In China, Smart Speaker Adoption Is Booming

Singles’ Day sales are expected to drive usage

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day is expected to be the biggest selling day for smart speakers in China, and a key driver to adoption in the market.

This year, 34.2 million people in China will use smart speakers, according to eMarketer’s estimates—that’s a significant increase from the 3.5 million a year prior.

Growth is expected to continue even further, as Chinese manufacturers compete aggressively on price to become the market leader. By 2019, we expect there will be 85.5 million smart speaker users in the country.

“China’s growth story is similar to the US, where price is key in driving adoption,” said Shelleen Shum, forecasting director at eMarketer. “Steep discounts on the Tmall Genie smart speaker during Singles’ Day last year, as well as the introduction of lower-priced mini versions of several smart speakers in early 2018, were key in accelerating growth.”

Indeed, Alibaba slashed the price of its Tmall Genie speaker from RMB499 ($74) to RMB99 ($15) during Singles’ Day 2017 to drive sales. It has already discounted the speaker again, in advance of this year’s annual shopping event held on November 11.

Other players like Xiaomi, Baidu and have followed suit and aggressively priced their smart speakers to keep up with competitors. They are also integrating their products with smart-home offerings. has partnered with Midea, maker of smart-home appliances; Xiaomi has its own products, like air purifiers, rice cookers and vacuum robots; and Baidu partnered with Haier, an electronics and home appliance company

These types of strategies will help drive smart speaker penetration among China’s internet users to 10.0% in 2019, from 4.2% in 2018.

Source:; 9 Nov 2018

How brands can spot influencers with fake followers

While they can be difficult to spot, there are certain steps all brands using influencer marketing should be taking to help to detect fake followers.

Conversations surrounding follower fraud have punctuated 2018’s influencer marketing narrative, tarnishing the reputation of an industry built on trust and authenticity.

From exposés across a variety of media titles analysing the quantities of fake followers attributed to the social accounts of brands and influencers, to Unilever chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed’s pledge to cease working with influencers that have purchased followers, it certainly has been a hot topic. As a result, 2019 will inevitably have to be the year influencer marketing cleans up its act and expels the minority that tarnish the industry’s reputation.

An influencer by definition is someone who has the power to sway the decisions of an audience. But if the audience behind an influencer isn’t real, this defeats the brand’s objective. Purchased followers are not only useless, but unethical and can be hugely damaging to brands’ integrity.

The industry does appear to be slowly waking up to the fact that it shouldn’t be a numbers game when deciding on influencers to work with. There is still plenty of work to do though, especially as more often than not influencers are categorised within tiers determined by their follower counts, irrespective of whether these followers are real or not.

From mega-influencers to 2018’s sweet spot, micro-influencers, follower volume is still a priority categorisation for the industry as a whole but this needs more careful consideration and a deeper understanding of audience quality. At face value, follower count is meaningless if there is potential for substantial volumes of an influencer’s audience to be fake.

Promisingly, attempts to solve the fake follower conundrum have started to manifest in recent months. ISBA’s action to update its influencer contracts, formalising the importance of audience quality, together with actions by social media companies themselves to purge platforms of bot accounts are both steps in the right direction.

Twitter claimed to have removed over 6% of accounts which showed signs of suspicious or illegal activity this summer, and Facebook has pledged to up its game in terms of highlighting fraudulent accounts across its platforms. However, where there is a commercial opportunity within this activity, the problem is unlikely to be fully resolved by these actions alone.

If brands continue to fund collaborations without truly exercising due-diligence and researching the authenticity of their chosen influencers, the problem will inevitably continue.

To truly clean-up the industry and fast, a combined effort needs to be made across platforms, brands and governing bodies. As a deterrent to those acting fraudulently, the industry needs to turn its back on disingenuous influencers and cease to fund this type of activity.

How to spot fake followers

Early examples of bot detection tools are emerging, which claim to offer a solution through varying methods of reliability, including analysing follower patterns, engagement behaviour and mapping bot farms to track anomalous behaviour. This is the future for the industry and is a method that will become more prevalent matter of months.

In the interim, there are ways to detect fake followers via methods that every brand should be practising as standard. The most obvious warning sign easily detected by follower mapping is a sudden, erratic spike in followers, which clearly suggests that influencer has purchased followers in exchange for a higher per post price point and should be avoided at all costs.

A similarly ominous sign of suspicious activity is if an influencer has a high following of followers in countries that aren’t the influencer’s home territory. For example, if a UK-based influencer is creating UK-focused content, yet has high volumes of followers in countries such as Brazil, Turkey or China, it is likely these are fraudulent, especially given there are substantial numbers of fake-follower operations within these territories. This factor is very easy to surface within social audience demographic analysis.

When it comes to engagement, it’s a slightly more complex story. If an influencer has a very low engagement rate, particularly given the specific platform’s average, this should raise a red flag. However, it’s not enough to take low engagement as the only deciding factor, as fraudulent profiles can appear to have healthy engagement if bots capable of engagement via likes and comments are also being used.

Fortunately, the types of bots used to bolster the desirability of influencers tend not to be sophisticated enough to provide unique content, and so can be easily detected through human interrogation. If an influencer’s comments consist of significant volumes of generic ‘great!’, ‘love!’ or other non-specific comments or emojis, it’s likely being driven by bots.

Brands shouldn’t deem an influencer desirable to work with based on the size of their audience alone. An influencer’s true value derives from the genuine relationship they have with an audience, which comes down to the content they create and the reaction it gets. The sooner the industry can adopt this approach to influencer selection and vetting the better.

Source:; 12 Nov 2018

Voice engine optimization: It’s easier than you realize

More customers are using voice search, and many brands aren’t ready for them. Voice engine optimization can help you meet customers where they’re searching.

Just yesterday, I asked my phone to set a timer, start a playlist, and find movie times, all from across the room. And I’m not alone in relying more frequently on my voice assistant. Statistically speaking, most of us are talking to Siri and Alexa more than ever before.

However, even as we embrace voice assistants as consumers, many brands and businesses forget that voice engine optimization (VEO) could soon be just as important as SEO. And preparing for the voice search revolution is easier than you think.

More customers are using voice search than ever

When Siri was first introduced, voice assistants were more of a novelty than anything else. (Remember 2013, when we all got engaged to Siri?) But these days, it seems like almost everyone is talking to their electronics.

By 2020, as many as 70 million U.S. households will own an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Sonos One. That’s probably because smart speakers and voice assistants save time and make life easier; at least that’s what smart speaker owners say. According to the IAB, 18% of American consumers already own smart devices, and 65% of those owners say they couldn’t imagine going back to life without them.

But brands aren’t keeping up

Studies show that more than half of consumers are using smart devices for convenience. It’s just much easier to ask Alexa how long to roast a chicken than it is to Google it yourself. And studies indicate that consumers would like to extend that use of voice search to finding local businesses and making purchases. In fact, 27% are already using voice search as their primary means of finding local businesses.

When it comes to voice search, getting to the top is more important than ever. On a desktop search for businesses, there are pages of options. On mobile, there are less, but being in the top four will probably get you noticed. Voice search, however, really only gives one or two options. Just ask Alexa for the best Thai food in your neighbourhood; you’re probably not going to get a long, nuanced list.

VEO is about anticipating customer needs

Customers are much more likely to ask voice assistants specific questions that enter vague information. While a desktop search might read something like “Midtown Hardware Store” a voice search might sound more like “Hey Alexa, what’s the closest, open hardware store?” or even “Hey Alexa, where can I buy a hammer?”

According to a recent study by Chatmeter, 31% of consumers conducting a local voice search will ask for store hours, and 13% will ask for a specific product. Anticipate the fact that your customers aren’t going to ask for your business by name, but by product, location, and hours. VEO means making sure those answers are readily available and easy to find. An updated, accurate frequently asked questions page is more important than ever in the age of voice search.

Optimizing for VEO means serious results

Studies already show that earning a top position on mobile search results can have a major impact on your business. Of those who seek out a local business on mobile, 76% will visit a business within a day, and 20% will make a purchase. And while devices like Alexa are making major headway in the voice search arena, Mobile is leading the charge. According to the IAB study, there will be 5 billion voice assistants enabled on smartphones worldwide by 2020.

But even as consumers flock to voice search, many businesses are ignoring the fact that the search engine landscape is changing. Becoming an early adopter in the voice search revolution is about more than simply being on the cutting edge of an emerging trend. Optimizing your business for VEO means claiming the top (and only) spot in your customer’s voice search. Waiting around could mean not showing up at all.

Source:; 7 Nov 2018

Disney Makes Streaming Services A Centerpiece Of Its Future

How seriously is Disney taking streaming direct-to-consumer video services?

Starting next year, the Direct-To-Consumer/International business unit will be one of four business segments the company breaks out earnings for in its quarterly reports to investors.

On the company’s latest quarterly earnings call Thursday, Disney CEO Bob Iger went into detail about its streaming video future, with an emphasis on three products: ESPN+, Hulu, and next year’s family-focused service, which Iger says will be called Disney+.

Disney+ will mark Disney’s biggest dive into streaming video, becoming a one-stop shop for Disney movies and content from Pixar, LucasFilm, Marvel, National Geographic and other Disney-owned brands.

Disney is developing a series based on the Marvel character Loki, and on the “Star Wars” film Rogue One. Both will star the lead actors who appeared in the movies.

“As with ESPN+, the launch of Disney+ will just be the starting point,” Iger told analysts on the call. “We plan to continually elevate the experience and enhance the value to consumers with a constant pipeline of exclusive new content as we move forward.”

Iger added that the company will be taking Disney+ international after its U.S. launch, with some local content added to the mix to comply with local rules in the E.U.

Disney will have a controlling stake in Hulu once its deal to acquire 21st Century Fox closes, although Comcast will still own 30% of Hulu, and AT&T will own 10%.

Iger told analysts “anything we do with Hulu will be done with an eye toward being fiscally responsible to the other shareholders, even though they’re minority shareholders.” While the company plans to invest in Hulu, it may not be able to take the big swings it is making with Disney+.

Hulu will serve as a general entertainment service, in contrast to the sports-centric ESPN+ and the family-focused Disney+.

In particular, Hulu presents a distinct opportunity for advertisers through its basic ad-supported tier and multichannel video service.

“[What] I think has been somewhat under-appreciated about Hulu in that it is a very strong play for advertisers, because it can offer targeted ads and is just a great user experience,” Iger said.

He added that the company will invest more in Hulu’s original programming and experiment with pricing, particularly with regard to its multichannel video service.

Hulu is currently only available in the U.S. Once the Fox deal closes, the company will talk to Comcast and AT&T about launching Hulu internationally.

Finally, there was ESPN+, the first streaming service launched by Disney in the U.S. earlier this year. Now with over 1 million subscribers, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said the company plans to invest $100 million in the service in the first quarter of 2019.

“We’re kind of just in the early innings, to use a sports analogy, of where we’re going to be product-wise,” Iger said. “And then we’re also in the early innings in terms of where we’re going to be from a feature set perspective.”

The company’s BamTech unit is developing personalization and customization technology that will serve subscribers content based on where they live, or their favourite team or sport.

The company will also start marketing ESPN+, beginning by targeting alumni of certain colleges whose teams don’t typically play on national sports networks.

Talk of streaming dominated the earnings call, with the company’s TV networks barely getting a mention from analysts, and only a few questions on the company’s theme parks.

During the company’s earnings call in late 2017, Iger said Disney+ would be priced “substantially below” Netflix, to account for its smaller library of content. He did not provide an update on the latest call, with pricing still TBD.

Disney is betting its content expertise will make for a competitive product with Netflix when it launches.

Source:; 9 Nov 2018

Namaste! You can now talk to Google Home in Hindi

Google has announced Hindi language update on Google Assistant for Google Home smart speakers for users in India. Google Home will also be able to respond in Hindi with uniquely Indian contexts.

Earlier this year, Google Assistant was made available in Hindi on smartphones allowing more users in India to take advantage of the Assistant. Last year, Google launched the Assistant in Hindi in Allo as well as made a special version available for Jio feature phones.

To converse with Google Home in Hindi, you’d need to set up Google Assistant to recognize the language on the Google Home app on your phone. Tap the ‘Account’ icon at the lower-right corner, then select ‘Settings’. Upon navigating to the ‘Assistant’ tab, select ‘Add a language’, and set ‘हिंदी (भारत)’ as the first language in the list.

Once set up, you can just say “Ok Google” to start a conversation with the Google Assistant on Google Home and ask a question in Hindi.

Some popular apps that Google Assistant can do in Hindi include Spotify, where users choose artists, songs and albums to listen to, or create playlist for special occasions; Sports app to get information and updates of favourites teams; Reminders where the Assistant prompts users of things-to-do in users’ agenda. Video calls can also be activated through voice command, and voice interaction on selected games.

Source:; 2 Nov 2018

Mobile payments in China are growing so fast, predictions can’t keep up

Eight out of 10 of the world’s mobile-payment users live in Asia, and more than six in 10 live in China, according to eMarketer

China will have 63.5% of the world’s users of proximity mobile payments in 2018, higher than the 61.2% previously expected, according to the latest eMarketer forecast.

The company defines a proximity mobile payment as a point-of-sale transaction made by scanning, tapping, swiping or checking in with a mobile device.

This year in China, 525.1 million people will use a proximity mobile payment app at the point of sale, up more than 13% over last year, the research company reports. That equates to 79.4% of China’s smartphone users.

In a distant second in terms of user numbers is India, which has 73.9 million users but is now the fastest-growing market. Adoption in India will jump 39.7% this year, and eMarketer expects double-digit increases through 2022.

“Chinese citizens have skipped the adoption of credit cards, making proximity payment apps part of day-to-day life,” eMarketer junior forecasting analyst Showmik Podder said in a release. “This starkly contrasts with Western countries, where payment app adoption has been slow, and the credit card is still king. The biggest players in China—Alipay and WeChat Pay—design their systems such that they are easily integrated with already popular social media and on-demand services platforms. This ease of use is helping to drive expansion, with further growth coming from rural users.”

Source:; 31 Oct 2018

What’s up with WhatsApp Business?

5 reasons brands shouldn’t overlook the text-messaging app.

In many parts of the world WhatsApp has become like breathing; we don’t give it much thought.

It’s such a big part of our lives, we just about overlook it entirely. This was not the case for Mark Zuckerberg in 2014. Facebook bought the up-and-coming platform for close to US$20 billion and just, well, carried on living life. Or so we thought. Many industry onlookers were wondering how in the world Facebook was going to make all that money back.

In January this year, the company finally launched WhatsApp Business. Offering small business owners an opportunity to establish themselves on the platform. Businesses were able to set up profiles, save & reuse responses, and optimise answers to messages through message statistics.

A fast and convenient way to communicate with a small pool of existing customers, yes. But it wasn’t anything new. Small business owners were already, albeit unofficially, communicating with their customers via the platform. The release of the separate app for businesses just made an existing trend more official, rather than adding more value.

It’s the series of announcements that followed in August, that have really got the industry talking. We round up five of the latest developments from WhatsApp that have the potential to change the mobile game for customers and brands.

1. Release of the WhatsApp API: Throwing the media into its first frenzy was the release of the API in early August, targeted at larger enterprises. The API (Application Programming Interface) is the glue, or rather connection, between apps, data and devices. The release of this API is just the starting point to realise dreams of automation and integration with other platforms and systems. For example, at the most basic level, businesses would be able to connect their WhatsApp Business account with social media management platforms, like Hootsuite & Sprinkler, optimizing workflow and communication.

2. Verification Pilot Program: Just like Twitter’s blue tick, WhatsApp Business announced that they would be assigning green badges to businesses they can confirm are legit. The instructions are already up on the WhatsApp Business FAQ page, however the program is limited to a small number of businesses, with no further updates on when another intake is possible.

3. WhatsApp partners with Google: WhatsApp and Google have struck up a deal; WhatsApp users can now back up their conversations, photographs and videos on Google Drive without it eating into their 15GB of free storage. After the announcement both companies came under fire; this free storage comes at the cost of losing end-to-end encryption of your messages. However, the bigger question we should be asking is, what other developments can we expect, or hope for, from a partnership between two of the biggest tech companies of our time?

4. WhatsApp Payment: Although currently limited to India, WhatsApp released its first pilot payment solution to a small number of users this May. Through Unified Payment Interface (UPI), a system that facilitates inter-bank transactions, users can conveniently make and receive payments from people on their contact list. Unlike a regular transfer, UPI’s transfers are immediate, no 3 hour window period needed.

5. Advertising in WhatsApp Status: According to a statement from WhatsApp, in 2019 brands will be able to advertise to their 1.5 billion users through WhatsApp Status ads. The WhatsApp team told TechCrunch, “WhatsApp does not currently run ads in Status though this represents a future goal for us, starting in 2019. We will move slowly and carefully and provide more details before we place any Ads in Status.” Why Should Brands Care?

All of this tinkering offers new avenues for brands and customers, both now and in the future, that goes beyond automatic greetings, responses and notifications.

Source:; 5 Oct 2018

Indian YouTube channel will soon dethrone PewDiePie in subscriptions

T-Series, a YouTube channel dedicated to Indian music videos, will soon surpass PewDiePie as the most subscribed account on YouTube, according to Tubular Labs. PewDiePie — a Swedish vlogger best known for his video game commentaries — has 67 million subscribers to his channel, inching just ahead of T-Series at 66 million subscribers.

But the latter is growing at a more rapid clip — T-Series expanded its subscriber base by 4.2 million in September against PewDiePie’s 863,000 — and Tubular predicts the Bollywood channel will hit No. 1 next week. The data underscores the growing importance of India — and the greater Asia-Pacific (APAC) region — for US-based tech companies as the next major market for expansion.

Here’s why India is a strategic international market, and how some major tech firms are starting to adjust their strategies:

– Smartphone penetration is still growing, and sits well below 50%. India’s smartphone users are estimated to reach 466 million — or 34% of the population — by 2020, up from 308 million (24% penetration) in 2018, per eMarketer. Smartphone users in the US stand at 252 million, good for 77% of the population, so the opportunity to grow customers domestically pales in comparison to the opportunity in APAC. While China has the largest base of smartphone users on Earth, US-based companies have struggled to launch there because of strict regulation. India presents the best opportunity to reach a massive, largely untapped market.

– India has the world’s fastest-growing economy. While access to a large and growing audience is a vital step in international expansion, companies still need a viable way to monetize audiences once they reach them. The Indian economy is the fastest-growing in the world, forecast to jump 7.3% year-over-year (YoY) in 2019, and 7.6% YoY in 2020, according to the Asian Development Bank. The twin factors of an accelerating economy and steady smartphone penetration are positive signs that demand for advertising and subscription-based services will continue to rise in the country.

– Streaming giants are localizing content to cater to Indian consumers. Netflix is launching local content across the globe, but the streamer is particularly bullish on the Indian market. Earlier this year, when Netflix’s global subscribers stood around 120 million, CEO Reed Hastings claimed: “the next 100 million is from India.” Meanwhile, the number of Amazon Prime Video users in India is growing faster than any other country, according to its Head of International Originals, James Farrell.

– Facebook has more users in India than in any other country. The social giant’s monthly active user base in India stands at 251 million, higher than in the US & Canada where it has 241 million users. And Facebook-owned WhatsApp is India’s most-used app, according to comScore. For now though, Facebook’s main role in India is serious damage control after misinformation campaigns have led to dozens of lynchings, per CNN.

The increasing western influence could spark Indian government to impose new rules and regulations on American tech companies. Last summer, the country’s Supreme Court declared that Indians have a fundamental right to privacy, and pushed Parliament to pass a data privacy law, according to The New York Times.

Potential legislation could hinder growth in India, or limit how user data can be used by tech, much like GDPR in Europe. In the meantime, global companies should start thinking about localization strategies to capture a piece of the market.

Source:; 25 Oct 2018

Facebook has revamped Messenger

Facebook launched a new, simplified version of Messenger, dubbed Messenger 4, which started rolling out this week. Messenger 4 provides a simplified user experience by making it easier to navigate the chat app’s various features. This is a big step in appealing to Messenger users’ preferences, as more than 7 in 10 (71%) say simplicity is the top priority to them in a messaging app, according to Facebook.

The streamlined interface in Messenger 4 will better facilitate communication and discovery. The updated app reduces the number of tabs within Messenger from nine to three — Chats, People, and Discover — which lets users more quickly access Messenger’s features.

For instance, the new Chats tab houses one-to-one and group conversations, enabling users to quickly switch between their group and individual conversations within one location; previously, users had to switch between separate group and individual chat tabs to do so.

Additionally, the new Discover tab enables users to access Instant Games, business conversations, and travel booking features in one location. Previously, users had to switch between a separate Games tab and Discover tab to do those activities. The People tab houses a list of active Messenger users, Stories, and the ability to search for friends — whereas before, those features were scattered between the Home tab and People tab.

Streamlining Messenger’s interface is a smart move for Facebook, as it will likely spur deeper engagement in the app. Since a majority of Messenger users value simplicity above all else, the updated app will likely enable a more enjoyable experience for a large portion of users, potentially resulting in longer average sessions. The streamlined interface could benefit brands as well, since users who open the Discover tab to see the news or play Instant Games could also be exposed to business-facing chats in the same location.

Source:; 26 Oct 2018

Brands can play with our emotions…and memories too

BBC StoryWorks study finds links between emotions, memory and brand influence.

We all know great brand campaigns can trigger real emotions. We can probably remember the ones that do. With that in mind, BBC StoryWorks, the content marketing unit of BBC Global News set out to find the scientific basis behind those connections in its latest research study.

Called The Science of Memory, the study tested six of StoryWorks’ branded content videos on on 2,179 respondents based in Singapore, Australia, USA and Germany using its own proprietary emotion-tracking tool together with neuroscience techniques from specialist firm Neuro-Insight.

Researchers recorded electrical brain activity and facial coding data and claim to have mapped not just the emotional intensity triggered by the videos, but also the level of long-term memory encoding in the brain. Among the study’s key findings:

– Emotions are a key driver of memory. If you’re watching a brand film, the bigger the emotional spike, the more likely it is to trigger long term memory. When it comes to triggering long term memory, there is no such thing as a bad emotion. The influential factor is the intensity of the emotion being experienced, not the nature of the emotion.

– Emotions can be fine-tuned to maximise and ‘colour’ memory. There are certain strategies to employ emotional spikes like compelling storytelling to make content more memorable.

– Triggering emotions early and often is most memorable. Brand films that triggered their highest emotional intensity in the first third of their duration ultimately delivered stronger memory of the content overall. Also, content that provokes numerous peaks of emotional intensity throughout, rather than slow building to a singular event, delivers a higher memory impact.

– Brands can ‘ride’ memory moments. Emotion often precedes memory. A sudden spike in emotional intensity causes memory encoding to rise shortly afterwards. So content marketers who can seamlessly integrate a brand in the memory window after moments of high emotional intensity allow that brand to ride the wave of the narrative into memory.

– Emotional reactions can vary by region. Shown the same piece of content, viewers in APAC showed surprise while American viewers demonstrated sadness or empathy and European viewers showed happiness. Yet all these emotions, researchers said, still delivered the same level of memory impact.

– Cuing the lights is worth remembering. Cinematic devices like lighting changes, unique camera angles and (more obviously) music changes all play a role in keeping the viewer engaged and creating long-term memories.

Naturally, the goal for BBC StoryWorks is to figure out how to integrate the science of memory into its storytelling techniques to create more last impressions without giving up the art of creative.

“There is real science that underpins effective brand storytelling and helps us drive the way we create content,” said BBC StoryWorks senior vice-president Richard Pattinson in a release. “But there is also an art to great storytelling—an art that has been part of the BBC’s DNA for almost a hundred years and continues to resonate in every innovation in storytelling we embark upon.”

Pattinson went on to say their work will continue to try to strike the right balance between art and science.

Source:; 13 Oct 2018