Microsoft has unveiled visual search for Bing

Microsoft launched a new intelligent Visual Search tool for Bing — Microsoft’s search engine — that allows users to search the mobile web by uploading an image or taking a photo with their phone camera.

For example, taking a photo of a flower will not only identify the type of flower, but will also suggest where the nearest florist is. Visual Search is available in a range of apps, including the standalone Bing app on iOS and Android, as well as Microsoft’s web browsing apps for Android — Launcher and Edge.

Microsoft has joined the growing number of companies that are turning the smartphone camera into a discovery tool. Pinterest, Google, and Amazon have all rolled out visual search products within the past two years, for example.

And retail brands, such as Sephora, Asos, and Akira, have also integrated the tech into their smartphone apps to increase customer engagement and help drive conversions. Within two months of implementing a visual search feature into its site, 45% of Akira’s customers had used the feature, according to a case study by visual search company Markable.

For now, the technology is somewhat limited. But it has vast potential to transform the way consumers engage with brands and provide greater insight into consumer behaviour:

• Retailers can increase the accuracy of their product search and boost cross-sell opportunities: Visual search can help retail customers clarify ambiguities that occur when they attempt to describe objects and colours in text-based searches. For example, a consumer may see someone wearing a black hat that they might like to buy. Text search would return thousands of black hats, making it difficult for the consumer to find the hat they really want. Further, visual search offers an opportunity to “cross-sell” items based on contextual cues in the image, such as the customer’s shoes or shirt, by matching them to items sold by the brand.

• Publishers can increase consumer engagement with their content: Media and magazine companies can use visual search to bridge the gap between the printed page and real world. For instance, looking at a printed ad through the phone could turn the ad into an interactive video. The consumer could also scroll through the video to view more information about the product and even add the item to their mobile shopping cart.

And as consumers become more accustomed to using the smartphone camera as a search tool, it will find additional use cases in healthcare, government, transport and logistics, banking, and insurance.

Source: buisnessinsider.com; 26 June 2018

Devices supporting Google Assistant have more than tripled in last four months

Over 5,000 devices can talk to Google

Google Assistant has had a good few months: Google’s smart assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices, up from the 1,500 it worked with back in January.

According to Google, it’s a list made up of a huge variety of products, including “cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, and ovens.” It’s a big jump — at least, numerically speaking — and if nothing else, it’s a sign that the full court press that Google started at the beginning of the year with its massive Google Assistant-themed booth at CES is starting to show some results.

Compare that number to Apple’s Homekit, which has just 195 products listed on Apple’s official site of devices that work with the iOS-based smart home system, and it seems like Google is making some serious progress.

But Google still has Amazon to contend with in the smart home assistant space, and it’s still got some catching up to do there: there are currently over 12,000 devices that work with Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Source: theverge.com; 3 May 2018

Amazon launches Alexa Agency Plan

In a bid to accelerate adoption of Alexa for advertisers and agencies eager to attain first mover advantage in voice search, Amazon has launched a paid platform plan.

Amazon is accelerating adoption of Alexa as a preferred voice search platform.

Launching the Alexa Agency Plan, Amazon is targeting small agencies and consumer-focused SMEs with a set of tools to close the gap between planning and executing.

Supporting search engine optimization, content marketing, and paid-search for Bing and Google, the platform aims to help advertisers and agencies reduce time spent in analysing the validity of a media mix and more time executing on it.

“The research phase in understanding the industry of a prospective client should be cut in half,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “Given what is offered and promised, an Alexa Agency Plan could eliminate the exhaustive time taken during the data collection and analysis phase in understanding competitors and audiences.”

He adds that while most SME’s in the APAC region do not have the required talent to execute digital in-house, most do hold Amazon in high regard and would be more willing to accept the strategy analysis endorsed by the platform.

Advertisers and agencies that use the platform can access intelligence about traffic sources, audience interests, keywords, backlinks, and a comparison tool for digital properties.

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018

Google and Facebook are expanding their video ads

Google and Facebook each recently announced video ad expansions to drive continued ad revenue growth and ensure that both advertisers and publishers continue to see the value in using their platforms either to advertise or distribute content.

The news comes as tech platforms increasingly disappoint advertisers and publishers over brand safety issues and transparency around reach and viewability. The news also comes as 78% of marketers say they plan to increase their video ad production in 2018, according to Clinch research per MarketingDive.

Google’s latest video ad format, called Outstream Video Ads, will operate on mobile devices across Google video partner mobile sites and apps, and will offer advertisers a way of reaching mobile users with video ads outside of YouTube, per Search Engine Land.

Google announced the new format on its blog. The ads will appear in banner ads, Interstitials, in-feed, and native for apps. For advertisers, the new format could enhance brand safety, because only Google video partners— a select group of high-quality publishers and mobile apps — will be eligible to run Outstream ads, improving advertisers’ access to a powerful mix of high-quality video inventory. The format could also offer better viewability assurances on video ads delivered to mobile devices, because advertisers will be charged on a viewable CPM basis. The format also offers advertisers a way of reaching consumers on mobile devices, which are rapidly consuming a greater share of consumers’ time spend across a range of media devices. Mobile ad spend is expected to become the top ad medium this year, capturing 33.9% of total media spending, surpassing TV (31.6%) for the first time, per eMarketer.

Facebook is reportedly expanding pre-roll video ads, after testing the format on Facebook Watch shows earlier this year, according to Variety.

With the expansion, pre-roll ads will appear more broadly in video content surfaced through search results or that’s posted on publisher Pages, as Facebook seeks ways to grow Watch. For now, Facebook won’t insert pre-rolls in News Feed. Along with promoting “good” video content through monetization, Facebook also aims to limit “bad” content by demonetizing low-quality video or publishers that engage in “sharing and distribution schemes,” according to a recent blog post. Limiting low-quality video and expanding available video ad inventory by adding pre-roll ads creates a compelling environment for advertisers and brands. Further, high-quality publishers stand to gain more of advertisers’ video spend on the platform as Facebook prioritizes content that builds engaged and loyal audiences. For Facebook’s part, the platform has identified video as a venue to drive ad revenues, which are the bulk of its total sales, as it reaches capacity for advertising pushed out on News Feed.

Source: businessinsider.com; 25 Apr 2018

Google finally rolls out mobile-first indexing

After years of releasing free tools that evaluate the speed of mobile sites and make the business case for prioritising it, Google has announced the rollout of mobile-first indexing.

After years of offering advertisers tools to diagnose the health of websites and develop action items for improving speed on both desktop and mobile, Google has finally done it.

From now on, advertisers, publishers, and agencies that are interested in achieving a high rank in query results (in other words, all advertisers, publishers and agencies) will need to turn all their attention toward mobile-first digital properties.

That’s because Google will now rely entirely on mobile sites and the adherence to mobile-first indexing best practices to determine the quality of content for indexing and ranking.

According to the announcement blog post authored by Fan Zhang, a software engineer at Google, site owners and webmasters were informed of the migration through Search Console.

“Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our—primarily mobile—users find what they’re looking for,” Zhang wrote. “We continue to have one single index that we use for serving search results. We do not have a ‘mobile-first index’ that’s separate from our main index. Historically, the desktop version was indexed, but increasingly, we will be using the mobile versions of content.”

Site owners will see significantly increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot, Zhang added. Google will also show the mobile version of pages in Search results and Google cached pages.

“Brands who don’t have responsive, dynamic mobile content will see the negative impact of these changes even if this move on its own will not hurt their rankings,” said Attila Jakab, managing director of Infectious Media. “If you are brand and you’re not set up for a mobile-first world, you should hear the alarm bells go off, and look at every piece of content you have online through the mobile lens and focus on this as a business priority.”

Advertisers and agencies that have created unique URLs for desktop and mobile have been advised to rely on the Search Console to verify both versions of the site. This will be done by checking the URLs and ensuring that the servers supporting the sites can withstand the pressure of the forthcoming spike in site crawl rates—for desktop and mobile.

Google also recommends that site content that appears on a desktop version of a site be updated on the mobile version as well, including text, images, and videos.

Source: campaignasia.com; 28 Mar 2018

Google on top again as search beats social on referral traffic

According to research by content marketing platform Shareaholic, search outpaced social in the percentage of overall traffic that it delivered in 2017. This reverses a trend of social dominance that began in 2014.

The analytic platform looked at externally referred traffic from over 400 million internet users and 250,000 mobile and desktop sites. A year ago site visitors were more likely to be referred from social networks, but search seems to have made a comeback in 2017.

Search drove 35% of site visits in 2017 compared to 26% from social. Shareaholic consider the changes to the Facebook news feed algorithms to be a major factor in the shift over the last 12 months.

Another important factor is that search engines are indexing more and more social content and including it within their rankings and results pages. This means that internet users are increasingly finding social content being aggregated by search engines, rather than only being accessible through searches on individual social media networks.

This has seen Google reclaim their place as the world’s foremost referrer of traffic.

Facebook drops

With regards to the social media networks themselves, the biggest change overall was Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s site’s share of visits dropped a pretty significant 12.7% in the second half of 2017. The site has had a bumpy year, with the anger over its potential role in the US election continues to simmer and the major changes made to what content it displays on its news feed.

Facebook users are also spending 5% less time on the site, although they are spending more time watching Facebook Live broadcasts and watching video. Because video and live streaming tend to link out to less other pages, this could be a big factor in the big drop in referrals.

Pinterest and Instagram are the biggest profiteers of Facebook’s drop. Instagram in particular has double its user base in the past two years, while Pinterest has seen a 1.5% percentage point increase in share of visits year on year. The sites success is built on the fact that its 200 million monthly active users have saved over a 100 billion Pins, all of which provide opportunities to drive traffic to an external source.

The thing that links Instagram and Pinterest is that they are both heavily focused on images, indicating that image sharing is an important element of distributing and driving traffic to content and product pages.

Source: marketingtechnews.net; 1 Mar 2018

Following Google, Adobe ups its voice game

As advertisers look to voice as an integral touchpoint, Adobe has introduced a tool for voice analytics integrated into a marketer’s customer data sets.

A week after Google announced deeper integrations and additional languages to Assistant, Adobe has announced an update that promises to personalise voice interactions.

Enhancements in the Adobe Experience Cloud will let advertisers and agencies plan scenarios in responses to queries directed at Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

“Imagine searching for a flight on an Amazon Echo device and finding the right one at the best price,” writes Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe, in a post. “The travel brand you are engaging with has already connected the dots on the back end, and you can book instantly — followed by a travel confirmation sent directly to your smartphone.”

The enhancement comes from Adobe Sensei, an AI and machine learning framework that will allow advertisers and agencies to leverage machine learning and predictive algorithms to personalise experiences.

“Voice assistants that were previously seen as a somewhat futuristic idea are here today and moving very fast into our lives,” said V.R. Srivatsan, managing director, Adobe Southeast Asia.

With the increasingly attractive price points and growing ecosystem of apps created for voice devices, Srivatsan predicts it won’t be long before voice becomes as ubiquitous as mobile in the Asia Pacific region.

Adobe’s latest Digital intelligence Briefing reported 13,000 APAC respondents across marketing, creative, and IT roles placed the highest importance in creating personalised and relevant experiences in terms of improving overall customer experience.

Source: campaignasia.com; 6 Mar 2018

Google Assistant: More chatty in more languages

The Google Assistant is going global, with more languages and deeper integration opportunities for advertisers and agencies.

Google has announced more languages and deeper integrations for its virtual personal assistant.

By the end of 2018, Google Assistant will be able to understand over 30 languages, including Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai. The virtual PA will also support multilingual families, that speak, for instance, English and Urdu in the same household.

The second update pertains to routines and location-based reminders. Users will be able to customize a series of events that are part of their daily routines, such as “pick up the kids” or “collect laundry”, when a particular command is spoken such as “OK Google, I’m home.” Depending on where a user is, reminders will be issued based on location.

Advertisers and agencies have the opportunity to invest in voice-based search optimisation in order to send contextual voice-ads that line up with a routine or help achieve a goal.

The third update will allow advertisers and agencies to build out deeper integrations within Google Assistant, with Alphabet working with manufacturers of non-Android phones. This, Alphabet hopes, will make the Google Assistant more friendly on such devices.

Manufacturers can create integrations for device-specific commands, creating room to work with first-come-first-serve advertisers and agencies that want custom integrations. This opens room for a business such as Nestlé to sponsor the good morning messages and breakfast recommendation a device user hears every day, for example.

Source: campaignasia.com; 5 Mar 2018

Google introduces AdSense Auto Ads

Google is bringing more AI into its ad business with the introduction of a new ad unit for AdSense. The new release aims to use the power of machine learning to try and optimise ad placement.

The new Auto Ads uses machine learning to “read” webpages and work out what the most appropriate places to put ads might be, and how many ads should be run. Publishers can activate the feature by adding a single line of code to their pages.

The service first appeared in a quiet, limited beta in in the second quarter of 2017. Google claims that publishers taking part in the beta saw an average revenue lift of 10%, and revenue increases ranging from 5% to 15%.

Benefits

AdSense is already a fairly automated service, but so far it has been up to web publishers where they want ads to be placed. Google has then selected the ads based on analysis of the page that matches the content to relevant ads.

The service is incredibly important to Google’s parent Alphabet, accounting for a whopping $27 billion of its $32 billion ad revenue in Q4 2017.

Auto Ads takes the responsibility for ad placement away from web publishers. Google claims that the service will only show ads when they are likely to perform well and provide a good user experience. The use of AI to work out where to place ads based on how they are likely to perform is an interesting development.

AI will also estimate how many ads should be on your page to increase revenue. Whether this leads to web publishers logging on to site to find it filled with ads. This post seems to indicate to that some beta testers were not exactly elated at the number of ads that appeared on their sites. It will be interesting to see if the AI can balance revenue with user experience.

Source: marketingtechnews.net; 22 Feb 2018

Microsoft launches Custom Vision and Bing Entity Search

A series of AI offerings from Microsoft target advertisers beginning digital transformations

Microsoft launches Custom Vision and Bing Entity Search

With Amazon, Google, and IBM as competitors in cloud computing, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI), Microsoft is moving to triple down on what it sees as its strengths.

The company has announced advances in several tools that fall under a ‘Cognitive Services’ rubric, including Custom Vision Service, the Face API, and Bing Entity Search.

In a company blog post, Joseph Sirosh, corporate VP of AI at Microsoft, said that Cognitive Services are defined as “a collection of cloud-hosted APIs that let developers easily add AI capabilities for vision, speech, language, knowledge and search into applications, across devices and platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows.”

The purpose of the announcement is to extend reach, offering these tools to data scientists, developers, and advertisers interested to delve into AI with an existing Microsoft ecosystem. Businesses interested in introducing intuitive digital business models need not engage in myriad testing phases in order to find the best fit AI, and can instead rely on Cognitive Services, according to the company.

Custom Vision Service, which has moved from free preview to paid preview, allows advertisers to train a classifier with their own data, while exporting their own models in order to embed them into active applications, testing them in real time regardless of device operating systems.

A functionality that is well known to anyone using Facebook or Snapchat or an Android or iOS device, the Face API helps identify specific people, allowing developers working with advertisers with legacy systems around Microsoft to create groups of facial datasets in the millions.

Microsoft says that unlike existing variations, the Face API is scalable and not limited to a handful of faces.

Also available now is the Bing Entity Search API, which allows advertisers to embed search results from Bing into any application, going so far as retrieving results within an image or a site. Utilizing latent semantic indexing, the API can offer advertisers context on people, places, things, and local businesses, including TV shows, games, books, and movies.

“A social media app could augment users’ photos with information about the locations of each photo,” said Sirosh. “A news app could provide entity snapshots for entities in the article.”

Advertisers can include location information in photos that appear in social media stories as well.

Source; campaignasia.com; 5 Mar 2018