Category Archives: Digital Strategy

The Future of WeChat

It is not secret that I am fascinated with WeChat. It showcases the promise of conversational commerce in action. Yesterday I was talking about the opportunities in WeChat in Lead Conference. The different features we all know, but I find the small portion in the end of my presentation about the future of WeChat truly intriguing. We all know that WeChat has made huge leap from communication platform to payment platform.

wechat

WeChat: Messaging platform evolved to payment platform

It is currently the digital lifeline of the whole China, but what they are planning in the future. Below are couple of key points about WeChat future:

What about the global expansion?

WeChat tried to become a global messenger app. They hired Messi in 2013 with big money to be the face of WeChat. And apparently they got downloads but not engagement. Messaging apps lives and dies based on do you have anyone to message with. Techinasia dubbed WeChat´s global expansion “a disaster”. What makes WeChat unique in China is hard to replicate in other markets because of different digital ecosystem, legislation and other monopolies ruling the roost.

Now WeChat has pretty much abandoned these global aspirations as consumer product, but don´t be fooled they are still eyeing for global expansion but less as B2C product but more as B2B offering. There are two main ways how WeChat is creating its global footprint:

1.Being the gateway to China for western brands

WeChat wants to work with International brands to enable them to sell their products through its Chinese online retail platform. The benefit is that companies can then avoid some of the bureaucracy in China when setting up their own retail operations in the country.

“Almost 95 per cent of global [luxury] brands are on WeChat now — in the UK, there is Burberry and Mulberry, in Italy, Valentino, Zegna, Prada, all the big brands. Two years ago, the number was 50 per cent and last year 75 per cent, so the growth has picked up recently.”

-Andrea Ghizzoni (Europe Director, Tencent)

2. Conquering Europe and other markets through payment

Majority of Chinese tourists prefer to pay with Alipay or WeChat Pay, and only 10% would opt for cash or credit cards. This consumer sentiment has not left unnoticed by the western retailers. Chinese tourists are extremely lucrative target audience and if offering familiar paying option can ease the buying process I would be really surprised of not seeing WePay more present especially in western luxury retailers:

“Chinese customers tend to close the sale more quickly when they know that they can pay with mobile. Those transaction times are extremely quick, at under a minute.”

– Candice Koo, the Managing Director of CANCAN

All roads lead to AI

Like other big Internet monopolies, Tencent is making big strides with AI. This year they opened research facility in Seattle solely focusing on artificial intelligence and last year they established AI lab in Shenzen. AI is build around robust data so WeChat has clear advantage as they have vast amount of conversation and connections data. More importantly they also have payment data through its WePay platform. So essentially WeChat is sitting on the most valuable data sources: how people are spending their money? Where people are? And what they are talking about?

“Shopping and search engine data show one type of data, which is purchasing or shopping intent, which is valuable, but different. For example, if you were to build out an Natural Language Understanding engine, you would not use search engine data, because no one searches based on complete conversational phrases.”

-Tak Lo, Zeroth AI

There are already couple of prominent accounts utilizing AI within WeChat. Chumen WenWen is voice assistant that connects to third party APIs and answers questions around what you should do (e.g. restaurants, movies, services and more). Alibaba got headstart with facial recognition with its widely covered “Smile to pay” collaboration with KFC but it will be sure that WeChat will be launching tools based on facial recognition technologies. WeChat has also been improving its search function going head-to-head against Baidu by incorporating more social and connection information to its search results.

On a lighter note, what has become tradition with Microsoft AI Chatbots, their WeChat Chatbot Xiaobing and other chatbot BabyQ also went rogue and started slandering communist party.

“My China dream is to go to America.”

Xiaobing (WeChat Chatbot)

Do you think that such a corrupt and incompetent political regime can live forever?”

BabyQ (to the question about Chinese Communist Party)

If you want to know where Western conversational commerce is tomorrow, you only need to analyze what WeChat is already today.

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Programmatic Advertising should be Slave to The Brand and Performance

“Programmatic is gluten of advertising”

-Jimmy Kimmel

I was speaking couple of weeks back at Marketing Interactive Performance Marketing Confence. It was a really great event and I was happy that I was able to speak from creative angle which quite often gets neglected in programmatic discussion.

Marketing-Interactive Digital Performance Marketing 2017

Marketing-Interactive Digital Performance Marketing 2017

I talked about the state of programmatic, but as in this post I want to highlight three things from the speech that every brand should take into account:

  1. Creativity has to become more ingrained to programmatic advertising.

Creative variables constitute over 50% of programmatic effectiveness, but do you focus 50% of your programmatic efforts to the quality of creative? Over half of the marketing budget is at stake and still many brands are cutting corners when doing creatives to programmatic. Horrible quality will lead to bad performance and will also contribute to ad-blocking (which has exploded in Asia) When same ad reaches person over 40 times a month, sales can actually start to decline.

Also sometimes it seems that programmatic specialists have totally forgotten the importance of strong brand. You can optimize as much as you want, but if people do not recognize and know your brand that tactical tweaking amounts to nothing. Marketing automation will not replace the value of strong brand. And strong brands are built from great user experience and emotional connection.

  1. Programmatic quality will be the utmost importance.

10.9 billion will be wasted on low-quality display ads by 2021. That is over 1/3 of programmatic spend. Above-mentioned creative quality is important element in the quality, but there has been even more fundamental problems within programmatic industry:

  • Viewability (or lack thereof)
  • Ad and click fraud
  • Bots
  • And the poor creative quality (mainly horrible quality and invasive display ads have driven people to block all advertising

Many have been benefiting from ad fraud, whether they have been publishers, buyers and media agencies. Hell, even extremists have done 318K from brands with ads placed to their extreme content. Who have not benefited at all from ad fraud?

Brands and their consumers.

Within the next decade, fake Internet traffic schemes will become the second-largest market for criminal organizations behind cocaine and opiate trafficking. Media (and other) agencies would likely not push dope (maybe consume it) or kill people but they have been happily working indirectly with same criminal organizations.

Industry has to clean its act.

Luckily the quality has become a conversation topic and brands start to realize that if your placement is too cheap it is probably too good to be true. Industry giants are improving as well. Programmatic direct deals in APAC have grown more than 65%. It is everyone´s responsibility to demand and offer quality placements.

  1. Programmatic is not just display advertising

I think it’s a dying industry. The idea that buying a 250 x 250 square display ad is effective, is false, you’re more likely to get bitten by a shark than click on one of those ad units.

– Matthew Oczkowski (Cambridge Analytica) 

Display ads will not be remembered as the best advertising innovations in the world (unlike TV ads and search advertising). 60% of banner clicks are accidental and 90% of them are bots. You don´t need to be mathematician to realize that it is really small percentage of people who are really clicking. And the percentage is not really going up. The world´s first banner ad had 44% CTR and now we have gone to fraction of that (0.16% globally)

However, some are still clicking and they are still bringing results. Display ads are necessary transition for companies to drive performance and learn to operate programmatically.

Programmatic marketing is about machines buying, serving and optimizing advertising (any kind of advertising). Eventually majority of buying will be programmatic, because machines are doing it better than we are. There is probably certain iconic placements that will never become programmatically bought or sold, but they will be small minority. For anything else machines will do it more effectively, accurately and faster. This applies also to actual creatives. If robots can already beat people at GO, conduct entire orchestra or write articles, it would not be the biggest of challenge to create above-the-average display ads. And if you are worried about machines stealing your job, read below quote from this great and acclaimed thinker:

”If machines can do the job, it´s not really a job you want to do”

– Riku Vassinen

Programmatic is still unfortunately in stage of not having unified definitions. When having discussion with different stakeholders of programmatic, it feels like the old parable of blind men touching elephant from different angle. Your view of elephant is totally different based on are you touching its nose or backside. Same thing with programmatic. Some are talking about buying, some about tools, some just about display advertising, some about multiple creative variations etc.

We need to strip away the unnecessary “magic dust” surrounding programmatic and agree on basic definitions. Unfortunately, it has been tainted by snake oil salesmen, who actually benefit of having people confused about what programmatic truly means. They have been benefitting on making it more complicated and less transparent than it should be.

Because at its core, programmatic is a great thing. It is about reaching right audience with right creative on right context and with right price. So essentially it is what advertising has always been. Now we are just able to do it with more precision.

Programmatic advertising is not means to the end. It should always serve as slave that helps to drive stronger brand and better performance.

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Video Killed The Digital Star: 6 Key Online Video Trends

Last Monday I was speaking about the latest Video marketing trends. Visual storytelling will be more and more important and naturally video is the most important way to tell visual stories. Video is growing rapidly and currently there does not seem to anything stopping this rapid growth:

  1. Video just keeps growing

We are living in visual age. Picture tells more than thousand words and video tells more than thousand pictures. In next three years video will account 79% of all Internet traffic. Businesses are expected to spend nearly $13 billion on video marketing in 2018. Lots of the discussions about video is focused on entertainment, but we tend to forget that YouTube is the world´s second largest search engine. 75% of consumers believe that a video describing a service is important and 25% will lose interest if your company is not explaining through video.

  1. Catching the attention is more difficult than ever

1/3 of of all YouTube videos have less than 10 views. That is quite pathetic and showcases the wide gap between hits and misses. Within top 10 most watched videos in 2016, there was only one ad (Nike The Switch). Of all the top 10 most watched ads, half were actually Superbowl ads. You are not only competing with other brands, you are competing of the time of your audience.

  1. It is not mobile-first, it is mobile-only

Mobile video is growing 25%, whereas desktop video consumption is declining for the first time ever. People are already consuming video 36 minutes on their mobile devices compared to 18.5 minutes on non-mobile devices. This mobile shift will affect your video production: Have you thought about vertical videos?

  1. Consumers are craving for instant gratification

Unfortunately average human attention span has fallen below the one of goldfish, so not surprisingly 75% of consumers prefer video under 60 seconds. YouTube is aggressively pushing their 6 second videos, which is enough time to tell even world´s greatest stories (below is Hamlet):

  1. Video platforms are eying for the prime time

YouTube are evolving from dubious quality user-generated snackable content to full-blown entertainment powerhouses. YouTube has couple of interesting offerings: YouTubeTV (cable-free LiveTV) and YouTube Red (ad-free offering focused on music and content creators). Facebook has not exactly resting on its laurels and Facebook Watch provides original video shows.

  1. Video is getting more interactive and immersive

This quarter there were over 2 million VR devices shipped (ranging from no-frill Google Cartboard to top-tier Oculus Rift), but VR has not yet hit mainstream. It currently works well with events and gaming, but we have not yet seen the killer app (or device) that would break VR to become a household name.

Augmented reality is already more mainstream (with Pokemon Go last year and popularity of face filters in Snapchat and Instagram). New Apple ARkit will just keep on making Augmented reality more popular.

Based on the calculations by Credit Suisse, VR/AR market could become as big as the current smartphone market:

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 4.01.47 pm

Source: Credit Suisse

So in the future, you do not only need to consider what is your content angle with your video. You have to also consider the depth of interactivity and immersion you want to obtain.

In many ways digital marketing is becoming more simple. It is all about two things: performance and content creation. The latter is all about video creation and to succeed in the market place, you have to be master of video production as well.

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The Rise of The Conversational Commerce

Last week I was speaking in Seoul in Digital Marketing Conference for 400 marketing leaders. My topic was around conversational commerce: a topic that I have been writing about a lot.

conversational commerce

Speaking about Conversational commerce in Seoul 2017

I was trying to find an answer to three burning questions that are keeping me awake at night:

  • Why Conversational commerce is happening right now?
  • What it actually means?
  • How your brand should act?

1)Three big trends enabling conversational commerce

a) Mobile-first world

Messaging apps have already surpassed social media apps in popularity. Our audience is not mobile-first, they are increasingly mobile-only and becoming messaging only. WeChat has already shown the future of messaging-first digital ecosystem.

Our audience want the service and content in the platforms they are using.

b) AI-first world

Aptly in the same city I was having my presentation around conversational commerce, Alphago Go-robot beat the hell out of Lee Sedol, the world´s best (human) Go player. It was not even close match, not to mention that apparently in 37th move in second match Alphago did a move that had not been ever done in Go history and was called the most beautiful Go move ever.

Artificial intelligence will enable machines (or robots, if I may) to emulate human-like traits and behavior.

c) Digital platforms will become assistants predicting your needs

There will be more virtual assistants than humans in 2021. All the big digital companies (Apple with Siri, Samsung with Bixby, Google with Allo and Home, Amazon with Alexa and Echo) are building the assistive layer to their products.

Because of mobile platforms and evolved AI, companies are able to predict what you need and provide you personalized service.

2) What Conversational commerce actually means?

 I would define conversational commerce as “enabling people to interact with brands with way that is natural to them”. Interaction is limited to customer service or selling products. There is only handful of brans that people would actually want to have conversation with and the odds are your brands is not one of them. The natural way to communicate means two things:

  • The style you communicate: Whether it is with Emojis and Slang with text or using voice
  • With what device you are communicating with: It can be either chat (with human), chatbot (with robot) in messenger or using internet-of-things device (currently Google Home, Alexa devices. In the future whatever device you will think of).

The benefits of conversational commerce for user are:

  1. Convenience: Use whatever method and device you feel comfortable.
  2. Personalization: You save time (not necessarily money) as you get recommendations suitable for you.
  3. Decision support: Conversational commerce helps you to do decisions easier by learning from your behavior and predicting your next move.

3)What it means to your brand?

There are five key considerations you need to take into account when considering your conversational commerce –strategy:

1. Don´t get caught by hype

Conversational commerce is bigger thing than Chatbots. Chatbots have been one of the first trials on making it work. And they have not been particularly successful yet. Facebook bots have had failure rate of 70% so they were able to get to 30% of requests without some sort of human intervention. That does not mean that people don´t want good service through their messaging apps. They don´t necessarily want it through chatbots.

2. Choose your pilot market wisely

Compared to social media landscape, messaging landscape is much more fragmented especially in South-East Asia. This means that you might not be able to replicate your activities in one market to another.

3. Find the right partners

You don´t necessarily need to create every algorithm from the scratch. There is already quite developed ecosystem around conversational commerce that you can tap into.

4. Provide value and make life easier for your consumer

Like I said earlier, majority of the people do not want to have a conversation with brands. They want to have value whether it is through buying products or getting good consumer service. While you might be interested in creating the most witty Chatbot ever, it might be more wise to first ensure that you are providing straightforward utility first and then start extending to more human-like interactions.

5. Be fun and natural

That being said, the great opportunity with conversational commerce is ability to humanize otherwise transactional brand-human relationships. When you have ensured that you are providing value and clear benefit to the user, the personality of your chat can be a true competitive advantage.

We are living in the peak of hype cycle with conversational commerce and there will be round of iterations when it will truly live to its promise. My point is however clear: it is not question about will the conversational commerce happen, it is how and when it will happen?

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Three Secrets of Apple´s Social Media Strategy

Apple does not have particular social media strategy.

By being quiet, they are one of the most talked about brands in social media. It naturally helps that you make iconic products with almost religious following. They have social media channels though, because they have realized the importance of social media as a reach driver. Apple does a lot of social media advertising to help to sell more of their products. What they are not doing is “joining the conversation”. Social media is eyeballs, not likes or tweets.

applehasnttweeted

Therefore Apple´s Instagram account is refreshing detour for their muted social media presence. They are actually posting things!

appleinstagram.png

But again, it is not about Apple starting a conversation or begging for engagement. They are highlighting photos that iPhone users have taken. They are tapping to existing behavior (#shotoniphone-hashtag has nearly million photos in Instagram). They are not telling about themselves, instead they are showcasing people using their products. Instead of talking about popular culture, they are popular culture.

The odds are that you are not working with iconic brand, so you might need to approach your social media strategy differently. Still, these rules might serve as the golden standard to which you should aim for:

  1. Make products people want to talk about.
  2. Use Social media mainly as a channel for reach, secondly to engagement.
  3. Showcase your users, not your brand or products.
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UX is Everything

There are too many passwords to remember.

Therefore the user experience of “forgot your password”-button is essential. Not surprisingly when I had to reset my password for Skype, I was not particularly happy with this captcha:

captcha

How you should write this up? First the rows or columns? Funnily (or annoyingly) enough the audio did not make any sense.

Eventually it took 15 minutes for me to reset my password and even then I am not exactly sure of the logic of captcha. Not surprisingly I generally prefer Hangouts over Skype.

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The Age of Assistant: The More Personalized and Predictive Internet

starwars

We are entering the age of assistants, they just reside in our mobile phones.

Internet used to be about destinations. Typing in URL. Searching for something you need in Google and then following that search result to the rabbit hole of different sites. Clicking on banner ads and going to the websites from those banners.

That age is soon long gone.

Although majority of firms are still basing their digital strategies on destination approach, we have already moved to the age of assistant. Internet will become more personalized, predictive and the same time it will become more even more centralized. Our communications will start revolving around our messenger app (mainly WhatsApp), our information gathering will happen in Google app (increasingly through voice) and our buying will start to focus (again increasingly more through voice). Every brand needs to become better in predicting user behavior to provide more personal service:

  1. Prediction will trump the destination approach

When I have booked a flight, Google will automatically say to me to check-in, take a taxi and arrive on time. I am not going willingly to websites of either my airline, the airport or taxi company. The whole journey is prompted by the assistance of Google and I am happy for it. Our digital properties must be able to work in conjunction with this new assistant ecosystem. We need to balance between positive surprise (“How did they know that? So cool!”) and slightly creepy  (“How did they know that?” So scary!).

  1. People want the service in their own personal way

Chatbots have just scratched the surface of conversational commerce. We want to order pizza with emojis. Get song recommendations based on the context (“Hey Google, play that new theme from James Bond”). While the world will become more voice and message-driven, the transactions will become more personal and conversational. We must revamp our service process and lingo, so that we are able to serve our consumers in way that is intuitive for them.

The future of your digital business will be revolving around consumer data. The more you can have it, the better you can predict the behavior and more personal service you can give. We are entering the age of assistant and the best butler will rule them all.

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Blocking The Ad-Blocking

Ad Blocking is nothing more than someone saying your advertising sucks.

Sharon Napier, Partners & Napier

NBA: New York Knicks at New Orleans Pelicans

Ad-blockers are changing the digital advertising landscape drastically. Already quarter of Internet users in US are using ad-blockers and about 50% more is considering to start using them.  If digital advertisers are left with audience who is just incapable of using the ad-blockers, it does not sound like particularly lucrative target audience. We already know that people who are clicking banner ads are not necessarily the sharpest pencils on the drawer. Already in 2011, it was 279.64 more likely that you would climb Mt. Everest and reach the summit than to click a banner ad.

Facebook has started to force ads even if you are using ad blockers in desktop. Publishers are testing different ways to battle ad-blocking. But essentially it will a game of cat and mouse. People have already made their statement: majority of them don´t want to see your spammy ads.

So if you can´t beat em, join em:

  1. Brands should do their own ad-blockers

Maybe Amazon could this. Instead of getting non-relevant harasment, you would get personalized recommendations based on the content you are watching. Essentially Google ad network could already provide some of this level, but many of the advertisers are still quite lazy to utilize all the possibilities. New cognitive ads from Watson could provide interesting alternatives to changing the adspace from intrusion to utility.

It could be also strong statement from brands doing constantly good advertising. For example I would rather see Nike ads all the time than majority of other brands (see D&AD Ad Browser filter)

There are already some ad-blockers who are selling ad space (which sounds a little contradicting, but what the heck). The logic is that you replace the annoying and ugly ads with acceptable and beautiful ads.

  1. Reverse ad-blocker

This could be an interesting art project.

When we are flooded with fake news, actually the ads are only thing we can rely on. So I don´t actually want to block the ads, I want to block the horrible content I waste my time on. Think about it if you could block all the Facebook updates, irrelevant Whatsapp messages and biased online commentary. You would only see the good old marketing communications aimed to make you buy more instead of fake news messing with your head.

Blocking is a part of good defense, but great blockers keep the ball on court.

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Why You Should Not Read This Post

Did I catch your attention?

I thought so.

In his great book ”Originals”*, Adam Grant shares story of how Babble (online parenting magazine and blog network) pitched to Disney. Rufus Griscom started his presentation by listing five reasons why Disney should not buy them. Surprisingly (or not) Disney bought Babble with 40M.

Why this counterintuitive sales tactic is actually really smart?

  1. You don´t do hard sell

Too many times when I listen to pitches, the people sound like used car salesman and are bombarding you with too many reasons to buy. That makes you sound insecure. There is a thin line between passionate and desperate. Confident salesman does not need to push.

Often times entrepreneurs who get the most investment are actually the ones who are the least enthusiastic.
– Adam Grant

  1. You anticipate their biggest concerns.

Investors are always thinking about potential challenges with their investment. When you address the concerns in the beginning you don´t need to sell your best parts so hard.

If he’s confident enough that the company is high quality that he’s willing to talk about its weaknesses, it must have some strength.

– Adam Grant

  1. You catch the attention immediately.

How many time you have been in sales pitch that follows the usual format? By flipping the script, you immediately catch the attention and you are talking to an audience that is awake.

It’s grabbing attention, it’s different, you don’t expect it.

– Adam Grant

This method does not necessarily always work, but it makes sense to shake up the status quo of your pitches from time to time.   

Assuming that the idea has some merit, when people have to work hard to generate their own objections, they will be more aware of its virtues.

– Adam Grant 

*One of the better business books of later years. It does not really have unified narrative or answer what makes people original, but it has useful anecdotes on almost every page that defy the traditional views. With majority of business books I just recommend reading executive summary, but this book is definitely worthwhile to read as a whole.

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Anatomy of An Insight: Jet.com Careculator

They say that it is better to give than to receive. Those people are wrong. Best thing is minimize the amount you are spending in others so that you can spend more on yourself:

Insight: The more you love someone, the more you feel like you have to spend on them. But it is actually hard to estimate how much you should spend for presents. Especially during christmas you feel stressed on buying the presents to your loved ones. and ensuring that you do not go overboard but also don´t lowball. What if there would be an easy way to calculate friend or family member has to you?

careculator

e-Commerce site Jet.com Careculator calculates the “value” of your friends and family based on how much they have interacted with you in Facebook. Then naturally it will recommend products from Jet.com that fit to that particular price range.

It will be interesting Christmas, as algorithm said that my present to my wife needs to only be 0.66 dollars.

Disclaimer: This campaign has been done by R/GA New York

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