable. It’s important that brands understand where Gen Zers spend their time. Right now, visual content is the key to Gen Zers’ hearts. The Sprout Social report reveals that social sharing platforms highlighting videos and photos, such as Google’s YouTube and Facebook’s Instagram, are becoming more and more popular with younger consumers. As reported in Mobile Marketer, “Almost three quarters (73%) of Generation Z said they plan to use Instagram more often, while 65% said they plan to spend more time on YouTube.” So it’s no surprise that Facebook just purchased Giphy and will integrate the business with Instagram.

Finally, make sure that you stay abreast of the various tools that are constantly made available to businesses to maximize the value of their social media spend. For instance, Google has adapted the YouTube masthead ad format for the era of connected TV.

Contact True Interactive

Eager to build a stronger social media presence? Contact us. We can help.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Why Mobile Will Power Your Marketing Future

Why Mobile Will Power Your Marketing Future

Mobile

For businesses, engaging with mobile should not be a matter of if, but when. And according to App Annie’s The State of Mobile 2020 report, sooner is better than later. The report underscores how important it is for businesses to connect with their customers on mobile. Here are some stats that resonate:

Mobile Is a Way of Life

  • According to the report, consumers downloaded a record 204 billion apps in 2019. Annual downloads have grown 45 percent in the three years since 2016, and six percent year over year. As App Annie points out, this growth is especially impressive because it excludes re-installs and app updates.
  • Also of note: in 2019, people spent roughly three hours and 40 minutes a day on mobile, a 35 percent increase over 2017.

People Are Spending on Mobile Apps

  • Consumers are opening their pocketbooks to engage with mobile—and not just with games. App store consumer spending hit $120 billion in 2019, up 2.1 times from 2016. Although games comprise 72 percent of all app store spend, subscriptions in non-gaming apps leapt from 18 percent share in 2016 to a solid 28 percent in 2019.

Mobile Is Where People Go to Be Entertained

  • Time spent on sports apps such as ESPN grew by 30 percent from 2017 to 2019.
  • Mobile gaming is, hands down, the world’s most popular form of gaming. In 2019, mobile games enjoyed 25 percent more spend than all other gaming combined.
  • New entrants like Disney+ are heating up consumer interest—and competition—in the streaming industry. For right now, consumers seem happy to double-dip: close to 25 percent of Netflix’s iPhone users also used Disney+ in Q4 2019, for example. That’s the highest overlap of users among top video streaming apps in the United States.

YouTube and TikTok Are Exploding

  • YouTube enjoyed a staggering 980 percent growth in worldwide active users from December 2017 to December 2019. And as we recently blogged, the platform is an advertising giant, to boot.
  • App Annie calls it the “TikTok Tidal Wave”: time spent on TikTok, which as a social networking app and entertainment source poses a double threat, grew 210 percent year over year in 2019. TikTok is also drawing interest from brands; as we have noted, the platform is an ideal place to demonstrate a lighter side through funny videos or challenges.

Social Media on Mobile Is as Strong As Ever

  • Social isn’t going anywhere. App Annie notes that 50 percent of time on mobile is spent on social and comms apps like Snapchat. As a result, apps like Snapchat are thriving: as we recently blogged, Snapchat continues to grow, even in a competitive landscape.
  • Meanwhile, use of Nextdoor has grown 65 percent from December 2017 to December 2019 in the United States, demonstrating an interest in social networking at a local level.

Gen Z Is Rocking Mobile

  • Gen Z are digital natives, and as such lead all other demographics in terms of mobile use. According to the App Annie report, Gen Z has 60 percent more sessions per user in top apps than older demographics. And 98 percent of Gen Z own a smartphone.

Implications for Businesses

  • If you are advertising on mobile already, don’t put your advertising on pause during the coronavirus pandemic. Phone carriers such as AT&T are reporting a surge in mobile usage as more people work from home.
  • That said, you may find yourself adapting your mobile campaign at this time: say, by discussing community building activities that will keep your brand front of mind when the crisis subsides. Sensitivity to the current crisis is key. And patience. Elijah Whaley, the CMO influencer marketing agency Parklu, notes of brands who proceed carefully and wisely through the coronavirus era, “When [consumers] start spending again they are going to spend with you.”
  • Capitalize on YouTube and TikTok. These apps are only going to increase in popularity as more Gen Zers come of age. TikTok is just sorting out its ad products, but, as we’ve noted, YouTube already offers strong advertising options.

Contact True Interactive

Mobile is where the action is. Are you getting in on it? Contact us.

Photo by Daan Geurts on Unsplash

YouTube: The Streaming Ad Giant

YouTube: The Streaming Ad Giant

YouTube

Who knew? YouTube is an advertising giant in the streaming industry. And YouTube is becoming increasingly vital as more people stay at home and stream content in light of recent news events.

According to App Annie, in 2019, YouTube made a whopping $15 billion on ads alone. The news comes courtesy of Alphabet (the parent company of Google): for the first time since Google acquired YouTube in 2006, Alphabet has released YouTube’s ad revenue. And the figures are staggering, accounting for almost 10 percent of Google’s overall $161 billion revenue in 2019.

Why This Matters

The news is important because it underlines YouTube’s dominance in an increasingly crowded arena. As App Annie points out, on Android phones, about 70 percent of time spent on the top five video streaming apps worldwide was on YouTube. The platform, a pioneer in the world of video streaming, continues to hold its own. That’s telling. As Forbes notes, “In a market where new streaming video services seem to spring up overnight, YouTube isn’t losing viewers or ad money.”

Also notable: while many of the top apps are Chinese brands, enjoying strong support in China, YouTube isn’t active in the Chinese market—and yet it is still number one in rankings measuring time spent on the top streaming platforms. By a significant margin.

How YouTube Does It

So how is YouTube achieving this cash cow status?

  • For one, YouTube delivers an audience, and you need an audience to attract advertisers. As Lifewire points out, YouTube is one of the most popular sites in the world. It’s arguably the favorite video-sharing and viewing site on the web today, offering a range of long- and short-form free content. And as Lifewire notes, “Youtube.com is the second most popular website in both the global market and in the U.S for 2020, even though a huge portion of YouTube views are from outside the U.S.”
  • But YouTube also does something else: it continuously offers advertisers attractive products. As we’ve blogged in the past, YouTube’s Masthead ad format for TV allows brands to connect with consumers the instant users access the YouTube app on their televisions. The Masthead format is a response to the fact that while consumers aren’t watching as much linear TV, they are still using their televisions as a tool for experiencing streaming platforms like YouTube. In other words, YouTube understands viewing trends, and is staying nimble in its bid to connect with advertisers in an informed way.

What Can Be Learned from YouTube’s Success?

We can draw two conclusions from YouTube’s enduring popularity:

  • First, streaming platforms, especially Netflix, cannot help but notice how well an ad-supported format on YouTube has been working. Netflix—and other competing platforms—certainly must be feeling more pressure to create advertising products. And that’s good news for brands. (I blogged about Netflix’s potential adoption of advertising in this post, “Why Netflix Might Embrace Advertising.”)
  • Second, YouTube’s growth likely bodes well for apps like Quibi (another destination for streaming video that relies on ads). Quibi is endeavoring to carve a niche in a crowded field; YouTube shows them what’s possible, and arguably creates an environment ripe for inspiration.

Clearly, streaming platforms offer an attractive opportunity to advertisers. Note also that in light of recent events, it is expected that more people will turn to streaming platforms such as YouTube. Per a blog post from PMG, “Popular media platforms such as YouTube and Tik Tok will also likely see a monumental boost as kids and teens spend more time online and at home” during temporary school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. YouTube, with its combination of innovation and reliability, is proving to be a model for succeeding with ad-supported shorter-form streaming. In its quiet bid for dominance, YouTube has become a leader.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about YouTube, and the opportunities that exist for advertisers in the streaming community? Contact us.

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

How Video Ad Standards on Google Chrome Are Changing in 2020

Google

Get ready for a world with fewer intrusive video ads.

On February 5, Google announced that video ads deemed to be intrusive will stop appearing on Chrome beginning August 2020. Chrome will stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly show the following kinds of video ads:

  • Long, non-skippable pre-roll ads or groups of ads longer than 31 seconds that appear before a video and that cannot be skipped within the first 5 seconds.
  • Mid-roll ads of any duration that appear in the middle of a video, interrupting the user’s experience.
  • Image or text ads that appear on top of a playing video and are in the middle 1/3 of the video player window or cover more than 20 percent of the video content.

These restrictions apply to short-form video content defined as eight minutes or less in length.

Why Google Announced a Change

You might be wondering why Google identified those specific ad formats. Google is following recommendations from the Coalition for Better Ads, the organization responsible for the Better Ads Standards that inform companies such as Google on user feedback about ads that work and ads that do not. On February 5, the Coalition for Better Ads announced the recommended changes to video ad formats based on research from 45,000 consumers globally. According to the Coalition for Better Ads:

The research found strong alignment of consumer preferences across countries and regions for the most- and least-preferred online ad experiences, supporting the adoption of a single Better Ads Standard for these environments globally. The Coalition’s Better Ads Standards identify the ad experiences that fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and are most likely to drive consumers to install ad blockers. More than 100,000 consumers have participated to date in the Coalition’s research to develop its set of Better Ads Standards.

As a result, Google said that starting August 5, 2020, Chrome will stop showing such ads on sites. Google also said that it will review YouTube video content for compliance with the standards. In addition, “Similar to the previous Better Ads Standards, we’ll update our product plans across our ad platforms, including YouTube, as a result of this standard, and leverage the research as a tool to help guide product development in the future.”

Note that the standards for short-form video do not apply to other environments like feeds or over-the-top (OTT).

What You Should Do

Change is coming. It’s time to prepare:

  • Per Google, if you operate a website that shows ads, consider reviewing your site status in the Ad Experience Report. This is a tool that helps publishers understand if Chrome has identified any violating ad experiences on your site.
  • Review your YouTube game plan. YouTube will be affected by the blocking of midroll ads but not the other two types identified above.
  • Ask your ad agency how they will ensure that ads they create are compliant.

At True Interactive, we are monitoring this development closely and are well prepared to help our clients thrive in this new environment. We manage video ads all the time and understand how to ensure compliance.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

How the YouTube Masthead Ad Format Connects with Television Audiences

How the YouTube Masthead Ad Format Connects with Television Audiences

YouTube

We’ve blogged about the fact that in an era of connected TV, audiences are increasingly watching content that advertisers can’t sponsor — there are no ads on Netflix (yet), for example. But Google is sensing and responding to this reality, as evidenced by the launch of the YouTube Masthead ad format for TV. Essentially, YouTube is helping brands find a new way to get onto TV screens — and into the hearts and minds of viewers.

What Is YouTube Masthead for TV?

YouTube Masthead formatted for television is a response to changing viewing habits. Audiences can access YouTube on their TV screens, and because YouTube is free, it represents a new frontier for brand advertising. As described in Instapage, “[a] YouTube Masthead is a digital billboard placed on YouTube’s homepage for 24 hours, reaching roughly 60 million people (YouTube receives 1.8 billion users/month).”

The YouTube Masthead doesn’t use search histories to earmark users based on their interests or demographics (note that you can target a country where you would like an ad to be shown, though). The Masthead simply appears right on the network’s homepage, allowing brands to reach consumers as soon as they access the YouTube app on their TV. The Masthead, which takes up some prominent real estate at the top of the screen, best serves brands that have the desire, and the budget, to maximize exposure across a sweeping, non-targeted audience. On its blog, YouTube provides an example from an early tester, Ford.

Why YouTube Masthead?

In adapting the YouTube Masthead ad format for TV, Google is capitalizing on the fact that while consumers may have cut the cord on linear TV, they are still using their televisions to experience streaming platforms like YouTube. According to the Google blog, “daily [television] watch time tops 250 million hours per day.” TV screens are still a powerful place where brands can enjoy maximum exposure.

And YouTube Masthead ads seemingly deliver. According to Instapage, Google and Compete researched the impact of YouTube homepage ads. Their findings demonstrated that users “exposed to a YouTube Masthead were four times more likely to visit the advertiser’s website, search for their brand, or engage with even more of their videos.” And because YouTube’s content is so diverse (everything from baking tutorials to the Coachella music festival streamed live) the consumer base will be large and diverse, as well.

How to Move Forward with Masthead

Given the broad reach of the YouTube Masthead format, advertisers will want to keep a few things in mind before diving in:

  • Even though Masthead ads are not targeted, it’s important to remember who is drawn to YouTube in the first place. Know the platform: what videos are trending, for example. Remember that YouTube has a strong focus on entertainment. Is your product a good fit for the typical YouTube consumer?
  • Avoid inside jokes for a specific group. You don’t want your ad to be so broad that it’s boring, of course, but keep it accessible to the large audience you’ll be reaching.
  • You want to stir curiosity with your ad. But remember, given the wide-ranging audience, not all viewers will be inclined to buy. Learn about the features YouTube Masthead makes available — from videos to social shares — and offer consumers different ways to explore your brand, depending on their level of interest or engagement.

Contact True Interactive

Curious as to whether YouTube Masthead is a good fit for your brand? Wondering if there are other ways you can leverage television viewership in this era of connected TV? Contact us. We can help.