Posts by Alex Kenney
Traditionally the Monday after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday has been stretched to Cyber Week, as online sales remained strong not just on that one day, but the entire five-day period ending December 2. Market research firm comScore reported that U.S. consumers spent nearly $6 billion online during this period, a 15% increase over 2010. Three days of the week (November 28-30) topped the billion-dollar sales mark: Monday ($1.25 billion), Tuesday ($1.12 billion) and Wednesday ($1.03 billion).
Why the Increase?
Well, for one, more people are shopping online now than they were even just a year ago. Eleven percent more people made a purchase online during Cyber Week this year compared with last. But the average purchase amount was also up by 9%, so people spent more overall online, too. The increased amount of promotional activity is most likely a driver – is it just me, or was the email bombardment consistent and constant all week? Every day, I woke up to a dozen emails from my favorite retailers, and while typically I might have unsubscribed to cut down on inbox clutter, I didn’t this year. I didn’t want to miss out on an even better offer! You’re giving me 30% off today, Banana Republic? I’m pretty sure you’ll send me one for 40% off, plus free shipping tomorrow.
Speaking of free shipping, that’s a huge part of this equation, too. According to comScore, 63% of all online transactions during Cyber Week included free shipping, an 11% increase compared with 2010. In their annual holiday shopping survey, more than one-third of respondents said that free shipping is “very important,” and they wouldn’t make a purchase without it, and nearly half said they would abandon their transaction if free shipping weren’t offered. With so many retailers offering it, free shipping has become practically an expected part of the online shopping experience.
Watching mobile’s meteoric rise this year has been fascinating, and the holiday season so far is no exception. Thanksgiving and Black Friday were big days for mobile, when people were spending time at the dinner table and with family instead of on their computers at work. According to IBM Benchmark, 14.3% of e-commerce sites’ traffic came from mobile devices on Black Friday, compared with 10.8% on Cyber Monday. And in terms of actual sales, 9.8% of Black Friday’s sales were from mobile, compared with 6.6% on Friday. This is a huge spike from 2010, when just 2.3% of sales came from mobile devices on Cyber Monday.
As marketers, we need to think of mobile, in-store and website shopping as complementary to one another, not cannibalizing, and it’s crucial to optimize the experience on each platform so that it’s intuitive enough to make that purchase easily. As shoppers – don’t be surprised if that credit card bill is higher than past years. With the ability to make a purchase anytime and from anywhere, self-control may be harder than usual this holiday season. But we don’t need to think about that until January. Happy shopping!
As with other recent large-scale events, Hurricane Irene’s trip up the East Coast this weekend caused millions of people to turn to digital to keep up to date on the situation. With no public transportation available in New York City and not even an open Starbucks around (two things previously unimaginable to most New Yorkers), social media users became even more active to occupy and entertain themselves during days of hibernation.
There was no shortage of websites to visit for hurricane information. The National Hurricane Center site and Weather.com were among the most credible, offering current advisories, satellite photos and wind speed and storm surge projections. Other sites were much more specialized, such as this interactive map from WNYC public radio, which shows evacuation zones and evacuation centers after Mayor Bloomberg ordered mandatory evacuations for more than 250,000 people in coastal and low-lying areas.
One obviously beneficial use of digital, and specifically social media, throughout the storm was that it provided a way to get quick and easy information, whether that be from friends and family or government officials. Twitter saw more than 3,000 tweets per minute by 2 p.m. on Saturday about the storm, and seven of its top ten trending topics were hurricane-related posts. Governors of both New York, Andrew Cuomo, and New Jersey, Chris Christie, used Twitter throughout the weekend to update residents on the status of the storm and promote other media appearances.
However, the flip side is that a lot of misinformation was distributed, which serves to remind us that the source of the tweet always needs to be taken into account when deciding what to believe. An image of Hurricane Irene approaching North Carolina was circulating around early Saturday morning and shared by thousands of people, only to later uncover that the image was weeks old, taken in Florida and had nothing to do with Irene. By Sunday night, the fake picture had over 315,000 views.
But overall, the trend is that people are increasingly turning to social media when facing potential or current disasters. A survey by the American Red Cross reported that 18% of Americans use Facebook to get information about emergencies, and 24% would use social tools to tell others that they’re safe. Not unlike their expectations of brands and advertisers, 80% expect emergency responders to monitor social sites, and more than one-third expect help to arrive within one hour of posting a need to a social media site. And for those lucky enough to have avoided serious damage from the storm, social media also became a channel to express relief – and in true New York fashion, that relief was often articulated through humorous sarcasm.
And where were advertisers through all this? Some brands that had a natural fit within the conversation inserted their voice nicely, where relevant, through social media. As people flocked to the nearest retailer for flashlights, generators and water, The Home Depot connected with consumers in many ways, including providing a how-to guide for homeowners preparing for the hurricane. Walmart linked to a checklist of items consumers should have on hand via Twitter, and Lowe’s distributed a press release so all store managers were prepared to field any media inquiries and interviews to provide tips and demonstrations on hurricane prep and recovery. Other brands that did not have as seamless a connection posted their sympathies or tied the weather to something relevant to their brand, such as this Nike Facebook post on Monday:
All of these well-done social media efforts made me notice the brands that were not mentioning the incident, and it made me very much appreciate those who were being relevant in real time. All in all, another good case study for how social media continues to play a paramount role in large-scale events everywhere.
It’s a great time to be a digitally savvy sports fan. Long gone are the days of sitting on the couch passively watching a game, relying only on the people in the room and TV broadcasters for selective information. Now there are apps, text alerts, Twitter feeds, online streaming, Facebook pages…you name it, and it can be used to augment your fandom. From an advertiser perspective, it’s important to realize just how engaged these fans are within the digital medium these days and to consider advertising and sponsorship opportunities within the space if it’s a good fit with your brand.
The recent NBA finals (Congratulations, Mavs!!) are a great example. NBA.com set an all-time record for streams and page views during the finals alone, with 141 million video streams and 401 million page views, an increase of 89% and 11%, respectively, versus last year’s records. The NBA’s free mobile app, NBA Game Time, was available on almost any platform you can think of, from the iPhone to Blackberry, and Apple to Google TV, and it was downloaded more than 2.5 million times. As a point of comparison, there were 1 million downloads last season, which speaks both to the popularity of the NBA series this year as well as increased mobile adoption rates among consumers.
And then there’s social media. Two hundred fifty NBA players have Twitter accounts and 75 have Facebook pages. Combined, the athletes, league and teams accumulated nearly 120 million fans and followers across Facebook and Twitter.
Compare that to the nearly 24 million people measured by Nielsen who tuned in to watch the game on ABC on Sunday night, and you really realize the enormity and potential of that social media audience. For advertisers, it’s encouraging to see how well the NBA has developed its social media community. As a viewer, it’s fascinating to follow sportswriters on Twitter to get insider information that might not be mentioned by sports announcers catering to the mainstream TV viewer. How serious was that injury? It’s pretty much guaranteed that someone on Twitter will know (or at least be speculating) before it comes across your TV set.
On the other hand, the out-of-market digital experience has improved, but is still far from perfect. Being a NY sports fan living in Dallas, digital has allowed me to stay true to my Yankee roots (though, as you can tell, the Mavericks have found a little place in my heart) through text alerts, frequent Yankees.com visits and watching games online through the MLB At Bat app.
However, there are a lot of kinks to work out with the usual tug of war between cable companies and networks and between platforms. While I could purchase the MLB TV package through Time Warner, this doesn’t translate to being able to watch games online if I want to bring my iPad to the gym. Conversely, paying the MLB to have access to watch games online does not translate to watching on TV, and without 3G on my iPad, I can’t watch at the gym either. Every additional platform and service is an additional charge, and it gets expensive quickly. It’s so complicated that I’ve actually started bringing magazines to work out instead…and for this digitally savvy sports fan, that says a lot.
Anyone out there have any similar frustrations? Or a great digital experience during the Mavericks/Heat series?
Everyone seems to be buzzing about QR (Quick Response) codes these days, as they’re popping up at an increasing speed everywhere from Best Buy stores to fashion magazines. So let’s take a moment to review what they are, who is using them (both consumers and brands) and note some strategic recommendations for developing a campaign that includes this technology.
What Is a QR Code?
A QR code is one type of a two-dimensional barcode that anyone with a camera on their phone and the appropriate mobile app can scan and use to access data. Most often, this data gives more information about the product, whether it’s pricing, how the product works or any other relevant educational and/or entertaining information. They enhance the overall customer experience by enabling quicker and easier knowledge, while also increasing engagement with the brand. According to research conducted by MGH, they are most commonly seen on products, in magazines and on coupons. Here are two examples of 2-D barcodes: (1) integrated within a Richards Group print ad for Ram and (2) included next to a product tag in a Best Buy store.
While there have been more than 70 different types of tags developed, QR codes and Microsoft Tags are two primary tags to know about in this space. QR codes are open source and readable by all tag readers (including ones often preinstalled on Androids), whereas Microsoft Tags are proprietary and only readable by a Microsoft Tag Reader. However, Microsoft Tags offer rich tracking metrics, including location data, and can be customized to match your brand identity, like the one below for Dentyne Ice that incorporates their campaign within the code to attract users to scan and watch the witty video on YouTube.
How Many Consumers Are Scanning?
With all the hype around mobile scanning, it’s important to take a step back and note that according to MGH, 32% of smartphone owners have scanned a code, which translates to less than 10% incidence among all mobile phone owners. But with eMarketer predicting smartphone penetration to increase from 28% to 43% by 2015, we can expect scanning behavior to increase as well. Not surprisingly for a new technology, users tend to be more affluent, so the use of these codes in campaigns is best suited for brands that appeal to a more upscale, tech-savvy consumer. It’s also important to note that according to a Compete study, Android owners are the heaviest users of barcode scanning apps, so this should not be developed solely for the iPhone.
1. Provide a strong call to action with an explanation of the scanning benefits. Why should a consumer take the time to do this? What will they get out of it? This Home Depot print ad is a great example of doing just that.
2. Include (a) instructions on how to get a code reader and (b) the URL to the mobile site for consumers who do not have scanning capabilities (remember, more than two-thirds of mobile phone owners do not own smartphones).
3. Enable sharing capabilities. If you have people scan to watch a cool video featuring your product, why not encourage them to share it on Facebook or via email?
As someone who almost started a career in the magazine industry but was ultimately drawn to digital instead, it’s fascinating to see the two media intersecting as they are right now with this technology. True integration at its finest, and it will be fun to see it continue as consumer adoption increases.
When Facebook rolled out to my college during my senior year, I had very little interest in joining. We already had Friendster and MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger away messages, and I couldn’t imagine needing anything else (this is a sentiment that when repeated to my future children will make me a dinosaur). But seven years later, I can admit that I have become a full-blown Facebook addict.
Actually, the most dramatic transformation for me has happened in the past year, when I moved from New York City to Dallas. Before I moved, I was a casual user. I never updated my status, often untagged excessive pictures and never checked in to a location. But now, I find myself on Facebook all the time, following the lives of friends and family outside Dallas, posting status updates to stay in touch with them and using Facebook as a way to connect with new friends in Dallas. So it got me thinking: have I become an addict because of my life change or because Facebook is an actual addiction and we’re all being sucked in?
Putting my personal changes aside, there’s no denying that Facebook use has exploded and that, clearly, the world is more than a little obsessed with it. A movie about Facebook won a Golden Globe for best drama. CNBC produced a documentary on this very topic, entitled “The Facebook Obsession.” One can barely pick up a magazine or search for something online without “Facebook” or “Mark Zuckerberg” popping up. And the most telling are the engaging user stats: Facebook reports more than 500 million active users spending over 700 billion minutes per month on the site. There are over 900 million objects on Facebook with which people can interact (pages, events, etc.), and more than 30 billion pieces of content (links, photos, etc.) are shared each month. In the average 20-minute period on Facebook, 1,851,000 status updates are posted, 10,208,000 comments are made and 2,716,000 photos are uploaded. It’s surprising that we have time for anything else these days.
Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD)
While FAD is not yet a true psychological disorder according to the DSM-IV, it is increasingly talked about. There are many Facebook support groups, ironically, that have tens of thousands of fans. According to ITM, a trending company, people worldwide have searched for “Internet Facebook addiction” 121.8 million times in just a few days’ period, which is more times than people searched for help with cigarette and sex addictions. Every addiction has enablers, and technology is Facebook’s. Mobile devices enable 200 million of us to sneak those quick Facebook feeds anywhere: in fact, 48% of 18-to-34-year-olds check Facebook right when they wake up, and 28% of them check it on their smart phones before getting out of bed. The all-new Chevrolet Cruze commercial even features Facebook news feeds being read to you while driving as a selling point. It’s everywhere.
So What Does this Mean for Our Business?
There is a huge marketing opportunity to learn more about what drives this “addiction” to Facebook and, conversely, what kind of people still, like me in 2004, have very little interest in it. While having a Facebook page doesn’t make sense for every brand, it does and is a must-do for most. As more research is done (and I’d expect to see a lot come out soon) about why people are on Facebook, and what need states or moods prompt scrolling through the news feed or posting a status update, brands will be able to make their content and messaging in the space even more relevant. And at the end of the day (when our consumers are checking Facebook one last time), that’s what our job as marketers is all about.
As brands are increasingly shifting media dollars online, it’s becoming more and more important to measure the effectiveness of online campaigns beyond just clickthrough rates. One way to do this is with advertising effectiveness studies, which take us beyond standard metrics to show the impact of a specific campaign on brand metrics and perceptions. InsightExpress and Dynamic Logic are the two leading vendors in the field to conduct such survey research, and they’re the ones that Click Here recommends and partners with as well.
How Do They Work?
At the start of a campaign, our vendor partner provides a tracking tag to append to the online creative. Visitors are surveyed on the websites where the campaign is running and classified as “control” (not exposed to the creative) or “exposed” (exposed to the creative). Exposure is not self-reported; instead, we know a respondent is exposed because of the implemented tracking tag. The survey asks respondents to rate the brand and four competitors on metrics such as brand awareness, message association, brand favorability, purchase intent and brand attribute agreement. Since the control group is weighted to match the exposed group on demographics and product usage and is recruited in the same digital footprint, any changes in brand metrics and perceptions are attributed to the campaign itself.
Source: InsightExpress AdIndex Methodology
What Do We Learn?
Can I Measure the Effectiveness of a Campaign on Multiple Platforms?
Yes. Taking online ad effectiveness studies a step further, cross-media advertising research gives a more holistic view of how a campaign is working across multiple platforms together such as online, print, TV and outdoor. Online exposure is determined by the tracking tag – just as in the online-only studies – but since this is not possible for offline media, an “Opportunity to See“ (OTS) methodology is employed. Endorsed by the Advertising Research Foundation, OTS is the most reliable way to identify offline media consumption control vs. exposed groups. It surveys respondents about their media habits (such as which TV shows they watch regularly) and determines based on the media plans whether the respondent was likely to have been exposed to the offline ads on various platforms. Results show how well each platform worked individually as well as synergistically.
Some of the most interesting online advertising research being done right now overlays a behavioral tracking component on top of the attitudinal survey results we get from the above methodologies. InsightExpress and Dynamic Logic both partner with Compete, a TNS media company that has the largest U.S. consumer behavioral panel. By adding this additional layer, we are able to see how campaign exposure affects search behavior (for the brand and/or category) as well as visiting the brand’s (and competitors’) websites and even making purchases online. This is an ideal way to combine attitudinal and behavioral results.
Source: Dynamic Logic and Compete
There are even more options, overlays, vendors and methodologies out there that provide invaluable insights into how a campaign resonates with consumers. Of course, there are impression thresholds and budget limitations, but as we pioneer into a 2011 that’s likely to bring even further media proliferation, this kind of research is worth doing when possible to guide crucial media budget allocation decisions as well as future campaign development.
TV is an inherently social experience. Long before the Internet and cell phones, there were still viewing parties and conversations around the water cooler at work the next day. As technology progressed, we started texting during shows and liking them on Facebook. Now there are new applications taking social TV to the next level for this fall season by repurposing the Foursquare location check-in concept for entertainment. Viewers can check in to TV shows just like checking in to physical locations. Let’s take a look at the main services out there and how TV networks are using them.
What Services Are Out There?
The apps getting the most buzz are GetGlue, Miso and Philo. Miso and Philo are for movies and TV, but GetGlue also covers other forms of entertainment such as books, video games and wines. All three connect with Facebook and Twitter to leverage their much larger networks. GetGlue was launched almost a year ago as a browser-based recommendation engine, but it wasn’t until June that the iPhone app came out, and now there are Droid and iPad versions, too. Users check in to earn stickers, and during the month of June, 550,000 users accounted for 5 million check-ins and ratings. GetGlue also offers value beyond just social: it gives Amazon-like personalized recommendations based on past check-ins.
Miso is a Bazaar Labs app that focuses specifically on TV and movies, and rewards are in the form of badges. Viewers ultimately achieve Fan Club admittance that unlocks exclusive show content. Users can comment on and like other people’s check-ins, as well as designate which shows are their favorites. A trending feature shows what shows are currently getting the most check-ins. As with GetGlue, there are iPhone, Droid and iPad versions.
Philo’s main differentiator is that it’s specific to live TV check-ins, so it has great value to networks to see minute-by-minute engagement. Users achieve credits by checking in to shows via a TV Guide-like layout and climbing the Hollywood ladder to ultimately achieve Executive Producer status. Awards are given along the way, and users can interact with others in real time. Even without checking in, this app is very useful for seeing what’s on TV. Unfortunately for Droid users, it’s only available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Other apps to watch: TV.com Relay is CBS’s live TV check-in service that had 100,000 users in late August just a few weeks after its launch, thanks to TV.com’s established audience. It rewards with badges and allows real-time commenting. Comcast’s Tunerfish is another app that asks the question “What are you watching?” similar to Facebook status update prompting. Tunerfish is unique in that there are referral rewards if someone clicks a link to a show that you’ve shared.
How Are Networks Using Them?
Fox is using GetGlue to recommend new fall shows to viewers of similar returning shows: “Glee” viewers who check in will be told about the new comedy “Raising Hope,” while “Bones” viewers will be alerted about the new drama “Lone Star.” HBO is also using GetGlue to reward viewers of the new series “Boardwalk Empire” with a special sticker if episodes are watched on the night it airs.
WE partnered with Miso to create a social experience around “Bridezillas,” customizing badges such as “Cake Smasher” and “Veil Thrasher” to play on the high-strung personalities of the featured brides. NBC made the Primetime Emmy® Awards more social with Philo by rewarding Live from the Red Carpet viewers with The Fashion Police award. Additionally, there was a contest to win $1,000 if Jimmy Fallon read on-air a joke submitted through Philo’s commenting feature. Philo has also partnered with IGN to host interactive virtual viewing parties with a chance to win not only virtual prizes, but also physical ones such as an Xbox.
So Will It Stick?
The main barrier is that not enough people are using these apps yet, so there is little peer reinforcement to continue to check in. Mainstream TV fans may stay content liking shows and posting comments on Facebook. But for avid TV fans, these services take fandom to a loyalty and social connectivity level that Facebook and Twitter can’t compete with…unless, of course, Facebook releases a repurposed Facebook Places for entertainment. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out this fall, and which networks and services can most effectively leverage the capability to engage viewers and, ultimately, increase ratings.