96 Percent Of Consumers Who Visit A Grocery Store Make At Least One CPG Purchase

Approximately 96 percent of consumers who visit a mass merchandiser or grocery store make at least one CPG purchase, according to research commissioned by GroundTruth — indicating a significant sales opportunity for the locations that most can effectively drive foot traffic.

The same trend appears to hold true for drug stores as well: 91 percent of consumers who visit pick up at least one CPG item.

These statistics indicate that once CPG marketers have gotten a shopper to a physical store location, there’s a near-guarantee of a sale — which is a good thing. But it’s important to separate correlation from causation here: Most customers don’t just decide stock up on toothpaste because they saw an ad when they were nearby a drugstore. Rather, people who have the intent to buy essential CPG items tend to visit a nearby retailer to fulfill this need.

Pharmacies and groceries aren’t locations for window shopping and browsing the same way a retailer like Nordstrom might be. That’s why, when it comes to driving foot traffic, it is crucial to target customer intent: Real-time location is one strong predictor of intent, but when combined with historical geo-data and behavior targeting, these businesses have a chance to win when it comes to driving foot traffic from shoppers who are predisposed to make a CPG purchase.

Additional insights from the study below.

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Think With Google: Consumers Are Searching For The ‘Best’ — Even For Low-Consideration Products

Mobile searches for “best” have grown over 80 percent in the past two years, but customers aren’t simply searching for the best luxury hotels or the best mortgage rates: Searches for “best” are showing higher growth among “low-consideration” products like toothpaste or umbrellas than these “high-consideration” products, according to research from Think With Google.

In fact, mobile searches for “best toothbrush” have grown over 100 percent and “best deodorant” over 60 percent — confirming that consumers are increasingly turning to mobile research not just for the big things, but for everything.

“Whether it’s value, style, or quality we care about, nowadays anything we’re considering buying — no matter the category or price — can be, and is likely to be, researched on mobile first,” TWG’s report states. “That means today’s consumer defines what’s high versus low consideration for herself, so marketers across categories have the chance to influence these curious and investigative shoppers with helpful advice.”

“Best Of” — Via Voice And Text

So, what does this mean for marketers?

First, that even when it comes to low-cost, frequently replaced goods, marketers must assume that shoppers are doing research for “best in category” on mobile. CPG marketers in particular may need to think about their strategy in this area, as reviews for toothbrushes aren’t typically found on a pharmacy’s listing or a Yelp page; it’s likely Amazon that will yield the most results here, unless these brands think specifically about how to rank in a customer’s location-specific search results.

In that vein, there is an inherent location-based quality to these requests: Searching for the “”best x” generally means that someone wants to go somewhere or buy something in the physical world. As we wrote previously, TWG’s research bears this out: Compared to just a year ago, smartphone users are reportedly significantly more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps customize information to their location.

And finally, this trend suggests that the voice-first revolution matters for an even wider range of marketers than previously expected: As Google sees increases in “best of” searches across the board, it’s important to bear in mind that over 20 percent of these searches made in the Google app are made by voice. Whether you’re selling turquoise or toothpaste, search results across across platforms matter.

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Why McDonald’s Keeps Winning The QSR Foot-Traffic Game

From Taco Bell to Burger King, a plethora of QSRs have expanded into the morning space — but McDonald’s remains the winner, with 52 percent share of foot traffic among the QSR breakfast leaders, according to the latest QSR Foot Traffic Trends report from GroundTruth (recently rebranded from xAd).

Part of this success is no doubt due to simple factors, like the chain’s size and number of locations, but that can’t entirely account for the loyalty the brand sees compared to its competitors of a similar scale: While Fast Casual customers as a whole are reportedly the “least loyal,” with only 24 percent returning to the same fast casual brand from month to month, 48 percent of McDonald’s customers came back over the same time period.

In light of these insights, GroundTruth’s Sarah Ohle talked to GeoMarketing about how McDonald’s keeps driving customers to its locations, and what physical businesses — from SMBs to enterprise — can learn from it.

GeoMarketing: From your perspective, why does McDonald’s remain the breakfast winner with 52 percent share among the QSR breakfast leaders?

Sarah Ohle, VP of Marketing Insights at GroundTruth: From our very first Q1 2016 QSR Foot Traffic Trends report, McDonald’s has held the lead in overall share of foot traffic, due at least in part to size and number of locations. However, another big aspect of their success is that they are constantly innovating and responding to market needs. One very clear example of this is their push for breakfast. McDonald’s was the first to offer an all day breakfast menu in October of 2015, and since then they’ve expanded the breadth of their breakfast options, with a focus on more sophisticated McCafe beverages.

Proving the success of these initiatives, our 1H foot traffic data shows McDonald’s experienced a 3 percent increase in breakfast share of foot traffic YoY when compared to a sample of brands.

What’s especially interesting, though, is looking at how much competition has increased over the past year. For instance, while there used to be only a few brands focused on breakfast, now we’re seeing increased foot traffic at breakfast for most of the major QSR brands. The biggest increase is coming from Burger King, who saw significant growth in their breakfast share of foot traffic after rolling out their egg-normous burrito last May. Clearly McDonald’s was onto something with their breakfast focus.

As far as their marketing tactics, what might other brands be able to learn from this?

Other brands can learn from McDonald’s by embracing innovation to respond to changing consumer needs. In addition to breakfast, perhaps two facets of McDonald’s success is through the updated brick-and-mortar location and continued expanded menu options. This in turn is essentially upgrading the fast food experience — and blurring the lines between traditional fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and fast casual restaurants like Panera Bread.

McDonald’s, and a handful of other fast food chains, are adopting more “fast casual” elements by investing more in interior design and offering upscale and healthier food options.

Examples aside from McDonalds include Wendy’s, which has been experimenting for some time with replacing their old carpets with tile and adding cocktail-style tables to encourage people to sit and stay. Taco Bell also launched redesigned concepts that include plush chairs, exposed rafter beams, and modern art. On the cuisine front, fast food chains are now focusing on healthy, fancier, and quick-style homemade food options. Consumers are increasingly being provided more upscale options, like lobster rolls at McDonald’s and truffled burgers and fries at Wendy’s.

What lessons are there in this for other brands — QSRs, retailers in other verticals, or even SMBs? How can they compete and drive more foot traffic to their physical locations?

As we’ve learned from Warby Parker, having a brick-and-mortar presence can prove extremely valuable for a brand. However, in the age of Amazon, some retailers struggle to drive foot traffic to their physical storefronts.

While the convenience of online shopping is a huge draw, the in-store experience still plays an integral part in purchase decisions. And from a marketer’s point of view, once a consumer walks through the door, especially in the case of QSRs, they are very close to purchase. Reimagining the retail experience to draw consumers in-store and providing as seamless of a shopping experience to online is essential in keeping customers returning through your doors. This is exactly what brands like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell are doing with their modernized interiors and tech enhancements like mobile ordering.

On the retail front, one creative reimagining of the retail experience that builds on this idea is the showroom model, which allows customers to browse products in a physical location — upon purchasing, products are then shipped directly to their home. Examples of brands leveraging this model are Bonobos and Modcloth. A showroom model also provides retailers with the opportunity to save space on inventory — given the need to have only a few products in different styles and colors on display.

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Does Location-Based Advertising Have A Viewability Problem?

Location-targeted mobile ad sales are expected to rise from $9.8 billion in 2015 to $29.5 billion by the end of 2019 — but with that rising demand comes greater expectations about ROI, attribution, and accuracy.

The issue of geo-data accuracy has always been a thorn within the great promise of location-based advertising to bridge online and offline, desktop and mobile (and we first outlined the problem here back in 2014).

Placed, which was acquired by Snap this summer to provide attribution services for Snapchat ad clients,  is the latest geo-data specialist to offer guidance on the matter of location analytics accuracy in a report, Accuracy & Bias In Ad Exchange-Derived Location Data.

The analysis for the report is gleaned from the company’s primary product, Placed Attribution, which is based on an audience of over 150 million device generated over 140 billion latitudes and longitudes on a monthly basis.

Thanks to its extensive alliances with dozens publishers, networks, and demand side platforms, including ncluding IPG MediabrandsDigitasLBiHorizon MediaTapadDataXuDrawbridge, among others, Placed’s data sources have grown to include first and third party data as well.

As Placed CEO David Shim describes it, location ad accuracy is a viewability problem.

  • Average location accuracy was 4 New York City blocks
  • Only 1 percent of locations were accurate enough to identify a store visit
  • 80 percent of bid requests with location occur when they are in-between visits, with a good portion of the visit based impressions occurring at home

“With location accuracy not in the forefront of the viewability conversation, bad players have been able to capitalize,” Shim said. “Placed’s recent research and findings arm advertisers with an understanding of the location landscape that has been missing to date, independent of media.”

The Viewability Issue

In the larger ad tech sense, viewability has been a considerable cause of mistrust between buyers (brand and agencies) and publishers. In essence, viewability refers to whether a display ad placement was seen by an actual person or if it fraudulent ad impressions were generated by the “visits” of bots.

“In the near future, marketers will require a viewability-like metric to gauge the accuracy of location used for media, targeting, attribution and analytics,” said Benjamin Bring, VP, Mobile Media Director at Ansible, in the Placed report. “To date, the siren’s song around the potential of location has been able to drive the early adoption, but scale won’t come until the industry delivers a standard verification solution.”

“Viewability in location is directly aligned with accuracy,” Shim told GeoMarketing. “In an ecosystem today, where anyone can claim any location, it is important to not take location at face value, and continually verify the source of the location.”

‘Not All Geo-Data Is Created Equal’

Among the most difficult issues for marketers who want to use location data comes down to the sourcing of that information. Those sources, or signals, can come from a variety of channels, including GPS/satellite, wifi, computer IP-addresses, cell phone towers when it comes to pinpointing the specific lat/long the device accessed. Panel-based check-in services  like Placed’s— the location-based ad equivalent of a Nielsen diary that contains what a viewer watched on TV — are another popular avenue for accessing location data.

As programmatic advertising has become mainstream, the general purpose for for location advertising is two-fold: there’s the desire to provide real-time ad targeting as well as developing a greater understanding of consumers according to the places they go that provides more actionable insights than mere demographics (age, gender, household income, etc…) can offer.

Placed also leverages a proprietary behaviorally-derived measure of store location that it calls ‘Survey Geometry.’ Similar to the store geometries that measure the outline of the building or parcel (i.e., car lot).

One of the problems with a source like bidstream data is that its not a persistent signal like wifi or GPS. Bidstream data often depends on a person opening an ad on their phone while they’re in a specific place. The publisher whose ad is opened in that moment receives the data and passes it on to the network or vendor that placed the ad. If that person who saw the placement then goes to a store that was advertised, that visit counts as being “attributed.”

Of course, a phone’s location services records signals from hundreds of places in a given day. The odds of the information being attributed coincidentally (i.e., incorrectly) is a challenge that comes with real-time data platforms.

Quality bidstream location data, like those coming directly from publishers, is generated from the mobile device native location-based services, which use a combination of GPS, wifi, and other signals. That data is then pulled by the app developer via the phone’s SDKs. The process is the same whether the app sends location data via the exchange (bidstream) or direct. Regardless of a location data’s origin, bidstream or direct from publishers, it’s important to filter data and curate sources as well as recognize and filter low-precision signals.

“Not all data is created equal,” said Joao Machado, director of Mobile at OMD, in the Placed report. “You have to be very diligent in determining the accuracy of location data coming off the exchanges.

“Quality beats scale all day long and 1st party data is the gold standard in quality of location data,”Machado added. “A horoscope app dumping location data into an SSP before landing in the exchanges is the example of what leads all of us to scratch our heads around lack of value around so much of what goes on in the market.”

As we noted above, the average location accuracy Placed found was within four blocks — and only 1 percent were able to identify a store visit. That all sounds pretty dismal and much less reliable than the image a user has when looking at their own location on a map and seeing the accuracy within 3- to 20 feet on average, according to industry sources we’ve spoken to.

While it’s a given that location accuracy is, all over the map (pardon the pun), is this a matter of the difference of location signal sources, such as GPS versus cell towers versus wifi versus bidstream data?

“It’s a combination of factors,” Shim said. “When measuring directly from the device, location signal can vary based on a number factors include environment.  This said, the primary source of location inaccuracy is bad players on the exchange that treat cell tower location the same as GPS, map IP address to latitude and longitude, or commit outright fraud by applying a latitude and longitude to a non-location based impression.”

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Apps Dominate Users’ Digital Time — But Is Interest In New Apps Falling?

Smartphone apps are still the way most consumers access digital content and information, but as the mobile marketplace matures and other avenues of interactivity emerge (e.g., voice-activation) new entrants into the app landscape may face greater challenges when it comes to grabbing attention.

That’s the view from audience measurement company comScore’s 2017 Mobile App Report, which outlines the levels of app engagement across 57 pages of charts.

If you’ve ever looked at your smartphone and thought about how many of those various apps you actually use, the report’s main findings are not very surprising. But it does provide a good deal of clarity by quantifying how consumers are using apps — and the degrees of how they’re not.

For example, the big takeaway from the comScore report is that a slight majority users (51 percent) do not download any apps in a month. Meanwhile, 66 percent of users do not download any paid-apps in a given month, comScore found, suggesting more difficulty for developers who want to rely less on ad support.

Source: comScore 2017 Mobile App Report

App Overload

Mobile apps account for 57 percent of all digital media usage, and smartphone apps alone capture more than half of digital media time spent, comScore notes. The disconnect is that since apps are the avenue by which media brands, developers, and places reach consumers directly.

But just as there are only so many TV channels and programs viewers can watch, there are only so many notifications and glances mobile users can afford to devote to their apps.

As for the that 57 percent activity figure for mobile app usage, the breakdown shows has 50 percent devoted to smartphone apps, while just 7 percent accounts for tablet app use. In addition, desktop comprises for 34 percent of time with mobile web 9 percent.

But all hope isn’t lost for app developers, at least if future consumers continue their patterns. Not only are younger users skewing the curve on mobile-apps time spent (those 18-24 are spending 3 hours a day in apps, vs. 2.6 hours for 25-34, and 2.3 hours for 35-44), they’re the ones who are downloading new apps. Of those 18-34, 70 percent say they’re always looking for new apps and they’re willing to pay for them.

Source: comScore 2017 Mobile App Report

Age-Old App Usage Issues

Millennials’ app usage is particularly relevant, since they represent mobile natives that have grown up in the decade since the iPhone introduced smartphone apps. These younger consumers still have a lot of excitement for new apps, suggesting that there is still room for many new apps to experience growth.

It’s older smartphone users who do not match Millennials’ level of interest in app usage. It’s likely that they might catch up as mobility and apps becomes a more completely ingrained in the digital experience for everything from online and in-store payments to accessing financial services to shared mobility and driving.

In any case, comScore’s report does contain some interesting factoids that highlights the difference between generations. Make of this example what you will: 55+ year-olds are 5x as likely as 18-34 year-olds to only operate their smartphone with two hands.

Millennials, on the other hand (pun intended), are more likely to position apps on their phones based on “thumb reach” and are increasingly “considering this dynamic.”

In general, Millennials are more likely to engage in curation of apps by location and accessibility on their home screens, comScore finds.

“While they love social and entertainment apps, they are also extremely reliant on more functional apps,” comScore says. “They can’t live without their apps, but also show signs of app fatigue.”

The Future Of App Usage

For all the talk about Google’s attempts to build up the concept of the Physical Web, where the browser takes the place of apps in anticipating users’ needs and connecting them with the resources they want, such as a restaurant reservation or a ride-hail, apps are looking more important thank ever.

“I believe that when we think about apps, the way we consume and promote apps today, will not remain the way it happens in the future,” The LBMA’s founder and President Asif Khan told us last fall. “I believe that there’s a future where apps will still exist, but the apps will be temporal, and that the delivery of the app, the promotion of the app, will be based on the physical presence type of idea.

“Once the ‘Internet of Things world’ really takes hold, and everything becomes smart and interconnected, we’ll see buildings ‘talk’ directly to the phone. And the phone can talk to the car. And the car can talk to the building and that ‘conversation’ can connect to the billboards and everything else around the user and their devices.”


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Think With Google: In Searches, “Near Me” Is Now Implied

The growth in searches for local places without a location qualifier (“near me,” zip code) has outpaced searches that do include “near me,” according to new research from Think With Google — a trend that indicates that location relevance is now all but assumed by consumers making voice and text searches.

“Near me” searches first spiked in 2015, and this (rightly) turned marketers’ attention to the growing importance of location in search; after all, 76 percent of location searches result in a visit to a physical location within a day. But if people are still turning to their smartphones to discover goods and services in the world around them, why drop the “near me?”

“People [now] know that the results will automatically be relevant to their location — thanks to their phone,” writes Google’s Lisa Gevelber. “It’s kind of magical.”

Here’s why: As search results have evolved pursuant to customers’ real-time, “near me” desires, they’ve become increasingly mapped to the physical world: For example, Google’s mapped “three-pack” of results appears at the top of search results. Additionally, if a consumer searches for “new car,” they don’t simply see links — they see the knowledge card, with prices, configurations, features of cars for sale, and more, all seamlessly. As we wrote earlier this year, Google now assumes people are looking for something in the physical world, which wasn’t the case several years ago.

All of this appears to have rendered the “near me” search irrelevant — even as people expect more location-specific, targeted content than ever. So, what’s a local business to do?

Data Matters More

First, this shift in search behavior underscores the importance of businesses preparing their underlying data layer: Online listings that are correct, consistent, and have all location information comprehensively integrated will rank higher in search results — and appearing at the top of results based on relevant content will be more important as zip codes and/or city names are omitted from searches.

Secondly, businesses need to continue to focus on the shift to voice: In fact, over 20 percent of searches in the Google app are now made by voice — making up a significant portion of the “implied” local searches that Google is talking about. Local brick-and-mortars need able to provide the answers that people want when they make on-the-go searches via voice.

Google Maps’ new Q&A feature may have significant influence here — and once again, this also means that the data people most often search for (hours, address, et cetera) needs to be listed accurately and be ready for consumption by “traditional” search engines and intelligent assistants alike.

And given that for every online purchase resulting from a search Google sees multi-channel retailers receive an additional 400 in-store visits, expect to see this “new frontier” for SEO matter immensely for brick-and-mortars in particular.

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Travel Trends In The Twenty-Tens: What Marketers Need To Know

Back in 2009, the travel industry looked as though it needed a vacation of its own. Millions of families and businesses were hit by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the first kinds of budgets to be cut were those allotted for vacations. However, it’s been a while since then, and a lot has happened — people are finally letting loose a bit, and spending more on travel. In fact, if we check the travel industry growth between 2015 and 2016, we can see a staggering 46 million increase in the number of tourists worldwide [UNWTO World Tourism Barometer].

These are fantastic numbers and figures, but one might ask why? It seems that many people, 72 percent in fact, have come to grasps with the transitory and superficial nature of material objects. Instead, all signs point to people opting for the immaterial, and sometimes more profound, experience of travel. What’s driving this movement? On one hand, it’s a phenomenon sprouted from our social, interconnected lives and the illustrious “FOMO” that comes with it. On the other hand, it’s the virtual validation that individuals receive from posting about their experiences. In 2017, 55 percent of travelers said that they publicly posted holiday pictures from their respective trips to receive praise and validation amongst their peers , as opposed to taking photos for the sake of privately capturing memories from the destinations for  themselves. [Expedia Travel Survey]

Although these clearly suggest that social is at the heart of the modern travel experience, data is telling us more about the new mindset of travelers and what they’re prioritizing. Five big trends came from our research, all presenting valuable opportunities for travel, hospitality, and tourism brands.

 1.     Sustainable Tourism

71 percent of travelers plan to make eco-friendly choices in the next 12 months, in contrast to what was only 45 percent one year ago. In addition to this, 58 percent of travelers said their choices are affected by whether or not the hotel gives back to the local community, and 66 percent of global consumers prefer to buy products and services from brands that give back to society [TripAdvisor]. Why? It seems that in this age of political turmoil and ecological crisis, individuals support only the companies whose values are aligned with those of their own, especially when it comes to luxury purchases and consumerism. It’s in these particular cases that marketers must take social responsibility into account. By advertising the charitable aspects of the brands, you’re telling people why they should want your product, as well as why they should also feel good about buying it over the competition – a strategy that will be especially effective with millennial travelers. 

2.     The “Bucket List Effect”

75 percent of travelers say they’d like to visit travel destinations that none of their friends have visited before. Additionally, 80 percent of travelers expressed interest in escaping the usual tourist traps on their next holiday [Experiential Travel Survey]. It turns out that people enjoy having unique experiences they can claim as their own, as opposed to traveling to the same popularly visited destinations that will provide them with the same basic pictures that everybody else has in their photo-albums or social platforms. This means that people are always on the prowl for a trendy destination – giving marketers an opportunity to showcase “under-rated” locales which enable their ads to stand out more and drive curiosity; a powerful duo that can exponentially increase sales.

 3.     The Experience Connoisseurs

As we all should know by now, one thing that social media does best is bestow its users with an inflated sense of importance. We clearly see this when confronted with the fact that 70 percent of connected travelers see themselves as “experience connoisseurs”, and believe that their ambassadorship of places can reach new markets to influence others. They can believe what they want to believe; it’s better for us that way, because this mentality is what has been driving social media towards the center of the vacation experience. 40 percent of travelers use social media to store their memories from their holiday experience –  a strong sign that we should be targeting travelers, particularly those with a large influential following, via social media sites.

 4.     Airport Dwell time

The average Global airport dwell time is 137 minutes – a large chunk of time that’s essentially wasted for most people. It’s both our job, and an incredible opportunity, to create meaningful stimulation(s) in an often hectic and mind-numbing environment. One innovative solution recently carried out by New Zealand Tourism within the country’s airports was to roll out Wi-Fi and data services for foreign tourists so they could download content and information required for their airline travel. It goes without saying, the possibilities are endless when you factor your audiences and the locations/situations they may find themselves in!

 5.  Mobile-first

Finally, we arrive at the subject of mobile devices. More than 50 percent of travelers’ research, planning, and way-finding is performed solely on mobile devices [Amadeus]. This is a number that we shouldn’t be surprised to see, as trends indicate that these statistics will only continue to shoot upwards.  We should take this into account when we develop plans and strategies. Thanks to location services, many social applications and map services will have data to  tell you when a person is stationary or traveling out of town. Tapping into this data is crucial towards understanding and mapping the entire traveler’s journey, and further building upon the ways in which we can contextually drive transactions.

*Anne Lim is the global head of product strategy for Aviator Worldwide at WPP’s Kinetic agency.

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Geo 101: What Marketers Should Know About The Future Of Search

From geo-targeting to voice search, technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers. But it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: what marketers need to know about the future of search.

How Search Has Changed

Early in the smartphone era, “search” still meant something relatively simple for marketers: A consumer would type a query into a search engine (usually Google), and the results page would display a list of relevant website results as blue links. The goal for businesses, then, was to show up in this list of results through paid (search ads) or unpaid (SEO tactics like ranking for specific keywords, etc) means.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is still of critical importance for marketers — especially for local businesses, who live and die by their ability to be discovered online by consumers in the area: In fact, approximately 80 percent of US internet users prefer to turn to a search engine to find or look up information about local businesses.

But search has changed since these (relatively recent) days in which a query would result in a list of webpages. Today, “search is intelligent — and when you search for things, you get direct, structured answers,” said Howard Lerman, CEO at Yext in a keynote earlier this year. (full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here).

Essentially, if a consumer searches for “new car,” they don’t simply see links — they see the knowledge card, with prices, configurations, features of cars for sale, and more, all seamlessly. Similarly, if someone Googles groceries or banks, they get maps back; Google now assumes someone is looking for a place if they search for something present in the physical world.

This evolution in how search results are displayed is only one half of the puzzle. The other major change on the horizon is how people are reaching this information, period: 20 percent of searches within the Google app are by voice, and the volume of voice searches is growing across the board — particularly those facilitated by intelligent assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. In this year’s 2016 Internet Trends report, venture capitalist analyst Mary Meeker cited Google Trends statistics that keywords associated with “voice-related commands” have risen 35x since 2008, when Apple and Google first unveiled their respective speech-activated controls, and continue to climb.

One more key “future of search” statistic for marketers to take into account: By 2020, an estimated 50 percent of searches will come from images and voice.

The Evolution Of SEO

So, how can marketers drive foot traffic in the age of intelligent search — and be prepared for what’s coming next?

As we’ve written in the past, brick-and-mortar retailers might begin with three ways to think about being present in the key moments when people are searching for something to do or buy, as presented by Lerman and Google’s Biran Kalaria at Retail Week Live:

Think about the entities fundamental to your business. “You need to be in the knowledge graph,” Lerman said. This means that a restaurant, for example, needs to list its menu and locations — so that that Google will then know its menu items and the eatery will shows up in the results if a consumer searches for “pancakes.” Similarly, for a bank, the fundamental entities might be branches and ATM locations. It’s about being listed comprehensively and accurately in all of the relevant categories so as to be discoverable; and, of course, the SEO basics of listing correct address, name, and phone number still matter.

Think about ‘deep knowledge.’ Consider all of the attributes that drive intelligent search. It’s not enough to show up in a search for “Tesco;” a supermarket needs to show up if a consumer makes a voice search for “groceries,” for example. Think about all the paths that consumers take when searching on mobile, with voice search, and more in order to show up in “unbranded” situations.

Think about where your consumers are in terms of services and platforms. Do they search on Google? Do they use Snapchat, or are they more likely to be on Instagram — or both? Alexa? Are they using Uber? Businesses today need to push their information to all of these digital services; it’s not enough to just put it on the web.

Going beyond this, how can marketers think about the near future, in which intelligent assistants may be responsible for providing even more answers to consumers — and in which image search matters, too?

“Brands [need to get their] underlying data layer ready for consumption by these devices,” J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian told GeoMarketing in a conversation at Cannes Lions. “It’s like the new SEO. The question is, how do you build into your product and services such as the voice assistance sees you as the best option? That’s something we think brands should be thinking about right now.”

In the near future, “could there be paid recommendation? Could you, as a brand, pay to have a voice assistant recommend your brand? Especially when there isn’t that bond already formed [with a particular brand],” Cherian suggested.

In the meantime, though, physical businesses can focus on, as Cherian said, readying their underlying data layer — making sure that they’re up to date on all SEO best practices, ensuring correct and current listings, and utilizing effective visuals — so that they’re discoverable whether searches are made by text, voice, or image.

“Just like mobile didn’t kill the desktop, apps didn’t kill the browser, the mix of visual, voice, and text will combine in ways that are natural extensions of user behavior,” said Bing Ads’ Purna Virji. “We’ll use those tools depending on the specific need and situation at the moment.”

Read more about the future of search:

How Will Visual And Voice Search Evolve?

As Social, Voice, And Visual Search Rises, YP Finds That Websites Remain ‘Foundational’ For Locals

Geo 101: What Is Voice Search

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Geo 101: What Marketers Need To Know About Chatbots

From geo-targeting to voice search, technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers. But it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: what marketers need to know about chatbots.

What Are Chatbots?

Put simply, a chatbot refers to a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, responding to texts or other forms of digital chat.

Chatbots able to respond to a to a greeting (“hello, how are you?”) or a simple query have been around for a while, and plenty of older Millennials probably remember the SmarterChild bot of the 90’s in particular. But today, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and Natural Language processing (NLP) concurrent with the rise of voice-activated intelligent assistants, like Amazon Alexa, have given chatbots stronger conversational abilities by allowing them to learn over time, thereby beginning to expand the possibilities for their use.

With that in mind, it’s fairly easy to see how these bots can be a boon to marketers. Consumers often have far more questions for businesses — ranging from inquiries about products to seeking help navigating a website — than human employees can deal with in an efficient or profitable manner. With bots becoming “smarter,” marketers are increasingly using the technology to engage customers in-app, answer questions, and help build the personalized, one-to-one relationships that today’s consumers seek.

As Trevor Hardy, chief executive at The Future Laboratory, explained to retailers at this year’s Retail Week Live, “we certainly think the future of retail is about service, and about the human element of service — but [it doesn’t all] have to be provided by humans.”

How Chatbots Can Drive Engagement

Messaging apps draw over 4.1 billion users worldwide, indicating that the appetite for this type of communication is functionally universal. But perhaps the more striking figure is the reliance on messaging apps — both for communicating with friends and with brands — amongst the youngest segment of the population: A majority of Gen-z teens (52 percent) say they spend three or more hours per day on messaging apps, but texting doesn’t rank in their top three mobile activities at all, according to Think With Google.

These statistics indicate a strong potential willingness to communicate with brands via text-based means. But in considering how (and whether) to implement chatbots part of a marketing strategy, brands may wonder if consumers are turned off by the idea of knowing they’re conversing with a bot. Does the technology make users feel like they’re getting a personalized response to their questions — or does it seem inhuman?

AI chatbots are still in their infancy. But recent examples underscore the idea that bots can actually drive as high — or higher — engagement than personal brand representatives themselves. Take, for instance, the example of CoverGirl’s “KalaniBot,” a chatbot inspired by one of the brand’s key influencers, actress and model Kalani Hilliker. Far from seeming impersonal or “scaring off” fans, the KalaniBot actually saw 14x the engagement of the live Kalani when she was just doing some promotion on Instagram and Snapchat.

The same trend appeared to hold true in the banking sector as well: While the company declined to release exact figures, HSBC earlier this year reported having driven a marked increase in engagement with the launch of its chatbot — which outperformed banner ads across platforms.

As Masthead Media’s Amanda Pressner Kreuser put it in an article for Inc., “the evolution of chatbots makes them ideal for marketing or as an alternative way to distribute media. If they are scripted well, these bots can mimic a conversation with a customer in a tone that reflects the brand’s identity.”

So, if marketers can identify a clear purpose for deploying chatbots — communicating with millions of customers of a global brand (like Sephora, for instance), or reaching Gen-Z shoppers through improved messaging options — statistics indicate that the technology is a smart bet for driving engagement. And with the rise of connected intelligence and voice search linked to marked advancements in AI, the future of chatbots is likely to be much more sophisticated than we can imagine today.

Read more:

Millennials Are Ready To Embrace AI

How Pitney Bowes Is Using Chatbots To Anticipate CRM Problems

NatGeo And 360i Show The ‘Genius’ Of Using Chatbots As A Marketing Tool

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Over 80 Percent Of Millennials Want In-App, In-Store Payments

Approximately 80 percent of Millennials are interested in taking checkout into their own hands with scan-and-go payments, scanning products in-store and then paying via an app, according to an eMarketer report based on research from Acosta — but only three percent of retailers have up-to-date “checkout and payment for a customer’s own device” in place.

Millennial and Gen-Z shoppers haven’t completely turned their backs on “traditional” in-store commerce. But this growing disconnect could prove a serious issue for retailers at a time when many long-standing brick-and-mortars are struggling to drive foot traffic.

After all, smartphones “increasingly factor into the retail experience, and younger people are leading in usage,” the report states. “The Acosta data is consistent with findings that the majority of millennials would pay for purchases in-store using an app.”

POS Investment

Approximately 82 percent of Millennials believe it’s important for a brand to have physical stores, and statistics like this indicate that younger shoppers still desire the unique experience that brick-and-mortars can offer. But the friction caused by long checkout lines or understaffed retail flagships is more of a turn off than ever; after all, with same-day on-demand delivery expectations, it’s a rare consumer who will put up with an excessive wait.

As such, it pays for retailers to invest in updated POS checkout lane technologies now — whether that means accepting a wider range of mobile payments and/or enabling scan-and-go in app payment.

Plenty have wondered if the “tipping point” for contactless pay has actually arrived, but Acosta’s research indicates that the appetite is certainly there — and that 80 percent of Millennials interested in scan-and-go payments could represent up to $160 billion in purchasing power.

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