Facebook aims to assuage user trust concerns with Off-Facebook Activity tool

Facebook is giving its users more guidance on data it holds on apps and websites interacting with the social giant.

The company is launching Off-Facebook Activity, which aims to ‘help shed more light on practices that are common yet not always well understood’, in the words of Erin Egan, Facebook chief privacy officer for policy and David Baser, director of product management.

Despite its dystopian name, users can see a summary of the information other apps and websites have sent Facebook, disconnect it from their account and do so for future ‘off-Facebook activity.’

“Many apps and websites are free because they’re supported by online advertising,” wrote Egan and Baser, “and to reach people who are more likely to care about what they are selling, businesses often share data about people’s interactions on their websites with ad platforms and other services.

“Off-Facebook Activity lets you see a summary of the apps and websites that send us information about your activity, and clear this information from your account if you want to.”

Facebook noted that this was another example of its efforts to bring more ‘transparency and control’ to the platform, including adding dialogue boxes such as ‘why am I seeing this ad?’ and ‘why am I seeing this post?’

Last year, as both the social giant and its users reeled from the Cambridge Analytica revelations, Facebook made a tool available for users to access and download the information Facebook had collected. For some, this was something of a Damascene moment. Writing for the BBC last June, Radhika Sanghani noted that she ‘deliberately created mementos… because [she] never understood Facebook’s small print.’ “I had no idea that it was creating this digital folder of my humiliating past,” wrote Sanghani.

Recent research has shown that social media users, particularly the post-millennial generation Z age, are unwilling to go along with brands who are only paying lip service to their ethics. A study from agency Hotwire, alongside Sapio Research, polled more than 6000 consumers last month and found two in five had already walked away from organisations who had violated their personal values.

Indeed, gen Z appears to have learned lessons from their elders and is savvier when it comes to understanding the horse trade between their digital rights and a free social service. London-based creative ZAK issued a report in July which argued the death of Facebook was ‘greatly exaggerated.’ “The post-millennial generation merely use the layers of social media with greater purpose and specific intent,” it added.

Writing for MarketingTech earlier this month Tom Chapman, publishing specialist at digital agency CandidSky, offered a pessimistic outlook when it came to marketers’ intentions post-Cambridge crisis. “From my own experiences, marketers seem to be treating the Cambridge Analytica scandal similar to a passing storm – and then returning to the practices which have earned the ire of so many individuals,” he wrote.

Off-Facebook Activity is currently being tested in Ireland, South Korea and Spain, with global availability promised in the coming months. You can find out more about it here.

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While JustEat and Uber Eats fight for their share of the turf – restaurants can capitalise

In the last month, JustEat announced more than 100 layoffs as the result of increased competition from Uber Eats and Deliveroo. Meanwhile, Uber just suffered its worst ever financial quarter, losing a staggering £4bn in just three months – even though its share price remained unaffected.

Given the uncertainty surrounding these businesses, predicting the future of the food delivery market is extremely difficult. All three businesses are vying for market domination, targeting the same customers with a similar market proposition. It will be fascinating to see who comes out on top, not least for tens of thousands of restaurants and UK businesses who will be caught in the crossfire, whose success and livelihood may depend on the outcome.  

In these uncertain times, it is imperative that restaurants adjust their approach to food delivery services altogether and step up their independent marketing efforts. They must decrease their reliance on any one platform and prioritise marketing activities that can help take back control from other businesses and put customer relationships back in their hands.

This is an issue of brand loyalty and long-term success, rather than any short-term financial goals. The objective is to attract more walk-ins over time, tap into customers’ daily habits and make it more rewarding for customers to engage directly instead of via Deliveroo, JustEat or Uber.

Food delivery platforms and problems

Before understanding how a restaurant’s marketing can help lure more customers away from food delivery platforms, it is important to understand why they should do so and why these relationships are so problematic.

First and foremost, these platforms have given people greater access to cheap high quality food delivered at home, which has contributed to people going out much less. Most restaurants now need to be on these websites and applications to stay afloat, but JustEat et al are taking a sizable chunk of a restaurant’s profits.

A secondary but equally important issue is that these platforms now maintain the customer relationship and own all the brand loyalty that would belong to the restaurant otherwise. They also provide a platform for unethical business practices such as fake reviews. All things considered; they have tremendous power to decide whether a new restaurant lives or dies.

Enter restaurant marketing technology

Automated and highly tailored marketing campaigns are key to bypassing the food delivery middlemen. Marketers must ensure their restaurant can attract new direct customers with a near perfect online presence.

Enhancing reviews and photos on TripAdvisor and Google is no longer enough to set a venue apart; all restaurants are doing this. No, marketers need to consider clever new ways to uplevel their current campaigns and address the fine margins. For instance, restaurants should research ways to receive and respond to constructive criticism and negative reviews in private channels, only encouraging or rewarding online reviews when they are confident of getting 4-5 stars. After all, just a few bad reviews can tank a new restaurant’s average review, which is essential for online visibility, brand reputation and financial success. 

Regarding existing customers, restaurants need to make it easier or more rewarding to order direct. Offering discounts or a free starter/side for direct delivery orders is becoming standard practice, which means restaurants that want to succeed must go further still. Creating a dedicated restaurant app is not as daunting as many think, and can help separate high quality customer-centric restaurants from the also-rans. Restaurants should also experiment with café-style loyalty programmes since food is such a vital part of people’s day-to-day routines and most people don’t try new venues without some kind of prompt or promotion.

Restaurants are also waking up to the fact that relying too heavily on food delivery platforms means losing traditional touchpoints with customers. It’s why rebuilding good (not necessarily big) marketing databases is so essential. In a post-GDPR world, restaurants have a golden opportunity to ensure they are contacting customers that genuinely want to hear from them. Using these lists, it’s easier than ever for restaurants to build highly tailored, automated promotions around key dates, events and behaviours. It’s surprising how many restaurants don’t do any of this.

A quick word of warning, as restaurants attempt to lure customers away from food delivery platforms, they cannot afford to neglect their existing profiles. Just Eat recently announced it would be displaying food hygiene ratings, and restaurants must keep one eye on developments like this that could help or hinder their chances of attracting potential customers. 

Conclusion

The food delivery wars may be long, and the uncertainty they create may be challenging, but restaurant owners can ensure they are not hurt in the fray. Ultimately marketing is their best defence against change, and their best form of attack as they attempt to lure customers away from these battling platforms. 

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Beware of shiny new candy: R3 principal Greg Paull on shaping the future of martech

For many marketing professionals, the opportunity to get to grips with new technology is like being a child in a candy store.

So many choices, so much opportunity. Yet there is always a caveat. The need for speed may be important, but so is getting things right. Experimentation is fruitful, but do not work with technology for technology’s sake.

Luckily, help may be at hand. R3 is a global consultancy which focuses purely on marketers’ needs, and the company recently issued a report that takes a look at 40 marketing technology companies making change from their clients across the globe.

Principal Greg Paull notes the company’s unique position among consultancies – one which has been going strong for the better part of two decades. “We started the company about 17 years ago, and I think we started very much in a sense of being there to help marketers – quite frankly, we’re still doing that 17 years later,” Paull tells MarketingTech. “I think all that’s changed is the environment that marketers are in.

“Someone like a McKinsey or Bain or BCG [Boston Consulting Group] can serve the CEO, KPMG and Ernst & Young can serve the CFO, but [there isn’t] a voice for the CMO,” adds Paull. “It’s very much the foundation we started the company on, and we’ve gone from there.”

It could be argued that now is a better time than ever to be in the business of offering advice. As the Future40 report muses, marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the previous five thanks to 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being generated and acted upon every day; the building out of virtual worlds and omnichannel strategies; and the different roles brands can inhabit as a result. Again, it is a world of opportunity – but one where it is more difficult to stand out at the same time.

“Consumers have become far more ad-averse than they were 15 years ago,” explains Paull. “There are still millions of consumers blocking ads on their phones, [and that’s] only going to increase. As strong as data is, there’s just as much of a need to have relevant and appropriate messaging – and that’s become more critical than ever.”

This is an important facet to note; the technology always remains a conduit to the data, and the data ultimately always remains a conduit to the customer experience. “I think that’s very important,” says Paull. “I think there’s a danger in being caught up with shiny new objects.

“We took quite a bit of time in the report to say ‘look, is your brand really going to benefit from this type of technology?’ It’s kind of a checklist for marketers, for each of the 12 different technologies that we profiled,” he adds. “I think those are really crucial. Without that there is the sense of [asking] ‘do I need to play catch up just to get involved in these sectors?’

“Not all sectors are going to be right at all stages of a consumer journey, so I think it’s really about finding the right ones at the right time.”

Some brands cropped up more than others in the report. Coca-Cola, for instance, made no fewer than five appearances as customers of startups focusing on augmented reality, data intelligence, ad tech, and more. Yet Paull argues you don’t have to be a big brand to make the most of these initiatives. “I think the whole role of chatbots and artificial intelligence can play a role for almost any marketer,” he says. “You can learn a lot from the larger marketers, but these are things that aren’t exclusive to those with the [big] budgets.

“There’s a need for all marketers to embrace technology in an engaging way.”

Artificial intelligence and automation are areas Paull expects will open up a myriad of possibilities. They will eventually create the standard, which is data-driven personalisation. Netflix for instance runs millions of different messages each day. While Paull notes the need to be cautious for now, it is an example of what he calls ‘dynamic creative’ at play. No longer are we advertising ‘at’ people, but ‘with’ people. “There’s a dialogue going on,” he explains. “In the future, we will advertise ‘for’ people.”

The issue of engagement can be seen in another context as well. The CMO’s position in the boardroom is one which continues to be scrutinised, although things do appear to be getting better. Why? It all comes down to return on investment. Writing for this publication in January, James Fletcher, CEO and principal consultant at European marketing automation consultancy JTF Marketing, put it in somewhat antagonistic terms.

“Sometimes even the CMO and the marketing team can struggle to truly see and act upon the correlation between leads generated and revenue generated,” Fletcher wrote. “Their goal is revenue growth and customer retention, and it’s time for the CMO to prove that marketing can support this, both opening the doors for sales and pushing them over the line.”

Paull sees it similarly. “One of the key things is the role of internal stakeholders,” he says. “Marketing in the 21st century is more of a collaborative experience, engaging your technology team and your sales team. If you look at eCommerce, that’s a marketing-led function that involves parts of the whole company, as well as the C-suite.

“We’re increasingly seeing CTOs and CMOs working in a much more collaborative way than they were four, five years ago,” Paull adds. “That’s going to be crucial to the future as well.”

R3 will be sharing its views on a panel at DMWF North America next month – and the message given to attendees will be one of cautious optimism.

“I think the key thing is to look at lessons learned,” says Paull. “Don’t sit back on the sidelines and wait; start an incubator, start something internally, get some reverse mentoring.

“This is not something you can put on the back burner for six months and then revisit – these are technologies that are being actively used today by leading marketers. It just doesn’t make sense for you to not be playing an active role in this whole process.”

Picture credit: TheR3WW/Screenshot

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Reappraising ‘matching luggage’: How creative consistency could supercharge your campaign

“Short-termism” is currently a growing concern in the digital advertising business. While explicit measurement was the promise of digital advertising a decade ago, that same capability has driven a focus on short-term ad impact metrics, i.e, efficiency over effectiveness. 

Measuring campaign effectiveness is an essential part of digital advertising; but it’s also one of the most challenging. Not only this, but with more and more questions being raised about the true value of current methods such as click-through rates, it could be time to consider setting a new industry standard.

Finding an alternative

So, what could this new standard look like?

Over the past decade Inskin has found that attention – defined as visual engagement – is the most potent measure of ad effectiveness. Working with eye-tracking specialists Lumen Research, we have been able to prove that attention is directly linked to brand uplift and conversion.

It might sound intuitive, but data supports the notion that when people look at ads for longer and more often, they’re more likely to remember the advertising.

The problem is that attention is becoming increasingly difficult to attain. Humans only have one set of eyes and ears and just 24hrs in a day, so their capacity for attention is relatively finite.  Yet the volume of messages they get bombarded with is increasing exponentially.

So, is it possible to attract incremental attention toward your campaign without annoying consumers or spending more money on media?

Thankfully yes, and it’s all because of a skill that all consumers possess already – the ability to recognise patterns.

Understanding pattern recognition

Pattern recognition is a process we’re employing all the time in our daily lives. We need it for reading words, understanding language, and even recognising people’s faces. Brands that can use visual prompts to appeal to this subconcious drive will definitely get a reaction from the user.

This visual pattern could be something as simple as “matching” the aesthetic of different ad formats within the same campaign. In fact, our own research found a link between creatively consistent digital campaign formats and attention levels, with those featuring individual ads that looked similar to each other attracting 170% more attention from viewers. Campaigns with ads that looked different saw an uplift of just 3%, in comparison.

This “matching luggage” technique is nothing new to the marketing world. In fact, the tactic of deploying creatively in-sync campaigns was highly popular among TV advertising up until 15 years ago (anyone remember the launch of the Insignia Deodorant range from the 80s?).

Unfortunately, that’s not always how the agency world is structured. Different formats and media are often funnelled through disparate processes and teams, with the result that this creative consistency is not always maintained. 

But with research linking creative consistency across different ad formats to attention levels in the digital space, perhaps it’s time we hark back to our roots, and think about the implications this technique could have for modern advertising too.

Maximise engagement without additional spend

We shouldn’t forget that people don’t go to websites to look at ads. Thanks to our work with Lumen Research, we know that of all ads served, just 12% are even looked at, and only 4% are looked at for one second or more.

Therefore, finding techniques to encourage users to engage with ads in a positive way is pivotal; and if we can do this without increasing budgets, we could help lift both short and long-term effects of digital ad spend.

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Good news, fake news: The media’s fight for encryption – and against misinformation

According to reports, senior figures in the Trump administration held a meeting last month to consider whether to pursue legislation outlawing end-to-end encryption on US-made messaging apps.

While the ultimate outcome of the meeting is yet to be seen, it brings to light a serious question that we all – governments, consumers and businesses – need to ask ourselves: what do we lose when private messaging is truly private?

On the one hand, end-to-end encryption means that private messaging conversations aren’t able to be subjected to government surveillance, data harvesting and the sort of targeted advertising that has become pervasive and a little creepy.

On the other hand, encrypted messaging makes it almost impossible for law enforcement, journalists and even the chat platforms themselves to combat hate speech, harassment, illicit activity and the dangerous spread of viral misinformation. 

A recent Washington Post article explored what this dilemma means for Facebook, as it looks to position its business more squarely around private messaging while at the same time pledging to clean up its platform. 

In Mark Zuckerberg’s own words: “When faced with a challenge around a trade-off between encryption and safety, I think people would want us to err a little bit more on the side of encryption.”

Fact-check mate 

With these arguments around the encryption paradox not looking like they’ll end anytime soon, a growing number of organisations are tackling the challenge of viral misinformation on private messaging platforms head on. And they’re doing it through messaging apps themselves.

Journalism non-profit Meedan just launched a suite of tools for reporters to use during global elections, natural disasters and other time-sensitive events. 

Called Check, Meedan’s platform uses Smooch to connect to WhatsApp’s Business API so that citizens can submit photos and news stories via WhatsApp for journalists to verify or debunk.

Using a combination of computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning, Check automatically recognises and groups together identical and near-identical requests for image or text verification, meaning fact checkers don’t need to verify the same submission more than once.

The integration was piloted during the Indian elections last spring. But with massive elections in Australia, Argentina, Canada and the U.S. expected in the coming year the Check platform has the potential to tackle the problem of viral misinformation on a global scale.

Game on 

Meanwhile, investigative journalism startup Point is trying to fight messaging-based misinformation — and raise funds — by creating its own video game. 

On their Kickstarter page, Point’s Jay McGregor explains that “Misinformer” will be a “text-based detective style mobile game” in which the player has to “crack a major misinformation-based conspiracy before an upcoming election.” 

Essentially, it’s a fictionalised version of Meedan’s Check platform – putting the player in the role of “citizen journalist.”

If the game is effective, it could teach people to think twice before sharing unverified information in real-world messaging apps. As McGregor told Journalism.co.uk: “If there ever was a time to be better informed about misinformation, it’s now.”

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How essential are push notifications today in the modern marketer’s arsenal?

You have to go way back to 2003 to find what is often credited as the first ever push notification – BlackBerry’s Push Services, designed to inform users of their incoming emails. Back then, the only way to read an email on a train was with a BlackBerry in hand, but fast forward 16 years and push notifications are a part of everyday life.

Research has found that the average opt-in rate for push notifications in 2018 was 53.3% – a huge market in which advertisers can operate globally. Push notifications have become part and parcel of everyday life, with media buyers now widely investing in this ad format on both desktop and mobile devices. But what makes push notifications so popular for advertising teams? And what are the challenges they need to overcome in order to use them so effectively?

An advertiser’s dream

What sets push notifications apart from other digital ads is that they not only look like alerts that users are used to seeing on their home screens – calendar appointments, email alerts, or Skype messages (or any other notification that prompts a user to take action) – but they’re not placed in web pages, where users are expecting to see ads. As a result, people are more likely to click on push notifications rather than ads on websites or social media. While the average click-through rate for shopping ads on Google sits at only 0.86%, push notifications, on average, achieve almost double that number, at 1.5%.

Push notifications have been recognised by many for their ability to not directly disrupt the user experience, whilst providing flexibility and urgency to show targeted content at the right time. This is why they’ve become so effective for advertisers. When executed correctly, these native notifications are delivered directly to a user’s device to offer advertisers direct access to target audiences without any intermediaries.

The benefits for advertisers don’t end with how well-received push notifications are, either. This style also creates high visibility and reach for ads. According to Accengage, the average reaction rate for push notifications is an impressive 7.8%, making it an effective tool for acquiring new users. Immediately grabbing the attention of users without being intrusive, it allows advertisers a means of re-engaging audiences, generating higher engagement and improved click-through rates.

Improving brand appreciation

Digital ads, in general, receive a large amount of flak in the modern world. Consumers often share the same experience of the pair of shoes that follows them around the internet, which feel both intrusive and irrelevant as they make an appearance on almost every site they access. However, push notifications can often be of great benefit to users. Though advertisers have to be careful not to bombard consumers with notifications, last minute coupons, offers and deals can make a user feel valued by a brand – and can even add another touchpoint in a company’s marketing funnel as a result.

Push notifications also play a prominent role in improving user experiences with brands. Keeping users updated with time-sensitive, well targeted information can be of great benefit considering the unintrusive nature of the tool. Through this the alerts don’t feel like ads, rather they’re there to give customers more information, or to let them know about upcoming promotions or offers. Amidst the sea of marketing competition, a gentle reminder goes a long way.

It may seem simple, but subtle alerts help to enhance brand consistency and improve customer care strategies, sparking interest amongst consumers without negatively impacting their overall user experience.

Not yet the finished product

While push notifications have profound benefits, there is still improvement needed in their use across the advertising industry. With that said, we’re certainly heading in the right direction. Brands are still figuring out when the best times to send alerts are, how many they should send in a week, and what kind of content their users want in order to gain maximum effect.

However, we’re constantly learning more about our audiences, and developing a better understanding of the users receiving these messages. What is already a very well-received ad format that generates strong results for advertisers has the potential to continue its presence within the modern digital ad toolkit.

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Fashion retailers have multi-channel elements in place – but need to accelerate to omnichannel

Omnichannel may be the buzzword du jour right now when it comes to retail – but like many of these here-today terms there is often more than a kernel of truth. Where omnichannel differs from multi-channel is through its threading. A multi-channel retailer may have distinct presences both in its website, on social media as well as its physical store – but omnichannel truly links them together for a seamless customer experience.

With this in mind, a new report from Veeqo has analysed more than 60 UK fashion retailers exploring their omnichannel strategies and experiences – from the big names of Boohoo, River Island and Superdry to more innovative startups.

Of these retailers analysed, more than a third (37%) were online only, while almost half (49%) had a dedicated mobile app and two in three (62%) had both a physical and online store. Three quarters of brands supported multi-device checkout. When it came to delivery, almost half (44%) offered click and collect services, with this number dropping to 35% for online-only brands.

With regards to customer support, three quarters of retailers offered phone support with almost a third (31%) having a live chat option on their site. More than three quarters (78%) of those who had a live chat option responded to a query within a minute.

Ultimately, the report argues that while there are reasons to be optimistic with this performance, much more can be done. Mobile apps are described as a ‘massive opportunity’ for fashion retailers – particularly as consumers can use them as platforms for discovery, as well as provide a better customer experience both for UX and payments.

One of the more surprising findings was that only 6% of fashion retailers analysed offered same day delivery. The report cited other research which found 80% of shoppers wanted same day shipping with the majority happy to pay more for the service. This was described by Veeqo as another ‘massive opportunity.’

Customer support can be seen as the glue which binds together the rest of the omnichannel experience. Veeqo cited an Aberdeen Group study which found companies which provided consistent service quality across all channels retained 89% of their customers, compared to 33% who didn’t. The report found those who had invested in live chat tended to get return on that investment, although email communication tended to be lacking.

Given Veeqo offers software which helps retailers sell and ship products across channels, then it does not come as much of a surprise that the report gives various areas for recommendation. Writing for MarketingTech last month James Baker, digital customer experience lead at Columbus, advocated a different approach.

“Rather than look to omnichannel, retailers need to start to think of a ‘unified commerce’ approach as their next logical step beyond omnichannel for their business – one that avoids major ‘rip and replace’ projects in favour of integrating and streamlining existing business systems and processes through the easy deployment of APIs and, if required, the cloud,” wrote Baker.

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From A to I – Amazon to interchangeability: A guide to the future of advertising today

Digital transformation has reframed advertising and marketing to such an extent that the once familiar reference points no longer exist.  Which is why we decided to deep dive into our learnings to date to extrapolate how we believe the next decade of advertising and marketing will shape up.

From ultra-personalised as in ‘Minority Report’ to a constant stream of data fed straight into our consciousness as in the futuristic film ‘Her’, one thing is for sure, advertising, as we know it, is well and truly dead.

As we transition from an addiction to TV to an online world with billions of viewpoints, coming to terms with all the opportunities we now have to co-create, join the conversation, engage and interact requires taking a leap into the great unknown.

One thing is for certain. There is no point clinging to any vestige of the past – it will only hold us back.

The context

One of the key challenges the advertising world faces is the negative associations around ‘personal data’.  People are increasingly concerned with the misuse of their data, leading to a reticence to share and a consumer superiority to own their data and ensure they are in control of it. More than ever, businesses need to show they are acting responsibly with personal data and take consumers seriously when it comes to protecting it.

Conversely, there is an increased expectation for hyper-personalisation and a need for consumers to eliminate ads that are not relevant to them. Consumers now expect greater control during the entire user journey. With ever more present ways for consumers to block unwanted content brands are having to find new ways to not only deliver a high volume of ads, but to ensure they are being seen by the right people at the right time. 

As a consequence, ad content and delivery needs to continually adapt and remain flexible.

Engaging the future consumer

Of course, everything comes back to the consumer, what they want, how they want it and when they want it are absolutely key. The likes of retargeting, which not so long ago seemed so important, now falls short of the mark. Today’s consumer moves on too quickly and gets bored too easily. Regardless of which digital channel an interaction takes place on, retargeting needs to advance beyond current limitations and target users based on the individual creative they engage with.

We now have generation D, which is made up of people of any age who are familiar with digital technology. This new cohort has a completely different set of consumer behaviours and unique ways of consuming content. Is this the new norm: where consumers range in age and shop across a variety of platforms? Where their second screen behaviour is completely different and will change the face of browsing?

Meanwhile, 75% of gen Zs, are ‘celebrity networkers’. They are 24% more likely to use social media to follow celebrities, TV presenters and actors, suggesting an interest in the opinions of influential people.  Brands now have more opportunities to reach this audience via influencer marketing, a trend which has grown hugely in popularity and will continue to evolve.

However, just as we start to familiarise ourselves with influencers, we now see a rise in micro-influencers which requires an entirely new kind of marketing strategy.

So, what does the future look like?  

The rising importance of transparency

We will need to learn how to properly obtain consent and be more transparent about how we use personal data to provide the experiences that users demand. Creating interactions between brand and consumer that don’t infringe on a user’s freedom and privacy is essential as we navigate the future. Expect to see a big shift in the importance of transparency; those who are not on board, will be left behind.

Emphasis on the role of social and paid media

Using Native Advertising to reach people through content that is meaningful and impactful will continue to rise, while ads that are sales orientated are set to decrease. The shape of ads is changing.

Video takes the lead

The use of video will continue to disrupt the way we consume media. 1200% more shares are generated by social videos, than text and images combined. In addition, Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.

Further personalisation and optimisation

With greater personalisation comes the need for greater control – for the user. For tomorrow’s ads to be relevant users want more freedom to choose what they see and when they see it. User journeys will become more personalised and optimised based on real-time interactions.

The need for distinct custom audiences will grow, with targeting becoming more sophisticated and consumers only interacting with messages that are hyper-relevant to them.

Collection and categorisation will take place across a range of digital media platforms and audience insights, built from the likes of social listening, will be accurately analysed to deliver enhanced campaign optimisation.

Louder, slicker and more disruptive

Fierce competition and shorter attention spans will mean brands have to work harder and more efficiently to be heard. Innovation will drive new formats and new ways to deliver ads, such as Augmented and Virtual Reality to enhance engagement, personalisation and overall UX.

Expect to see big, disruptive campaigns as well as those designed with the goal of creating social purpose and supporting social causes.

AI-based advertising

AI and deep learning solutions will rise, increasing efficiency, productivity and higher customer satisfaction and leveraging insights and data to achieve these ambitions. As we move into the future this will become the norm rather than the exception. We are already beginning to see greater adoption of AI based advertising, with chatbots rising in popularity. AI allows greater customisation and delivery at the right place and time, as well as a new level of predictive advertising.

Using interchangeable mediums

We will start to see new mediums being used and an integration of experience. For example, we will need to understand new channels such as Connected TV in order to drive a new and improved way of reaching users of streamed TV. Or look further to voice recognition technology, which may eliminate text-based search enquiries in the future.  

Amazon advertising

With physical retail shops on the decline and an uber competitive marketplace, knowing how to navigate this ever more powerful retailer is growing in importance. It will become necessary to find those users on Amazon who express genuine interest in purchase and find ways to give brands more control over their relationship to the platform, to dramatically improve conversion rates.

Conclusion

Those brands who take risks to drive new and exciting creative solutions will most likely get ahead of the pack. Their content strategies will need to be adept and innovative as they continually develop original customer experiences.

The smart agencies will be those who develop sophisticated measurement capabilities across channels and use analytical tools that accurately measure ROI of cross-channel advertising that create a full funnel experience.

Whatever the future has in store it is bound to be eye-opening, mind-blowing and very exciting.

Editor’s note: Elise Mendelle, creative director at Mighty Social, also made a significant contribution to this article. 

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Why empathy is the most underrated weapon in the marketer’s arsenal today

In a 2014 New York Times article, Sam Tanenhaus argued that millennials were ‘Generation Nice’. He pointed to shopping habits (millennials prefer chemical-free goods and ‘disposable’ clothing) and food choices (vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free eating has become increasingly popular). He concluded that ‘these habits and tastes look less like narcissism than communalism. Its highest value isn’t self-promotion, but empathy.’

Whatever you think of this view, there’s no doubt that with the rise of millennials, the role of empathy in different areas of day-to-day life is receiving renewed attention. Marketing is no different—but empathy in marketing isn’t a nice-to-have or just another string to your bow. It’s the most underrated weapon in the marketer’s arsenal.

For marketers, empathy has a direct impact on quality of work. To know your target consumers, as well as your competition in the market, you need empathy. Strong relationships, brand loyalty, and storytelling that resonates with consumers requires empathy. Jim Shearer of Molson Coors compares good marketers to ‘method actors… they just completely immerse themselves in their brands.’

The Global Empathy Index released by HBR consistently shows that the most empathetic companies are also among the most commercially successful

Yet tech can present a problem for digital marketers as it can present a problem for all those working in digital. Though undoubtedly having a huge net benefit to marketers, enabling new practices, intelligence-gathering and access to a far larger pool of people, technology has a well-documented ‘empathy gap’ that is a major reason for the burgeoning ‘techlash’. There is always a temptation for digital businesses to commodify consumers, and advanced data-gathering tools encourage an understanding of individual people as ‘units’. But those who work in digital fields must resist this trend, and in marketing there is a very real business reason to do so.

More generally, it’s important to recognise that consumers are moving towards brands that seem ‘more human’. The Global Empathy Index released by the Harvard Business Review consistently shows that the most empathetic companies, graded according to internal culture, CEO performance, ethics and social media presence, are also among the most commercially successful. We know that millennials like cruelty-free beauty products, chemical-free clothes, organic (or meat-free) food. But by creating a culture of empathy, businesses just seem to perform better.

The question, then, is: How do you develop empathy in a marketing setting? Far more effective than attempting to ‘instil’ empathy in individuals is to create a culture of empathy within your business. First, however, businesses must understand the connection between empathy and ethics. Businesses that self-identify as ethical plant the seeds from which an empathetic culture can grow.

Empathy helps us to make ethical decisions, so by vocalising the importance of ethics to your business, you encourage your team to see its actions through that lens, scrutinising each decision by asking ‘Is this ethical?’ and thereby strengthening its sense of empathy.

In recruitment, too, businesses can develop and strengthen an empathetic culture. Employ people with a sense of values—people who try to live their lives with purpose, according to principles—but also those who are curious: curiosity fuels empathy by leading one person to wonder what life is like for someone else.

At the tree, we look specifically for ‘the interested and the interesting’ when we’re recruiting. Diversity is just as important, in that it involves bringing together people with different life experiences. We are forced to put ourselves in the shoes of people whose backgrounds may be entirely different to our own.

Businesses that have not put ethical practices at the heart of their working habits can nonetheless champion good causes. This is of course an end in itself, but the side effect in any business is that it forces that business to empathise with others. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is one way of doing this. And though cynics will call it a ‘box-ticking exercise’, it is up to the business to show that it isn’t. CSR serves an important purpose, and it undoubtedly improves engagement among employees, personal growth, and empathy across the board.

Almost any marketing business can develop greater empathy – and it begins by making a deliberate effort always to act in an ethical way and by cultivating a relationship with the ‘faceless consumer’

At the tree, we made ‘ethical’ one of our core values. Apart from the strategies listed above, we also humanise characters by creating named personas, and use face-to-face focus groups as much as we can. And we work with companies who put the well-being of others at the very front of their brand—companies like Rescue Remedy, whose products were designed to help those experiencing stress or trauma. We believe that through deliberate immersion in ethical, compassionate brands and their values, we strengthen our own sense and awareness of empathy, and this flows into all our work.

But almost any marketing business can develop greater empathy. And it begins by making a deliberate effort always to act in an ethical way and by cultivating a relationship with the ‘faceless consumer’. Do this, and more engaging stories, more effective campaigns, and deeper loyalty between employee and employer, brand and brand, and brand and customer might just follow.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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Five key tips to drive value from content and martech experimentation

Customer behaviour changes every month, every week and every hour. If brands want to prosper, they need to move at the same speed. The most successful digital companies are using experimentation to make this a reality. Experimentation is a mindset adopted by organisations enabling them to constantly progress their online platforms, driving the customers digital experience.

By using tools such as design and coding to trial new features on their online platforms, businesses can create the most seamless customer experience possible. As Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said in the latest letter to shareholders, ‘as a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments’. 

Uber and Airbnb are two examples of organisations that have been built on the foundations of experimentation and adopt a customer-obsessed mindset. This means they can thrive in today’s highly competitive digital landscape, and turn user data into a competitive advantage by pairing high-volume experimentation with quality performance. 

Here are five key ways organisations can embrace a culture of experimentation effectively:

Find the right talent

To get the right talent for experimentation to truly be successful you have to implement the best hiring strategy. Being able to recognise potential is key. 

Both Uber and Airbnb’s recruiters have become much more focused on determining whether an interviewee has ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, something they believe means a candidate will have the drive to learn quickly and pick up new skills on the job.

These brands are also making the most of these employees while they are new in the role. In order to generate new and creative test ideas Airbnb believes that ideas should come from every level of the company. It chooses to interview employees who are new to the business and haven’t been fully immersed in its marketing plan, as it finds that they provide the best new and fresh ideas. 

The right software

Marketing tech stacks are extremely varied. Ensuring you have the right software and the best people to analyse your customers’ behaviour on your site is key to making successful decisions.

The tools that Airbnb and Uber use to feed their experimentation programs build an impressive marketing stack. Airbnb use Google Analytics as a single source of truth as a company wide tool, in combination with HotJar for heat mapping and Marketo for its CRM needs, to name a few. Whilst Uber also uses tools such as HotJar, it says that story metrics are imperative, and it uses an internal dashboard which allows the team to see what’s happening in real-time. 

Give the customer what they want

Understanding your audience is vital for experimentation success. Using insight properly means staying customer-obsessed, and uncovering what works best for them.

It is crucial to remember that each customer is different. In order to achieve a successful, customer-obsessed strategy Uber uses its data to uncover differences in customer behaviour, rather than following a hunch, to develop any changes. This approach is clearly delivering results. The use of customer data to develop the latest brand update saw a successful revenue boost for Uber. 

Avoid the pitfalls – no experiment should be done in silo

When global organisations embrace experimentation initiatives, they can often fall into the trap of working in silos. Launching new features or redesigns without collaboration can result in huge downfalls for companies, but they are also easily avoided. An example of this is when Instagram trialled a feed update late last year, and users had to swipe instead of scroll to see the latests posts on their feed. Whilst it did result in a lot of negative feedback from their users, they quickly reverted the proposed changes and ultimately avoided a widespread failure. In reality, these decisions affect all business departments, particularly sales, who can benefit from experimentation just as much as HR or marketing teams.

It is important to get people across the organisation to think about experimentation, and the technology needed to enable them to scale to customers’ rapidly evolving demands.

Organisations need to be able to grow as fast as the customer base and its expectations.
When asked how it has scaled its experimentation practice, and how it has been adopted throughout the organisation, Uber said that:

“The maturity of market is one key factor, and then the second factor is the size or amount of traffic. We can’t reach a segment if we don’t have enough traffic and we aren’t changing our KPI. Uber’s marketing team has one KPI that we’re always trying to hit. So, scalability at a global level is based on the maturity level of that international market, what the product offerings are in that market, if users are going to the web experience, and then what the traffic level of the web experience is.”

So, it is important for organisations to first examine how competitors and the wider market is engaging with customers to inform their own approach. In order to scale experimentation, it needs to be making a quantifiable difference to key business metrics such as leads, so constantly examining and adjusting the approach is vital.

Adopt a customer mindset

Stepping out of head office where everything is branded, and remembering that there are people who have never heard of your organisation is key to staying grounded. 

Reading the comments on the company blog or social media feeds and regularly engaging with customer questions will help experimentation teams stay in touch with the real challenges customers are posing. Ultimately, it’s important to step back and listen to your customers when thinking of new test ideas.

To stay ahead

Experimentation is driving the most successful and fastest growing businesses in the world today. Before long, organisations will find themselves having to embrace this ethos, or risk getting left behind.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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