Digital Marketing

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Alexa Gets Into Politics

If you’re looking for an easy way to contribute to the 2020 presidential election, Alexa can help. As of today, principle candidates can register to receive donations through voice commands on Amazon’s Alexa. Starting in October,users can contribute up to $200 to participating candidate’s campaign funds through Amazon Pay. 

In addition to making a financial contribution, Alexa users will also have access to advanced functionality which includes support for new questions and features to keep voters informed. Some examples include, “Alexa, how is [candidate’s name] polling?”, “Alexa, who endorses [candidate’s name]?” or “Alexa, when is the next debate?” The enhanced technology is an effort to build off previous election experiences and helping voters become more involved in the electoral process. 

As Alexa learns more about the information voters seek, Amazon will continue to add and refine its functionality in the process.  Aside from asking questions directly to the device, the company also allows users to choose their preferred news providers for electoral updates as the country is about to enter what many considered a very contentious race. 

Steps to sign up for Alexa Political Contributions detail the necessary criteria required to be considered. As stated on the site, only principle candidates are eligible but no additional information on what qualifies someone for that distinction is included. 

While the improved technology could be a huge win for candidates, it comes as big tech is under immense scrutiny for data privacy. Amazon did not make any comments with the release concerning if or how they will use users questions or presidential candidate preferences for targeting purposes. Following the 2016 presidential race, election integrity in terms of data and ad targeting remains a huge concern and with this updated feature, users will be willingly providing detailed information into what previous generations have viewed as very personal information.  

As of today, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the first to express interest and has contacted Amazon about the process. The company expects others to follow suit prior to giving the public access next month. 

Alexa is ready and willing to be a resource for users during the election process, they just won’t tell you who to vote for on election day.  

https://www.adweek.com/digital/amazon-alexa-campaign-donations/?

The Peacock Network Struts Into Focus

The streaming market is about to welcome a new player next spring. NBC plans to release the Peacock network packed with over 15,000 hours of content with a heavy focus on their original comedies. NBC chose the name of the service in a nod to the iconic brand’s logo, which has been  viewed in living rooms since it first debuted in living rooms in 1956. The announcement comes on the heels of the launch of Disney+ and Apple TV+, both slated to be open to subscriptions starting in November 2019.

Like others, the new service will offer both an ad supported and subscription supported options. The company is hoping to boost viewer excitement with reboots of loved 80’s classics such as Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell, combined with original programming with stars such as Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater. Peacock also boasts a catalog of exclusive streaming rights to coveted comedies such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and many more.

The service will first be offered to Comcast subscribers, at least in ad-supported format, and then rolled out to the public. NBC anticipates the service will offer content that can connect to all household members, continuing their reign as a leading household name for entertainment.

https://www.adweek.com/tv-video/nbcuniversal-sets-a-name-and-content-slate-for-its-upcoming-streaming-service/

Amazon Searches Turn A Profit

Amazon is facing new claims in a recently published Wall Street Journal article that product results populating from shopping searches are being skewed to show the company’s most profitable items first. Engineers who worked on the project report the tech giant optimized its algorithm last year in favor of Amazon’s own branded products. 

If true, the news is particularly concerning for Amazon sellers who rely on the results for product promotion. With the majority of sales coming from the first page of results, losing rank could significantly impact profits, particularly for smaller businesses. Other indications of the potential shift come with default search rankings now being listed as “featured” rather than previously listed by “relevance”. The adjusted criteria could be giving other companies no way to overcome what appears to be a hardwired disadvantage. Amazon denied changes to its process and said it does not factor in profitability into search rankings. 

The accusations could be a serious concern as big tech brands continue to find themselves the target of federal focus. Regulators are monitoring the industry particularly closely for fear companies are using their stronghold on the market to  discourage and even eliminate competition. As the company continues its massive success, it’s unlikely it will escape the growing spotlight.

https://www.engadget.com/2019/09/16/amazon-algorithm-search-results-profitability/

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Facebook Increases Political Ad Security

Political advertising got more intense this week as Facebook announced increased security measures to ensure advertising validity. Paid ads by political candidates or groups must adhere to more stringent requirements and approval process before going live in a move to increase transparency and gain user trust.

Moving forward, US political advertisers must submit a valid US address, phone number, business email and corresponding website along with either a tax-registered identification number (EIN), a government website with matching email which must end in .gov or .mil, or a Federal Election Commission (FEC) identification number. Any political advertisers currently running must provide or update this information in order to avoid being paused in October. Once the organization is confirmed by the platform, ads will display the “i” icon where users can learn more about the Political Ads policy and signifies a “Confirmed Organization.” 

Local politicians or smaller businesses wishing to advertise election focused ads have the option to conform to the original requirements or provide the page admin’s legal name on their personal information document. In these instances, the “i” icon will read “About this ad” for users to gain additional information.

Facebook has also decided to narrow its social issues list with a broader focus to encompass more pertinent topics. The shift will not change the authorization process and the company will continue to keep the list fluid, making changes and updates as needed.

With previous demonstrations highlighting necessary advertiser vetting to avoid fake ads and in turn, false information, Facebook wants users and advertisers to be assured what they see is legitimate during critical campaign times as well as prohibit parties that aim to discourage voting. Facebook hopes the additional steps will disbar ongoing questions about their 2016 election involvement and create documented transparency as the country enters a new election cycle that is sure to be eventful.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/28/facebook-will-require-political-advertisers-provide-further-credentials-or-have-their-ads-paused/

The Cleveland Browns Have A Win With Budweiser

As Cleveland Browns’ fans gear up for football season, this year’s new roster brings renewed hope for a team that’s in need of a big win. While it may not sound like much, the team has had a dismal showing the past few years. Despite the outcome, loyal fans tirelessly cheer on their home team, hoping their luck will change. In recognition of city’s unwavering dedication, last season Budweiser partnered with the Cleveland Browns on their “Victory Fridge” campaign. Due to the overwhelming success, the two have teamed up for a repeat season, only better. 

The 2018 campaign was simple, Budweiser sold fridges to Cleveland-area bars with the message, “When the Browns Win, Cleveland Wins.” Each fridge came stocked with Bud Light and would automatically unlock via smart technology with the first regular-season win. With a 0-16 season in the rearview mirror, fans were anxious for the long awaited victory. When the team won in the third week of the season, the city partied into the morning hours, along with Budweiser marketers, with the overwhelming viral coverage. 

Like the hopes for the team’s season, Budweiser decided to make 2019 bigger and better. In collaboration with WWE star and Cleveland, Ohio native, The Miz, the brand will be selling the coveted beer fridges to devoted fans in a limited-time pop-up store located in the heart of the city. The nostalgic appliance store will only be open for sales this weekend and all proceeds will benefit the local Browns Give Back community partners program. In addition, buyers will receive a redemption code to stock the fridge with discounted Bud Light. 

The campaign comes in response from numerous fan requests who want their own Victory Fridge to show their undying support. While Bud Light continues to battle dwindling sales, the focus on an area of the country that loves Bud Light almost as much as Cleveland sports, is sure to be an early season win.

https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/340016/bud-light-opens-cleveland-pop-up-selling-browns-v.html

Instagram Helps Friends Find Common Threads

Facebook’s Instagram is internally testing a new app for sharing messaging and photos called Threads, poised to be a companion app to Instagram and potentially a direct competitor with Snapchat. Using the close friends list feature, which was unveiled last November, Threads lets users automatically share their status with those on the list. Messages can include those entered by the user, photos, videos, general location, or that they are “on the move” by using GPS tracking. 

The communication allows those friend groups to be constantly connected, with the intention of  growing interest and engagement. By opting for automatic sharing, the app would regularly update your daily activity for more authentic daily highlights. Messages from friends would appear in a central feed which would also indicate which friends are currently active with a green dot. The feed would also show recent story activity by friends as well as a camera to capture photos and videos to share within the group.

The company is keeping details quiet but it appears Initial plans are to launch Thread as an independent app with an ultimate goal of integrating with all of Facebook’s messaging services. The announcement comes as Mark Zuckerberg has made it known that Facebook plans to put a heightened focus on private messaging in order to foster online community and the connection of close friends rather than sharing to the masses. 

https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/26/20833903/facebook-instagram-threads-messaging-app-close-friends-snapchat


Weekly Digital Breakdown

YouTube Alters Ad Policy

As big tech continues to find itself under a microscope in terms of the privacy of user’s personal data, YouTube announced plans to discontinue ad targeting to videos geared toward younger audiences or those more likely to be viewed by children. While the company has created a separate, ad-free YouTube Kids app, children’s content can still be found on YouTube and receives billions of views. 

Currently, ad targeting on YouTube relies on the collection of user data and includes information such as demographics, interests, topics, or keywords to reach viewers. While this practice has been largely accepted for adults, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) prevents the company from using data collection and targeting for minors. Critics of the recent policy change are concerned the additional layer of ad safety, while good intentioned, may be difficult to accurately regulate due to the categorization of videos and the subjectiveness of which content is “directed toward children,” making it difficult to know precisely which videos should exclude advertising. 

While it’s unknown if the recent decision is a direct result of YouTube’s potential breach of the COPPA policies and the involvement of the Federal Trade Commission, it’s likely part of the agreement or an act of goodwill. The only certainty from the situation is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for ad serving platforms to adhere to strict guidelines being put in place as they constantly find themselves unable to keep up. 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-20/youtube-plans-to-end-targeted-ads-to-kids-to-comply-with-ftc

Voice Assistants Are Commanding Attention

If there was ever any doubt about the ability for voice-controlled technology to make an impact on the market, recent reports by eMarketer show just how impactful voice search technology is for users and brands with nowhere to go but up. Currently, over 111 million people in the US, 33.8% of the total population, are using voice assistant monthly at minimum and are projected to exceed 122 million people by 2021. In addition, voice commanded searches are projected to account for 30% of all website sessions within the next 18 months.  

Accessibility to voice technology is now incorporated in the daily lives of most with the adoption of smart phones and smart home devices, creating more familiarity with the capabilities and increased trust in accuracy. Reasons users state for accessing voice assistance ranges from getting directions, listening to music, or finding nearby dining which allow users to easily multi-task while getting information. When it comes to device preference for voice assistance, mobile continues to be the clear front runner over home devices based on time in the market.

In evaluating the breakdown of usage by assistant type, Google Assistant remains the clear winner with 93% accuracy based on recent reports when compared to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. When testing, the biggest discrepancy in scores occurred during commerce-related questions (such as those requesting online ordering), with Google Assistant correctly answering 92% of requests, Alexa 71% and Siri 68%. 

With the data showing a clear trend in the use of voice assistance, the big question for marketers is how to best address the change and what does this mean for digital marketing.  Voice searches are unlike those typed into a search bar with requests done in more natural language and reaching these audiences requires adjustments to PPC campaign structure. Advancements in technology also allows for the devices to take searches the additional step by actioning items such as completing an online order. Addressing these audiences requires additional optimization for increased voice search traffic and it’s uniqueness in order to maximize brand exposure. Marketers need to be focused on implementing design changes to meet the demand and gain valuable market share.

https://searchengineland.com/voice-assistant-usage-now-at-critical-mass-as-google-assistant-crowned-smartest-320798

Los Angeles Has A Maisel Makeover

Marvelous Mrs Maisel fans in LA enjoyed a true 1950’s California experience last Thursday with Amazon’s coined #MaiselDay. The promotion of the upcoming season for the streaming hit included nearly 30 businesses in the Los Angeles area with throw-back pricing, reminiscent of times gone by. Patrons experienced everything from 51¢ movies, $2 manicures or hairstyling, a 75¢ shoe shine, and 85¢ reuben sandwiches, as seen in many of the comedy’s episodes featuring main characters Midge and Susie.

While Amazon encouraged the 1950’s pricing for participating partners, many went for a full Maisel makeover with period inspired decor, such as working payphones and jukeboxes while others showed the award-winning series on loop on lobby screens for customers to be fully immersed in the experience.   

The promotional campaign garnered so much attention with the record low 30¢ gas prices that local law enforcement had to unfurl the unexpected traffic. While most were understanding of the tie-up, it did cause a temporary shut down in pricing until police could get assistance with traffic direction. 

The overwhelming success of Amazon’s promotion had fans raving and those unfamiliar questioning what they were missing, which is just the publicity Amazon was seeking with Masiel Day. The added hashtag allowed fans not in the area to join in on the fun, further invoking curiosity and enthusiasm for the much anticipated season three release.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2019-08-14/marvelous-mrs-maisel-amazon-deals-emmys

Crafting Adaptable Social Media Marketing Strategies

Marketing on social media today requires a unique set of skills, attentive and conscientious to the consistently changing interests of your audience. Algorithm changes and new features for businesses are constantly evolving. It's important to have a social media marketing (SMM) strategy that can adapt to changes in technology and the interests of your audience.

In fact, the ability to react and adapt quickly to change is ranked as the most important factor for succeeding in today’s social media environment.

Research platforms and trends

Social media channels are always changing and upgrading and vary widely by features and algorithms. For example, in 2018 Facebook added a way to boost retargeting efforts with their Dynamic Ads for Broad Audiences (DABA) that uses interest, behavior, and demographic data to serve the products it thinks is most relevant from your product catalog. This new algorithm would be an excellent addition to a campaign focused on boosting sales or increasing web traffic.

Social media usage and popularity also shift year to year. Look also at the behavior of users on particular channels. Instagram users, for example are likely to be more engaged with posts with a location. Knowing key details like this will help marketers better adapt SMM campaigns.

Research each social media channel and continue researching throughout your campaign. Social media marketing is not a “set it and forget it” arena.

Goal alignment

Begin by setting attainable goals. Use a variety of campaign objectives. Establishing intentions for your strategy creates a benchmark on which to measure the campaign’s success. The content you put out there should reflect the goal of your brand.

Next, align your goals and platforms. If your goal is ecommerce, then a platform like Twitter would not be your best bet. And don’t choose just one platform.

Finally, target your core audience. Social media targeting involves using factors like keywords, hashtags, geotargeting, etc., so you can display posts to specific audiences. The targeting tactics you choose are dependent on the channels you use. An adaptable SMM strategy will move with your target demographic.

Ways to Engage

For most social media campaign objectives, audience engagement is key. It just might look different for different objectives.

If the goal is education to move users through your sales funnel, create a variety of original content that can be disseminated in several mediums (think video, shareable content, etc.), rather than sharing recycled content.

One of the best tools for engagement may be the users themselves. Putting engagement tools in the hands of users creates organic content that is highly engaging. The camera feature is a great example. Most social media platforms have a camera feature; take advantage. One idea is the “lenses” or “filters” features on Snapchat. Brands can promote products through these features creating engaging, shareable content that promotes brand awareness.

And sometimes your best promotional tool is the people who already know and love your brand. Influencer marketing is a great way to stay fluid in the SMM space. Reach out to a variety of influencers to promote your product or brand.

Evaluating your strategy

Choose metrics that will best assess your goals. This is perhaps the biggest piece to the puzzle as this data-driven approach will help you adapt your strategy.

If your goal is to raise brand awareness, you should be monitoring metrics like engagement and organic likes. Conversely, if your goal is to increase web traffic, you’re likely going to have more success measuring ROI or CTR.

It’s important to design, track, and optimize campaigns for the conversion metrics that matter to your business. Return to these metrics often.

 

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Get Your Competitor’s Facebook Ads, Straight To Your Inbox

If you’re like most marketers, you often wonder what your competition is promoting on Facebook in an attempt to adjust your own strategy. By combining Facebook’s Ad Library and some clever automation, PixelMe released a way to be notified of your competitor’s latest marketing with an alert sent straight to your inbox. 

The introduction of the free service, called AdInboxMe, makes tracking your enemy’s ads easier than ever. The process is simple, marketers create an online account and enter Facebook page URLs they’d like to track. AdInboxMe will then send alerts with the launch of new Facebook ads for the corresponding brands with the link to the promotion details. That’s it! You get up-to-date information delivered without any extra searching.

Although only recently launched, the company has seen overwhelming excitement around the service and is currently on a waitlist. However, interested marketers can complete a form to reserve their spot. As PixelMe evaluates performance and interest, they are also considering offering a similar feature for Google Ads and Linkedin.  

While the process seems simple, the tool’s time-saving ability may prove invaluable. The waitlist isn’t getting any shorter so hop over and save your spot.

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/new-tool-provides-email-alerts-whenever-your-competitors-launch-a-facebook/559669/

Spotify Hears Advertiser’s Requests

Spotify has been expanding its targeting capabilities on its self-serve advertising platform to help marketers better reach their desired audiences. In response to recent reports that show a 25% increase in brand awareness with use of the platform, advertisers are looking for ways to leverage the streaming service to strategically market to audiences.  

The new targeting options include interest targeting and real-time context targeting, available to reach Spotify Free users. Interest targeting analyzes users’ data through playlist and podcast preferences to identify related targeting categories for a more granular reach. Real-time context targeting allows advertisers to reach listeners when they are streaming at specific times of the day as they relate to activities identified by account use. Options include working out, studying, dinner time, etc. for delivery of a more personalized experience. The additions come just a month after the introduction of podcast-based targeting, which allows brands to market to listeners based on podcast content categories.

Spotify’s continued focus on expanding targeting capabilities comes as advertisers are looking for additional ways to reach the ad-supported service available free to users. The expansion of opportunity also helps the company better monetize the growing free user base. 

https://www.adweek.com/digital/spotify-ad-studio-now-offers-interest-targeting-real-time-context-targeting/

Netflix Accesses Physical Activity For Streaming Improvements

Netflix is taking its streaming capabilities one step further. The app has been discretely tracking customers’ physical activity to evaluate the need for increased video buffering for viewers on the go. The relatively innovative concept is an attempt to provide higher quality streaming for those in motion without any extra steps from the user. 

The initial tests were run with Android app users to collect and evaluate data that would aid in the improvement of the viewing experience. The testing considered not only daily physical activity such as walking or running, but also outside factors like commuting via mass transit which could impact the strength of signal. Lower quality service during such times could result in frustrated users who then abandon their streaming during those times.  

While the company seems to have concluded testing, users are apprehensive about how the data collection was handled. The permissions were automatically activated and could only be disabled manually if customers happened to notice. The lack of required consent makes some have increased privacy concerns about other tracking pushed without their knowledge. 

Although now publicly addressed, the company has yet to elaborate on next steps in response to the results. Netflix has also neglected to respond to requests on if or when the physical activity recognition tracking will now be disabled.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/1/20750424/netflix-physical-activity-tracker-data-stream-quality-test

5 Key Strategies for Improving Customer Retention and Driving Loyalty

Companies spend a fortune on advertising and influencer marketing to draw in new customers, but they shouldn't neglect their existing customers in the meantime. The cost of attracting new customers is said to be up to seven times greater than the cost of retaining existing customers. Profitability has the potential to soar by 75 percent from just a 5 percent increase in retention. Here are five simple ways to help ensure you keep your hard-earned customers coming back for more.

 Keep It Personal

Never miss an opportunity to treat people as individuals. If you send out emails, personalize the greeting and give your customers the opportunity to tailor their experiences on your site to meet their needs.

Remember, customer service is key. Customers have countless options for companies to deal with, and they won't stick with one that doesn't give them the service they expect. Research reveals that 47 percent of customers would leave a company within just one day of a poor customer service experience.

Go Mobile

The world's gone mobile, so don't get left behind. In 2018 there were approximately 4.57 billion mobile phone users, and those people expect to be able to engage with your brand wherever they are. That means not only having a web-presence, but also making sure your website is mobile-friendly. If customers cannot access your services, or if they become frustrated with your website because you haven't optimized for mobile devices, they're going to turn to another company instead. You may even want to consider an app if that could be applicable to your business to make sure your mobile experience is as streamlined as possible.

Use Social Media

Social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool. It's a way to build a relationship with your customers. You have the opportunity to communicate with them through tweets or videos, and they have an opportunity to engage with that content by liking, sharing, and leaving comments. This helps to build a sense of community. If you keep providing enjoyable content, your customers are going to keep coming back to see more of it.

Have a Strong Brand Message

Your customers are real people with real emotions, and finding a way to tap into those emotions helps to develop loyalty. People like to deal with companies that share their world views. Having a strong brand message (such as reducing your impact on the environment) gives them a reason beyond value and customer service to back your business. In fact, in a study by Verint Systems, a company specializing in customer engagement, 69 percent of respondents said ethics was a strong factor in choosing an organization, with 49 percent of them saying they would likely switch companies for ethical reasons.

Listen and Learn

The best way to deliver what customers want is to put yourself in their shoes. Listen to what they're saying and never miss an opportunity to receive feedback. Read the comments on social media, provide feedback forms, encourage them to complete questionnaires, and monitor their usage of your website to identify the pain points that cause them to click away. Analyze data carefully, and incorporate the information into your strategies.

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Google Is Listening To Its Users

If you are becoming increasingly wary of voice activated in-home devices, then you aren’t alone. The uncertainty around how much the speakers are hearing and where that information goes has become a major privacy concern. Speaker listening when not prompted in light of the recent leak of confidential data security policies has many wondering what is being recorded, saved and heard by real people. 

Google’s product manager for search did in fact confirm these suspicions were rooted in truth but not for reasons many feared. However, the explanation for such practices was positioned as a way to help the user experience. Google insists conversations are reviewed by language experts in order to advance search query technology and advance product capabilities and speech recognition. The audio snippets used for these purposes are not associated with a user account and conversations not directed at Google should not be transcribed.

However, the concern that the devices could be “listening” to conversations when not being directly prompted or engaged in what Google calls a “false accept,” increases questions around the company’s practices These can be heard without any action from the users but still may be reviewed as part of the desire for product and voice recognition advancement.

While Google claims just 0.2 percent of all audio snippets are being accessed by language reviewers, there’s no way to confirm the validity nor if there are any user actions being inadvertently taken to prompt the recording.

As the industry continues to face mounting privacy and data monetization concerns, the confirmation that voice data is not being used strictly for AI but can be accessible to a live human may increase the wariness. Questions remain about that data then being leaked or used for malicious purposes with little to no trail leading back to the culprits.

Technological advances are creating increasing conveniences but at what cost remains unknown. Companies are recognizing the mounting dissent and are faced with trying to find ways to increase user’s trust. Confidence in a brand’s integrity is becoming paramount.

https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/google-is-absolutely-listening-to-your-conversations-it-just-confirms-why-people-dont-trust-big-tech.html

Prime Week for Retail

The 2019 Amazon Prime Day sales figures are still uncertain but are predicted to have surpassed Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. With shoppers eager to snatch up deals at discount prices, the effect of the sale on retail as a whole is becoming apparent. No longer are the low prices exclusive Amazon. Instead, companies are embracing the hype for their own sales in an attempt to ride the momentum. According to Adobe Analytics, retailers with over $1 billion in annual revenue saw their own spike in sales on day one of Amazon Prime Day of up to 64%, compared to an average Monday. Proving the Amazon effect extends much further than the platform itself.

As the online event continues to gain popularity as a staple for summer shopping, other companies are leveraging the sale to promote exclusive savings of their own. Many of their offers extend longer than just two days in an effort to capture those eager buyers throughout the remainder of the week. Overall, visits to online retailers as a whole accounted for a 66% lift in revenue so far this week. With RetailMeNot reporting 35% of competing brands using clever marketing to play off Amazon’s messaging such as “Prime Savings” or “Prime Deals,” the impact of the strategy seems to be benefiting retailers across the board.

While competition continues to increase for what is now one of the biggest sales of the year, it appears Amazon’s reach combined with two day shipping continue to lift the company above the rest. However, as brands continue to refine their approach, it will be interesting to see who gives Amazon the best run for their money.

https://www.adweek.com/digital/heres-how-the-first-24-hours-of-prime-day-shook-out/

Facebook Guides Advertisers Through The Holidays

Media companies are increasing their arsenal of planning tools to help advertisers strategize and reach consumers more effectively. With the biggest shopping time of the year quickly approaching, this week Facebook released several tools that highlights trends, past insights, and tricks for gaining an edge on the holiday market.

The announcement included the release of an insights tool which is a compilation of previous year’s finding on how people shop and types of ads that drove purchases. The tool is an incredibly helpful aid for planning holiday marketing strategies. While it’s only July, marketers should already be reviewing their plans and budgets for the holiday season. Leveraging this data can assist in creating a campaign structure that is both impactful and cost effective for ad dollars.

In addition, a 2019 Holiday Marketing Guide was also unveiled. The guide walks through the consumer journey and how shoppers can be nurtured along the way to complete a purchase. Facebook also highlights its reach and influence throughout the process. The 63 page marketing planning tool covers through everything from important dates, in-depth analysis about how people shop, and step-by-step instructions on how and when to strategize as well as what’s needed at each phase. 

The goal of providing such resources is to help marketers which in turn, helps Facebook’s bottom line. Many other big tech platforms realize distributing this information comes with huge benefits for everyone. While Facebook did a similar guide in previous years, Snapchat released their own guide which walks advertisers through key events, including holidays on a much higher level as an assistance to marketers. The insights are incredibly valuable and are sure to help brands across platforms.

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/facebook-launches-new-holiday-season-insights-guide-to-assist-in-campaign-p/558982/

5 Must-Know Marketing Tips for Advertising on Amazon

The "Amazon effect" sums up Amazon's massive success and disruption of the ecommerce industry. As of 2018, the online giant amassed around 50 percent of the total e-commerce sales in the country and earned a 250 percent increase in third-quarter advertising revenue. But there's still good news for companies concerned with remaining competitive: You can utilize the Amazon site to market your products and gain brand recognition.

In the past few years, brands have moved toward advertising on Amazon. Recent studies suggest more than half of the brands surveyed plan to increase their Amazon ad spend while shifting their ad budgets away from Google and Facebook. Here are five essential tips for marketers who want to stand out from competitors while leveraging "the Amazon effect" for their businesses.

Choose the Right Advertising Format

There are several formats you can choose. To be successful, select the one that best meets your marketing goals. If you're unsure, experiment to find the best format. Options include:

 ●       Amazon Sponsored: Best for promoting a specific item and sending traffic to a product page for fast results, these ads are typically displayed at the top, middle, or bottom of search results and on individual product pages.

●       Sponsored Brands: These pay-per-click ads are best for increasing customer loyalty and brand recognition. They appear in the headline banner on the search results page to direct consumers to your preferred landing page.

●       Amazon Product Display: Effective in increasing product visibility during the last step of a consumer's buying process, these ads are interest- or product-targeted to help consumers choose between similar products offered by multiple sellers.

●       Video Ads: Best for reaching a large audience and building brand recognition, video ads appear on various sites and devices owned by Amazon, including the website, Fire TV, and IMDb.

 Create Clear, Succinct, Persuasive Product Pages

The purpose of your Amazon ads is to get consumers to visit your product pages. Those pages are what move people down the funnel, transforming browsers into customers. Choose your most popular products and those that are competitively priced and in stock. Make sure you have accurate, descriptive titles that contain your keywords whenever possible and include useful product information and high-quality images to entice buyers.

Use the Right Mix of Keywords

Most of Amazon's PPC advertising formats use keywords to help with targeting. Use match types to create a combination of broad, exact, and phrase keywords to extend your reach and get your ads in front of buyers most likely to make a purchase.

●       Broad keywords cast a wide net. For example, if your keyword is "handbag," your ads could appear in a variety of searches, including "leather handbag," "black handbag," and "formal handbag."

●       Keyword phrases can change the context of consumer searches. For example, "copper salad bowl" indicates you sell salad bowls. "Salad copper bowl" indicates you sell copper bowls, not just copper salad bowls.

●       Exact keywords are restrictive and require consumers to search for that exact keyword, with no words before or after.

Tip: Use automatic keyword targeting so the system targets the most relevant keywords for your ads. Also, use the reporting tool to keep an eye on ad performance.

Flag Keywords That Aren't Producing Results

Much like how marketers could block negative keywords with Google's AdWords, you can also flag keywords that don't lead to conversions as well as negative keywords that prevent your ads from showing up in front of the wrong people. For example, if you sell handbags but not luggage, you could add "luggage" as a negative keyword so only users looking for handbags will see your ads.

You can download search term reports to find out which keyword searches led to consumers seeing your ads. That also gives you valuable information about the keywords that aren't working, allowing you to flag them and move on with optimized keywords.

Get Familiar with Amazon's A9

Amazon uses complex algorithms to decide when and where products show up in search results. A9 is the powerhouse behind the search box. It decides the product recommendations to make, based on data from previous queries made by shoppers. A9 looks at everything from product titles and descriptions to listing conversion rates to seller feedback. Around 70 percent of shoppers never move beyond the first page of results, which is why you need to understand how it works to optimize accordingly.

Preparing Your Brand For Amazon Prime Day

The details of this year’s Amazon Prime Day still remain a mystery but one thing is for certain, it’s never too early for brands to start preparing for one of the biggest shopping days of the year.  With 75% of Americans relying on Amazon for product and brand discovery, and nearly 60% of shoppers spending time weekly to browse product availability, exposure during this sale can boost revenue and create lasting customer loyalty.  

Many businesses are already selling on Amazon, but being ill prepared for this event can have negative long-term effects. The following steps will help set your brand up for prime success in the countdown for this year’s Amazon Prime Day.

Optimize Your Strategy

The Amazon shopping experience is centered around search. Ranking high in the results will allow more customers to find your products, increasing sales.  Amazon’s search algorithm has more condensed ranking signals than found on Google or Bing. It’s important to understand the differences and refine your campaign structure in advance, including formatting keywords and creating copy that converts.  While this is always true on Amazon, it’s essential on Prime Day when users are searching for the best products and deals in a hurry.

Prepare bid adjustment strategies in advance.  As with the holiday shopping season, the influx in search traffic will influence bid costs. Increase click and daily budgets to offset higher costs ahead of time. Being at the top of the results will result in increased visibility and drive sales.

Focus on all the details of your products. Take time to review product information pages from imagery to copy. Shoppers are visual and rely heavily on photos for decision making. Make sure the main image follows Amazon’s guidelines but also utilize the additional image options to highlight product features and show real life use scenarios. Description copy should be accurate, concise and easily digestible. Consumers want the information readily accessible so they can review and make their purchasing decisions quickly.

While all this sounds good, some brand product catalogs are too large to examine every page and this can seem like a daunting task. In this case, it’s important to make smart decisions to best utilize your time and effort. Focus on best selling and highest revenue products first and work from there. Users are likely leveraging the sale to get those coveted items at a discount. Capitalize on this information and use this as your starting point.

Promote Your Presence

The tight time frame for consumers to find and purchase items makes it paramount your promotional strategies are prepared and tested in advance. Test copy leading up to the sale for the best results and conversion drivers. There isn’t time during the sale to make adjustments. It must be clear, concise and appealing.

Utilize additional coupon options that can be applied at checkout. The additional discount can be the decision maker for shoppers looking for the best deal. This also fosters a better customer experience, which encourages customers to shop your store again.

Don’t limit yourself only to Amazon. Market your presence for Prime Day at all opportunities. In the weeks leading up to the event, engage with loyal customers and new prospects to increase anticipation of sales opportunities and tease discounted products. You should focus your efforts on appealing to your social channel following, emailing your  customer base, and leveraging programmatic ads across platforms.

Prepare Your Operations For Increased Orders

Increased Prime Day sales are great, but if your back-end operations aren’t prepared, it could be a logistical nightmare.  Stock your inventory in preparation for higher than average sales, particularly best selling items. If your business utilizes Fulfillment by Amazon, it’s important to check their stock as well.  With over 100 million products projected to be purchased during the event, you don’t want to be unprepared.

Make sure all systems are ready for order processing and payment at high levels. Delayed orders or inaccessible customer service could impact the shopping experience, leaving a lasting effect and impacting customer loyalty. Double check these areas in advance, so that there are no surprises.

Continue The Message

Once you’ve survived Amazon Prime Day 2019, maximize the increased exposure. Continue the momentum from the sale to nurture shopper’s customer loyalty and brand awareness.  Follow up with shoppers on their experience while also encouraging them to register for additional communication, including sales and promotion emails, product releases or reminders for next year’s sale. This information can then be used to create ongoing personalized messaging and customer profiling.

Use the sales event data to your advantage. You now have a wealth of information about which products are most popular. Continue your marketing efforts, highlighting these items and those that are complementary to boost checkout revenue. If you overstocked for the event, use this information to sell off the additional inventory.

Finally, analyze the results to prepare for next year. Review your approach against the results and adjust accordingly. This will help not only your next Prime Day experience, but also how you go-to-market for the holidays and other big sales events.

As online shoppers continue to gravitate toward Amazon for their retail shopping needs, brand marketers must meet them on their journey. Taking extra steps to prepare your business for Amazon Prime Day can benefit your business all year.  

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Netflix Tests Extras On Its Mobile App

Finding what to watch on Netflix isn’t always so chill and the company is experimenting with ways to help users find something that interests them quicker.  With so many options, from movies to original programming, many viewers can feel overwhelmed with the amount of content available.

To help guide viewers, the company introduced an “Extras” option on the navigation bar of the mobile app. Users are now offered a variety of helpful programming suggestions including New Arrivals, upcoming releases and additional programming suggestions based on previous viewing history.

Delivered in a story format similar to those found on Instagram and Snapchat, video clips and photos of Netflix programming are displayed as you scroll.  Users can then add shows or movies to playlists for viewing or choose the “reminder” option and be notified when upcoming programming becomes available. While most Netflix viewing is still on television, the mobile app provides a unique opportunity to reach and engage a captive video audience.  

Based on the success from other platforms, moving to shareable videos is yet another way Netflix can not only personalize the experience, but also promote their own programming.  It’s also an effort to better connect fans with shows they love and expand viewing options.

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Netflix noted that the feature is still in testing and there’s no official word on a roll-out to the masses. The capability does allow the company to join a larger social discussion about content provided or what’s desirable, providing untapped audience insight and potentially increased time on the platform.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/05/netflix-tests-an-instagram-stories-like-feed-called-extras-in-its-app/

Snapchat Is Changing Its Story To Include Ecommerce

In the wake of Instagram’s recent release of the checkout feature and branded content ads, other social platforms are feeling the heat to close the gap and help influencers better monetize their content. Snapchat, in particular, added a shopping feature this week to boost its ecommerce efforts, increase the competition, and use influencer partnerships as way to more authentically reach audiences.

By partnering with Shopify, the company updated accounts of select high-profile influencers (Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West, Shay Mitchell, Spencer Pratt and Bhad Bhabie) to test the capabilities. The native checkout will be enabled with the addition of a shop button that lets users purchase products from the influencer’s respective brands.

The enhanced commerce experience distinguishes Snapchat as one of the leaders in the space and creates focus on their ability to increase available user profile data and add monetization. Snapchat has been an industry sleeper, but the addition could help shift the pendulum in their favor, positioning the company to gain more influencer interest which translates into more ecommerce advertising dollars.  As Snapchat continues to build out its shopping capabilities they can more accurately attribute sales dollars to specific ads, increasing platform value.

The partnership further exemplifies the evolution of shopping from brand websites to social media channels. As Snapchat continues to refine its strategy and gain social momentum, the company’s innovation helps establish their growth in the market.

https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/snapchats-latest-updates-to-its-commerce-experience-hint-at-things-to-come/

Kid-Tech A Largely Untapped Market

With shrinking attention spans, marketers are under pressure to get their message conveyed fast.  This is even more true with kids who have grown up in an age where information and media are accessible at lightning speed around the clock. To reach this influential younger market, advertisers plan to spend more than $1.2 billion in ads globally by 2021, according to new research released by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The focus is primarily on international audiences across devices and platforms such as social media, search, and video formats.  However, the report magnified the need to market to this captive audience early and often.

“Kids-tech”, particularly social platforms, have been largely ignored by big tech due to the amount of red tape. While companies have released limited kid-friendly offerings such as Facebook’s Messenger Kids, Amazon’s Echo Dot Kid’s Edition and YouTube’s Kids app, advertising outside of these platforms has marketers feeling lost. The lack of attention to the space has since paved the way for innovative startups to create safe environments for both user and advertiser.  Programs are being developed to simulate what’s available for adults, but with stringent online privacy policies that prevent data being collected and used for ad delivery. Instead, ads are being served by site or page context without the use of cookies for personalized targeting. Platform moderation is also not left to chance with automation, but done manually by humans.

For big tech, their responsibility to this audience is great.  They must consider a myriad of factors such as online privacy which includes personal and geo data collection, strict advertising guidelines and ways to enforce policies with minimal for error.  However, with kids making up the fastest growing online audience, they can’t continue to leave this market untapped.

https://www.adweek.com/programmatic/advertisers-will-spend-more-than-1-billion-on-kid-centric-ads-by-2021/

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Chipotle Aims For Nothing But Net With Its Burrito Giveaway

The NBA finals are about to start and Chipotle is hoping for a slam dunk with its “Freeting” campaign, giving away $1 million worth of free burritos during final tournament play. The company is placing its bets on second-screen viewing to drive social engagement, online orders, and in-store traffic. With over 45% of US adults saying they use a second screen very often or always while watching television, it’s an opportunity to reach coveted NBA fans who are checking their mobile devices throughout the games.  

So how do you score free grub?  Every time an announcer says “free” on air during the first half of the game, Chipotle will offer up to 500 free burritos. The offer doubles in the second half, keeping viewers engaged for even more chances to win.  Unique codes will be tweeted on Chipotle’s Twitter account following on-air cues and viewers simply need to text the code back to receive a redemption coupon for a free burrito. Code users with orders over $10 will also receive free delivery on Chipotle’s app, website or through DoorDash during the games.

The promotion is powerful team strategy of multiple platforms to drive online and in-store traffic.  The company opted for the “Freeting” campaign in place of a much more costly official sponsorship or commercial during the tournament.  Chipotle is banking on the appeal of friendly competition combined with free food as a creative way to win new fans and a victory with game viewers.

https://www.mobilemarketer.com/news/chipotle-integrates-twitter-with-sms-to-dole-out-free-burritos-to-basketbal/555638/

Facebook Uncovers Record Number of Fraudulent Accounts

In the first quarter of 2019, Facebook removed a record 2.2 billion fraudulent accounts, most disabled within as little as a few minutes of being created.  The number of fake accounts is only slightly less than the reported 2.4 billion valid monthly active users and the majority of the false accounts were never considered active by Facebook’s metrics.  Many of the removed accounts are attributed to spammers who are continuously attempting to circumvent Facebook’s increased privacy security.

The increasing attempts to create large quantities of automated fake accounts simultaneously further exemplifies the magnitude of this ongoing problem.  While Facebook is diligently working to foster a safe user environment, this information shows that the problem has a broad reach. In the report, CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed the company’s plans to increase resources and spending for online security including a combination of artificial intelligence and human monitoring, adding to its arsenal of defense.

While Facebook continues to seek ways to create a safe environment for users, it seems they face hurdles at every turn, including its own policies. The pending increased encryption the company plans to implement for additional privacy could make it more difficult to detect fraudulent accounts. Zuckerberg acknowledged the increased encryption security comes with trade-offs, but promises to make online privacy an ongoing focus of the company.

It’s evident that the company is tackling fraud head on with no intention of backing down.  However, this issue is far from resolved and will remain at the forefront of conversation for Facebook for the immediate future.

https://www.adweek.com/digital/the-amount-of-fake-accounts-removed-from-facebook-this-year-nearly-equals-its-number-of-total-active-users/

Google Indexing Gets Mobile Optimized

Google officially announced they will be utilizing mobile-first indexing as default for all new web domains starting July 1, 2019. The switch has been in the works since 2016, with testing since leading up to the announcement this week.  Google will use its webcrawler, Googlebot, which simulates a user on a mobile device, to confirm a site is mobile optimized for its indexing process. Existing sites will be monitored as well but that process will have an extended timeline.

With the number of mobile users worldwide expected to surpass 5 billion this year and over 72% of internet users projected to be solely on smartphones by 2025, enforcing mobile optimization is a natural progression for both Google and websites. To help assist with the transition, Google has dedicated a guide with instructions and resources to better explain the process.

The emphasis of a mobile-friendly experience, both with indexing and mobile site optimization, shows Google’s priority to focus on users. As online behaviors shift, the company continues to remain a leader of change and innovation.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/28/google-makes-mobile-first-indexing-the-default-for-all-new-domains/

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Macy’s Pins Its Summer Market

Macy’s is making a splash this summer by combining augmented reality and Pinterest Pincodes to creatively connect users to their products. With soaring growth in e-commerce and mobile, the company hopes to capitalize on its most engaged shoppers while creating a fun social experience centered around summertime activities.  

The campaign will link Pinterest Pincodes, accessible at popular summer hot spots, such as beaches, lakes and parks, with a pinterest board highlighting items from Macy’s summer catalog specific curated to the location. The boards are then shoppable, allowing for an effortless buying experience. The campaign will also feature stories on various social platforms to highlight summer’s best moments.  

With department store catalogs a thing of the past, this is a new spin to bring personalized styles right to user’s mobile devices. It also allows for authentic experiences with the company being shared socially, further propelling the campaign organically.

https://www.marketingdive.com/news/macys-summer-campaign-heads-outside-with-pinterest-pincodes/555124/

Twitter Toys Around With Updated Carousel Ads

Twitter is testing a reformatted version of carousel ads to boost app install and re-engagement campaigns for advertisers. In 2016, Twitter tested a version where several tweets could be used in a series, but had little popularity and was eventually discontinued. The revised format allows for multiple, swipeable images in a single ad unit which can be used for showcasing a series of products or using in a series to convey a story, tapping into the user’s emotions.

As other platforms such as Facebook have proven, the carousel ad is very visually appealing and engaging for users, thus increasing campaign performance for advertisers. In many cases, it also results in significant decreases in cost per conversion, upward of 30-50%.  As Twitter works to entice advertisers with its innovative ad units, it remains uncertain if the carousel ad will be heavily utilized by advertisers or well received by users.

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/twitters-testing-a-new-carousel-ad-format-for-app-install-campaigns/555064/

YouTube’s Bumper Machine Uses AI to Automate 6-Second Video Creation

In an effort to minimize mobile viewing interruptions, YouTube released a new tool for advertisers that transforms their current video ads into “bumper” six-second video format.  With the help of artificial intelligence, “Bumper Machine” condenses videos by identifying elements such as human characters, motions, branding and quality of focus and framing to consolidate the messaging in the shorter format, concluding with the final call-to-action in the last few seconds. The limited time frame makes it more imperative that messages are visually appealing and easily consumed for viewers. Marketers that use the tool are not limited to the first result but instead, it’s meant to be a process allowing for human review to create the final product.

With mobile ad spend growing exponentially and accounting for 65% of all digital ad spend, the Bumper Machine tool will help advertisers tap into that market in a new way.  While some will simply condense current longer-form ads, others may use the tool to create short teasers for a longer ad or create a series of bumper ads that can tie together. The addition of the free tool is yet another way YouTube is continuing to evolve to accommodate the market.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/13/youtube-bumper-machine/

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Snapchat Develops Its Own Mobile Network

Snapchat made a big announcement on Thursday about plans for a Snap Audience Network, its own mobile ad platform with targeting across various apps.  The initial launch will be strictly for iOS devices and will extend to Android at a later date.

There are still questions surrounding how this will operate as compared to similar networks.  However it’s projected to compete with Facebook, LinkedIn and Google with the added unique ability for app developers to utilize Snapchat’s same full-screen, vertical video ad format.

The announcement didn’t come with much detail, but it appears to be an effort by the company to help boost it’s own advertising agenda to partner with more agencies and businesses. While there are still a number of unknowns with this new platform, it will be interesting to see Snapchat competes with other social networks and what differentiates them in the space.

https://www.adweek.com/digital/snap-announces-plans-to-build-its-own-mobile-ad-network-to-connect-with-its-audience/

Facebook Exposed for Storing User Data on Public Amazon Cloud Servers

Cybersecurity firm, Upguard, uncovered more than 540 million Facebook user files stored on a public Amazon cloud server this week. Information included user actions on the site, comments and Facebook IDs, all of which were accessible on the server for public download despite profile settings.  Once alerted, Facebook immediately worked with Amazon to take down the database, but cannot verify how this may impact users.

While Facebook policies prohibit user data being stored on unsecure servers, this news adds to the growing data privacy concerns with the platform. After last year’s news that millions of user’s data had been misused by Cambridge Analytica, Facebook audited thousands of third-party data apps and suspended those who were mishandling. Despite continued efforts to protect user data, it appears the extent of the problem may not be fully known at this point.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-03/millions-of-facebook-records-found-on-amazon-cloud-servers

Amazon Alexa Advances Healthcare Services

Amazon Alexa users can now utilize the smart speaker for healthcare information with its recently released HIPAA compliant skills.  Users can leverage the technology to manage healthcare needs such as booking appointments, checking a prescription status or accessing stored medical information such as ongoing glucose readings.  The skills are currently only accessible through select partnerships but will expand based on user adoption.

With the launch, some entities are unveiling HIPAA-compliant skills specific to their own recently discharged patients.  Boston Children’s released a skill known as “ERAS” which allows patients and caregivers to ask questions specific to recent patient care records and allows doctors the ability to follow up with patients remotely.

While data privacy remains a huge concern for patients, Amazon confirms data is encrypted and securely stored in addition to the strict guidelines HIPAA puts in place for patient protection.  This announcement is a major advancement in the evolution of remote patient care.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/04/amazon-alexa-launches-its-first-hipaa-compliant-medical-skills/

Weekly Digital Breakdown

Streaming Video Exceeds Cable Subscriptions

For the first time, video streaming service subscriptions surpassed cable, jumping up 27% to 613 million subscribers last year. The shift is attributed to the consumers being drawn to services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime for the 24/7 accessibility across devices and original programming.   This trend further is likely to continue as more cable subscribers “cut the cord” and rely on digital video for programming.

ttps://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-21/netflix-s-growth-helps-streaming-eclipse-cable-subscriptions

McDonalds Uses AI to Drive Personalization

In an aggressive move to integrate a more tailored dining experience, McDonalds acquired the personalization company, Dynamic Yield.  This technology will be used to create a dynamic menu that will adjust to variables such as weather, time of day or trending menu items.  It will also aid in upselling, or suggesting additional items that compliment your selections. They will begin leveraging the technology for drive-thru customers and plan to expand to self-serve kiosks and the mobile app.  McDonalds plans to roll out the new technology in the US throughout 2019 to increase customer service and clearly distinguish the company from competitors.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/25/mcdonalds-acquires-dynamic-yield/

Big News From Apple

On March 25th, Apple introduced its streaming service, Apple News+ to the public.  While some industry insiders remain skeptical about the announcement, publishers are hoping to use the service to expand their audience and drive digital subscriptions.  Apple News+ includes over 300 magazines and select newspapers for a monthly fee. Publishers view this as an opportunity to reach and engage a news centric audience, driving their own revenue through advertisements.  While the audience is shared across multiple publishers, this approach offers the chance to reach readers who may never interact with some publications and gain loyalty. Publishers are not expecting this to be a magic solution but an added layer to in their efforts to increase readership and expand audiences.

https://www.adweek.com/tv-video/publishers-view-apple-news-as-an-experiment-not-a-solution-to-the-industrys-woes/


Facebook Amends Targeting to Fight Discrimination

Facebook is refining it’s targeting options as they pertain to employment, housing and credit advertisements as prompted by a recent settlement agreement with leading civil rights organizations.  Brands promoting these items can no longer target users based on demographic information such as ethnicity, age, gender, religious affiliation or family status. Based on the previous set-up, targeting could include or exclude these criteria or create look-a-like audiences to target similar users.  While Facebook continues to be under right scrutiny for it’s policies, this is just another step they are taking to earn user’s trust and continue focus on data privacy concerns.

https://www.adweek.com/digital/facebook-is-revamping-its-targeting-for-housing-employment-and-credit-ads/

Your Guide to Keeping Consumer Data Secure While Personalizing Campaigns

Customers expect personalization. A well-crafted email with a customer's first name and a product suggestion related to a past purchase, for example, has become the norm.  Research shows 98 percent of marketers believe personalization advances the customer relationship, with 74 percent claiming it has a "strong" or "extreme" impact on the relationship, according to Evergage.

While marketers see the value of personalizing messages, creating them requires customer data. To market effectively, you have to know a lot about a customer. That can range from basic information (such as a customer's name and hometown) to more intrusive information like buying history and spending limits.

Having this kind of coveted data provides amazing targeting applications, but it also comes with great responsibility. Customers are concerned about privacy. One survey shows 91 percent of Americans believe customers have lost control over how their personal data is collected and used, according to Pew Research.

So how can brands provide personalized marketing and protect customer data at the same time? Here are some tips:

Get Consent to Contact

Before reaching any customer digitally, make sure you have permission to do so. Aside from being a best practice, it's also mandated by new privacy legislation. The European Union's GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), for example, requires businesses to get consent from digital customers before collecting, storing, and using personal data.  Although this legislation was passed in Europe, experts say more laws aimed at protecting personal data elsewhere in the world are likely in the future.

How do you get consent? Ask customers to voluntarily join your email list, or run a promotion on social media that asks for permission to contact the participant with future offers. Whatever the tactic, get permission to make contact.

Don't Assume You Know What Customers Want

Many marketers make assumptions on behalf of customers, and that is starting to bother those customers. What kind of assumptions? Marketers sometimes use pre-checked boxes on forms that automatically sign up subscribers for promotional emails. These pre-checked boxes assume every customer wants to get coupons or a weekly email digest, when customers might not want that at all.

Or, let's say you're at a trade show and you exchange business cards with dozens of people. When you get back to your office, you add everyone to your email list. Why? You assume everyone wants to stay in touch after the show. But they didn't give consent to join your email list at all. That's another assumption.

One of the best ways to respect customers and their privacy is to avoid making decisions for them.

Explain How Information Is Used

One of the best practices pushed in laws like the GDPR is transparency. GDPR requires brands to tell customers how their personal information is collected, tracked, and used.  Many brands use cookies to track a customer's online activities. Since GDPR was enacted, brands must explain how their sites' cookies collect, track, and store data. As a result, you've probably seen "cookie consent" messages pop up on your favorite websites, like this one:

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In this case, customers can accept the data tracking policy, select how much data they want collected, and see how their information is used by the company.

Whether you use cookies or not, one of the best ways to show customers that privacy matters is to explain exactly how you gather and use their personal information.

Be Honest About Data Breaches

Data breaches happen, and some of the biggest companies have experienced them. While they're embarrassing, it's important to tell your customers about it, and quickly.  

In the U.S., Uber was forced to pay a $148 million settlement when a 2016 data breach was found to have been covered up by the transportation company's then-CEO, Travis Kalanick. The breach wasn't made public for a year, according to USA Today.

Customers want transparency. In Europe, the GDPR sets strict requirements that companies notify customers of any stolen data within 72 hours.

Personalization and privacy have become a balancing act for brands across the globe. Customers want personalized experiences, but they want to trust their data is safe and being used in ways that they approve of.

The Power of the Hashtag

Hastags are now a normal part of social media activity but you may be wondering how you can leverage them for business.  When used strategically, hashtags hold an amazing power to reach large audiences and there's little doubt they can serve as effective tools for marketers when properly implemented.

One of the major benefits to marketers are the countless ways to measure hashtag campaign performance. Engagement, for example, could include metrics about retweets, replies and comments. Awareness might be measured with reach, exposure and volume. Traffic to your website could be measured in clicks, conversions and shares.

Hastags can create opportunity and increase visibility.  Here are some examples of successful hashtag campaigns at work.

• #TweetFromTheSeat

After launching its #TweetFromTheSeat hashtag campaign, Charmin earned "Time Magazine's" vote for the "Sassiest Brand on Twitter."

RESULTS: Approximately 80,000 new followers

• #WeAccept

This Airbnb campaign used images of people of various ethnicities with the hashtag #WeAccept to demonstrate the founders' commitment to welcoming groups such as refugees.

RESULTS: 1,954,277 YouTube views, 109,000 Instagram views, 14,022,922 Facebook views

• #LikeAGirl

The Always brand used the #LikeAGirl hashtag as a call to action, inviting women to tweet about the positive things they do "like a girl" to remove the stigma from the phrase. They complimented it with a #LikeAGirl page hosted on Always.com..

RESULTS: Twitter followers tripled in the first months; 177,000 #LikeAGirl tweets in the first three months, including celebrities

Ready to get started on your next hashtag campaign? Consider these guidelines:

1. Research existing hashtags.

You want to create a hashtag unique to your company, so do your homework to ensure you're not diluting your messaging by distinguishing yourself from competitors. Incorporate trending hashtags into your campaign to complement your main hashtag.

2. Create a tag that's unique to the brand.

Generic hashtags are fine as supplemental pieces, but your primary hashtag should be unique to the brand. Good examples include Lay's #DoUsAFlavor, Ryu's #WhatsInYourBag and the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization's #KnowYourLemons.

3. Create unique tags for different promotions.

Be creative and use different hashtags for different campaigns, products, etc. Oreo, for example, has used #MyOreoCreation, #OreoHorrorStories, and #PlayWithOreo.

4. Use the hashtag across multiple social media platforms.

Hashtags aren't just for Twitter. Use them on all social media updates.

5. Test varying amounts of hashtags per post to find your sweet spot.

As a general rule, use two hashtags on Twitter and seven or fewer on other platforms.

6. Choose niche hashtags.

Stay away from generic hashtags and get more specific, such as using #BigAndTallTuxedos over a broad term like #Tuxedos.

7. Follow your hashtag on social media.

Keep an eye on what others are saying by following common hashtags you use.

Using these tips, you'll find hashtags can make an impact on your marketing strategy and increase your reach.

Tips for Marketing to Spring Break Travelers

No matter your target audience, spring break is an excellent time for brands to get in front of their consumers.  With college students spending an estimated $1 billion on spring break every year added to the amount spent by families who take advantage of the time off school for travel, spring break has become a huge marketing opportunity.

For business, you can use this time to boost your brand, attract more followers and promote sales. Here are four tips to get started.

Hold a Spring Break Sale

Regardless of your business, running travel-themed marketing campaigns can entice consumers to try your product or service. Spring break is the ideal time to clear out inventory or offer promotional items to drive more traffic to your website or physical locations. One example of success was a direct marketing campaign by Great Wolf Lodge.  They offered a promotional discount to travelers who booked rooms during spring break to increase reservations and attract repeat customers.

Leverage Social Media

Spring break is a great time to host contests, giveaways and live events for your followers. It's also an opportunity to create a campaign centered around themed stories and invite your followers to contribute. This could include videos, photos or written content detailing their adventures with your product, letting everyone in on the fun they're having. Users with the best stories or photos could then win products or services.  The authenticity of showing products in use resonates with consumers and creates the feeling that your brand is part of the spring break experience.

Deliver an Experience

Experiential marketing tactics are all about becoming another factor in the fun surrounding spring break. They aren't about making revenue as much as they are geared toward exposing travelers to your brand and letting them interact with it, creating a positive impression to share with friends, coworkers and families. In a recent example, Axe took a two-pronged approach by setting up a tent and games on a popular beach to attract spring breakers, in addition to sponsoring toiletries at popular hotels.

Stamping your presence on a hot spot is not the only way to take advantage of experiential marketing. You could have brand ambassadors hand out samples and free gifts or use your social media strategies to drive traffic to your website with interactive games or events.

Sponsor Events

Whether it's a party geared toward college kids or a families, sponsoring spring break events can increase brand awareness, provide an opportunity for engagement and help your brand gain traction. Many times this doesn’t require you to be on the site to reap the benefits, but attendees will likely take note of your name on the promotional materials or sponsored activities.


Spring break is a tradition where people of all ages are ready to celebrate the end of winter with some fun in the sun.  Use this time to your advantage to get in front of consumers and be part of the action.


Leveraging Platforms for March Basketball Hysteria

Basketball viewing during the March tournaments used to be restricted to only the game(s) that were playing on cable at the time. Now, fans have the ability to watch multiple games on various devices while staying up-to-date with bracket-busting news via social media.

Social platforms alone have become a hot spot for hoops hysteria.  During the 2015 tournament, there were 350 million impressions on Facebook and Twitter, according to Koeppel Direct. In 2017, March Madness Live (MML) brought in 69.1 million live streams. All the excitement is prime opportunity for brands to leverage the influx of users streaming the live action and catching up on the day’s wins and losses. To help your brand slam dunk its campaign, we’ve provided some strategy tips.

Facebook

Facebook profiles are full of customer-specific data, including a user's college history and location, which provides ready-made segments for your ads. This presents a variety of strategic campaign options to appeal to various audiences.

A company selling sports gear, for example, can create Syracuse Orangemen ads for Syracuse alum, or a travel agency can create an ad for a Final Four trip aimed at fans vying for the chance to see the games in person.

Instagram

Instagram has access to Facebook data allowing for similar segmenting of users.  It also presents the opportunity to leverage trending hashtags around game excitement.  Adding a relevant hashtag to your message can tie basketball and your brand together. The searchability increases your brand presence when used correctly.  For example, Acme Footwear asked users to pick the game winner by combining the predicted winning team name with its company name for responses like #dukeacme. Fans love to show their team fandom and get excited to be a part of the celebration.

YouTube

To get the most bang for your buck, consider launching a campaign via YouTube during the tourney.  With audience-specific targeting available, you can show ads to users who have watched a specific video or tournament related content.  You can also leverage remarketing capabilities to further your reach.

Digital Video Ads

With people now watching sports via live-streaming channels at all hours, digital video ads are a great way to stay in front of consumers.  This spans platforms, increasing opportunity for exposure. Facebook, for example, will interrupt a live stream with breaks for ads. Since viewers are already engaged in the game and ads are limited, you have a captive audience who are more likely to remember your brand and product.

The hype surrounding bracket success, or the sleeper team that’s sure to be a bracket buster, presents a great opportunity to reach consumers with fun and memorable ad experience.  Fans are engaged and playing into the excitement is sure to be a marketing win.

Leverage First-Party Data to Boost Personalization

To succeed in today's marketing world, personalization is crucial. Research shows 84 percent of customers say being treated like an individual and not a number is important to winning their business, according to Salesforce.

To treat customers like real people, you need to know who they are. But this isn't always easy. Sure, you might remember a few customers who frequent your business, but it's impossible to know everyone, let alone create marketing messages tailored to each person.

Personalized messages rely on customer data. You need to collect data in every category possible. From collecting email addresses at checkout and tracking order histories to asking customers to fill out forms and surveys, your data collection strategy should be diverse and continuous.

Any data you collect is considered first-party data. Thus, the emails you collect on your website form, the information shared when customers join your social media contest, and the data collected as customers browse your site are all first-party data. You collected it.

To help marketers take personalization to the next level, we'll dive into the data world and explain what first-party data is and how to utilize it.

  • Tips for Using First-Party Data Effectively

Once you have first-party data, it's time to put it to work for you. Here are a few tips:

  • Do a Deep Data Dive

At the beginning, you probably focused on collecting the basics from customers, such as their names, email addresses, and ages. Now, it's time to go deeper. You need behavioral data like past purchases and browsing history to create more detailed messages.

  • Refined, Smaller Segments

As you collect more data, you can create more defined segments. Essentially, you should segment your segments. For instance, if you segmented your customers by sex, take it one step further and segment based on past purchases. So rather than just sending an email to all female customers, you can send an email to all female customers who made two shoe purchases in the last month.

The further you define your segments, the more personal the messages become. An email aimed at your female customers isn't as targeted as an email sent to shoe-loving female customers who have recently made purchases

  • Use Data for Targeting

You can leverage first party data to improve your advertising strategy. Platforms like Facebook, for example, allow you to input data to customize audiences that see your ads. The more data you have, the more likely you are to attract interested customers.  

  • Deploy Retargeting Messages

By monitoring customers' online actions, you can deploy retargeting campaigns that are specific to each user. Let's say a customer comes to your site, searches for shoes, and spends considerable time looking at a pair of black heels, but never makes the purchase. They can then be retargeted via a variety of platforms (social, mobile, desktop, etc) with a tailored message that includes that same pair of shoes.  Retargeting gives you the ability to deliver personalized content to customers who have actually shown interest.

With these tips, you can up your personalization game and start connecting with customers on a deeper, more meaningful level.

Getting Started With Marketing Personalization

To reach customers, a generic email, text, or Facebook ad won't cut it. Today's customers have high expectations. They expect personalized advertising that's relevant to their lives, and they are willing to help make that happen.

As many as 57 percent of consumers are willing to share personal data, as long as it results in personalized content and offers. At the same time, the majority of consumers (88 percent) aren't happy with the level of personalization they receive from brands they like, according to research presented by Econsultancy.

To help marketers better meet consumers' expectations, we'll explore what personalization is and why it's important, and provide a few tips to get started.

Personalization Defined

Personalization is more than just adding a customer's first name to an email subject line. Personalization is the act of knowing your customers and creating customized content and messages that resonate with each one. Customized content can take many forms. From sending a personalized promotion to customers based on their purchase history, to targeting a specific audience for a Facebook ad.

Why Personalization Is Important

Personalization helps brands attract and retain customers. By crafting messages and ads that are relevant to customers, you’ll draw more people in and keep the customers you have delighted with your efforts.

In time, you’ll build a relationship with your customers. It's similar to building a relationship with a friend. The closer you get and the more experiences you share, the more trust you develop.

As we've mentioned, customers want personalization. In fact, 58 percent of customers are willing to switch half of their spending to brands that excel at personalization, according to a recent report.

Tips to Achieve Personalized Marketing

To put your new personalization strategy into place, here are a few tips to get started:

●       Collect the Right Data

Get to know your customers. In today's modern age, that means collecting personal data. You'll likely need a tool or platform to collect, store, and utilize the data. Ideally, you'll get both demographic information (like name, age, and sex) and behavioral information that tracks things like past purchases and visit frequency.

●       Segment Audiences

Your customers are likely a diverse bunch. To pull off personalization on a large scale, you'll need to segment your customers, or break them into smaller, like-minded groups. Doing so gives you the power to create content for each niche.

●       Start Small

Create a small list of ways you can personalize your next marketing campaign. Don't try to do it all at once. For example, segment customers by location and send a promotion that's specific to a store in that area.

●       Test, Test, Test

As with any marketing campaign, you should test to see what's working and what's not. You can test many different personalization tactics. For instance, you can send an email that includes a customer's name and test it against a generic message that doesn't include the name.

Personalization is an important marketing and advertising tactic, but it takes some time and effort to perfect. You need to collect data and leverage it in a way that customers will respond to. Doing so will help you build a strong relationship with your customers.