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Hotel Brands Need an SEO Concierge To Drive Preference

By Insights & News, SEO No Comments

The concierge is one of the most important roles in a service-oriented hotel or resort. Guests rely on the concierge to provide local recommendations for restaurants, activities, nightlife, etc. Meanwhile, a hotel brand is designed to create a guest culture that attracts a certain type of guest. The concierge needs to have a deep understanding of this culture to connect with a guest personally and provide an experience that will enhance their stay.

Hotel Brands understand the importance of the concierge and how they can connect with guests, but they often fail to take that learning and apply it to the digital experience, especially on their own websites.

Most hotel websites are predominantly focused on driving bookings and rightfully so; they need to fill their beds and ensure all their marketing dollars are driving revenue. This design strategy also assumes the Traveler is ready to book, an assumption that is predominantly true for Brand queries but not necessarily valuable Generic phrases.

The pages that are designed to drive bookings are also not what search engines want to showcase for generic phrases. This predicament requires hotel Brands to design website content that meets the intent of the Traveler and satisfies the Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) that Google requires to showcase a website.

This leads to an SEO Content Strategy for Travel Brands that is reminiscent of the valued concierge, the SEO Brand Concierge if you will. Before a Traveler gets to a hotel website, there are many considerations derived from the experience they want to have, to the destination that appeals to them as well as the type of hotel they might want to stay at.

These Travelers will spend time researching all aspects of their vacation, sometimes even months in advance. 91% of travelers turn to search engines when looking for a place to stay with the majority (81%) preferring to use Google as their most common source of travel inspiration. Hotel Brands can’t rely on Travel Websites, Social Media and OTAs to be their Brand Concierge as they wouldn’t rely on just anyone to be the concierge in their hotel.

The role of the SEO Brand Concierge strategy is to connect with Travelers throughout the many touchpoints prior to them booking a room. The content strategy requires a deep understanding of the guest profile and there usually isn’t just one, there are generational guest segments such as Millennials and Boomers as well as interest-based segments such as Adventure and Foodie Travelers. Each of these segments requires content that speaks to these Travelers and this content needs to be placed above the specific hotel destination as well as within. Hotel Brand websites need to connect with these important guest segments through content that Google deems worthy of featuring to Travelers.

For a Hotel Brand website to rank well for “Foodie Destinations” or “Dining Experiences Around the World” there needs to be content that curates the types of experiences that exemplifies the purpose of a concierge. These experiences can’t just be about what the Hotel Brand offers, how would you rate your experience with a concierge if they just recommended the restaurant in the lobby? This requires a re-thinking of Hotel Brand websites and the role that they play in connecting with Travelers.

An SEO Brand Concierge carefully designs content that will ultimately lead to a Traveler placing a booking at one of the many destinations a Hotel Brand offers. The strategy is reminiscent of a chess match, with carefully chosen content that leads down a path to connecting with the right Travelers while helping them understand that this is the Brand for them. Identifying the Personas or Traveler segments that a Hotel Brand is seeking is the first step, the strategy needs to be carefully designed to connect with the particular segment at each stage of the journey requiring a mapping of that journey and the types of queries and content that need to be developed. This type of strategy requires an understanding of search, the connections between topics and the intent stages of the queries that are made throughout the Traveler journey, sounds like a job for an SEO Brand Concierge.

If you’d like assistance creating an SEO Concierge for your hospitality brand, please contact us today.

POV by By Brian Ratzker, Executive Director, SEO, Acronym

Top Tips for Programmatic Success

By Insights & News, Machine Learning, Programmatic No Comments

Constant scheduling, manual negotiations, and pricing discussions, all these time-wasting activities are obsolete with programmatic advertising.

Programmatic advertising is simply campaign automation. It allows your team to focus their time on measuring campaign performance to ensure your budget is put to the best possible use with zero wasted time or money.

Programmatic also enables you to reach a larger audience. Nearly 60% of the global population is online. With precise targeting and programmatic experience, brands can find an approach to every potential customer.

With that in mind, here are the top tips for programmatic success:

  • Be selective with platforms. Understand the platform’s reach – examine which ad exchanges are included and ensure they are relevant to your target audience. Ensure you – or your partners – know the platform’s pricing structure (dynamic vs. fixed CPMs) and make your selections based on specific campaign goals.
  • Understand the Customer and their Journey. The more you understand you customer’s behaviors, the better you can connect with them throughout the journey and at key points in the funnel. Programmatic advertising allows you to tailor your branded content to each user’s interest at each stage of their experience. In fact, segmenting your customers based on their interests, preferences, and the specifics of their journey enables you to deliver the right message in the right way to each audience segment.
  • Let performance drive optimization. There is a reason it’s called “performance marketing.” The best approach allows for flexibility and revisions as performance data is available. This means you need to give your campaigns enough time for machine learning to occur as each user response informs the algorithms on the types of people most likely to act on your ad. Every ad interaction creates an opportunity for learning and improvement. In other words, programmatic advertising enables brands to narrow campaign targeting with each measured result.
  • Cast a wide net that’s based on stated goals. Programmatic success relies on multi-channel optimization. However, it’s important to select the channels that will deliver the desired call-to-action. This wide net also includes the content types you use in your programmatic campaigns. Because the algorithms continually test user response, delivering three-to-five different pieces of content gives you more performance data to connect with different buyers.

While it’s easy to think that programmatic advertising is entirely automated, you still need a clear strategy behind it. Machines are only as useful as the people operating them. Combining human experience and creativity with marketing automation delivers credible, actionable, successful campaigns. If you’d like assistance getting started in programmatic advertising, contact us today. We are happy to help.

Global footprint and holding companies? Work with citizens of the world instead.

By Inside Acronym, Insights & News No Comments

I remember my first global pitch when we (Acronym) opened our Asia Pacific regional office in 2006. Back then, it was fashionable to work with large digital marketing agencies that had an extensive global footprint as part of a holding company’s network (and in some cases this came with equitably extensive agency fees to support these offices).

Global footprints and holding companies were preferred because they were perceived to be more productive with a wider reach. Clients felt that access to a large network of in-office, on-the-ground staff was critical to success. Likewise, in-market equated to a team that had plenty of local knowledge and experience to inject into the client’s projects.

But, this begs the question: is bigger always better?

Not necessarily. Here’s why –

Access to a more talented team.

Independent agencies, like Acronym, are gaining popularity because they can focus more on a specific niche, marketing vertical or industry segment. They hire (or groom) talent to become subject matter experts. This approach facilitates delivery of best-in-class solutions for the client portfolios.

Independent agencies also prioritize staffing based on skillsets, experience, and expertise rather than focusing on where staffing resources are physically located.

This means clients get to work with a group of highly skilled experts who excel in their niche areas of expertise. Additionally, their passion drives continual expansion of knowledge in their specialized discipline.

Higher productivity, increased efficiency.

Often, independent agencies operate on the premise of strategically located home or satellite offices between key time zones. Clients can still get the 24/7 coverage they desire without working with large agencies with offices in all major cities.

Independent agencies are also more eager to please, hence unlikely to be boxed into the “9 to 5” business hours regime. In fact, working around client schedules is an unwritten code of conduct.

Furthermore, doing more with smarter, dedicated teams is inherent in an independent agency’s core competency – it’s part of the DNA.

Extension of your marketing team.

A personalized approach is synonymous with independent agencies. They are structured to provide a more one-to-one approach to each Client’s marketing requirements. Account teams invest time in getting to know their clients and believe in building long standing partnerships.

For clients, this means that they get to meet every person that is working on their account. This leads to more in-depth conversations on strategy, capitalization of industry trends and a collaborative approach to achieving business goals and success.

Clients are in direct contact with the specialists working on their account. This allows for an open flow of communication between the client and a group of specialists who operate like an extension of the client’s in-house marketing team.

Questions get dispersed in a more direct and efficient way, and clients receive answers quicker.

More creative solutions.

A “one size fits all approach” is rarely the case with an independent agency, whereas it’s the modus operandi for agencies led by holding companies whose cookie-cutter approach tends to deliver faster output. The personalized communication from an independent agency often leads to more thought-through and customized solutions that address clients’ unique marketing challenges. Put another way, independent agencies are accustomed to change and we can do so faster because we don’t have layers upon layers upon layers of bureaucracy to overcome.

Being flexible & nimble means independent agencies look for the best way to deliver positive results and are not afraid to do things differently, which may ultimately help clients gain a competitive edge through a more diverse perspective. Without being pegged to a ”certain way of doing things”, creative problem solving or addressing challenges comes naturally.

Moreover, keeping closely attuned to industry trends leads to the application of new ideas, concepts, and strategies relevant to specific industry sectors. Independent agency teams continually identify areas of growth and new opportunities due to the evolving nature of specialized disciplines or industry sectors. As an independent agency, we know how business is run and how important it is to keep one’s eye on the bottom line. We do it every day for ourselves as well as for our Clients. It’s just a part of who we are.

Higher propensity to invest in tools & technology.

Big agencies have big overheads. It’s no secret that the cost of office space, employee benefits, salaries and perks are passed on to the client in the form of high monthly retainers or hourly rates – rates that are usually established by the holding companies, not the actual agencies in the trenches.

Lower overheads and operational efficiencies enable independent agencies to reinvest these savings into tools and technology to help them operate like well-oiled machines. These include marketing automation, CRM, project management and other tools to improve efficiencies and drive success.

In addition, investment into technology enables multiple modes of working. Data is saved on cloud and access and security are tailored for different working modes. Applications and communication tools also allow seamless virtual communication and collaborations.

Virtual first – The (not so) new way of working.

The pandemic has normalized the work from home culture and more companies are going down the route of permanent remote working. Independent agencies are naturally set up for this style of working as they have been doing this for decades.

Often the workplace is distributed across home, office, and satellite offices. Agency resources can choose to work remotely or face-to-face based on their nature of work and teams’ preferences.

Account managers are more experienced at knowing how to manage, train, collaborate, evaluate performance, and motivate their team remotely.

Going back to our 2006 global pitch, we did secure the business because the above benefits (and more) resonated with the Client, and they continue to enjoy a strong partnership and more personal working relationship with highly skilled resources.

Perhaps it’s time more Clients did away with the Global Footprint consideration and holding company network and focused on agency partnerships outfitted to deliver success.

POV by Farah Sadiq, EVP & GM, International

people holding signs

Paid and Organic Social Media: A Tale of Synergy on Social Media Day

By Insights & News, Social Commerce, Social Media No Comments

Happy Social Media Day! Paid and organic social media are more often than not put into silos, so, we wanted to celebrate the true synergy of paid and organic by sharing our views on how they work together.

eMarketer found that 29.6% of US consumers completed a purchase via social media, showcasing that this audience is engaged and these platforms influence consumer purchase/lower funnel decisions.

Advantages of Organic Social Media Engagement

An organic user proactively looks for content, engages with your feed, and provides valuable feedback. They are a qualified, loyal audience that every company should pay attention to. Your organic audience will amplify your message by sharing your content with their friends and networks without requiring any advertising dollars, so it is vital to make your content engaging and sharable. A vigilant brand will use platforms like Sprout Social to help monitor brand engagement and sentiment on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., through social listening. By listening to your audiences and responding to feedback and messages, you become a key player in their decision-making process. You can get ahead of some of your consumer needs and expectations.

Additionally, organic social media platforms provide an excellent opportunity to share brand messaging, positioning and communicate with your existing social base. Audiences on engaged channels will dictate any changes they would like to see, giving brands the chance to be transparent with mission statements, share changes to products, and offer a first look to those actively participating with your social posts. This is a great audience to use for awareness and for scaling broad messages.

Advantages of Paid Social Media Campaigns

Paid Social flexes the ability to expand reach by using targeting that is relevant and scalable for your brand. You can target based on location, employment, household income for U.S. audiences (although there are exceptions with the special ad category), gender, age, and interests, creating more nuanced audiences based on campaign goals and channels. LinkedIn is for C-Suite targeting and is much more B2B-focused, whereas purchases for a beauty products are more likely to happen on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok.

How Organic and Paid Social Media Work Together

Working from channel insights, you can use organic contextual targeting and social listening and leverage these insights to develop personas and targeting segments. You can also expand on formats and tests you’ve performed in organic social media without running similar A/B tests that require a budget. We recommend create similar audiences to users who engage and interact with organic videos and target your followers to better focus on lower conversion events (such as lead ads or purchases). This can help expand your reach to a new audience. However, that is not where the cohesive conversation ends. Both organic and paid social media have a place in your marketing strategy.

Suppose a post performs well and gains high engagement (likes, comments, shares, etc.) organically. In that case, this success is something you will want to scale with paid dollars to capitalize upon the post’s organic success. Learnings from organic should inform paid, and vice versa, whether it is insights from comments received on posts or best-performing creative types. Leverage that success to a conversion or store locator ad and include lookalikes from your first-party data and site traffic to expand the impact of your organic posts. This will also help you remarket to loyal existing customers and drive impact to top consumers with special promotions and new product launches. Ensure you are using brand-approved hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to continue trending conversations.

Paid and Organic Social Media Play a Role In the Customer Journey

Successes from paid social media can be shared on organic social media, and organic social media successes should be shared on paid social media. These conversations/successes should be part of your holistic marketing plan instead of organic and paid social media working in silos, as each has its place in the consumer journey and ad conversion funnel. This goes beyond social media and should be a strategy utilized across all your digital marketing campaigns.

Your most influential advocates for your brand’s experiences and products are your social media followers. Feedback on paid and organic social media can work in tandem for updates, tweaks, and optimizations you might need to make as a brand. Potential influencers and UGC content are ripe for the taking, and brands can amplify these assets at an efficient ROAS without the content burden on your team. This applies to all paid and organic channels and can be used across channels like Snapchat, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

According to Ad Roll, “On Facebook, organic posts only reach about 2% of followers, and that number is steadily declining.” Using the qualified nature of organic with the sophisticated tools of paid, you can cater to and expand your social presence as a whole while being both relevant and scalable. If you do not use insights from both, you will be missing an essential piece of the social media marketing puzzle, and your content marketing campaigns will lack impact.

POV by Gellena Lukats, Director of Paid Social Media and Mary Sutter, Director of Organic Social Media for Acronym

holding phone

Instagram Launches Reels Ads in All Regions

By Insights & News, Paid Media, Social Media, Uncategorized No Comments

Instagram Reels are getting ads.

The company announced it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform, Reels to businesses and advertisers worldwide. The ads can be up to 30 seconds in length, like Reels themselves, and will be vertical in format, similar to ads found in Instagram Stories. Also like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment on, and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

Instagram previously tested Reels ads in select markets earlier this year, including India, Brazil, Germany and Australia, then expanded those tests to Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. more recently. Early adopters of the new format included brands like BMW, Nestlé (Nespresso), Louis Vuitton, Netflix, Uber and others.

In a blog post, Instagram officials stated:

“After testing in select countries, we’re launching Reels ads to the world. Reels is the best place on Instagram to reach people who don’t follow you and a growing global stage where brands and creators can be discovered by anyone. These ads will help businesses reach greater audiences, allowing people to discover inspiring new content from brands and creators.”

The ads will appear in most places users view Reels content, including on the Reels tab, Reels in Stories, Reels in Explore and Reels in your Instagram Feed, and will appear in between individual Reels posted by users. However, in order to be served a Reels ad, the user first needs to be in the immersive, full-screen Reels viewer.

Why this is important:

As Instagram continues to position their Reels feature as a worthy competitor to the TikTok juggernaut, they are likely high invested in this placement becoming a success. It is also helpful for brands across all verticals to have yet another option for running content and reaching users.

This placement will roll out for all brands in the coming months and is probably best suited for more upper funnel KPIs like brand awareness and video views.

What action should brands take:

For optimal performance, creatives in this placement should be sized in a 9:16 ratio. At Acronym, we are still determining if existing creative that already runs in story placements is optimal as far as content, or if Reels sees more success in ads that feel more native and organic, as is the case with TikTok. Look for an update on that once we have it.

In the meantime, if you need assistance implementing ads on Instagram Reels, please contact us. We’re happy to help.

pride flag with holding hands

Why PRIDE?

By Inside Acronym No Comments

As Pride Month comes to a close, Acronym’s Chief People & Diversity Officer, Irwin Drucker shares his perspective on why PRIDE matters.

Many of my friends, both LGBTQ and not, have asked me why, in the post Obergefell v Hodges era, there is still the need to celebrate PRIDE.  I have given them very long-winded explanations and then, this past Saturday, I came across this graphic, which absolutely NAILS IT!

I realized that I was gay while in Junior High School, came out to my first friend while in college, and to my family when I was 26, and already living in South Florida. I was one of the extremely fortunate gay men who was raised in a family where your sexuality was not an issue to anyone. Even my 80+ year old grandmother welcomed and adored my first partner, Jerry (although, to be honest, she referred to him as “my brother”, so I’m not 100% sure she really understood the situation). For gay men of my generation, the AIDS epidemic was our cause, as many fought, and lost, the battle for their lives. And while the Federal government was woefully inadequate in its response to the crisis, the epidemic brought the community together as nothing ever had, with non-profits filled the gap and organizations like GMHC, AHF, Act UP, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, amfAR, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, APLA, and so many more, became household words.

When the crisis stabilized, the LGBT rights movement began to gain strength. Collectively, the LGBTQ community, and millions of our amazing Allies, clearly saw that many in government, at the Federal, state, and local levels, saw us as “less than”, and not deserving of the equal rights that had been granted to ALL American citizens by the Constitution. For those of us lucky enough to live in “an LGBT bubble” like New York City, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, or other similar LGBT population centers, things seemed pretty good on the surface. But for our brothers and sisters in more rural areas of our country, being LGBT was a nightmare. Each year, countless LGBT youth were thrown out of their homes by families unwilling to accept the fact that their sons and daughters were homosexual. Even more LGBT youth were forced to live life in the closet, repressing their sexuality in order to “fit in” at home, school, and place of worship. For all of these young men and women, there was one day that gave them hope … and that day was PRIDE.

When I went to my first PRIDE parade, in Fort Lauderdale, with Jerry, in 1986, the AIDS epidemic was just beginning. Fort Lauderdale was definitely not the gay mecca it is today. Wilton Manors still had remnants of its trailer park past, the mayor was not a friend of the LGBT community, and law enforcement still conducted random raids on parks known to be frequented by gay men. But on that Sunday in June, as the parade marched past me and turned into War Memorial Auditorium for that year’s PRIDEFest, I felt like my community owned the city. It was an amazing feeling. I never dreamt that a year later, Jerry would be diagnosed with AIDS, and I would begin my activist journey.

PRIDE became a sacred day on my calendar. And the LGBT Equal Rights movement became my new cause. The decades of the 1980s and 90s saw a number of Supreme Court cases that focused on LGBT rights, and the results were mixed. We had our first victory in Romer v. Evans in 1996, but big losses in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (also in 1996), and, of course, 1996 also was the year that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law, banning same-sex marriage rights at the Federal level. And in 1998, in rural Wyoming, Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured, and left to die tied to a barbed wire fence on a freezing cold night. During these bleak years, PRIDE was the only day of the year it seemed to be OK to be LGBT.

It wasn’t until 2004, in the State of Massachusetts, that same-sex marriage was first legalized in the US.  As the years passed, more and more states passed laws banning same-sex marriage, while a few passed laws which allowed it. And every year, at PRIDE, we celebrated the few victories we had achieved over the past year, and looked forward to the day when we would be seen as equal before the law in every respect. The pace really picked up in the 2010s. In 2013, in it’s most pro-LGBTQ ruling to that date, the SCOTUS, in United States v. Windsor, ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, two years later came the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states!!  We sure celebrated at PRIDE in 2015!!

So we are back at the beginning … why, since 2015, have we needed to keep celebrating PRIDE?  Haven’t we achieved everything we set out to accomplish since the Stonewall riots in 1969 kick-started the LGBT Rights movement? In a word, NO. Although we won the right to marry the person we love, irrespective of their gender, we lost the next time “we” were at the Supreme Court.  In 2018, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the SCOTUS ruled that an individual’s religious beliefs could not be ignored in the interest of promoting equality. This has created a huge loophole through which countless instances of homophobia have been allowed to go unchecked under the guise of “religious liberties.” And even with the most recent landmark ruling in our favor in 2020, when the SCOTUS ruled that discrimination based upon gender identity of sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion, the fight for equality continues.  And so does the need for PRIDE.

Why, you ask??  Every year in our great country, over 4 MILLION youth experience homelessness, for a variety of reasons. And yet, according to True Colors United, 40% of those youth are LGBTQ, while only 7% of all youth are LGBTQ.

In addition, according to groups like Trevor Project, more than 10% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, and that number skyrockets to more than 30% of Trans youth. And 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting to take their own lives!  That’s an estimated 1.8 million young people who are seriously considering taking their own lives rather than continuing to live as an LGBTQ person!

So that, my friends, is why we still need PRIDE. As an out and proud gay man, I am fortunate to be part of a family and to work for a company with a culture that embraces me for who I am. Until ALL of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters can say the same thing, we will still need to have PRIDE, so that every young LGBTQ man and woman can know that there is hope, that it’s okay to be LGBTQ, and that they can dare to dream to be anything they choose.

 

As a LGBT-owned agency, Acronym is a proud member of the NGLCC. To learn more about our own Diversity and Inclusion programs, please contact us. 

holding ipad with google

Google Delays Chrome’s Cookie-Blocking for 2 Years

By Analytics, Insights & News, Privacy, SEO No Comments

Google announced the company is delaying its plans to block third-party cookies until late 2023 as it reconciles the challenge of protecting user privacy while still enabling advertisers to deliver personalized ads.

Chrome’s Engineering Director Vinay Goel said in a blog post:

We need to move at a responsible pace, allowing sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services. This is important to avoid jeopardizing the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content.”

One part of Google’s rationale for pushing back its plan is centered around concerns that blocking cookies now might encourage tracking companies to use more controversial tactics like fingerprinting to gather browser configuration details.

Meanwhile, the company has faced backlash around both its use of cookies across the web and its plans to block them. In fact, earlier this week, the European Union said it is investigating Google’s plan to remove cookies as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations that Google has abused its prominent role in advertising technology.

And, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google has separately pledged to give the U.K.’s competition watchdog at least 60 days’ notice before removing cookies to review and potentially impose changes to its plan, as part of an offer to settle a similar investigation. That probe stemmed from complaints that Chrome’s removal of cookies would give an advantage to ads on Google’s own products, like YouTube or Search, where Google will still be able to do individual-level targeting.

In the U.S., Google’s cookie-replacement plan was raised in a December antitrust lawsuit against the company brought by Texas and nine other U.S. states.

Google has been testing several new tools to replace various functions of third-party cookies, as part of what it calls a privacy sandbox. The first such replacement technology, dubbed federated learning of cohorts, or Floc, is intended to allow advertisers to target cohorts of users with similar interests, rather than individuals, in order to protect their privacy.

Acronym’s SVP of Performance Media, Gregg Manias reacted to the news:

“I’m not really shocked by this, we have seen over time that privacy search engines like Duck Duck Go blocked it, then we saw large publishers like New York times block it, then we saw competitor browsers like Firefox block it, I think the death of this plan by Google was last week when Amazon blocked FlOC right before prime day.”

Google, of course, plays a central role in the online advertising ecosystem as the company owns the dominant tools used to broker the sale of ads across the web. Cookies, small bits of code stored in web browsers to track users across the web, are widely used in the industry, including in Google’s Chrome browser, which has 65% of the market globally.

Acronym’s EVP of Analytics, Stephanie Hart added:

“Google needs a way to provide advertisers with the ability to target users and it doesn’t seem that the current version of FLOC is it. Google is having a difficult time balancing the demand from regulators and users for privacy against the need for revenue. The market will continue to evolve as Google develops solutions to this dilemma.”

Meanwhile, as the Search giant seeks to find a resolution, Acronym’s SVP of SEO, Winston Burton recently shared some of the other ways marketers can capture customer information through permission-based tactics, including content which, when done right, captures users’ interest at every stage of the funnel.

Google said it expects to complete testing of all of its new cookie-replacement technologies, and integrate them into Chrome before late 2022. Then the advertising industry will have a nine-month period to migrate their services, during which time Google will monitor adoption and feedback. The final phaseout of cookies will happen over three months in late 2023, the company said, adding that it will publish a more detailed timeline.

In the meantime, if you need assistance planning for these changes, please contact us. Our experts can help you navigate these ever-changing waters so you deliver the personalized experiences your customers expect in a way that still respects their right to privacy.

hand with phone

Acronym Explains How Commerce via Chat Is Growing

By Brand Engagement, Machine Learning No Comments
I spent the weekend making new friends on the web. Chatbots are now my new BFFs. Who (or rather what) are these Chatbots? A chatbot is an artificial intelligence (AI) program that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile applications or by phone. The global chatbot market is expected to be worth $9.4B by 2024 according to MarketsandMarkets. The increase in adoption rate is largely driven by the business benefits realized through this form of automation. According to a study conducted by CNBC, business cost savings from chatbots are estimated to be worth $8B by 2022. More and more businesses are turning to chatbots to handle customer service. For many users, the chatbot is the first touchpoint with your business – which is more personal than email. It is also available immediately and around the clock. My biggest bane, even pre Covid, was the long wait time on the phone before being able to speak with a customer service officer to address an issue. I have found that on most occasions, a chatbot is able to process my request within minutes and, if there is a question that the chatbot is not able to troubleshoot, there is still the likelihood of being forwarded to a human employee, with transcript of the chat, so we can pick up conversation from where things were left off. Intrigued by how chatbots are increasingly influencing eCommerce, I decided to test out chatbot functionality on some of my favorite Brands. Meet my friend Neha. She is a chatbot for a large high-street cosmetic company. I recently purchased a couple of items online and ended up with one item that was damaged. As there were no return labels, I went online to contact the company and organize a refund and return the item. This brand, like many others, had their live chat functionality on the bottom right-hand corner of their homepage. Neha politely introduced herself and asked how she could assist. I explained the problem and she requested that I take a picture of the item so that she could assist to process the refund.  Then she cleverly suggested the option of a credit toward my next online purchase. I was intrigued so I asked about their existing promotions which prompted a series of questions that helped Neha suggest which of the products on promotion would fit in best with my skin type. Long story short, in less than 10 minutes, Neha had organized my return postage label, courier pick up time and upsold me for 3x more than the cost of the damaged item! Meet my Amazon marketplace ‘Anonymous Personal Shopper’. I have been online grocery shopping for over a decade. Understandably, during the first lockdown in February 2020, most major supermarkets blocked out and reserved their delivery slots for people over 70s deemed vulnerable to the virus. In the UK, Amazon very promptly partnered up with a large local supermarket to start offering a personal shopping experience for Grocery items. As an Amazon Prime subscriber, I was able to secure same day delivery with a selection of delivery slots available some as close as 2 hours from when my order is placed. On a weekly basis I fill up my grocery cart, select my delivery slot and wait for a text message from the system to let me know the status of my shopping cart. My interaction with this bot is two-fold. It lets me know the status of my grocery shopping cart, including when it is on the move and about to be delivered to my doorstep. Its link with mobile maps enables me to track my delivery right to the point where its minutes from my home. Secondly, if an item in my shopping cart is not available, the chatbot provides recommendations for a suitable substitute. I have the option to either accept or reject the substitution and my grocery bill is adjusted accordingly. From a customer service perspective, the rise of chatbots is great as it has allowed us to continue to self-isolate without having to worry about whether we will run out of milk or bread! Unfortunately for my decade old online grocer, Amazon’s new customer experience, has me sold and there is no turning back. Meet my friend Donna. She has solved all my banking issues (new cards, pins, statements, change of address among other items) within minutes! Ordinarily, we would have had to call the bank, schedule an appointment with an Account Manager and then spend anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours completing forms and jumping through hoops to get all items up to date.
More and more banking and financial organizations are leveraging artificial intelligence and investing in chatbot solutions to reduce costs and serve increasingly tech-savvy consumers. The objective is to provide quick service and transactional support. Most basic tasks such as balance inquiry, bank account details, loan queries etc. can now be handled by a chatbot efficiently, allowing customer service representatives valuable time for more complex issues. According to a report released by Juniper, chatbots will be responsible for over $8B in annual cost savings by 2022! In fact, more advanced banking chatbots already exist and based on customer’s data, they can track spending habits, provide credit scores, set and manage budgets and tell the consumer where they are spending their money. With the added advantage of AI-based recommendations, these advanced banking chatbots  could even provide advice for better money management. I am not quite ready to hand over my purse strings just yet, but who knows what the future holds. Meet my friend Patrick. I had read about Lego’s gift chatbot, Ralph, who was launched over Christmas to help indecisive shoppers. I was hoping Ralph would be able to help me pick out a Father’s Day gift. Ralph was not available, but Patrick talked me through my options and helped me weigh out the pros and cons of a Minecraft themed set vs. Mindstorm robotics kit. He shared links to the Lego shopping website and images of themed options complete with discount codes.
bot purchasing quote
According to HubSpot, 47% of users are open to purchasing items through a bot. That is nearly 1 in every 2 customers who are willing to engage in a purchase process that is completely guided by a chatbot! I did deliberately abandon the cart. Though, Patrick is a persistent chatbot. He has tried to re-engage me through messenger and tempt me with discount codes and free shipping.  No, I have not transacted yet and am waiting for the retargeting media campaign to kick in. Beyond the sales and lead generation aspect, another benefit of Chatbots is cart recovery, particularly for retail and eCommerce companies. Chatbots can remind customers to buy, offer assistance, discounts and even clear up confusion or address concerns. Smart marketers can take this one step further and integrate the intel collected from chatbots and inject it into their remarketing campaigns to re-engage cart-abandoners and try to trigger a transaction. Meet my “Anonymous Friend” who specializes in luxury travel. A couple of months ago, I was contacted by a luxury hotel group’s chatbot as part of their lead generation exercise to re-engage with a past guest. The message was simple: “Hi Farah. We invite you to experience Budapest with our limited-time offer. Please let us know if you have specific travel dates in mind and any questions we may answer. We look forward to welcoming you.” Of course, I was interested. Considering Covid travel restrictions are being eased and summer travel is becoming a real possibility, I inquired about the current offers and travel restrictions. The chatbot’s response included links to relevant packages, travel documentation requirements, a link to a list of accepted countries and contact details for the reservation team. In the last few years, interest in chatbots within the hospitality industry has been growing steadily and is greatly reinforced by COVID-19 circumstances that push towards staff compression, cost efficiency, and the need to deliver instant and up to date information to prospective guests.
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Beyond the above example of how the hospitality industry is using chatbots to influence direct sales and deliver relevant information, chatbots offer support by increasing operational efficiencies, by filtering and answering frequently asked questions and redirecting the more complex questions to the reservations or concierge teams. My weekend with my new friends was truly educational. I learned that chatbots have multiple uses for business from a variety of industries beyond retail and eCommerce. With their quality improving and advances in AI-based technology, they are here to stay and are a welcome change, particularly from a customer service and operational efficiency standpoint. As AI and related technologies develop further, the more advanced chatbots will drive lead generation, influence cart recovery, and engage with prospective customers into conversational commerce that could impact an additional revenue stream. It’s no wonder that by 2024, chatbots are projected to drive eCommerce transactions worth $142bn! If you’d like to discuss how Acronym can help you leverage chatbots for cost-savings or as a revenue driver, contact us. POV by Farah Sadiq, EVP, International
video game controller in hands

G-Commerce is the New Ecommerce: 5 Ways Brands Drive Revenue Through Gaming

By Brand Engagement, G-Commerce, Insights & News No Comments

Gamification is not a new concept in marketing, particularly from the perspective of securing brand loyalty. Back in 1896, marketers sold stamps to retailers who used them to reward loyal customers. Fast forward to the 21st century, brands are still applying fun and engaging methods to stand out positively and reinforce buying behavior, engagement, brand loyalty and fuel online.

My earliest memory of a Brand -developed viral online game application is the Red Bull Roshambull game app, an online version of the old schoolyard game “rock-paper-scissors” which was launched on the Facebook platform back in 2007. It was fun, engaging, and due to its addictiveness, a perfect match for embracing the early days of Facebook’s growing community. It did wonders from a Brand visibility perspective, back then, as it was simply more interesting than just poking a friend!

In today’s world, everything is turning into entertainment and there is increased demand for new customer experiences and engaging content presented in a unique and fun way. Hence, the convergence of gaming and eCommerce (G-commerce) is inevitable.

While the common perception is that the typical gamer is very young and with little decision making and buying power. The truth is the average video gamer is 34 years old parent and homeowner (and women like me represent 33% of this gaming population!)

In 2019, there were already more than 2.7 billion video gamers worldwide. The gaming market has since exponentially grown and is due to continue to grow to $256 billion by 2025.

According to Forbes, 80% of smartphone users play mobile games on their device, and nearly 50% play games every day. Additionally, mobile game apps are used equally by both men and women. While more teens play mobile games than adults, 62% of adults do use these apps.

If you are not tapping into the gamer market, you have got to ask yourself, “Why not?”.

Here is how some brands are successfully using games for marketing and generating a new revenue stream through G-Commerce.

Live Streaming Game Platforms 

In September 2020, British heritage brand, Burberry became the first luxury fashion brand to collaborate with Twitch and livestream the BurberrySpring/Summer 2021 show from London Fashion Week. The hour-long stream garnered approximately 42,000 concurrent views. It has not only unlocked a new space to connect with the Burberry community but also enabled the luxury fashion brand to tap into a potential new customer base.  

As Twitch is owned by Amazon, there is possibility to now extend the Twitch partnership further and create a seamless linked customer experience on a new eCommerce storefront – Amazon Luxury Stores.  

Sponsorships 

ESports has always been popular and not just in the US. With game genres ranging from fighting games, first-person shooters, strategy, sports, racing and all sorts of multiplayer online battle arenas, it is no wonder that the esports market is valued at over $900M and growing at an exponential rate. It has certainly come a long way since the first ever FIFA game was released in Dec 1993 on consoles like SEGA. (While the game only included a national team, without player names, there were sponsors on the background billboards!)

Companies looking to grow their brands are partnering with specific esports leagues or tournaments to sponsor the events. These partnerships offer an opportunity for high engagement since they often feature live performances and, extensive media coverage – online and offline, which helps brands connect with enthusiastic gaming fans. Beyond event sponsorships, companies have also adopted product placement to boost brand awareness with in-game branding such as billboards, player jerseys, digital signages and customized arenas.

Red Bull tops the list of ESport sponsors, and their investment has a return of a whopping USD 1.8B+ in revenue from ESport sponsorships alone

Brand Tie-ins 

One of my favorite brand tie-ins is EA Games and Italian fashion house Moschino from 2019. They collaborated to create in-game packs that would unlock virtual Moschino clothing and fashion-themed career paths in the Sims Universe. Not only did the luxury brand creatively position their garments as part of the in-game experience, but Moschino also adopted the game theme in-store by launching their ready to wear line under the Moschino x Sims moniker. 

More recently, Balenciaga recently released their 2021 Fall Collection in the form of an immersive online video game titled “Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow”.  

 Influencers & streamers

Like Travel, Fashion and Beauty influences, Gaming influencers are extremely impactful. Most of

these streamers have millions of followers, and sponsoring their streams is an effective strategy for brand marketing. Similar to other advertising on broadcast channels, a streamer might include your brand in a sponsored stream title or on a tile on their channel page. Other options include brand placement on the video stream itself or behind the streamer on their webcam.

Brands can monetize on this when streamers share unique promotion codes with their fans to receive discounts or value adds when they transact on Brand eStores.

Adidas collaborated with gaming streamer Ninja (Tyler Blevins), to launch a new sneaker collection. As Ninja is one of the most followed Twitch gamers (14M+ followers!), this collaboration helped Adidas tap into his massive following.

Programmatic advertising in games

In-game advertising has significantly evolved, not just in the sophistication of gamer audience target segments but also with the use of AI technology, tools and technique that are less disruptive to game play while still being engaging.

With programmatic advertising now integrated into mobile devices and console-based games, it has opened up a whole new channel for Brands to engage with their desired audience while using the same sophisticated and customized audience-based targeting.

For those of you who are still deliberating on whether gamification should be part of your overall marketing mix, perhaps start with a small test on your next programmatic media buy and take things from there. Or, you can contact us and we can help develop a strategic approach with you.

POV by Farah Sadiq, Acronym’s EVP, GM International

keyboard shopping button

The Key Factors Influencing Online Purchases

By eCommerce and Marketplaces, Insights & News, Social Commerce, Social Media No Comments

Facebook published a new report, using research derived from Hong Kong and Taiwan, that shows how digital media has reshaped the modern shopping process.

Among other trends, the report found that convenience continues to be the #1 purchase driver, underscoring the need for hyper-seamless checkout.

While the downside of online shopping is the lack of tangibility (which formats like live shopping and AR aim to address), the upside is the ability to compare prices and options, something that may be associated with declining brand loyalty.

The report explains that brand loyalty as we used to know it is under threat. According to Nielsen’s Global Consumer Loyalty study, only 8% of consumers consider themselves committed loyalist to their favorite brands. With the variety of choices presented in consumers’ lives today, coupled with rising spending powers relative to product costs, brand switching becomes effortless and less risky.

Why is this important? 

While the report is based on data from the APAC region, the findings have worldwide implications. Boosted by the pandemic, more consumers than ever are shopping online, and “have high expectations [that they] are not willing to lower when online shopping.”

Acronym’s EVP, International GM, Farah Sadiq explains:

“According to an Epsilon study, 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized service. Personalization in a messenger environment isn’t new to Facebook (the Facebook messenger bot has been around since 2018).

The key to success is for brands to build out a conversational eCommerce strategy that places prospects in a low pressure environment where they are comfortable sharing their budget and preferences and receptive to product recommendations in a highly visual (image or video based), engaging and personalized manner. In other words, access to your very own personal shopper at your finger tips.” 

What is the impact on brands?

Acronym’s VP of Asia Operations, Pearlyn Kua takes it a step further when it comes to the opportunities this report presents for brands.

“The disruption caused by the pandemic has evolved consumers’ buying behaviour due to shops being closed as the city goes into lockdown. Consumers’ usual go to products / brands may often become unavailable. This presents opportunity for businesses to capitalise as consumers establish new brand loyalties and patterns of purchasing behaviour.

In Asia, we have seen businesses revised their business models to remain agile through removing cumbersome processes & increased communication across teams. This allows them to continue business while remaining competitive and operational under stringent measures.”

Shopping of all types, not just physical products, is subject to rising consumer expectations.

While companies that sell consumer goods need to use creative new tools to help online shoppers get a sense for how products look and feel, companies selling services also need to up their game in providing engaging shopping experiences.

A fuss-free checkout process is equally important for every brand selling online.

In fact, the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 70%. But, it doesn’t have to be that high if brands pay attention to the customer’s experience and initial intent. Acronym’s Director of Paid Social Media, Gellena Lukats explains:

“We have found our dynamic product ads on Facebook drive some of the most efficient ROAS and revenue. Tapping into the audience that shows intent helps scale our campaigns and drive performance.”

In fact, the study goes on to show that continued engagement with consumers keeps them loyal. Per the study, an overwhelming majority of Hong Kong and Taiwan shoppers want brands to stay in touch with them and have indicated an interest to receive brand communications from brands.

We recommend optimizing your brand’s online shopping experience, including experimenting with new creative formats, like live-stream shopping, brand stores, or shoppable posts.

If you’d like more information, including a deep-dive competitive and customer analysis of these purchase opportunities for your brand, contact us today.