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How Mobile Ads Are Powering a Social Commerce Surge This Holiday Season

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Shopping on social media is set to surge this holiday season as consumers are given additional ways to buy things on their smartphones, experts say. Meanwhile, newer technologies that integrate phones with TV shopping will be less prevalent, but still show promise for cross-channel commerce platforms as video and interactive media converge for more seamless browsing and buying experiences for TV viewers.

Mobile platforms are the biggest driver of social commerce, with the percentage of people saying they’ve used a smartphone or tablet to buy a product through social media rising to 57% in Q3 from 53% two years earlier, according to GlobalWebIndex. Mobile’s growth has contrasted with the decline in social shopping on desktop computers and laptops.

Those trends are forecast to continue through this year’s holiday shopping season as social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube double down with fresh e-commerce features. Even newcomer TikTok, the social video app that’s popular with Generation Z and teens, has begun testing shopping ads to capitalize on this burgeoning consumer interest.

“Shopping through social platforms will see a good amount of traction this holiday season,” said Darin Archer, chief strategy officer at Elastic Path, a provider of e-commerce software. “Social commerce allows brands to reach people when their attention is already on an item of value — even when the transaction isn’t happening fully in the app.”

A boom in online shopping in recent years, including mobile and social, has pushed Cyber Monday to become more important than Black Friday for every age group, a Deloitte survey found. The consulting firm reports that 53% of people have increased their focus on the Monday after Thanksgiving for shopping, compared with only 44% who said the same about Black Friday.

Thanksgiving day also is emerging as a key shopping moment as people get an earlier start with their mobile devices.

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“Across Facebook’s products, the company has brought commerce into areas typically dominated by advertising rather than purchasing. The gap between promotion and purchase is closing and making the experience more seamless.”

Darin Archer

Elastic Path, chief strategy officer


“There are more people than ever before shopping on their smartphones — they are sitting at their Thanksgiving dinner tables, and they are shopping,” said Julie Van Ullen, U.S. managing director at Rakuten Marketing. Last year, her company saw a 59% jump in purchases on Thanksgiving day, outpacing growth for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Seamless experiences

While plenty of social ads direct users to retailer websites for further browsing and purchasing, social media companies are working to make shopping a more seamless part of the in-app experience. Instagram, the image-sharing app whose U.S. user base is forecast to lift 6.7% to 107.2 million this year, this year introduced a checkout feature to keep people locked into its platform while adding a new revenue stream that could strengthen the appeal of its advertising. About 60% of Instagram users have followed a new brand on the app after seeing an appealing ad in its vertical feed or in Stories, per a study by video technology startup VidMob.

“Instagram’s move earlier this year to embed the transaction in the app was a big step toward reducing friction in the consumer’s purchase journey,” Archer told Mobile Marketer. “Brands are navigating the challenges of integrating the social commerce experience with mobile and web commerce touchpoints.”

Instagram is a key part of parent company Facebook’s broader push into social commerce amid a growing threat from Amazon, which has a fast-growing ad business. Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger messaging apps are adding social commerce features that broaden their capabilities, similar to Tencent’s WeChat app in China that acts like a complete lifestyle hub.

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“WhatsApp’s launch of product catalogs is another example of how mobile advertising and commerce are coming together,” Archer said. “Across Facebook’s products, the company has brought commerce into areas typically dominated by advertising rather than purchasing. The gap between promotion and purchase is closing and making the experience more seamless.”

That power to keep consumers engaged is a key advantage for marketers seeking to drive online sales through social media advertising.

“As a consumer, your guard is down and you are looking for ‘shopper-tainment’,” said Brian Walker, chief strategy officer at Bloomreach, a maker of digital personalization software. “Really, this is a threat for large retailers. Consumer brands of all types need to pay attention. TikTok and Instagram may not be making a big dent yet, but it is a threat.”

Social shopping strategies

The growing significance of social shopping during this year’s key holiday season and into 2020 means that marketers need to adapt their strategies with the right mix of customer experience (CX), ad creative and even newer technologies like augmented reality (AR) that can help to demonstrate products and give shoppers ways to better visualize how they’ll look in real life.

Higher visitor traffic from mobile users is a key time to make a good first impression through ads and AR-powered virtual try-ons, with the goal of converting new shoppers into loyal customers.

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“The key to securing their loyalty is a faultless CX — and that starts on the landing page,” said Jonathan Cherki, CEO of ContentSquare, a tech company focused on consumer connections with retailers. “Making sure whatever page visitors land on is consistent with the message in your ad, and makes customers feel that they’ve landed in the right place, is key.”


“Really, this is a threat for large retailers. Consumer brands of all types need to pay attention. TikTok and Instagram may not be making a big dent yet, but it is a threat.”

Brian Walker

Bloomreach, chief strategy officer


Capturing the attention of mobile shoppers who are likely scrolling through their social media news feeds is the first step, which requires a strong “thumb-stopping” creative pull.

“Ads need to be relevant and engaging for mobile, not just desktop ads resized for smaller screens,” Elastic Path’s Archer said. “Your mobile shoppable experience should recognize fingers, for example, and create a checkout experience that is relevant for that context rather than desktop.”

While AR technology has mostly been a novelty for marketers, social media companies are working to boost its adoption by integrating more tools to give users immersive shopping experiences within their respective platforms. Facebook and Snapchat stand out as notable examples boosting AR capabilities as they vie for consumer attention.

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“The power that AR gives brands to virtually place their product into the hands of consumers delivers a compelling and visually engaging way for consumers to experience products that were never before possible,” said Robert Rothschild, VP and global head of marketing at Smartly.io, a social media ad platform. He predicts AR is on the cusp of mainstream adoption following Facebook’s introduction of interactive AR ads this fall.

Snapchat, on the other hand, has made AR a key part of its user experience for several years, and this holiday season has showcased its Portal Lens that lets mobile users step into immersive, computer-generated worlds. Italian luxury brand Gucci, department store chain Kohl’s and Toys ‘R’ Us Canada this fall have sponsored Portal Lenses as part of the holiday-themed promotions to stand out on social media.

Shoppable TV

Popularized by QVC, shopping directly from traditional TV has been around for years, but mostly required viewers to call a toll-free number or to visit website to purchase. Interactive TV also has been promised since Time Warner Cable experimented with its now-defunct Full Service Network in the 1990s. It had promised on-demand video, shopping and gaming, but didn’t deliver a positive experience for consumers. The technology is seeing renewed interest as more households have broadband service and connect their TVs directly to the internet to gain access to streaming platforms. The popularity of smartphones also is helping to give consumers more flexibility in interacting with TVs, and voice-powered technology may enhance that further as users increasingly look to link their various devices throughout their smart home.

NBCUniversal last month introduced Shoppable TV ads that let viewers use their smartphones to buy products featured in shows by scanning QR codes that pop up to indicate when a product is available. The technology is unlikely to have a profound effect on consumers shopping behavior this year, but may see more traction in the future.

“New shopping experiences will only become truly significant if they make shoppers’ lives easier and more seamless,” Elastic Path’s Archer said. “I don’t know that shoppable TV is quite there yet, but QR codes are definitely having a resurgence. If consumers find these shoppable TV experiences valuable and convenient we could definitely see an uptick in adoption as players like NBC roll out shoppable TV.”

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Optimizing Zoom’s digital experience for explosive growth

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Optimizing Zoom's digital experience for explosive growth

In February 2020, Zoom had millions of weekly visitors to their site, all of whom were coming to Zoom.us to do a handful of activities. Flashforward a month later to March, and Zoom’s traffic spiked to tens of millions of visitors every week. Those visitors arrived to not only use Zoom for a couple of work calls per week, but to entirely reinvent how they interacted with colleagues, partners, teachers, students, and even friends and family.   

Zoom used this opportunity to transform its users’ experience into incredible growth and customer happiness across geographies and verticals. How did they do it?  

At Opticon ’23, Alex London, Head of Digital Zoom and Jay Dettling, CEO of Hero Digital, joined Alex Atzberger, CEO, Optimizely to share how Zoom re-built their entire digital ecosystem. 

Keep reading to learn how Zoom partnered with Hero Digital and Optimizely to transform its customer experience and drive stellar results including these early wins: 

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  • Page load improved by 60% 
  • Speed to market improved by 50% 
  • Conversion improvement of 10% 
  • Publishing time from days to minutes (reduced by about half) 

The Year the World “Hopped on a Zoom Call” — & What Came Next

In March 2020, Zoom watched as web traffic, sign-ups, users and attendees grew from millions to hundreds of millions virtually overnight. Not only did its customer base and user group skyrocket, but its core use cases did, too: online meeting rooms were now used to host weddings, game nights, and math classes. At the same time, corporate brainstorms, sales calls, and even government processes requiring the highest security clearances moved to  Zoom to continue working as normally as possible. 

To meet the incredible demand for new use cases and services, the Zoom team had to ideate, test, and ship new products and features on a timeline that the internal teams refer to as “at the speed of Zoom.” Their success meant that their brand entered a hallowed hall of exclusive brands whose names made the transition from noun to verb. It was the year of: “Can we Zoom?” 

Getting there wasn’t just about building and launching products and features;  that was only half the battle. To scale and continue delivering happiness to customers, the team needed to ensure they told the story of Zoom across all customer touchpoints. 

Their goals

  1. Reimagine and rebuild the entire digital stack (including attribution models, analytics systems, acquisition, and localization) 
  2. Move from an existing agnostic, one-size-fits-all model to a global, flexible digital experience to cater to personas, geographies, and use cases 
  3. Improve their speed to market to continue moving “at the speed of Zoom” 

The Tactical Challenges of Reimagining Zoom’s Digital Stack 

Zoom’s overarching goal was to put the story at every single touchpoint of the customer journey. Given the dramatic change in their business, building a new site for Zoom would be incredibly complicated. Yet, if they succeeded, they’d generate demand, better enable purchases, and support its users.  

So how did they do it? Before making the leap, they looked to their strategic partners — Hero Digital and Optimizely.

 

 

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Zoom needed a new digital foundation to achieve all of its goals at scale. More importantly, their new foundation needed to untangle serious web traffic complexity.

Zoom has four primary visitor types — all arriving on Zoom’s marketing website by the millions. They include: 

  • Individuals and SMEs buying Zoom online 
  • Demo requests 
  • Product support requests 
  • Users and attendees accessing Zoom’s website as part of their workflow 

To add even more complexity, the teams needed to account for multi-lingual requirements for 20+ languages across the globe. 

“How do we build for these four levels of complexity? And how quickly can we move to tell our new platform story?” – Alex London, Head of Digital at Zoom

Before anything else, Zoom needed to build a new design system, and Hero Digital stepped in to help. Together, they built a minimum versatile component library that would scale across the website, mobile, ads, and anywhere else Zoom encountered customers. The initial minimum library featured 38 components with 29 variants and 8 page templates. 

Zoom also had to untangle the domain and subdomain issues of their own making. The past choice to build their digital foundation on ‘Zoom.us’ and create new subdomains for customers (coming in north of 10k subdomains) meant speed and ranking were complicated. Essentially, Zoom was competing with 10k+ sites that Zoom itself had created.  

Resolving this problem by choosing to unify content on a single domain, Zoom, Hero Digital, and Optimizely got to work. 

Hero Digital’s Foundation + Optimizely’s Architecture = Moving at the Speed of Zoom

By partnering with Hero Digital and Optimizely, Zoom reimagined its complete customer experience and upgraded to a best-in-class technology platform that combines AI-accelerated workflows with experiment-driven digital experiences. 

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The team deployed the Optimizely Digital Experience Platform, featuring Optimizely Content Management System, Content Management Platform, and Experimentation, as the architecture to bring their foundation to life and scale faster than they could ever imagine.

Component Library + Optimizely CMS  

One of Zoom’s goals was to move from its existing agnostic model to a global, flexible digital experience to cater to personas, geographies, and use cases. To do that, they needed a modern content management system. 

In the first phase of the build, the team focused on Zoom’s marketing site, now untangled but still over 200 pages. They established a foundation on Optimizely’s Content Management System to create a foundation with a migration plan over months. 

Even in the earliest stages, the results were huge because the CMS meant Zoom can could now push global changes in just minutes. They save hundreds of hours of work across the company by: 

  • Eliminating the devops processes, which previously took days or weeks to work through
  • Reducing publishing processes by half even with new added governance steps

 

Optimizely’s Content Marketing Platform

Improving speed to market was Zoom’s third goal. With the first two goals unlocked by their phased migration to Optimizely’s CMS, they needed to not only unblock the velocity but also the creativity and collaboration in producing new content. Zoom’s teams receive 80-100 requests a week for new content across their digital properties. 

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For Zoom, the re-build of the intake process for content requests was a key component of speeding up their processes. They built in guard rails and governance processes that when used within the CMP, reduced publishing time to minutes rather than days.

 

 

Now, with the first three goals— a reimagined digital stack, a flexible digital experience, and improved speed to market—accomplished, Zoom will focus on its next digital phase: experimentation and personalization. 

How could a digital experience platform help you navigate the next phase of your business? Learn more from the experts with access to The Forrester Wave: Digital Experience Platforms, Q4 2023 report.

 

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The Role of Enterprise Mobility Management in Modern Businesses

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The Role of Enterprise Mobility Management in Modern Businesses

In today’s fast-paced business environment, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) has emerged as a critical facilitator for enhancing operational efficiency and competitiveness. EMM solutions streamline workflows, ensuring that enterprises can adapt to the rapidly changing digital landscape. This blog discusses the indispensable role of EMM in modern businesses, focusing on how it revolutionizes workflows and positions businesses for success.

EMM solutions act as the backbone for securely managing mobile devices, applications, and content that facilitate remote work and on-the-go access to company resources. With a robust EMM platform, businesses can ensure data protection and compliance with regulatory requirements, even in highly dynamic environments. This not only minimizes the risk of data breaches but also reinforces the company’s reputation for reliability and security.

Seamless Integration Across Devices

In today’s digital era, seamless integration across devices is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity for maintaining operational fluency within any organization. Our EMM solutions are designed to ensure that employees have secure and efficient access to the necessary resources, irrespective of the device being used. This cross-platform compatibility significantly enhances productivity by allowing for a unified user experience that supports both the agility and dynamism required in modern business operations. Leveraging cutting-edge technology, our solutions provide a cohesive ecosystem where data flows securely and effortlessly across mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, ensuring that your workforce remains connected and productive, regardless of their physical location. The adoption of our EMM solutions speaks volumes about an organization’s commitment to fostering a technologically forward and secure working environment, echoing its dedication to innovation and excellence.

Enhanced Productivity

EMM facilitates the seamless integration of mobile devices into the corporate environment, enabling employees to access corporate resources from anywhere. This flexibility significantly enhances productivity by allowing tasks to be completed outside of traditional office settings.

Unified Endpoint Management

The incorporation of Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) within EMM solutions ensures that both mobile and fixed devices can be managed from a single console, simplifying IT operations and enhancing security.

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Advanced Security Protocols

Where cyber threats loom larger than ever, our EMM solutions incorporate cutting-edge security protocols designed to shield your organization’s data from unauthorized access and breaches. By consistently updating and refining our security measures, we ensure your assets are protected by the most advanced defenses available. This commitment to security not only safeguards your information but also reinforces your company’s reputation as a secure and trustworthy enterprise.

Data Protection

EMM solutions implement robust security measures to protect sensitive corporate data across all mobile devices. This includes encryption, secure VPN connections, and the ability to remotely wipe data from lost or stolen devices, thereby mitigating potential data breaches.

Compliance Management

By enforcing security policies and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, EMM helps businesses avoid costly fines and reputational damage associated with data breaches.

Driving Operational Efficiency

In the quest to drive operational efficiency, our solutions streamline processes, reduce redundancies, and automate routine tasks. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies, we empower businesses to optimize their workflows, resulting in significant time and cost savings. Our approach not only enhances operational agility but also positions your organization at the forefront of innovation, setting a new standard in your industry.

Automated Workflows

By automating repetitive tasks, EMM reduces manual efforts, increases accuracy, and speeds up business processes. This automation supports operational efficiency and allows employees to focus on more strategic tasks.

Real-time Communication and Collaboration

EMM enhances communication and collaboration among team members by providing tools that facilitate real-time interactions. This immediate exchange of information accelerates decision-making processes and improves project outcomes.

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Testimonials from Industry Leaders

Leaders in various industries have witnessed tangible benefits from implementing EMM solutions, including increased productivity, improved security, and enhanced operational efficiency. Testimonials from these leaders underscore the transformative impact of EMM on their businesses, solidifying its vital role in modern operational strategies.

Our commitment to innovation and excellence propels us to continually refine our EMM solutions, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of technology. This dedication not only solidifies our standing as industry leaders but also guarantees that our clients receive the most advanced and effective operational tools available, tailored specifically to meet their unique business challenges.

Looking Ahead

The evolution of EMM solutions continues at a rapid pace, with advancements in technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT) further enhancing their capabilities. These developments promise even greater efficiencies, security measures, and competitive advantages for businesses willing to invest in the future of mobility management.

Our proactive approach to integrating emerging technologies with EMM solutions positions our clients at the forefront of their industries. By leveraging our deep technical expertise and industry insights, we empower businesses to not only adapt to but also lead in an increasingly digital world, ensuring they remain competitive and resilient amidst rapid technological shifts.

In conclusion, the role of Enterprise Mobility Management in modern businesses cannot be overstated. Its ability to revolutionize workflows, enhance security, and drive operational efficiency positions it as a foundational element of digital transformation strategies. We invite businesses to explore the potential of EMM solutions and partner with us to achieve unprecedented levels of success and innovation in the digital era. Together, we can redefine the boundaries of what is possible in business operations and set new benchmarks for excellence in the industry.

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

Air Canada tried to throw its chatbot under the AI bus.

It didn’t work.

A Canadian court recently ruled Air Canada must compensate a customer who bought a full-price ticket after receiving inaccurate information from the airline’s chatbot.

Air Canada had argued its chatbot made up the answer, so it shouldn’t be liable. As Pepper Brooks from the movie Dodgeball might say, “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.” 

But what does that chatbot mistake mean for you as your brands add these conversational tools to their websites? What does it mean for the future of search and the impact on you when consumers use tools like Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s ChatGPT to research your brand?

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AI disrupts Air Canada

AI seems like the only topic of conversation these days. Clients expect their agencies to use it as long as they accompany that use with a big discount on their services. “It’s so easy,” they say. “You must be so happy.”

Boards at startup companies pressure their management teams about it. “Where are we on an AI strategy,” they ask. “It’s so easy. Everybody is doing it.” Even Hollywood artists are hedging their bets by looking at the newest generative AI developments and saying, “Hmmm … Do we really want to invest more in humans?  

Let’s all take a breath. Humans are not going anywhere. Let me be super clear, “AI is NOT a strategy. It’s an innovation looking for a strategy.” Last week’s Air Canada decision may be the first real-world distinction of that.

The story starts with a man asking Air Canada’s chatbot if he could get a retroactive refund for a bereavement fare as long as he provided the proper paperwork. The chatbot encouraged him to book his flight to his grandmother’s funeral and then request a refund for the difference between the full-price and bereavement fair within 90 days. The passenger did what the chatbot suggested.

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Air Canada refused to give a refund, citing its policy that explicitly states it will not provide refunds for travel after the flight is booked.

When the passenger sued, Air Canada’s refusal to pay got more interesting. It argued it should not be responsible because the chatbot was a “separate legal entity” and, therefore, Air Canada shouldn’t be responsible for its actions.

I remember a similar defense in childhood: “I’m not responsible. My friends made me do it.” To which my mom would respond, “Well, if they told you to jump off a bridge, would you?”

My favorite part of the case was when a member of the tribunal said what my mom would have said, “Air Canada does not explain why it believes …. why its webpage titled ‘bereavement travel’ was inherently more trustworthy than its chatbot.”

The BIG mistake in human thinking about AI

That is the interesting thing as you deal with this AI challenge of the moment. Companies mistake AI as a strategy to deploy rather than an innovation to a strategy that should be deployed. AI is not the answer for your content strategy. AI is simply a way to help an existing strategy be better.

Generative AI is only as good as the content — the data and the training — fed to it.  Generative AI is a fantastic recognizer of patterns and understanding of the probable next word choice. But it’s not doing any critical thinking. It cannot discern what is real and what is fiction.

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Think for a moment about your website as a learning model, a brain of sorts. How well could it accurately answer questions about the current state of your company? Think about all the help documents, manuals, and educational and training content. If you put all of that — and only that — into an artificial brain, only then could you trust the answers.

Your chatbot likely would deliver some great results and some bad answers. Air Canada’s case involved a minuscule challenge. But imagine when it’s not a small mistake. And what about the impact of unintended content? Imagine if the AI tool picked up that stray folder in your customer help repository — the one with all the snarky answers and idiotic responses? Or what if it finds the archive that details everything wrong with your product or safety? AI might not know you don’t want it to use that content.

ChatGPT, Gemini, and others present brand challenges, too

Publicly available generative AI solutions may create the biggest challenges.

I tested the problematic potential. I asked ChatGPT to give me the pricing for two of the best-known CRM systems. (I’ll let you guess which two.) I asked it to compare the pricing and features of the two similar packages and tell me which one might be more appropriate.

First, it told me it couldn’t provide pricing for either of them but included the pricing page for each in a footnote. I pressed the citation and asked it to compare the two named packages. For one of them, it proceeded to give me a price 30% too high, failing to note it was now discounted. And it still couldn’t provide the price for the other, saying the company did not disclose pricing but again footnoted the pricing page where the cost is clearly shown.

In another test, I asked ChatGPT, “What’s so great about the digital asset management (DAM) solution from [name of tech company]?” I know this company doesn’t offer a DAM system, but ChatGPT didn’t.

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It returned with an answer explaining this company’s DAM solution was a wonderful, single source of truth for digital assets and a great system. It didn’t tell me it paraphrased the answer from content on the company’s webpage that highlighted its ability to integrate into a third-party provider’s DAM system.

Now, these differences are small. I get it. I also should be clear that I got good answers for some of my harder questions in my brief testing. But that’s what’s so insidious. If users expected answers that were always a little wrong, they would check their veracity. But when the answers seem right and impressive, even though they are completely wrong or unintentionally accurate, users trust the whole system.

That’s the lesson from Air Canada and the subsequent challenges coming down the road.

AI is a tool, not a strategy

Remember, AI is not your content strategy. You still need to audit it. Just as you’ve done for over 20 years, you must ensure the entirety of your digital properties reflect the current values, integrity, accuracy, and trust you want to instill.

AI will not do this for you. It cannot know the value of those things unless you give it the value of those things. Think of AI as a way to innovate your human-centered content strategy. It can express your human story in different and possibly faster ways to all your stakeholders.

But only you can know if it’s your story. You have to create it, value it, and manage it, and then perhaps AI can help you tell it well. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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