Chris Wood – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Fri, 27 Aug 2021 23:50:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 As UGC gets a pandemic bump, brands need to leverage customer content now /as-ugc-gets-a-pandemic-bump-brands-need-to-leverage-customer-content-now-348449 Fri, 07 May 2021 13:39:04 +0000 /?p=348449 Luggage maker Calego says the playbook it developed before COVID-19 has really paid off as the importance of UGC grows

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Driving brand awareness and conversions through user-generated content isn’t a new tactic for digital marketers, but those methods are finding new levels of success during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, Canadian manufacturer Calego, maker of iFLY luggage and accessories, has leveraged UGC to help it sell over 250 million face masks during the pandemic.

Their success in capturing and distributing customer reviews has also resulted in them selling approximately 8 million iFLY Smart Kits — low-cost bundles containing rubber gloves, wipes and other items that aid in the safety and comfort of air travelers.

The company developed the concept of the Smart Kit back in 2017 in a much different climate for travel-related safety gear.

“We were able to collect ratings and reviews on this item before COVID-19,” said David Rapps, President of Calego. “It really wasn’t selling well. We knew nothing was wrong with the product, and it received high ratings from anyone who bought it.”

Even though it wasn’t selling pre-COVID, the user-generated reviews let Calego know what customers liked and disliked, Rapps said. They had enough positive feedback to know that it would be worth the investment to make more iFLY Smart Kits available in a time of high demand for protective equipment and comfort accessories.

All of this comes as new places for UGC have multiplied. Google and Amazon are giants but other retail marketplaces for big-box retailers like Walmart and Target are driving considerable reviews for brands like Calego. Social media platforms generate a continuous stream of UGC about products and brands, and new platforms (Hello, TikTok) and content formats like Stories create even more options that users can leverage.

The result? A wider top of the funnel than ever before.

A world online

Managing content and messaging on social, where audiences and buyers have long been found, isn’t new, but the global pandemic made online pretty much the only outlet for these important segments for marketers. With more time online came more engagement with UGC like reviews.

In fact, 2020 engagement with reviews, which includes searching for, filtering, and clicking to expand and read reviews, was up 50% on average in 2020, according to an analysis by Power Reviews, a platform for UGC management and analytics.

The increase is also driving higher conversions, Power Reviews found. About 5.3% of shoppers who interacted with reviews converted, compared to 4.25% pre-pandemic. At one point in the year, the conversion rate topped 7%.

Leveraging what they’d built

Rapps said that he’d seen e-commerce beginning to scale for direct-to-consumer brands more than five years ago and his company was at the time looking for a way to scale awareness around iFLY. With Google and Facebook ad rates climbing, Rapps was determined to build awareness on a slim marketing budget by harnessing reviews, ratings and other content that iFLY customers were sharing. In 2015, the company drafted shopper engagement platform and UGC specialist Bazaarvoice to help them implement the strategy.

“We have so many shoppers and customers who buy in stores or on, and why not figure out how to communicate with them?” Rapps explained. “We invited them to rate and review. By 2016 that was the mission, to become the number one rated and reviewed luggage brand, even though we were sold through a third-party retailer.”

According to Rapps, Calego became very effective at gathering ratings and reviews. Through syndication they have approximately 250,000 displayable reviews just on their luggage products.

Calego uses the platform to contact customers and prompt them to write reviews of the product they purchased. Bazaarvoice then enables the company to syndicate those reviews on third-party sites elsewhere on the web so others can see them and be influenced.

A full-funnel strategy

“If you think about e-commerce up to 2005, all product details pages were filled with brand editorial content,” said Keith Nealon, CEO of Bazaarvoice. “And then, originally, UGC began appearing on the product detail page in the form of ratings and reviews. Consumers trust what consumers say more than anything else. People want to know what others are feeling and experiencing about a product,” he said.

Today, brands have exported their product-page experiences to social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest, where buying has been made easier down-funnel. Essentially, the buying cycle has been shortened because social media exposes consumers to products that they can buy easier and quicker online, where they’re first discovering the product.

“All these places where consumers bounce around, brands want to show up where they are,” said Nealon. “This is how you manage the consumer journey and navigate through this change in buyer behavior.”

Part of that success comes from having the right strategy and tools to leverage UGC. “You have to have a tech stack that helps with conversion through all those stages, for the awareness, conversion and purchase phases. You need them all,” Nealon added. 

For Calego and its iFLY brand, UGC is also about authenticity. Actual customer feedback is not only appealing to brands, but also catches the attention of big retail partners. Calego products have been sold in Walmart since 2013.

“UGC is bigger today than it ever was,” David Rapps said. “There’s so much emphasis at retail to get better content. The reason why retailers love ‘first-party content’ is because organic content works.”

As video content becomes more popular on social, Rapps is particularly interested in tagged posts of customers showing off their travel stories while using their products, he said.

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Streaming is surging, and so are data collaborations /streaming-is-surging-and-so-are-data-collaborations-347306 Tue, 30 Mar 2021 14:05:38 +0000 /?p=347306 TransUnion's new partnership with Blockgraph supports precision ad targeting while protecting viewer privacy

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This month, global information company TransUnion entered a partnership with a data and insights platform, Blockgraph, which is owned and operated by Comcast NBCUniversal, Charter Communications, Inc. and ViacomCBS, Inc. The TV publishers (aka broadcasters) gain the use of privacy-focused identity, data modeling and audience creation through TransUnion’s Tru Optik, an OTT and streaming data ecosystem that TransUnion acquired last year.

The collaboration meets a growing demand for more video advertising and cross-screen opportunities for marketers, especially within streaming services. But the many moving parts require robust data solutions around identity to deliver the precision that marketers, as well as consumers, expect.

Data-savvy adtech collaborations that meet rising demand in streaming

Because Blockgraph is an open-platform identity infrastructure that is privacy-focused, it provides aggregated and anonymized insights, as well as measurement and addressability. An advertiser who enters into this ecosystem will now have an expanded reach among various linear and streaming properties, while maintaining the privacy for consumers that is expected.

“The core technology software platform [in Blockgraph] enables secure data collaboration,” said Matt Spiegel, EVP marketing solutions and media vertical, TransUnion. “This clean room platform is a safe haven for data, and represents the notion of ‘marketer A’ collaborating with ‘media property B,’ but no one wants to touch the data. Neither marketer nor media needs to put data in their hands. This allows matching in the media and provides the tools to make that possible.”

Collaborations like this one leverage the data from each of these parties, but also include the technological capability of using it in such a way that privacy is maintained for consumers. Streaming audiences can be served relevant ads without personally identifiable information going into the hands of advertisers.

“Marketers have learned the value of precision targeting and messaging and are increasingly turning to tech and media partners that enable that precision,” Spiegel said. “As a result, we are seeing media companies of all types increase their investments in the data and identity intelligence necessary to fulfill these expectations.”

Not only does this data-enabled precision improve the experience for advertisers and consumers within linear and streaming channels, but it also gives this ecosystem a leg up in the cookie-less future, because it developed its targetability without the cookie.

“The premium video ecosystem is increasingly well positioned to meet evolving marketer demands,” Spiegel explained. “The good news for this part of the industry is that cookies were never relevant. The challenge is that many are still building the capabilities required to operate in a people- and household-driven world. However, the amount of investment happening, both from companies like Blockgraph, as well as directly from the distributors and content creators, is significant, and many companies are ready to meet the demand today.”

Larger audiences watch video on devices and desktops and are served ads through aggregators

Marketers at all stages of the supply chain are aware of the prize that awaits if they can deliver more personalized messages at the scale of streaming audiences. As traditional linear TV retains a good chunk of its audience and ad revenue, there have been some changes, especially over the last year, that signal a more substantial and complicated transition underway.

Streaming video is continuing to grow its audiences, and tech companies are developing new ways to reach them. Expanded services and award-winning content provide all kinds of options that attract viewers. The resulting fragmentation, however, creates challenges that call for increasingly innovative tech solutions to serve relevant, actionable ads to consumers.

TV and video creative asset management company Extreme Reach provides a wide ranging view of the industry’s shifts with its quarterly and annual Benchmarks reports. Recently, we noted from the Q4 2020 report how more impressions now occur on video ads that have been placed through media aggregators, as opposed to directly through premium publishers. This was the first time media aggregators had surpassed premium publishers, indicating a significant shift in the video landscape.

The growing range of viewing options consumers are using is evident in Extreme Reach’s quarterly reports over the last year. One might have expected CTV assets to remain at their pre-pandemic levels or grow over the last year, and for mobile device impressions to drop, as more people worked from home and commuted less. Instead, CTV decreased, and mobile impressions gained steam. CTV dropped from 47% of impressions in 2019, down to 37% at the beginning of 2020. By the end of the year CTV held steady at 35%. During pandemic shutdowns in Q2 and Q3 of 2020, mobile app impressions were at 26%, and mobile web impressions were at 12-13%. Desktop grew from 16% in 2019, up to 20-23% throughout 2020.

The growth of streaming services can be attributed, in part, to the number of mobile impressions, as these services and apps provide premium content on mobile devices, including tablets. The availability of this content through streaming across TVs and devices lifts all ships, it would seem.

“With entertainment companies solidly including streaming services in their distribution strategies for original content and content unveilings, we expect to see continued escalation in streaming adoption,” said Melinda McLaughlin, CMO of Extreme Reach.

This hybrid world with so many streaming options will also continue to turn out both ad-supported and ad-free subscription content.

“Ad-supported and ad-free streaming both have value for consumers in the streaming landscape,” McLaughlin explained. “Where this lands will really depend on how much consumers are willing to spend on platforms and entertainment, as well as the amount of time they anticipate spending with each service and what type of experience they seek.”

McLaughlin applauds the amount of options for media consumers. She added, “We all have more content and more ways to watch it than ever before. We may be struggling with weeding through all the ways to find it, and there definitely needs to be innovation in search and discover interfaces, but I wouldn’t say that consumers are fed up with the explosion of content.”

Streaming video paving the way for data collaborations

These kinds of collaborations see no signs of letting up. Marketing specialist firm Winterberry Group flagged both data collaborations in linear and connected TV as areas of growth in their 2021 outlook

“Data collaboration is going to be as important in the CTV/linear ad markets, since we expect more private gardens to exist by cable providers, broadcast/streaming networks and device manufacturers,” said senior managing partner Bruce Biegel. “Brands and their agencies want to collaborate to enable insights, activation with reach and frequency capping and, as importantly, measurement.”

For those who expect subscription streaming services to keep down ad revenue from supposedly less-popular ad-supported programming, Biegel’s findings say otherwise.

“At the same time we are seeing subscription streaming growth, we are also seeing an increase in ad-supported streaming — which we expect to accelerate as households and individuals cap the number of channels that they subscribe to,” Biegel explained.

He added, “This will open new ad opportunities and also allow for increased targeting options across linear and digital/CTV. We do expect that spending becomes more fluid across the channels as advertisers seek audiences across their TVs and digital devices.”

More channels and devices simply indicate that more data and collaborations are required to reach the relevant, targeted audience in a privacy-safe way.

As the streaming audience grows, the gains to be made by marketers and publishers who reach them effectively will also increase. So far, data collaborations appear to be rising to the challenge.

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How to tell stories using data /how-to-tell-stories-using-data-347281 Fri, 26 Mar 2021 17:07:28 +0000 /?p=347281 Actionable data storytelling strategies from Nancy Duarte at MarTech

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“Data doesn’t speak for itself, it needs a good storyteller,” said Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Inc., the largest communications firm in Silicon Valley. Her keynote launched the second day of MarTech and gave all those who listened a sense of what the data world is missing – effective communication.

“Some have said data is the new oil,” Duarte explained. “The findings [from the data], though, will stay buried without the help of a communicator.”

The soft skills gap

Job opportunities for data scientists and analysts have thrived in recent years. (Statistician and data scientist were two of the top jobs of 2020.) At the same time, an even greater demand for soft skills (writing, problem-solving and the like) has emerged.

Duarte cited soft skills as the number one skills gap identified by LinkedIn’s Talent Insights tool. They found that 1.6 million jobs remained opened for those with soft skills, nearly a million of which called for oral communication skills.

A separate study by Burning Glass Technologies showed that demand for soft skills was greater for analytics-enabled jobs than the average demand across all occupations.

“This conveys that employers want their data-wranglers to know how to communicate well,” Duarte said.

This gap presents an opportunity for career advancement for individual data scientists. This is because, as Duarte suggests, “most data roles are becoming less about statistics themselves, and more about making sense of the data and applying it to business use.”

Nancy Duarte presenting at MarTech

Communicating problems and opportunities from data

Data scientists and analysts explore data all day. But for others in the organization to make use of the data, it has to be explained.

“Communicating about data is difficult for some people,” Duarte said, “because when you’re analyzing the data you’re going to find one of two things in it. You’re either going to identify a problem or an opportunity in the data.”

To address the problem or opportunity requires action.

“The ability to identify the action and communicate it moves [the data scientist] from being an individual contributor to a strategic advisor,” she explained. “As you build this muscle, you’ll become a more trusted data storyteller.”

With trust, the data scientist can inspire others and become a leader. But this only happens by learning how to tell an effective story. Duarte calls this “getting traction from your data.”

5 ways to get traction from your data

To make an impact on an audience, the presentation has to mean something. For Duarte, meaningful communication is achieved by these five strategies:

  1. Visualize data for your audience. The visuals are a part of a holistic strategy to present the important parts of a study to the audience. This blend of elements should be tailored to the audience’s preferences. But generally, the most important data should be made visually striking so that it stands out. Context should also be included, and in no way does this give permission to hide or cherry-pick data.
  2. Structure insights as a story. Telling a story opens up neural pathways in the audience that gets everybody more engaged, triggering more memories and sense perceptions than dry charts and graphs. Structure the data, and the narrative around the data, using a basic three-act format. Start with the problem or opportunity found in the data, and work your way through the supporting data (in Act 2) to get to the actions that will resolve the conflict.
  3. Choose the best action. The verbs, or actions, are the most crucial part of speech in data-related stories. The verbs represent the recommended actions that result from the data insight. These verbs should be performance-driven so that the higher-ups can identify and accept them as valuable recommendations.
  4. Attach data to something relatable. As Duarte pointed out, people have common knowledge and experience tied to basic measurements. They know basic units of time, and space. They can picture the size of a football, or of a football stadium. Translating important figures into these basic, relatable units will communicate the magnitude of the problem or opportunity.
  5. Humanize the data. Remember who you’re talking about, and also make sure to remind your audience. This allows the audience of the presentation to visualize an outcome based on what the data indicates or recommends. For instance, a company wants to grow its volume of customers or revenue. But to reach that goal, it’s better to think about the specific groups of customers and how they’re being served.

Watch the full presentation here (free registration required).

Know your audience, know your role

Humanizing the data makes for a more compelling story, but it also reminds the analyst why they are telling the story in the first place.

“Often in many roles when we’re working in data, we have to dispassionately and analytically look at data,” Duarte said. “We need to suspend our bias, let our critical thinking rule all of the analysis. But once that step is done and the data is all analyzed, we sometimes forget the power in getting to know the humans that generated that data.”

As an analyst, the data one is looking at corresponds to a company or the customers they are serving. This promotes the analyst into the role of a mentor, a leader.

Once the roles are clarified, a better story can be told, because the ground has been laid to grow and develop an empathetic connection. Only though empathy and relatability can the storyteller truly “create a sense of awe in the audience.”

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Pinterest powers up creators during stressful times /pinterest-powers-up-creators-during-stressful-times-346466 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 21:40:29 +0000 /?p=346466 How the visual discovery platform is rethinking stories and influencers

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“The content on our platform is about you and what you want in your life,” explained Colleen Stauffer, Global Director of Creator Marketing for Pinterest. “We really tried to harness planning that became way more short-term last year during the pandemic. We wanted to fit people in their current lives and how they planned in the hour.”

The pandemic didn’t just change our lives out in the real world, it changed digital lives as well. It modified the demands users placed on familiar tools. For marketers, taking note of these shifts on social media platforms is essential. For the architects of these communities, the trends cut deep into human experience.

Before the pandemic, Stauffer was aware of the tendency for users (called “Pinners”) to be “future-looking” in the content they sought out. They might be planning a vacation, or maybe they were redesigning a room in their home. With the pandemic, those same people were now searching out short-term solutions. What quick meal could they prepare just before a work-from-home meeting, while their child did remote learning on the family laptop?

As a quick response last March, Pinterest moved up the launch of their Today tab. The feature allowed users to get quick updates from reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Users could also find kid-friendly baking recipes and recommended movies to fill all the downtime indoors.

Powering up creators

In addition to helping their audience navigate a stressful time, Pinterest has also taken steps to grow and strengthen its community. Often, they have done so to distinguish themselves from other platforms like Instagram or YouTube, instead of following standard social media practice. On Pinterest, there is following and sharing, but for years they’ve emphatically denied that they are social media. They define themselves as visual discovery.

What they call themselves isn’t as important as what they help members of their community do. And this is important for marketers because last summer Pinterest topped 400 million monthly active users. It’s growing among millennials and Gen Zers, including a 50% boost year-over-year for men on the platform.

Strengthening Pinterest’s creator base powers the entire community and makes it even more valuable to brands. The moves Pinterest is making in this direction show how users and their preferences have changed.

At the end of September, Pinterest introduced Story Pins, the ability for creators to tell multi-page stories. This beta version also included a new creator profile and analytics tools to track performance. Pinterest is also giving creators access to analytics across the community through its trends tool.

At the heart the new Story Pins format is a wager against how other digital stories are told. For instance, the stories on Instagram expire after 24 hours. On Pinterest, they stay where they are. This feature leverages the evergreen value in Pinterest content, allowing Pinners to discover and rediscover what might have been overlooked in the past.

With the new beta Story Pins, creators can also publish directly to Pinterest. Also, Pinners can browse and then message creators directly within the platform via the new profile.

“Creators want the content to live in one place,” Stauffer said. “Creating content directly on Pinterest has been a need for our Pinners. They want to find an amazing food creator, see their Story Pin, and get the recipe, all within our ecosystem.”

Influencing and shopping

While creators and their followers get to engage with the created content all in one place, the environment also gains ecommerce potential. Insider projects that in 2021, social commerce sales will surpass $36 billion in the U.S. alone. (The 2020 U.S. social commerce market was estimated at just under $30 billion.)

Already this year, Pinterest is taking steps to make its platform more shoppable, including through Story Pins. Currently it has integrated an augmented reality try-on feature for some beauty products. It turns out that Pinners who use this feature are five times more likely to show purchase intent.

According to Stauffer, 89% of weekly Pinners use Pinterest for inspiration in their path to purchase, confirming the influencing potential of creators. Additionally, 83% of weekly users have made a purchase based on Pinterest content.

“Pinterest is a visual discovery platform and every time Pinners see a product they like, they should be able to buy it, or something like it, based on their unique taste,” Stauffer said. “That’s our vision for shopping with Pinterest. We have launched shopping products that bring shopping everywhere across the platform, including our Verified Merchant Program and our partnership with Shopify, where brands can easily upload their product feeds and turn them into shoppable Pins.”

She added, “In the coming months we’ll be introducing product tagging for Story Pins so creators can tag specific products within their Story Pins and reach people in a mindset to plan and shop.”

Next-level influencing for Pinterest creators

So what does the future of influencing on Pinterest look like?

Fashion designer Peter Som took to Pinterest to broaden his knowledge of food and mixology. He has close to 3 million Pinners following him.

In a test campaign over the holidays, Pinterest paired Som with a Diageo spirits brand, Tanqueray. He mixed up cocktails with three variants of the gin to show the versatility of the brand. Outside of the food category, Pinterest also activated sponsored Story Pins for IKEA.

With a more robust influencer community added onto its already highly engaged community of creators and Pinners, the platform will be competitive in the emerging social commerce market.

Pinterest’s future-looking behavior can also provide hope for relief in stressful times. According to Stauffer, the Pinners are starting to search for vacations again.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today.

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