Amazon. Will it be the largest DSP?

August 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Amazon announced in late June that  it was entering the world of advertising by using its consumer data to deliver targeted advertising on third-party sites across the web

Amazon will now use its huge supply of data to pool consumers into buckets based on the products they looked at or purchased on the retailer’s website. The company will help advertisers reach these consumers with targeted media, using behaviorally targeted display ads to drive them to any URL.

Amazon has more than a decade’s worth of sales and consumer shopping data, so it’s almost a surprise it took the company this long to capitalize on its data and enter the behavioral-targeting space. It’s a great idea that will help marketers find interested consumers, and other retailers are already trying to copy the model. Every online retailer is a media network, even if they don’t know it yet, and there’s plenty of opportunity for retailers of all sizes to copy Amazon’s model.

In the most general terms, Amazon is using brand data to build an ad network that delivers relevant advertising. The company has great insight into consumer shopping activity and brand preferences. Brands advertisers can use this data to find potential customers, and possibly offer a discount to push a consumer toward purchase.

Merchants can function as both media properties and audience networks because they already posses a targeting criteria that actually matters: consumer behavior or brand-preference data that can power interest-based advertising across the web. Retailers know which brands consumers interact with on their sites, and that is indicative of consumer desire.

Amazon will compete with most behavioral-targeting networks right off the bat because of the scope of its data. Consumer ad networks or vertical-related networks are often selling contextual advertising, and Amazon has an immediate advantage because it is using proprietary data.

Amazon is going to profit heavily off of this win-win-win scenario. If you take this retailer/ad network model and combine manufacturer data, in a system where open data sharing is encouraged, you’re opening the door to unprecedented ad targeting, something all retailers could profit from

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QR Codes vs. Zoove

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

People are crazy for QR codes.  One reader app, Scanbuy, globally saw scans for QR and barcodes in the “double-digit millions” last year. Major marketers like Miller Lite, Home Depot, Macy’s, Polo, and Post Cereals have recently launched QR campaigns. Unfortunately QR codes have had a few obstacles that may be driving users to use alternative companies such as Zoove.

Many consumers feel as if there are far too many steps.  To scan a QR code, you have to carry the right phone with the right camera, be connected to the internet and have downloaded one of the many QR scanning apps out there. Then, you have to stumble across one of those boxes, posters, etc. which actually isn’t hard because, like I said, marketers, especially retailers, are in love with them.

I see most QR campaigns in both the DC metro and NY subway, where there is absolutely no internet — meaning no way to get a QR scan to actually launch anything.  Also, I saw a QR code on a poster at a bus stop but in order to scan the code on the bottom corner of the poster, someone would have had to lie down on the sidewalk.

Are there other options beside QR codes?  Yes, one example of an alternative more “user friendly” concept comes from a company called Zoove .   Zoove is a mobile direct-response company.  Zoove allows you to get the QR results — a link to a website or app download, a coupon, a video — but to get there, you there’s no camera, app or smartphone required all you do is dial a number on a mobile phone and make a call.

Here’s how it works: Advertisers or media companies register a StarStar code with Zoove — recent campaigns include **Suzuki, **GSCookies for the Girls Scouts and **GMA for Good Morning America — and when consumers dial, they get a text message with a link or voice recording. I dialed **GSCookies, started to listen to a recording and received a text message with a link to the App Store to download a cookie locator. Then I tried **Suzuki and got a link to a video, which I didn’t watch. Ad messaging aside, it worked! On the first try! Shouldn’t technology be this easy?

By now, Zoove has partnered with all top-four U.S. wireless carriers so StarStar vanity numbers work on 95% of all phones, and not just the smart ones. TV shows like “Good Morning America” and “CBS Early Show” are testing StarStar codes for ad sponsorships or to collect viewers’ votes. Now, imagine, instead of no-one-remembers short codes on “American Idol,” you’d just have to **Lauren to vote.

QR codes have a few hurdles to overcome.  At this point dialing **Flowers to 1-800-Flowers to get my mom a little something for Mothers Day, is a much better option than laying down on the street in order to scan a QR code on a 1-800 flowers bus stop poster.

I “Like” it!

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Google is adding its take on the “like” button  which is called the “plus-one” in its latest bid to make search more social, as well as combat the growing dominance of Facebook.

Google will allow users to vote plus-one on search results they find useful, and to share that preference with their connections in Gchat, Gmail, Google Reader, Buzz and, soon, Twitter. Users will see both the total number of plus-one votes, as well as the names and photos of their contacts who have stated a preference.  Over time, Google will integrate the plus-one into the search algorithm itself so human votes will have an impact search ranking.

“When someone recommends something, that’s a pretty good indicator of quality,” said Matt Cutts, Google’s principal engineer for search. “We are strongly looking at using this in our rankings.”

Google is also adding the ability to vote plus-one on search ads. Internal tests have shown that plus-one votes increase clicks; Google won’t charge for the functionality, but expects better ads to return more plus-ones and, in turn, more clicks. Higher click-through rates can improve quality scores, meaning marketers with better ads could pay less for a given keyword or position.  “We will provide reporting in AdWords for plus-ones,” said ads group product manager Christian Oestlien. “Our belief is that advertisers will see increased performance from ads with personalized annotations.”

Traditionally, inbound links have been the strongest indicator of relevance and component of page rank.  Adding the plus-one will add another social component.

“Injecting a social layer into the algorithmic search is key to relevance,” said Dave Karnstedt, CEO of Efficient Frontier. “Do a search on ‘DVD player’ today now you will see 35,000 results in less than 3 milliseconds. It’s meaningless, but if you can sort through those by people who have given a social signal and those rise to the top, I think that can only enhance the user experience.”

Microsoft’s Bing integrated Facebook “likes” into search results late last year but not into its actual algorithm, meaning a “like” has no effect on search rankings. Google has no immediate plans to add Facebook connections to the system, partly because they don’t have the right to do so.

Additionally, Google will allow publishers to add the plus-one button, so users can vote on content outside of search, and ultimately improve the ranking of that content in organic search results. Google has by far the largest publisher network, including websites that use DoubleClick for ad serving or Google’s ad exchange, so penetration of the plus-one will be immediate and comprehensive.

The question is whether Google can control and identify users from gaming the plus-one system for fun or for profit. Google, to its credit, has a lot of experience filtering out attempts to game its algorithms.   The “like” function is not any different from click fraud which Google has put many policies in place to identify this fraudulent activity.

Now Boarding…Google

February 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Google wants to become the hub of online travel, promising better bargains and more convenience by melding the Internet search leader’s wizardry with the Web’s top airline-fare tracker, ITA Software.

That has existing online travel sites such as Kayak, Expedia and Travelocity worried that they won’t stand a chance of competing, a scenario that could lead to higher fares.

The U.S. Justice Department is expected to decide soon on whether to let Google Inc. buy ITA for $700 million.

The deal would give Google control over software that has helped power the reservation systems of most major U.S. airlines and a fleet of online fare-comparison services for the past decade.

The government review could serve as a test of how aggressively U.S. antitrust regulators intend to police Google as the company uses the wealth and influence gained from its dominance in Internet search to expand into other lucrative markets. The U.S. market for online travel bookings totals about $80 billion annually, according to Forrester Research.

Google says owning ITA would lead to lower prices and more convenient ways to shop for tickets on the Internet. For instance, travelers might tell Google how much they could afford to spend to visit a warm place on certain dates, and the search engine would turn into a travel guide.

But critics contend that Google would be able to hobble other travel services by burying them in its search results or denying them ITA’s latest technical innovations. Google so far has only promised to honor all of ITA’s current contracts, which expire over the next few years.

“Google will have leverage over the entire online flight industry,” said Thomas Barnett, a former leader of the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Now an attorney in private practice, Barnett represents Expedia Inc., which has banded with such online travel services as Microsoft Corp.’s Bing, Travelocity, Kayak Software Corp. and Farelogix Inc. to oppose the ITA deal.

Google has promised it won’t sell airline tickets or book other travel arrangements on its own site.

Rather, Google would refer people elsewhere to buy tickets and make reservations for hotels and rental cars. Those sites would earn commissions.

But competitors say there is no guarantee on who would get the traffic.

Mobile Apps On the Rise

February 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Handheld devices such as cell phones, smart phones, portable computers and other wireless devices make up the growing mobile device market.  Such devices allow customers to stay informed, gather information and communicate with other without being tied to a physical location.  The number of downloaded apps is expected to increase from 10.9 billion worldwide in 2010 to more than 76.9 billion in 2014.  In addition, worldwide mobile apps revenues will experience similar growth, surpassing $35 billion in 2014. While the mobile device market is becoming a viable advertising medium it is important to understand how to measure the effectiveness of mobile marketing.

Measure of Informativeness: If a website provides consumers with practical and or helpful information, it is then considered informative.  If a mobile site is informative users will be more likely to interact with the site as they are getting the information they need.  One way to be sure users are getting the information they need is to measure how often information is viewed; how frequently users return to the mobile site, and how often apps are downloaded.   One metric that could be used to measure how informative the mobile site is to measure how many times the app was downloaded to every PV so instead of PV per user the metric would be PV per download.  If downloads skew higher than amount of PV’s on the site, that is a good indication that users aren’t going to the site to read the content but rather they are going to the site simply to access the app.  This metric would indicate that the content found on the mobile site is not relevant to what the general market wants to read and instead of investing a large amount of resources on content, more resources should be used to develop more apps.

Measure of Efficiency and Effectiveness of Interaction: Interaction is an important part of online marketing communications.  In order for customers to be happy and ultimately buy a product, marketers need to know how easy or difficult the overall experience with the mobile site is.  Similar to the importance of a well designed website the mobile site design is equally important.  In order to measure efficiency and effectiveness of the mobile sites interactions marketers need to enable their mobile site to capture pertinent information.  Important information that should be tracked through either Google Analytics or another mobile tracking system is downloads, bounce rate, time spent, registrations, and average PV’s per users.  Since mobile is a fairly new but growing channel it is important for Marketers to first understand how users are interacting with their website.  Once a basic understanding of what metrics should be analyzed a mobile web analyst should identify what inputs and outputs affect overall trends.  Interactions are measured based on downloads, time spent, and bounce rate.

Presence: When communicating online, it’s important for the user to feel that the online environment is similar to the real world.  Presence is the correspondence between the real world and the virtual environment created online.  Ways in which marketers can determine if their site has a telepresence or a social presence is to measure interactions.  Mobile devises have a way of making users feel like they are inside the site.  Many users who have the Apple iPhone treat the phone as if it is a regular computer.  Games are downloaded, food is ordered, bus times are tracked, shopping, etc.  The functionality and level of interaction apps provide to users by nature make consumers feels as though they are in the viral environment and the physical environment at the same time.  The more interactive and creative apps become the greater the presence they will have.  When building mobile sites, marketers need to make the site as interactive as possible so users feel like they need the site to get through their day-to-day tasks.

A well designed mobile site is as important as a well designed website.  Similar metrics can be used in the mobile space but additional metrics should be considered when measuring interactions.

Google, Yahoo, and MSN’s Golden Nugget

February 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Paid placement and paid inclusion advertising are very powerful advertising tools.  As mentioned in my previous post, Search engines have unique algorithms that take many things into consideration including, price, promotional advertising copy, landing page quality, etc. This algorithm ensures that when someone searches for specific keywords the best match will appear higher within the search results. Different search engines weigh attributes differently but all weigh quality of the website, copy, and destination landing pages high.  Most advertisers who have large paid placements campaigns will focus their time and efforts on the quality of their website, copy, and the landing pages since these attributes are weighted high therefore driving down the price and still maintaining a high rank.   This sophisticated algorithm ensures that the produced results are the most relevant results possible.  The less time a user has to spend searching for the product the more likely they are to buy.

Google, Yahoo, and MSN make majority of their money off of this model and without it would not be as profitable as they are today.  In theory it is a win win for both the search engines and the advertisers.  The advertisers win because they only have to pay when a consumer thinks their product is relevant to their search and the search engines win because they are not only able to monetize based on bidding wars, but they also have the ability to understand buying behavior and how to leverage advertising dollars in the most efficient way possible.

Qwiki

January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Qwiki, a Flipboard meets Wikipedia search engine backed by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, launched on Monday.

Qwiki is a new search engine that not only generates relevant content but generates interactive content based on behavior.  A search on Qwiki pulls up a topical, Wikipedia like page with a “rich media narrative” of videos, photos, and audio clips relating to the topic.  Like Wikipedia, users can contribute content to a Qwiki page and embed Qwikis on third party Websites.

I was impressed by the few Qwiki searches I performed. In short, the rich media content creates an interactive environment, but the information is a bit too skimpy and potentially out of date to serve as a secondary information source yet. This will probably change as the crowd sourcing element picks up (the site is still fairly new!)

Take, for example, a Qwiki search for “The Fighter,” a 2010 film starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams. The film is about the early years of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980s.  The entry provides a quick, minute long audio-visual entry about the film, complimented by a four page slide show of photos of the original Micky Ward, specific actor pages, and even a section dedicated to his parents’ hometown. At the end, users are given options to share the entry through various social networks.  Qwiki is an innovative tool that allows users to interact with content.  As the content grows, it will be interesting to see how the functionality and the quality of content compares to Google, Yahoo, or Bing.

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