Bing takes on Trivago, Google with intelligent search features

Microsoft has updated a search function in Bing, with the initial rollout fixated around the hospitality & travel industry.

A new update for Bing lets consumers view pricing trends, with the initial rollout focused around the travel and hospitality industry.

Functionally, the offering is similar to Google’s ability to offer searchers historical price trends for specific date ranges in order to assist in price-based decisions. It’s also conceptually similar to what Trivago offers for hotel seekers.

The price trend feature allows users to browse costs over a period of time, tied to a specific hotel. With this function, Bing intends to help users compare and contrast easily, with a user interface that allows multiple clicks to check the rates throughout a date range.

Available on both desktop and mobile, the new features are focused around the hospitality industry, including hotels and airlines. Similar to Trivago, the function also offers users a detailed breakdown of hotel prices, ratings, class levels, and amenities side-by-side.

Microsoft’s recent repositioning around digital transformation and focus around injecting machine learning across all consumer products is behind the recent string of Bing updates, which also included a hotel booking feature launched in May. This offers users aggregated pricing from third-party booking sites.

According to the Q4 2018 report by Microsoft, search advertising revenue through Bing Ads increased by 13% to $793 million due to higher revenue per search and search volume. The search engine and pay per click products rely on partnerships for monetization with multiple companies such as Oath. The growth of the engine is dependent on the ability to attract new users, understand search intent, and match intent with relevant content and advertiser offerings.

Source: campaignasia.com; 7 Aug 2018

How Reuters made a free personalised ‘news wire’ with app based on 5,000 niche topics

Reuters has switched its consumer strategy away from general news audiences to target professionals with a highly personalised news app designed to inform rapid business decision-making.

The new service, which went live this week, aims to replicate the scrolling experience of timelines on Facebook and Twitter, while allowing users to customise their diet of Reuters content from 5,000 hyper-niche news “feeds” on specialist topics, industry sectors, companies and individuals.

“We are allowing people to curate their own news wire,” says Isaac Showman, managing director of Reuters Consumer, in an interview with The Drum. “That’s an incredibly powerful proposition.”

By focusing on user utility and personalisation, Reuters hopes to make its news app an indispensable tool for professionals, providing a free-to-access service in a news market where specialist and trusted business information is often found behind a paywall. “It’s quite a deliberate decision – an expression that we have a commitment around serving the business professional audience,” says Showman. “We have had to rebuild everything to make this work.”

Business and show business side by side

The focus on a professional audience doesn’t mean that showbusiness news is off the Reuters agenda. “We are aiming at business professionals but it’s not just business content,” Showman says. “People will subscribe to a feed on bonds and another one on Beyoncé. People have varied interests and Reuters is famous for covering the entertainment and commodities markets with the same level of rigour and quality.”

While other news apps offer users a customised service (such as the ‘My News’ feature on the BBC News app), Reuters will hope that its depth of information and its exceptional coverage of the markets will give it an edge with professionals.

The Reuters news app, which is initially available on Apple’s iOS but will be extended to Android devices, is advertiser supported and users have the option of allowing their ads to be customised to their interests.

“The one thing we do know is that the users – with some exceptions – don’t pay for content; they pay for the benefits they get from that content.”

Source: thedrum.com; 2 Aug 2018

WhatsApp to start making money from businesses

There has been much speculation about how Facebook might monetise the messaging service since its acquisition in 2014 – with the move coming as Facebook’s own revenue begins to slow.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is finally going to start making some money with new pay-to-use tools that will let businesses talk to customers.

Via the messaging app, companies will be able to send information about products and services, such as boarding passes and delivery dates, as well as providing real-time support to help resolve issues.

WhatsApp – which Facebook bought for £11bn in 2014 – says users will continue to have full control over the messages they receive, and that businesses will pay to send certain messages so they are selective and chats “don’t get cluttered”.

Messages will cost between 0.3p and 7p depending on the country the user is in, with businesses allowed up to 24 hours to respond for free before a charge is imposed.

WhatsApp says messages will remain end-to-end encrypted and that users will be able to block businesses whenever they wish.

The move comes following Facebook’s bombshell second quarter results, which wiped £92bn from its stock market value in one go.

Shares plunged by more than 20% after the social media giant announced its slowest growth in users for over two years, with Facebook expecting its revenue growth to lose speed as users make the most of new options designed to limit advertising, while less profitable overseas markets drive growth.

Facebook claims 2.5 billion people use its apps every month, including Instagram and WhatsApp.

Instagram Stories, which already show ads, is used by around 400 million people, while 450 million use WhatsApp Status.

Around 100 companies have been testing the Status ads feature so far, including Uber and Singapore Airlines, with a full roll-out due next year.

Source: marketingweek.com; 2 Aug 2018

Voice Control Forces Marketers to Think Differently

Shift focus from promotional messaging to true utility

Consumers are becoming more comfortable using voice assistants, smart speakers and other voice-activated devices for a variety of everyday tasks. Research conducted in the US by PwC in February 2018 found that searching for information, playing music, sending messages and shopping were among the activities conducted by large percentages of voice assistant users.

As this reliance on voice-first communications grows, so too does interest among brands. Companies in all industries are experimenting to figure out how these new communication channels can help them interact with their target audiences and build brand engagement in more personalized and frictionless ways.

Voice, however, is unlike anything that’s come before, which is forcing brands to think differently about how they design their campaigns. Rather than using traditional “push” messaging, they must work harder to make brand interactions useful and valuable—or they risk becoming irrelevant.

The biggest change is that voice-first technology requires marketers to design auditory interactions, without screens or keyboards. “When you do a visual search on a desktop or a mobile phone, you’re presented with multiple choices or answers to your query,” said Allen Nance, CMO at Emarsys. “But when you do voice, you’re pretty much getting whatever answer the device—or the company that owns the device—thinks is the right answer.”

What’s more, it’s not yet possible to buy sponsored ads or keywords to improve the chances of being that one result. Instead, marketers must use trial and error to optimize content and try to organically appear in “position zero” (aka the “featured snippet” or “answer box” in a Google search).

According to Christopher Lundquist, vice president of strategy and consulting at SapientRazorfish, this “changes how marketers can work” and is further complicated by differences in how search engines like Google and Bing process queries, source information and prioritize results.

Voice devices also differ from other channels in that advertising is still very limited, and there are no ad networks or large-scale monetization models to work with. Even as brands clamor for more paid opportunities, voice platform companies—including Amazon and Google—are treading cautiously for fear of alienating users with invasive or inappropriate messaging.

In the absence of advertising, a growing number of brands are experimenting with third-party applications (called “skills” for Amazon Alexa, “actions” for Google Assistant and apps on other platforms). These enable users to do everything from creating grocery lists, finding recipes, and getting beauty tips, to listening to music, scheduling appointments, controlling smart-home devices and meditating.

The most popular of these fit organically into daily routines, save time, and make people’s lives easier or more enjoyable. “Consumers are dying for use cases and utility that make their lives better. These devices aren’t only getting smarter, they’re able to add more value to people’s lives,” said Doug Robinson, CEO of Fresh Digital Group. “It’s now up to brands and marketers to figure out what the utility is. Where are we playing a role? How important can we be in that day-to-day role to where we become a part of the habit and add the value that consumers are looking for?

“From a discovery standpoint, consumers are still trying to figure out what to do with these devices, which offers an amazing opportunity for marketers to guide them to voice applications and provide utility value that they need every day,” Robinson added. “It’s really just a race to see who can take advantage of use cases that drive more consumer engagement with their brand.”

Source: emarketer.com; 25 July 2018

Google launches game on Tencent’s Wechat as it eyes China market

Alphabet Inc’s Google has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) game on Tencent Holdings Ltd social media app WeChat, as the company continues to show tentative signs of re-entering China’s consumer market.

The U.S. technology firm has been experimenting with new inroads to the China, where the majority of its products including its internet search engine, email and app store are blocked by Chinese authorities over censorship concerns.

Last year, Google launched its ‘Google Translate’ app in China, and in May it added a file management app to several app stores run by local Chinese firms, a first for the company.

The latest product, Caihua Xiaoge, is a drawing game based on Google’s AI image recognition technology, and is a WeChat ‘mini app’, which works only within Tencent’s WeChat. Several foreign firms, including Starbucks Corp, have also launched mini apps.

Google in January announced a patent licensing deal with Tencent with the intention of collaborating further in the Chinese market. Last month, the U.S. firm also invested $550 million in JD.com Inc, China’s second most valuable e-commerce firm which also counts Tencent as an investor.

While it is unlikely Google will be able to open its global search engine in China, the firm is experimenting with less controversial projects in the market. In January it participated in a $120 million investment round by live-stream mobile game platform Chushou.

Source: reuters.com; 18 July 2018

Google launches Waze Local in Malaysia

Google is monetising the data collected by its GPS software, opening up ad formats to small- and medium-sized businesses after a successful rollout with large-scale advertisers.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Malaysia can now access the ad formats of Waze in order to generate footfall through location-based marketing.

According to Google, the parent company of Waze, the GPS platform has over 100 million monthly active users worldwide, of which 5.9% are based in Malaysia. While large advertisers have had access to ad formats, now the platform is open to SMBs as well under the Waze Local banner, offering:

– Promoted Search: Giving SMBs priority rankings in search results initiated by drivers.
– Branded Pin: Flares up a sign that grabs the drivers’ attention
– Zero Speed Takeover: Shows ads while a vehicle has come to a halt for more than three seconds.

Functionally, Waze Local will allow SMBs to target ads at drivers and passengers in the vicinity of a business, offering limited time incentives and deals to prompt a visitor footfall. According to the announcement, the ads appear on the map within a contextual setting, allowing SMBs to target based on geography and peak hours. SMBs will also have access to quantifiable metrics pertaining to the effectiveness of an ad in driving footfall.

While Waze appears as a preinstalled GPS navigator for OEMs in the form of vehicles and Android consumer electronics, in the APAC region it competes on a B2C level with Facebook through Local and Niantic through Pokemon Go, while on a B2B level it competes with HERE Technologies, with uses cases around advertising science, fleet utilization, and urban movement.

Source: campaignasia.com; 3 Aug 2018

Instagram ad spend growth trounces Facebook in wake of privacy concerns

Instagram’s year-on-year ad spend grew 177 percent – four times that of Facebook – as its owner failed to live up to Wall Street expectations following its Q2 2018 earnings report.

Excluding revenue from its hugely popular photo-sharing app, Facebook reported ad spend growth of 42 percent amounting to $13.23bn (£10.13bn) yesterday which, while on paper sounds reasonable, represented its slowest-growing quarter since it went public.

The report saw Facebook’s stock take a 10% plunge, while the company’s own CFO, David Wehner, admitted that data privacy scandals were a significant contributor, that coupled with other “headwinds”, were likely to impact growth in “high-single-digit percentages” for the remainder of the year.

But while the social network failed to meet the steadfast performance that we’ve come to take for granted, Instagram’s boomed in comparison; impressions on the app rose 209 percent and CPMs (average cost per 1000 impressions) decreased by 10 percent, while in comparison, Facebook’s saw a 70 percent increase in CPMs as ad impressions dropped 17 percent.

But while Instagram is siphoning an increasing amount of ad spend from Facebook, on the scale of things, it still amounts to a relatively small portion. Advertising agency Merkle reports that the photo-sharing app accounted for less than a quarter (23 percent) of spend for the average advertiser bidding on both platforms, while generating 20 percent of ad impressions as that of Facebook, and just nine percent as many clicks as the social network within the quarter.

That didn’t stop BTIG analyst, Rich Greenfield, comment that Instagram had become “an absolute monster” in terms of growth and user engagement, with the photo-sharing app now boasting more than a billion users, having been bought by Facebook for just $715m (£544m) in 2012.

With Instagram roundly dodging any of the collateral impact felt by its parent’s platform in the wake of privacy scandals, the proliferation of fake news, and GDPR potentially being the root cause of its loss of some three million users daily in Europe (despite a global increase of 11 percent), it’s likely Facebook will be leaning on Instagram’s growing contributions for the remainder of the year.

Source: marketingtechnews.net; 26 July 2018

LinkedIn gets on board voice messages to help users better express themselves

LinkedIn has introduced a new voice message function in a bid to give its users more options to have conversations. This includes messages which are up to one minute long, housed in LinkedIn’s messaging platform.

In a blog post, the company explained that the new feature looks to allow its user to message more easily on the go, especially when it comes to explaining longer or more complex ideas. This is without the involvement of typing and editing a message.

It also looks to allow users to better express themselves and allow for greater ease of multitasking. This in turn allows users to better build a personal connection and effectively communicate. It also looks to allow for a user’s tone and personality to come through, which may sometimes “get lost in translation in written communications”, the blog post added.

The new feature is being rolled out on iOS and Android on mobile, as well as on the web, and will be made available globally in the next few weeks.

Source: marketing-interactive.com; 31 July 2018

Tencent Video leads OTT content market in China

Tencent Video to maintain its edge over rivals iQiyi and Youku over the coming years, according to eMarketer.

Tencent Video is the leader in China’s subscription over-the-top (OTT) video market, according to eMarketer’s latest market-share estimates, with Baidu-owned iQiyi and Alibaba-owned Youku the next two key players in a tight race.

eMarketer expects 24% out of 229 million people who watch video via a subscription streaming service that bypasses traditional distribution in China will subscribe to Tencent Video by the end of 2018, and that figure will surpass 29% by 2020. iQiyi and Youku are expected to attract 22.9% and 22% of subscribers respectively.

Youku secured rights to stream this year’s FIFA World Cup, resulting in anticipated growth in its subscriber base by 55% this year, stated eMarketer. This means Youku may overtake iQiyi for second place by the end of 2019.

“Competition in China’s OTT market, fuelled by growing internet connectivity and a broader shift toward internet entertainment, is cutthroat. As subscriber churn rates are high, content remains a critical part to improve user stickiness,” said eMarketer forecasting director Shelleen Shum.

Source: campaignasia.com; 24 July 2018

Marketing Beyond the Screen

Using Voice Technology to Boost Brand Engagement

Phrases like “Hey, Siri,” “Hey, Alexa” and “OK, Google” are quickly becoming part of our everyday lexicon. As more consumers become comfortable with digital voice assistants, smart speakers and other voice-first devices, more companies are looking to leverage voice control technology to their advantage.

For marketers, voice-activated hardware and software presents a cornucopia of opportunities to engage target audiences in more personalized and frictionless ways.

– Large global tech companies — including Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft — are driving the market. Their artificial intelligence (AI)–driven platforms for voice control include software (virtual assistants) and hardware (smartphones, smart speakers and other smart devices).

– For most marketers, voice control isn’t a top priority; those experimenting with it are still in the earliest stages. Most projects involve Alexa “skills,” Google “actions” and other apps to encourage engagement.

– Experiments are ongoing in SEO, advertising and promotional messaging, content delivery, customer service and voice commerce. So far, no “killer” applications or monetization models have emerged.

– Agencies and other consultants are beefing up their technical resources and forging technology partnerships to help their clients develop more meaningful voice strategies.

– Best practices are evolving, but brands can take concrete steps to get started now. First and foremost, they must think carefully about how they can add value and utility to users’ lives. Frictionless, compelling and entertaining voice experiences will be key to long-term customer engagement.

Source: emarketer.com; 24 July 2018