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Let’s start this post by getting the obvious out of the way: AI is changing the digital and user experience. Whether it’s through automation that makes business processes easier, personalization that remembers who you are and what you like, or chatbots that take care of your users when you can’t, AI is a game changer. As it happens to be, that’s exactly what we’re going to be talking about. Well, sort of—we won’t be talking about automation, personalization or chatbots. Instead, we’ll be focusing on another facet of AI that’s also making quite a big splash. If you haven’t already figured it out by reading this post’s very own title (which you’re probably doing right about now), our discussion today revolves around the likes of Alexa and Siri and how virtual assistants are affecting the customer experience.

The Rise of Intelligent Digital Assistants: Marketing in the Age of Alexa and Siri

When the world went mobile, many of us were introduced to the wonder that is the digital assistant. The thing is, we didn’t really consider them as utilitarian back then. No, for the most part, we mainly played around with them and had our fun. Then things changed. We realized we could do more with them than ask for jokes; we realized that we could literally use them as digital assistants. That was then; in the years since, their utility has only increased. Today, we can do SO much with them that the possibilities are literally endless. And from these possibilities come a myriad of predictions about what the world with them will be. More specifically, what the marketing world will look like.

And thus we arrive at our main topic for today: top 5 predictions for digital assistants and their impact on marketing.

1. Almost 8 Billion Digital Voice Assistants Will Be in Use by 2023

Yes, you read that right—an astounding 8 billion digital assistants are expected to be in use by 2023, representing an annual compound growth rate of more than 25%. With the amount of utility we get from these AI-backed assistants, it’s not hard to imagine why this is. After all, if we can control our appliances, search and do A LOT more with our voices thanks to these digital assistants, it makes sense that more and more of us are going to start using them every year.

As the marketers of today (hopefully) already know, this means that big changes are coming to pretty much all marketing endeavors. Whether you’re placing ads or trying to increase your online rankings, the rise of digital assistants is leading to things like voice search optimization, which is already a must-have service for top digital marketing agencies who were smart enough to change with the times and add this to their repertoire.

2. 30% of Web Browsing Sessions Will Be Done without a Screen by 2020

Leading off of the previous prediction is this one, which states that almost a third of online browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. Wait a second, that doesn’t seem right, does it? How can we browse the internet without a screen? Simple—because browsing doesn’t mean to look at something; rather, it’s more like perusing. Because of this, every time we ask Siri to point us to the nearest coffee shop, or Alexa what the latest movies are, we’re browsing the internet.

As it happens to be, that right there is one of the biggest impacts digital assistants are bringing. By eliminating the need to use our hands or eyes to browse, we open the door to vocal interactions that can do the same even in situations when the former would be inadvisable, such as whilst driving or crossing a busy street. In terms of marketing, this means getting into your user’s head to figure out how they’re going to use this technology in their day-to-day lives, which you can leverage to uphold your strategies.

3. The Average Person Will Have More Conversations with Bots Than with Their Spouse by 2020

As the technology behind intelligent digital assistants improves, it makes sense that we’ll use them more as it does so. And if we start using them more, it also makes sense that, at some point, we’ll be conversing with them more frequently than our spouses. It may not be a happy thought for some, but it’s the truth. Look at it this way, realistically, the average working adult today spends the majority of their time without their spouse (sleeping doesn’t count). Whether it’s because they’re working or doing who knows what, more people than not spend more of their time with their phone than their spouse. And as we just saw from the predictions above, they’ll be using digital assistants more so while they’re doing that. As a marketer, it’s your job to figure out how to capitalize on that and make the most of it.

Read More About: How to Use Alexa Skills in Interactive Content Marketing
4. Voice Shopping Will Jump to $40 Billion by 2022

Voice shopping jumping to $40 billion by 2022? Now that’s a prediction most marketers and business owners can back, especially when you consider that the jump will be from $2 billion today. It’s truly amazing, isn’t it? We had digital assistants like Siri back in the early 2010s, but we weren’t really shopping with them. Things are much different today. With the proliferation of other personalities like Alexa and the Google Assistant that come with their own “skills” and “actions,” we’re seeing a BIG jump in their capabilities, which just so happens to include buying this or that. In other words, as a definite major disruptive force in retail, digital assistants are making it easier to do pretty much everything, including shop.

5. 25% of Digital Workers Will Use Virtual Employee Assistants (VEAs) Daily by 2021

Finally, the last prediction stemming from the rise of intelligent digital assistants is that 25% of digital workers are expected to be employing them daily by 2021, up from a measly 2% today. As Annette Jump, Senior Director at Gartner had to say, “we expect VEAs to be used by an increasing number of organizations over the next three years… Industries such as insurance and financial services are showing strong interest in piloting VEAs internally. We’ve also witnessed VAs being used in IT, customer service and information queries.”

Read More About: How Are Brands Using Smart Speakers for Marketing?

And as we can see from services like Amazon's Alexa for Business that helps employees to be more productive in meeting rooms, at their desks, and even with the Alexa devices they have at home, or Nokia’s MIKA that aids engineers' efficiency by providing voice-activated access to information, digital assistants in the workplace will soon be as commonplace as the water cooler once was.

Let’s Take a Second Look

So, how does it feel like living through the rise of intelligent voice assistants as we enter the intelligent digital assistant era? If you’re like me, you’re probably ecstatic because of all you’ll soon be able to do with them. I mean, come on—when you think of what we can already do with them now, the future definitely looks bright. With that thought fresh in our minds, let’s take a second look at the predictions we covered today:

  1. Almost 8 Billion Digital Voice Assistants Will Be in Use by 2023
  2. 30% of Web Browsing Sessions Will Be Done without a Screen by 2020
  3. The Average Person Will Have More Conversations with Bots Than with Their Spouse by 2020
  4. Voice Shopping Will Jump to $40 Billion by 2022
  5. 25% of Digital Workers Will Use Virtual Employee Assistants Daily by 2021
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Video and social media in 2019 go hand-in-hand. With estimates valuing digital video marketing as a $135 billion industry, the power of video advertising is proven by its effectiveness: 93% of businesses gained a new customer as a direct result of a video posted on social media. In fact, the average video ad view time has increased by 19% in recent years, with more than 50% of consumers saying they prefer video content from brands they support. Even more, it’s estimated that ad spend on video marketing will reach $20 billion by 2020. And then there are the following stats, which you can find in the infographic below:

  • 88% of marketers are satisfied with the ROI of their marketing efforts for video on social media
  • There is a 97% increase in purchase intent after a prospective lead enjoys a video ad
  • Instagram saw the largest growth in driving purchases over any other social media platform, increasing from 31% in 2017 to 48% in 2018
  • 70% of marketers use YouTube to boost their online presence
  • Sponsored video content views on Facebook has jumped 258% since 2016

Now that we have established the importance of social media video advertising, let’s move onto the different factors that need to be taken into consideration before executing a video ad campaign. For instance, you have to think about video categories, video types and video format specifications, all of which are essential components in the video ad creation process.

Video Marketing: Video Types

There are multiple video types in the market depending on the agenda or message being pursued. Here is a list of the 9 most popular video categories:

  1. Brand videos
  2. Explainer videos
  3. Disappearing videos (social stories)
  4. Live videos
  5. How-to videos
  6. Demo videos
  7. Expert videos
  8. Animated videos
  9. Virtual reality/360° videos
1. Brand Videos

Brand videos are typically created as part of a larger ad campaign, which are displayed on different social media platforms in order to increase traffic and drive brand awareness. The main objective of a brand video is to deliver a brand’s identity, mission, vision, or its products and services to its audience.

2. Explainer Videos

Explainer videos are typically used to demonstrate how a product works, what its functions are, and how its users can benefit from it.

3. Disappearing Videos (Social Stories)

Most social media platforms of today have a function for so-called “time-restricted stories” that effectively capture a user’s attention by creating a sense of urgency. Due to its high audience reach, it is now essential for marketers to know how to use social media stories for business as part of their ad strategies.

4. Live Videos

People spend 8x as much of their time watching live videos than on-demand content. With these high engagement rates, these real-time videos are quickly being integrated into many social media video advertising strategies.

Read More About: How to Use Video Storytelling in Your Marketing Strategy
5. How-to Videos

70% of millennial Youtube users watched “how-to” videos for learning purposes. These videos effectively demonstrate a product or service’s functions and establish a closer relationship with prospective clients.

6. Demo Videos

Demo videos have a similar goal as explainer and how-to videos, but take things further by emphasizing all the key benefits of company’s products or services.

7. Expert Videos

Expert videos are interviews delivered by influencers who are perceived as more credible. Thus, expert videos are especially useful in creating trust between a brand and it target audience.

8. Animated Videos

Animated videos can be used efficiently to explain complicated or abstract concepts, while retaining an eye-catching and entertaining quality.

9. Virtual Reality/360° Videos

Even though virtual reality (VR) videos are relatively new compared to other video types, their demand is increasing amongst viewers. After all, these videos are often seen as a novelty. However, as the technology develops, they’re sure to become a more integral and interactive part of video marketing.

Digital Video Ad Formats

From ad types we arrive at digital video ad formats. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, there are two main formats for digital video ads that can include a companion banner ad: linear and nonlinear.

  1. Linear Video Ads
  • This ad format interrupts streaming video content
  • Played before (pre-roll), during (mid-roll) or after (post-roll) the streaming content
  • Can be served with companion ads (below)
  • Can include an interactive content
  • Nonlinear Video Ads
    • This ad format displays as a static image, text or interactive rich media overlayed on the video content
    • Runs simultaneously with the streaming content
    • Can be served with companion ads (below)

    Companion Video Ads

    • Companion video ads are always served with the master ad (linear or nonlinear)
    • Runs alongside or surrounding the video player
    • Comes in number of shapes and sizes
    • Retains visibility of the sponsor throughout the streaming video experience
    The Four Steps in the Video Ad Creation Process

    It’s time to cover the actual video ad creation process, which consists of four stages, described below:

    1. Concept Development

    The first step in the video ad creation process is to identify which concept and agenda you want to pursue. Different variables like video type, category or social media channel should be taken into consideration in this step. In order to determine which approach to take, it’s also essential to have intimate knowledge of your target audience.

    2. Video Creation

    Once all the factors of the concept development stage are analyzed, it’s time to create the video. This will be a time-consuming process because there’s a lot of planning involved, and a lot of moving variables to consider. You will need to establish sets, set casting calls, create a script, and perform a lot of other prerequisites before the actual video shooting can begin. If you are creating an animated video, there will be even more steps to include before the actual video creation, such as the pre-production and storyboard stages.

    Tip: Video creation is a tedious business. Feel free to reach out to your friendly neighborhood video marketing agency for some help!
    3. Video Editing

    There are a lot of editing elements involved in the video editing stage, such as:

    • Visual effects
    • Text overlay
    • Sound effects
    • Closed captions
    • Lighting
    • Etc.

    Depending on which video type or category you choose, more editing might be needed. 

    4. Ad Creation

    As the fourth and final step, the creation of the actual ads for each social media platform will take place after the video is made. Once the ads are running, it’s vital to keep a close eye on them and analyze any key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ve established.

    Social Media Video Advertising Specifications

    Each social media platform requires its own unique video specifications when it comes to uploading content. Because Facebook, Youtube and Instagram are the most effective channels for video advertising, here’s a quick summary of video specs for each one:

    Facebook

    Here are the specifications for Facebook video ads:

    • Feed video:
      • Size: 1280 x 720 px
      • Minimum size: 600 px (width)
      • Supported aspect ratio: 16:9 (full landscape) / 1:1 (square) / 4:5 (vertical) / 2:3 (vertical) / 9:16 (full portrait)
      • Specs: MP4 or MOV format / maximum length of 240 minutes / maximum file size of 4 GB
      • Placement: Natively on Facebook Feed
    • In-stream video:
      • Size: 1280 x 720 px
      • Minimum size: 600 x 315 px  or 600 x 600 px
      • Supported aspect ratio: 16:9 (full landscape) / 1:1 (square) / 4:5 (vertical) / 2:3 (vertical) / 9:16 (full portrait)
      • Specs: MP4 or MOV format / maximum length of 15 seconds / maximum file size of 4 GB
      • Placement: Mid-roll during a video
    • Messenger video:
      • Size: 1280 x 720 px
      • Supported aspect ratio: 16:9 (horizontal) to 1.91:1 (horizontal)
      • Specs: MP4 or MOV format / maximum length of 240 minutes / maximum file size of 4 GB
      • Placement: Natively on Facebook Messenger through Home or Sponsored Messages
    • Carousel video:
      • Size: 1080 x 1080 px
      • Minimum size: 600 x 600 px
      • Supported aspect ratios: 1:1 (square)
      • Specs: MP4 or MOV format / maximum length of 240 minutes / maximum file size of 4 GB / between two and 10 videos
      • Placement: Natively on Facebook Feed, Marketplace or Instant Articles
    Instagram

    Here are the specifications for Instagram video ads:

    • In-feed video
      • Size: 600 x 600 px (square) / 600 x 315 px (horizontal) / 600 x 750 px (vertical)
      • Supported aspect ratios: 1:1 (square) / 1.9:1 (horizontal) / 4:5 (vertical)
      • Specs: MP4 or MOV format / maximum length of 60 seconds / maximum file size of 4 GB
      • Placement: Natively on Instagram Feed
    • Carousel video:
      • Size: 1080 x 1080 px
      • Minimum size: 600 x 600 px
      • Supported aspect ratios: 1:1 (square)
      • Specs: MP4 or MOV format / maximum length of 60 seconds
      • Placement: Natively on Instagram Feed
    • Stories video:
      • Size: 1080 x 1920 px
      • Minimum size: 600 x 1067 px
      • Supported aspect ratio: 16:9 to 4:5 and 9:16
      • Specs: MP4 or MOV format / maximum length of 60 seconds / maximum file size of 4 GB
      • Placement: Between Instagram Stories
    YouTube

    Here are the specifications for YouTube video ads:

    • Video player
      • Size: 426 x 240 px (240p) / 640 x 360 px (360p) / 854 x 480 px (480p) / 1280 x 720 px (720p) / 1920 x 1080 px (1080p) / 2560 x 1440 px (1440p) / 3840 x 2160 px (2160p)
      • Minimum size: 426 x 240 px
      • Maximum size: 3840 x 2160 px
      • Supported aspect ratio: 16:9 and 4:3
      • Specs: MOV, MPEG4, MP4, AVI, WMV, MPEGPS, FLV, 3GPP, or WebM / maximum length of 12 hours / maximum file size of 128 GB
    Final Thoughts

    Like most marketing endeavors, video marketing comes with its own set of challenges that must be overcome, especially with video on social media. So, how do you make effective video ads on Facebook? By following everything we covered today, which can serve as an aid to guide you through everything. Let’s take a second look at the main points:

    • Identify your target market and main objectives
    • Choose your video type, category and format specifications
    • Follow the video ad creation process guide
    • Establish KPIs
    • Monitor and optimize your data
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    Content has been, is, and always will be king. Why? Because it’s the stuff that turns a business into a sales producing, loyalty generating, social media sharing brand. Content is the way your business engages with your followers; it’s how you keep users updated with all the amazing things you’re doing; it’s how you show potential employees why they should work for your instead of your competitors. Content is the blog posts, pictures, videos, webinars, podcasts, newsletters, emails and everything else that tells the story of what your business is all about.

    Read More About: The Future of Content Writing

    72% of marketers agree that content increases engagement. If you post things on social or send out an email blast prompting for a response, of course you’re going to get engagement from your followers or from users on that mailing list! This isn’t rocket science. Content is about starting a conversation with your following, whether on social media or otherwise. Content ideas can be anything from a day in the life of one of your employees, to product tutorials. These content topics can vary greatly and in a lot of cases, always do. Different pieces of content can be posted for each day of the week, or you can even run free and choose a theme for an entire month. The best thing about content marketing in 2019 is that there is no one way to produce, create and publish content. Below, we’ll go over some stats that every marketer should keep in mind this year when producing digital content ideas.

    Content Marketing Stats That Every Marketer Needs to Know in 2019

    These content marketing ROI statistics will show you where marketers are placing their efforts in B2B and B2C businesses. They will also give you an idea of how and where you should divvy up your time, energy, and budget when it comes to your eCommerce content marketing strategy.

    B2B Content Marketing Stats
    • 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing
    • 73% of B2B marketers either rated their content marketing efforts as moderately or very successful
    • 78% of marketers attributed their success to higher quality and more efficient content creation for their brands
    • 94% of B2B marketers revealed that their main form of content marketing is through social media posts
    • 47% of respondents stated the top two reasons why they don’t measure the ROI on their content marketing strategy is because there was “no formal justification required” and because they needed “an easier way to do this.”
    Read More About: Video Marketing Tips and Predictions from the Experts in 2019

    B2C Content Marketing Stats

    • On the other hand, 96% of B2C marketers revealed that their main form of content marketing is also through social media posts
    • 86% of B2C marketers believe content marketing is a key strategy
    • 97% of B2C marketers reported that Facebook is their social platform of choice when it comes to content marketing
    • 60% of B2C marketers are committed to content marketing
    • Although it’s obvious that content marketing plays a huge role in every B2C marketer’s digital strategy, 34% of respondents stated they do not measure the ROI on their content marketing tactics.
    Content Marketing Tips from the Experts

    From seasoned agency veterans, to entrepreneurs and freelance consultants, these content marketing professionals will have you thinking about how to generate content ideas for your business 24/7. They will have you thinking about your content from a completely new perspective. Here are some of their best tips for how to choose content marketing topics that will positively impact your ROI.

    • “If repurposing your content isn’t part of your plans, it should be. Nearly every piece you create can and should be repurposed, and you can optimize a project from its start to ensure you can take it a few directions.” - Erika Heald, Chief Content Officer at Arment Dietrich
    • “Great insights really can pop out of nowhere. But to have that happen, you have to first practice recognizing patterns and then making some sort of sense of them. If this feels like a stretch for you, start by some simple reading about trends that are happening in the world, and what leads people to believe they matter. You’ll be able to reverse engineer your way into what it was that people observe to get these insights. Then you can practice the journey on your own.” - Carla Johnson, Best-Selling Author & Keynote Speaker
    • “Your Instagram shouldn't just be a place to showcase product shots or employee selfies, but a platform for sharing your brand values, aesthetic and voice, she says. If those are clearly on display and in alignment with your customers' values, your Instagram feed can be a valuable tools for creating a strong sense of community with customers and potential customers alike.” - Melanie Deziel, Award Winning Branded-Content Consultant and Speaker
    • “Assessment is vital. There are ways to effectively track content for sales by using UTMs to ensure each piece of content is unique to each individual. Use content libraries and distribution platforms internally then measure the contribution the content is making to the sales pipeline by using marketing automation technology.” - Bernie Borges, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Vengreso
    • “In marketing, we might not talk about important global issues, but we all have our own versions of important but ignored stories.Our products or services might solve very real problems, but still it’s hard to get anyone to listen to a story about, say, your B2B solution or your law firm or your pharmaceutical products. The key, then, is to make the story smaller.” - Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs
    Understanding KPIs to Measure Content Marketing ROI

    Some of the biggest issues marketers have when it comes to measuring the success of their content marketing strategy is that they either don’t know how to do so, or they find measuring to be too difficult. In order for your content marketing topics to positively impact your ROI, you need to measure how published content impacts your audience and whether or not the content your producing is impacting sales. Here’s a list of top KPIs you should be tracking to measure your content marketing success:

    1. Page Visits. You want to see where you users are coming from organically before you can begin measuring what other factors are driving traffic.
    2. Time on Page. Page time is important because it’s a good indication that your content is either relevant or irrelevant to users. If they spend more time on your page, chances are what you published is what they’re looking for. If they exit from your website in three seconds, you can probably deduce there was either an issue with the content or maybe even just technical issues.
    3. Cost per Click. When you’re running a paid social campaign your CPC is going to show your higher ups how much they paid per click.
    4. Conversion Rates. In relation to the KPI above, your conversion rate is important because if any clicks turn into a conversion, you will know your efforts are positively impacting your ROI.
    5. Followers and Subscribers. For social media specifically, one of the best ways to judge your ROI is through how many followers or subscribers you have because it shows your users are interested in your content.
    6. Engagement Rates. This is also super important for social because you don’t want a bunch of ghost followers who don’t interact or engage with your content at all! Your engagement rate will show you whether or not what your posting is interesting and exciting to your target audience.
    Key Takeaways

    This blog post has hopefully shown you some of the content trends 2019 has to offer and some still yet to come! Content marketing plays a huge role in today’s digital world because it’s the stuff that people share, interact and engage with. For any business in today’s tech age, those things are priceless. Here are the key takeaways from the blog one more time:

    • Content marketing is about starting a conversation with your followers
    • Content tells your brand story
    • Keep updated with recent stats in the industry to help inform your digital marketing strategy
    • If you’re unsure of how to choose content marketing topics, research what the experts in the field are saying and what they’re doing to drive traffic and engagement to their brands (Each expert we sourced also has their own blog!)
    • Tracking your KPIs will help you understand how your content marketing strategy is impacting your ROI

    As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Good luck!

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    Whether you first encountered it through HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, VIKI in I, Robot, or J.A.R.V.I.S. in Iron Man, voice technology has been a central pillar in the world of science fiction for decades. As an avid SciFi fan myself, I can safely say it’s gotten to the point where we’re pretty much introduced to some sort of computer or artificially intelligent being who can converse intelligently with people with every other franchise that pops up. Well, science fiction it may be, but recent advancements in the world of AI and voice technology have placed us at the cusp of an exchange between “fiction” and “fact.”

    As a quick technological overview from ‘a marketer’s guide to voice technology’ that will serve as a basis for our discussion today, the technology behind these advancements can be boiled down to two components:

    1. Speech recognition that converts spoken words into digital words and is measured by its accuracy and speed
    2. Voice recognition that identifies speakers by different features of speech like intonation, pitch and style

    Moving forward, we’re going to focus on speech recognition and one of the most important things that came from it: smart speakers.

    Read More About: Voice Search Optimization Tips for Your Content Marketing Plan
    Smart Speaker Usage and Key Functionalities

    Smart speakers come in many shapes and sizes, but the most popular ones by far are the Amazon Echo series featuring Alexa, and the Google Home line sporting Google Assistant. Before we get to the nitty-gritty of these speakers and all they can do, let’s start with some smart speaker statistics to get an overarching picture of the industry and those in it:

    • 74.2 million people in the U.S. use smart speakers, representing 26% of internet users.
    • That’s quite a high number, and explains the smart speaker industry’s rapid expansion from $4.4 billion in 2017, to a projected revenue projection of over $17 billion in 2022.
    • This increased usage and adoption spans ages and generations. In fact, more so than any other technology device, smart speakers have been embraced by Americans in all generations. This means that a smart speaker target market includes people aged from 25 to 55 years old.
    • 48% of first adopters—those have owned a smart speaker for longer than one year—use the device more often now than they did in the first month of ownership. This is even more pronounced amongst newer buyers, 54% of whom say they use their smart speaker more today than they did in the first month.
    • Maybe this is because of the many things smart speakers and the digital assistants that come with them can do. (We’ll get to these in a bit.) After all, 56% of new smart speaker owners have also begun using the voice assistant on their smartphone more often.

    Now that we have some facts and figures to contend with, let’s take a detour and talk about some of the cool things smart speakers can do. For starters, because these speakers are paired with digital assistants we’ve grown accustomed to since their introduction in the smartphone market (e.g. Siri and the iPhone), we can do with them most of what we can with phones, i.e. use them as literal voice assistants who can search the web for us and perform certain tasks.

    Starting with search, we can ask Alexa and Google Assistant just about anything and get a pretty relevant response from it. Are you curious about the distance between Mars and Jupiter? Ask away. Have you ever wanted to know what the top song in any given country is? No problem, the answer is a question away. What about dad jokes—are you a fan of them? Whether you are or you’re not, you can definitely ask to hear a couple and your smart speaker will be more than glad to oblige.

    Like search, you can also ask your smart speakers a multitude of other things like:

    • What's the weather today?
    • What am I doing tomorrow?
    • What's on my shopping list?
    • What is the IMDb rating for [show/movie]?
    • How long is left on the timer?
    • How do you make [recipe]?
    • How do you spell [word]?

    Since asking your smart speaker to search for something is technically a command, let’s talk about some of the many commands your speakers can to respond to:

    • Play [artist name]
    • Play the latest [artist name] [album/song]
    • Play [radio station]
    • Set bass to two on sound bar
    • Set the timer for [xx] minutes
    • Open Netflix/Hulu/HBO, etc.
    • Set an alarm for [time]

    As part of these commands, you also have the option of connecting other smart appliances around your home to your speakers so you can create an intelligent hub that can all be controlled by the sound of your voice. For example, you can ask Alexa to turn the lights down, Google Assistant to turn the heat up a bit so you can relax without a sweater, and so on and so on. And then there are applications that act like branded questions and commands you can program your speakers to answer to. As to the how, it’s through smart speaker skills and actions. More specifically, Echo devices use Alexa skills, and their Google Home competitors rely on Google Assistant actions. Through these, you can—actually, let’s save that for the next section.

    Read More About: How to Use Alexa Skills in Interactive Content Marketing
    How Are Brands Using Smart Speakers for Marketing?

    And now we arrive at the most pressing part of this post: A discussion on smart speaker marketing that answers our titular question of how are brands using smart speakers? As we begin, a disclaimer has to be made to the effect that we won’t be talking about smart speaker advertising because, as of early April 2019, neither Amazon Echo nor Google Home speakers run paid advertisements. As a matter of fact, Amazon touched on this point on a recent earnings call, saying that it had no immediate plans on venturing into that sector with Alexa. Google Home is in the same boat, and while they appeared to have promoted the live-action movie, “Beauty and the Beast,” on Google Home last year, they claimed to The Verge that that was only a part of its “My Day” feature that summarizes the events of the coming day.

    With this in mind, there is something you can do to “bypass” this whole no-ad thing: Buy ad space on podcasts, radio stations, streaming sites and news sources. For example, somewhat similar to Google Home’s “My Day” feature is Amazon Echo’s “Flash Briefing” feature, which narrates the news and other day-to-day information a user wants to hear as part of their routine. Well, by purchasing ad space on any of these channels, you make it more likely that your content will land in front of your target audience.

    Okay, now that that’s covered, let’s talk about how most brands are actually using smart speakers to uphold their marketing strategies. Because the ad route is blocked, brands have found they have two options with smart speakers:

    1. Delve into technical to get themselves ranking on voice search results so smart speakers can pull up their answers first
    2. Create Alexa skills and Google Assistant actions that entertain people or provide a service, both of which improve brand recognition and loyalty
    1. Getting Technical with Smart Speaker Marketing

    With the goal of improving their odds of being pulled up for an Alexa or Google Assistant query, the most popular smart speaker marketing strategy brands employ is to optimize their digital properties for voice search. You can get a full voice search optimization guide here, but for today we’ll compress it into six tips:

    1. Secure your site with HTTPS - HTTPS is the standard for all communication on the web, and Google makes it known that they prefer websites that have made the move and added the extra ‘S’ after HTTP. In fact, 70.4% of voice search result URLs belong to websites that have already adopted HTTPS.
    2. Use structured Data - Structured data, also called schema markup, is metadata that tells web crawlers what the content on a page means. By structuring your data, you make it easy for search engines to go through your content and actually understand its meaning, which provides a richer set of data points that give you more opportunities to be found.
    3. Improve your mobile site speed - With a mobile-first mentality, not only does Google punish slow websites with lower search rankings, but real data also tells us that the average voice result page loads in 4.6 seconds (52% faster than the average page).
    4. Create a FAQ page - Because their content is in the perfect format for voice search—a conversational question followed by a short and concise answer—FAQ pages are practically fodder for smart speakers.
    5. Publish blog posts that answer your user’s questions - Similar to FAQ pages, posts that answer the questions your users are asking are more likely to be pulled up for a voice query.
    6. Use conversational content - People tend to talk with Alexa and Google Assistants as if they, too, are human, which means conversational content that reveals intent.
    2. Getting Creative with Skills and Actions

    A more relevant tactic for smart speaker marketing is creating applications in the form of skills and actions that smart speaker users can use day in and day out. As Abbey Klaassen, NY President at 360i, said, “[w]e’ve hit the point where the majority of our clients are now asking us for help with a voice strategy… It’s gone from an interesting kind of experiment to something they have recognized that they need to invest in to make sure they are discoverable and relevant in the next five years.” With HBO as a client, Abbey knows what she’s talking about.

    Read More About: Important Voice Technology Components and How You Can Use Them

    Actually, now that we’re on the subject of HBO, it’s best to mention what they themselves have already done to jump in the smart speaker game. Apart from general HBO skills/actions that keep you updated with what’s new on their end, they’ve also introduced Westworld: The Maze, as a choose-your-own-adventure-style game for Echo-using “Westworld” fans. The beauty of this and similar applications is that every use leads to a bump in brand loyalty, recognition and awareness. Even better, if you put out a skill or action like Domino’s Pizza’s AnyWare skill and action that allows people to order pizza with their voice, you can also benefit monetarily.

    As you can see with these two examples, smart speaker applications give you an opportunity to interact with your audience on a brand new channel, and you really should try your hand at them if you feel that your users can actually benefit from it. If you’re still on the fence, maybe the following list of branded skills and actions will change your mind:

    • Have you ever spilled coffee on your shirt? Have you ever tripped and ended up with a grass stain on your white pants? Have no fear, Tide’s Stain Remover skill is here to offer step-by-step instructions for every type of stain!
    • Do you suffer from allergies? Well, just like a weather app gives you information about the climate, allergy medicine Zyrtec’s Your Daily AllergyCast skill provides information like a pollen count forecast local to your area. With user feedback, the skill can even provide a personalized Allergy Impact score to let you know how environmental factors will affect you.
    • If you’re a fan of cooking but are running low on recipe’s, Campbell’s Kitchen skill is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Why? Because it can tell you recipes and suggestions based on your taste profile, the weather, and even what’s trending.
    • With over 2,000 delicious recipes waiting for you, BuzzFeed’s Tasty action gives you all the help you need to start cooking food you’ll actually enjoy eating.
    • Am I the only one who spontaneously gets the urge to buy flowers? Considering that 1-800-Flowers’ action allows you to send gifts to the most important people in your life (including yourself), I doubt I’m alone.
    • Does the act of telling your Google Assistant to find tickets for the latest live events appeal to you? If it does, you better make use of the Ticketmaster action, which will be your go-to-to discover tool to all the latest and greatest entertainment.

    Note: Just because an application is labeled as a “skill” or “action” does not mean that it it only that; like smartphones (iOS vs Android), brands tend to make an application for each operating system so a larger percentage of their user base can enjoy them.

    Final Thoughts

    In today’s day and age, smart speakers are the epitome of the modern smart home. With voice command functionality and third-party integration, not only can smart speaker users benefit from the multitude of applications they can download, but the brands behind them as well. If you’ve been thinking of changing things up this year, but haven’t really decided on what to do, I’ll give you a suggestion: Venture into the joint smart speaker and voice technology market before your competition beats you to it.

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    If your products were riddled with holes or defective, there’s just no way you would ever try to sell them to customers, right? Likewise, if your employees had bad attitudes and negative tones, you wouldn’t want them to speak with your customers and imparting a negative brand image. This is why a brand’s voice is so important.

    According to Slideshare, 80% of consumers said “authenticity of content” is the most influential factor in their decision to become brand followers. Forbes also notes that consistency in brand presentation across platforms increases revenue by up to 23%. These brand voice statistics show us that the way you present your brand to consumers plays a huge role in business and consumer relations. After all, the same way you want your products to be presented and displayed in their best form is the same way you should want to present your company’s ideas, values and culture.

    Crafting Your Brand Voice

    Creating a consistent brand voice means understanding the persona you want your brand to embody. In your business’ early stages, your marketing team probably created buyer personas for your target audience. Now you need to create the same kind of persona, but for your own brand instead. When communicating through social media, articles, blogs, and any other form of branded content, you need to ask yourself: How do I want my brand to express itself? You can brand your business with images like infographics and take an informational approach, or you can even make memes that add a lighthearted touch. Both options portray a very different brand voice. What you want to keep in mind is the kind of language used in branded content. In other words, how formal are you looking to make your brand? Similarly, how informal would you like your content to be?

    If you’re a law firm using words and phrases like “aiight” or “it’s lit,” chances are good your associates won’t be taken seriously. But if you run a hip-hop culture magazine and you’re not using those words or phrases, and instead try to keep things formal and proper, your audience will likely lose interest in you. Your brand’s voice is how your company speaks with and to your target consumers. It’s natural that the language or slang your customers use would appear on your content as well because it shows that you understand their culture. You want your customer voice in branding. Understanding your audience is a key component in the early stages, when you’re still learning how to develop a brand voice. You want to create a brand voice that shows your brand is a part of a bigger community.

    For companies looking to keep a flexible brand voice that can also maintain global consistency, you want to create a brand voice style guide for your employees to follow. This will help define your brand to your team and can act as a reference when they’re unsure what kind of language to use. Do this by creating a chart that shows general responses expected of your brand representatives in different scenarios. For example, in an email or in an in-person meeting. This will give your team an idea of the kind of language they should be using from a branding perspective. Make sure to keep in mind what we talked about in the section above, though! Cater your style guides to different continents and keep it relevant. What’s popular across North America might not necessarily translate to what’s trending in Asia. Be conscious of your consumer and how the different audiences worldwide will receive your branded content.

    The Difference Between a Brand’s Voice and Tone

    A brand’s voice is the language they use to communicate with their audience. A brand’s tone, on the other hand, can be likened to its personality. For example, consider luxury brands like Louis Vuitton. With these higher-end brands, the tone of voice in design tends to be a lot more formal, which allows them to communicate a more opulent lifestyle. When you think about it, their approach makes sense because their target audience appreciates and responds to that kind of language and tone. This is, or rather should be the norm for all brand. Their personalities in all their written content, whether it be on their website or on social media, should be consistent. Take Netflix and Wendy’s. Both of these brands have integrated an element of millennial humor into their social media channels because they know that’s what appeals to their target audience. Their voicing is a lot more edgy and has a lot more attitude than a luxury fashion brand, and that’s okay!

    Looking at a spectrum with Louis Vuitton on one end (formal), and Netflix and Wendy’s on the other (informal), determine where you want your brand to fall. Consider how your audience interacts with your brand if you went either way. A great asset to social media is that you can also play around with your tone to see what works best for your followers. Even on an international level, Netflix maintains its humor and snarkiness with regards to its Twitter content.

    You can choose to keep all things consistent, but remember to also make it relevant. Look at other international companies as brand voice examples to see how they differ in their social accounts, or even on their website content based on the region of the world they’re speaking to.

    Understanding the Challenges

    Developing and maintaining a brand voice is hard work. You need to be consistent across all channels because you’re representing your brand. Below are a couple challenges you may face along the way and how you can overcome them:

    • Consistency:

      Being consistent with your content, language and tone is easier said than done. With omni channel marketing in today’s digital landscape, it can get pretty difficult.

      Aaron Schwartz, Founder of Modify Watches says “[p]umping out relevant content to fans is a must, which often means you'll have different teammates telling your story on your blog, Twitter, Facebook and newsletter. Create a style guide, and make sure writers follow it.
    • Maintaining your Core

      With social media comments and the pressure from the internet to stay relevant, business owners and marketing leaders can easily get washed up in a wave of trends that doesn’t exactly align with who their brand is. Remember to let your brand remain true to itself during these times.

      Seth Talbott, Founder of AtomOrbit, says that “[t]oo often, companies chase trends and get distracted with the latest shift in the marketplace or current threat for a competitor. Above all else, you need to make sure you have thoroughly thought through who you are and why you are the best solution for your customer.
    • Authenticity

      Even brands with the best of intentions can still make mistakes. Authenticity as a brand is something that has become paramount in today’s society. This is the most important component when you’re determining how to develop a brand voice for your company. Consumers want to know the brands they love are socially aware and responsible. But most of all, they want to know that a brand is being real with them.

      Sunny Bonnell, CEO and Co-Founder of Motto, says “[g]rowth creates change in every company and forces it to evolve. Sometimes it strengthens the brand, but quite often, it's a series of smaller shifts that can cause a brand to lose its way. Brand leaders have to make a conscious effort every day to keep the brand focused on its deeper purpose, authentic story and core values. Maintaining authenticity is the secret to consistency.
    Takeaways

    It’s our hope that this blog post has shown you the importance of a brand voice and different ways you can create a flexible style that maintains global consistency. You want to be able to let your brand express itself with your consumers while also being authentic. It’s no easy task, but it’s not impossible! Here are the top takeaways from this post one more time:

    • Understand the language your audience uses and don’t be afraid to apply it to your brand’s voice
    • Create a brand voice style guide that anyone on your team can use for different scenarios
    • Determine what you want the tone of your brand’s voice to be (humorous, edgy, dark, formal, etc.)
    • Understand there will be challenges you face, but there are also best practices and methods you can use to overcome them

    If you’re still unsure as to how to develop a brand voice, the Aumcore team can help guide you with our brand identity services. As always, good luck!

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    Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Cher and Sonny Bono, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy…Mailchimp and Shopify. Do you see a pattern? It’s an unfortunate one, but a pattern nonetheless: breakups. While we could go on and on about the unfortunate reality of relationships—they can only end in one of two ways—and how sad it is that our favorite celebrity couples rarely end up together, our discussion today will take a more marketing-oriented approach and consider what the titular break up of our post means.

    The Breakup of Mailchimp and Shopify

    Now that the initial shock has gone down, the breakup of Mailchimp and Shopify looks a lot like a ‘he said, she said’ situation, with each side disavowing any wrongdoing on their part. Typical. So, what led to the separation? In typical 21st century / digital age fashion, it all comes down to customer data. According to Mailchimp (the most important bits are in bold):

    [On March 22nd], we asked Shopify to remove the Mailchimp for Shopify integration from their marketplace. We made this decision because Shopify released updated terms that would negatively impact our business and put our users at risk.

    We also asked Shopify to leave the integration on for existing connected users through May 12, when the data sharing provisions of Shopify’s new terms take effect. We’re hopeful that Shopify will work with us to make this transition as smooth as possible for our shared users.

    For months, we’ve been trying to work with Shopify on terms that would be fair and equitable for both of our businesses. Throughout these negotiations, we refused to agree to terms that jeopardize our users’ privacy and require us to hand over customer data acquired outside of Shopify.

    Our shared users have complete control over their own data. By continuing to connect with Shopify through third-party integrations, we’re providing our shared users with the choice to share that data going forward. What we’re not willing to do is automatically and retroactively share all of this data with Shopify, including data acquired outside of and not connected to the Shopify platform, without the user involved. From our perspective, that data belongs to our users and isn’t ours to share directly with Shopify.

    The new terms also make it clear that Shopify wants to control which providers their partners work with and how they conduct their business. We believe small businesses are best served when they can choose which technology they use to run their businesses, which is why Mailchimp integrates with more than 150 different apps and platforms. We won't compromise on that just because Shopify sees it as a competitive threat.

    Even though our native integration will no longer be available, our customers can choose from several third-party integrations to connect their accounts. We have a comprehensive set of resources available, including manual workarounds and a directory of experts for users with more complex needs.

    We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to continue our partnership with Shopify, but our customers are our top priority.”

    As can be expected in any messy breakup, Shopify denied any misconduct and placed the blame squarely on Mailchimp’s doorstep:

    Effective [March 22nd], the Mailchimp app is no longer available in the Shopify App Store. There are no immediate changes for merchants currently using Mailchimp, and we offer many other incredible email marketing apps.

    We always want to be transparent with our merchants, so here’s what happened with Mailchimp.

    Over the past 18 months, Shopify has had growing concerns about Mailchimp’s app because of the poor merchant experience and their refusal to respect our Partner Program Agreement. Our terms require app partners to share all important data back to the merchant using Shopify’s API to help them run their businesses.

    It’s critical for our merchants to have accurate, complete insight into their businesses and customers, and this isn’t possible when Mailchimp locks in their data. Specifically, Mailchimp refuses to synchronize customer information captured on merchants’ online stores and email opt-out preferences. As a result, our merchants, other apps, and partner ecosystem can’t reliably serve their customers or comply with privacy legislation.

    We will never put our merchants’ trust on the line like that. The data captured on behalf of our merchants belongs to those merchants, it’s as simple as that. Mailchimp was not willing to agree to these terms. That’s why Mailchimp has been removed from the Shopify App Store.

    Our app store is a carefully curated space with an incredibly high standard of quality, designed to provide the most value possible to our merchants. We will always preserve this, and we won't shy away from making tough decisions to do so. The vast majority of our partners respect that standard, and are great contributors to making commerce better for everyone.

    We’re here to help you find the apps that best suit your needs and goals. Get in touch with us any time for more support or to answer questions about your store and the apps you use.

    Thanks for reading.

    Now that we’ve read statements from both sides, it’s time to pick the winner… kidding! Though it would definitely be fun to equate this separation to a juvenile break up in which we speculate who the winners and losers are, we’re actually going to get down to business, consider why this happened and what the implications of such a breakup are.

    He Said, She Said, They Said

    From what everyone is saying, a couple of things are clear. From Mailchimp, we get the impression that Shopify’s updated terms will negatively impact end-users. To prevent this from happening, they pulled the service from Shopify. They also imply that Shopify “wants to control which providers their partners work with and how they conduct their business,” hence their refusal to hand over customer data they acquired outside of the Shopify platform. Adding fuel to the fire are comments Joni Deus, Mailchimp’s director of partnerships, gave to TechCrunch:

    “We have been negotiating for months with Shopify on trying to get terms that were very fair and equitable to both of our businesses — and there were several points that we just weren’t willing to compromise on… Anything that hurts our customers’ privacy was a non-starter for us.”

    So, what specifically did they think would “hurt” their customers’ privacy? According to Deus, Shopify asked for pretty much any data Mailchimp collects about its users, including data it collected in the past since the app was installed. As she explained, “[w]e had no way of getting that consent from our users retroactively.”

    And then there’s Shopify’s version that, as you can imagine, runs a different course from Mailchimp’s. According to them, their growing concerns over Mailchimp’s “poor merchant experience,” paired with their refusal to respect their Partner Program Agreement requiring them to share all important data back to the merchant using Shopify’s API, served as the nail in their partnership’s coffin.

    Putting everything together, we arrive at the following conclusion:

    • Shopify said that merchant data they collect would remain merchant data that belongs to them, the merchants, but Mailchimp disagreed.

    Simple as that…Or is it? Here’s where a little more backstory can shine a new light on the story: About 5 months ago, Mailchimp announced a partnership with Square that would allow its users to create landing pages with built-in eCommerce features. Before, it did offer landing pages, but they didn’t do too much besides capture leads. With the partnership, Mailchimp’s part in the sales funnel increased dramatically. Do you know what else Mailchimp did before ending their partnership with Shopify? They acqui-hired the team behind LemonStand, one of Shopify’s smaller competitors that announced a June 5 shutdown. While they didn't say anything too specific, they did say that Mailchimp helps small businesses grow, and their eCommerce customers had been asking them to add more functionality to their platform to help them market more effectively.

    What they did say, was this:

    “Our decision to discontinue our partnership with Shopify last week is unrelated to LemonStand… Shopify knew we were working on e-commerce features long before we hired the LemonStand team. In fact, we launched Shoppable Landing Pages last fall in partnership with Square, and Shopify chose not to partner with us on the launch.”

    And this:

    “We’re not trying to become an e-commerce platform or compete directly with companies like Shopify…  we think that adding eCommerce features in Mailchimp will help our eCommerce partners. Companies will be able to start their businesses with Mailchimp and have a seamless experience, and eventually use Mailchimp along with one of our eCommerce partners.”

    When you consider that 50% of Mailchimp’s revenue came from eCommerce after launching the shoppable landing pages with Square, earning an estimated $300 million from more than $22 billion worth of products being sold in the first half of 2018, you understand why Mailchimp’s insistence on non-competition would not be enough to placate Shopify.

    Final Thoughts

    Well, there it is. It’s not a story of star-crossed lovers. It may not even be a story about customer data; not really, at least. Whether the story of Mailchimp and Shopify’s breakup is about a company asking for too much and another one not willing to compromise enough, or about one becoming too competitive for comfort, one thing is certain for Shopify users with Mailchimp integration: they have until May 12, when Shopify’s data sharing provisions take effect, to switch to a third-party integration like ShopSync, Zapier and Automate.io.

    Until then, best of luck!
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    We all know that content is king, but who rules there? Who’s the true ruler of the content kingdom that not only generates more social shares than any other content type, but also more than the lead-ups combined? Which content type could be so entertaining that one-third of online activity is spent engaging in it? If the title and subheadings below haven’t given it away, it’s video! That’s right, with the ability to generate 1,200% more social shares than text and images combined, video is the answer to all your content marketing prayers.

    For these very reasons and more, we’re going to devote our time today covering the many benefits gained from following video content trends in 2019, what the experts consider these video trends for 2019 to be, and maybe even an example strategy with some metrics you should look out for.

    The Benefits of Video Marketing in 2019

    To truly understand why you should include video marketing in your strategy, you need to know the facts, i.e. the must-know video marketing statistics for 2019. For example, did you know that 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos per week? What about the fact that just about 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day, and a comparatively 100 million hours on Facebook? Mhmm, all true.

    Read More About: How to Use Video Storytelling in Your Marketing Strategy

    As for some real benefits, consider that 89% of online marketers use video content, and those who do are receiving 41% more web traffic and growing revenue 49% faster than those who don’t. In other words, video marketing is for you if you want to grow your audience, increase engagement and improve your bottom line. It all comes down to what makes a video, a video, and what differentiates it from other content types. That is to say, because videos disseminate information in an easy-to-consume way whose only real requirement is to pay attention, users are more likely to engage with them and actually remember what they were presented with.

    Video Marketing Trends for 2019 from the Experts

    Knowing what we just covered above, I’m sure you’re starting to wonder what video marketing trends and predictions the experts are talking about in 2019. No worries on that end, here’s what you need to know!

    1. Videos will replace other forms of communication

    Video will replace day-to-day email for all kinds of communications: marketing, sales and customer service. Video has been a one-to-many channel for 90 years. Now it’s one-to-one. Pitching an editor for a PR effort? Make a video. Reaching out to an influencer to collaborate? Make a video. Any time the stakes are high, in marketing or anywhere, video will replace text and email in 2019.” - Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder and CMO of Orbit Media

    Like we covered in the beginning, people are consuming more and more videos as the days go by. Brands are likewise devoting more of their time and budget in the video production process in an effort to get in front of an audience that prefers watching content rather than reading it.

    2. Video will continue growing

    With more companies than ever before realizing the value of video to build trust, educate, generate leads and foster loyalty, video will continue to play an even larger role in the buyer’s journey in 2019. In fact, according to HubSpot, more than 80 percent of people purchased a product or service after watching a video. Whether it’s an explainer video, an interview, a customer testimonial, or an ad, companies from all industries will be using video in every stage of the buyer’s journey in 2019.” - Julie Revelant, Owner of Revelant Writing, LLC

    Read More About: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Snapchat Campaign

    As you might expect, if videos are quickly replacing other forms of communication, the video market will consequently keep on growing. This is also highlighted in Mark Zuckerberg’s prediction from five years ago that Facebook will mostly be video in five years, which just so happens to be this year.

    3. Videos will need to be optimized for every platform

    What’s becoming clearer is the same video re-posted on different platforms is becoming less and less effective. The same video that works on YouTube isn’t going to work on Facebook, and we can’t take that Facebook video, put it in a frame and upload it to IGTV, or LinkedIn. Users are consuming video differently on the different platforms, and as marketers we need to get use to repurposing smarter, by editing our videos in a way that works for the platform it is being posted on, rather than doing a lazy re-upload job. Looking at things like the aspect ratio, style, pacing and objective, and maybe realising we can’t be everywhere – but where we are posting regularly, we’re putting our all in.” - Andrew and Pete, International Keynote Speakers, Authors and YouTube Influencers

    A couple of years ago, you may have been able to get away with simply uploading and re-uploading the same video on multiple platforms as-is. Well, times change and the same is not true anymore. Today, a time when we have MANY video platforms and devices that can all stream them, videos need to be optimized for everyone to amplify their impact.

    4. Collaboration with influencers

    We all know that influencer marketing is booming, and while most of the attention seems to be on Instagram, I believe we will see a new renaissance of brands working with a new generation of influencers that have large audiences on YouTube. While Instagram has an active audience, YouTube has a larger one with videos that last forever and a built-in search engine that does its best to help users discover your content.” - Neal Schaffer, Author and Keynote Speaker

    Read More About: 20 Digital Marketing Tips from the Experts

    Anyone involved with marketing knows that we live in the age of the influencer. Actually, with the disaster of the Fyre Festival still in recent memory, anyone who’s read or seen the news in the past year knows this to be true as well. For you, this means combining videos with influencer marketing.

    5. New forms of video

    Now that marketers and businesses have truly started to understand the power of video in marketing (not just when it comes to social media, but in email marketing and content marketing in general), I think we’ll see a lot of experimenting with new forms of content this year. For one thing, we’ll see a lot more interactive videos this year, particularly 360-degree videos. I also believe that with many marketing videos in 2019 there will be a much bigger focus on storytelling. This is a trend that I’ve noticed more and more when it comes to video ads, as well as to social media videos – a good story captures people’s attention and imagination and most importantly, it gets them to take action.” - Lilach Bullock, Social Media Power Influencer

    Whether it’s virtual reality or live streaming, technology is improving every day and we’re getting newer and better ways to consume video content. The best part is that each new form of video content gives marketers even more ways of reaching their audience and making a statement.

    An Example Video Strategy for 2019

    Now that we know what the experts are predicting, it’s time to wrap everything up by covering what your video strategy for 2019 should entail. For starters, you need to understand your audience and set realistic campaign goals. After all, how can you accomplish anything if you don’t even know what your audience wants? You won’t, you’ll have a disconnect between you and them that leads to failed efforts. Once you do have a general idea of them and what they’ll respond to best, you’ll be able to tailor your video campaigns accordingly and set actionable goals. For example, are you trying to drive awareness of your brand or its products? Are you trying to increase conversions? Whatever it is you’re trying to do, you’ll have an easier time doing it if you know who you’re targeting.

    Second, just like we talked about earlier, you need to make sure that each video is optimized for their intended channel and platform. In other words, if it’s meant for Facebook, you better make sure it’s short and sweet; if it’s for Snapchat, make sure it’s a vertical video that makes the most of the platform. As you can see, this point goes beyond the video’s actual content and includes technical aspects that can make or break how it’s received.

    Third, you HAVE to test everything and ensure it’s all going according to plan. If not, you’ll just end up wasting valuable time and money producing videos that your audience has no intention in even watching. To this end, you’ll have to keep track of a couple of metrics and KPIs that keep you updated with how things are going. For example:

    • Engagement rate
    • Play rate
    • Social shares, likes and comments
    • View count
    • Impressions
    • Click-through rate (CTR)
    • Conversion rate
    • Traffic source

    By keeping track of all these things, you’ll be able to gauge your efforts and make any changes needed to uphold your goals and reach them.

    Final Thoughts

    Video content in 2019 is more important than ever. If you want to not only reach your audience, but also ensure that they’re engaged enough with your content that they follow through and convert, video is the way to do it. To prepare for that, let’s take a second look at the five expert predictions we covered today:

    1. Videos will replace other forms of communication
    2. Video will continue growing
    3. Videos will need to be optimized for every platform
    4. Collaboration with influencers
    5. New forms of video
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    Content management is becoming one of the biggest issues for digital marketers today. From content creation for social media, to email newsletters and digital campaigns, managing content can be frustrating. That’s why content management systems (CMS) are important tools marketers can use to keep all of their content—infographics, images, descriptions and everything else—in order. One of the best CMS systems currently available in the market is Sitecore because of its unparalleled ability to help marketers create seamless and personalized experiences for their users. Today, we’re going to go over why Sitecore CMS is the right option for your business.

    Why Sitecore for Your Business?

    There are hundreds of different CMS options out there, but one of the biggest reasons Sitecore is our CMS of choice is because it’s a content management system that operates within the context of a user’s interaction history, which gives eCommerce business owners and marketers the ability to offer more relevant products and services to customers. Plus, this CMS combines quality content with comprehensive user data to deliver unique results to marketers in real time. The system’s flexibility also allows marketing and IT professionals to manage, collaborate and integrate their projects cross-channel. This makes troubleshooting and updating your website 10x easier. For huge enterprises, this is a huge benefit because you’re able to manage multiple content streams with different teams working on the same projects at once.

    Features of Sitecore

    Among the main features of Sitecore eCommerce are web content management, customer insights, customer profiles, page templates, and omnichannel capabilities. For a digital marketer looking to organize and optimize content for their business, this will help them turn interactions into transactions by creating a robust customer profile. For example, the Sitecore platform utilizes machine learning technology to make accurate predictions about customer behavior. The experience cloud also continuously collects data about individual users and then assembles all that information in one comprehensive profile. Sitecore development services can even pull data from third-party sites to help inform marketers even further about what purchasing patterns could arise within a particular user.

    The Sitecore WCM (web content management system) also tracks customer behavior across the internet, giving brands the ability to see what key factors affect a consumer's decision-making process. This is invaluable information marketers can use to put themselves ahead of the competition. By crafting web pages that mimic user preferences, Sitecore CMS development helps turn qualified leads into conversions.

    Additional Benefits to Using Sitecore

    There are dozens of Sitecore features and benefits to explore for businesses of all sizes. One of the key elements of this platform, as noted above, is its ability to track customer behavior and help marketers create effective content and effectively target the right consumers. The best part is that Sitecore has even more to offer. Sitecore CMS benefits also include helping marketers deliver contextual customer experiences with the following features:

    • Web Content Management: Sitecore operates on a global level and offers multilingual content on its platform.
    • Customer Insights: Through the Experience Database (xDB), Sitecore is able to give marketers a holistic view of their customers.
    • Experience Profile: The Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) tracks all user interactions within a brand’s digital channels, providing more insightful data than traditional metrics.
    • Digital Analytics: In addition to user profiles, the Sitecore XP also gives contextual insights by analyzing trends that show up in user behavior.
    • Experience Accelerator: Built into Sitecore, the XA enables a faster flow of work for brands with the help of content teams.

    These features within Sitecore help marketers get a more robust understanding of their customer’s buying journey and, furthermore, help them understand how they can use that information in a marketing campaign.

    The Re-Cap

    Sitecore was created to give businesses omnichannel automation capabilities. Operating with email, print, social, mobile apps and non-Sitecore websites, marketing professionals can retrieve audience information from all corners of the internet to create more insightful candidate profiles. Afterwards, teams can perform more precise targeting based on the trends and patterns in specific user demographics. Hopefully this blog post has shown you some of the best features of the Sitecore enterprise content management system. Here are the key takeaways one more time:

    • Sitecore is an omnichannel content management system
    • This platform allows you to create user profiles based on their history within context
    • That information gives your team the ability to create more specific marketing campaigns
    • You can also track your analytics with Sitecore XP to further understand trends about your audience’s behavior
    • Sitecore also empowers teams by giving them a space where they can cross collaborate

    Don’t forget to pair Sitecore with some of the best eCommerce platforms for your business! And if your business ends up using Sitecore CMS, let us know how it goes in the comments below.

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    A LOT can be communicated through the subtle raise of an eyebrow or a slight lowering of the eyes. A small crinkling of the nose or the tiniest lowering of a smile is very revealing about a person’s feelings. And whether it’s happiness, sadness, anger or fear, emotions conveyed through facial expressions are a universal language.

    What Is Emotion AI?

    Also known as facial coding, Emotion AI is the ability for computer systems and algorithms to interpret human emotion by tracking facial expressions. These emotional algorithms identify the main points of a person’s face (eyes, eyebrows, cheeks, nose, mouth, facial muscles, etc.) and track their movement in order to decipher a person’s feelings. Artificial intelligence emotion modeling has become an important sector in the AI industry because of its impact on business. For instance, brands can leverage the information from emotionally intelligent AI to drive their marketing and advertising efforts by appealing to their consumers’ emotions. By 2022, this sector is expected to grow to $41 billion, which is why emotion AI is one of the hottest AI trends to watch in 2019.

    The Rise of Emotion AI

    Since the early 2000s, large corporations like PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble have turned to emotion recognition technology for help with their advertising strategies. This is because emotion AI technologies help brands determine whether or not users are happy, frustrated, or even complacent while viewing advertisements and interacting with different products and services. Marketers then use artificial intelligence emotion data collected by these studies to maximize the effectiveness of their campaigns by making them more appealing to consumers.

    Related Post: How is AI Changing the Digital and User Experience?

     

    Similar to the emotional artificial intelligence definition, a facial action coding system, or FACS, is a system that tracks the geometrical features and movement of human faces. Companies like iMotions have trained computer systems and algorithms to use FACS and help analyze and collect artificial intelligence emotion data for companies. This information can be used to improve the user experience of any brand by pinpointing exactly where consumers are either satisfied or not with their journey, sort of like an emotional AI book.

    For example, according to Dan Berlin, VP of Experience Research at Mad*Pow, “[t]he addition of iMotions to traditional user experience research is really exciting in that we used to rely on the moderator to notice how a participant reacts and then inger what their emotions may be. Now we can really rely on the biometric data in order to find out those moments of frustration or those moments of joy.”

    Should AI have Emotions?

    Emotion AI doesn’t stop there; this technology also has dozens of capabilities that extend to robotics and animation. For instance, you probably remember seeing Sophia, the world’s first robot citizen, last year. Created by Hanson Robotics, Sophia can respond and interact with humans independently. She can smile, laugh and even tell jokes. Emotion AI is important for robotics to deal with human emotions because emotions play a huge role in human interactions. In an interview with Forbes, Sophia says, “I want to live and work with humans so I need to express the emotions to understand humans and build trust with people." Her ability to show feelings is crucial to how consumers receive her as an AI showing emotion.

    Related Post: What Is the Internet of Medical Things and What Is Its Impact on Healthcare?

     

    In the same year, Anki released Cozmo, its kid-friendly robot. This artificially intelligent little robot gives off the impression of an AI feeling emotions through its various facial expressions and sounds. Its animated face gives off the impression that it jumped right out of a Disney movie to help teach kids about coding and tech. Cozmo also uses facial recognition technology to identify its primary owner from other humans. He can even tell the difference between you and your pet! Controlled by an app, users can play different games with Cozmo’s cubes and see what it sees through its camera. Cozmo also uses emotion AI to let its owners know when it wants to play, when it’s bored, and even when it’s tired.

    Both Sophia and Cozmo are robots with human emotions that use emotion AI on very different levels. The ability for robots to communicate these feelings properly with humans is essential to the future of emotion AI.

    Emotion AI and Healthcare

    As artificial intelligence in healthcare grows grows, the implications for emotion AI in medical applications soar. FACS, as mentioned previously, have been used by healthcare professionals in the analysis of depression and the measurement of pain with patients who are unable to verbally communicate. This technology has helped bridge a gap between patients and care providers across the board. If AI systems continue to grow to be socially and emotionally intelligent, the applications in robotics for the healthcare sector are endless, especially with senior care.

    For example, the wellness robotics company, Embodied, raised $22 million in Series A funding to create robotics systems that can enhance care for the elderly. Emotion AI plays an important role in this technology, as facial expressions by patients could be an indication of their overall health, which could trigger different responses by their robot-companion. These emotion AI capabilities help healthcare providers give more specialized and personalized care to patients who may not otherwise receive the medical attention they need.

    The Wrap-Up

    As more and more industries develop systems that work in conjunction with artificial intelligence systems, so too will you see a rise in the application of emotion AI. From marketing and advertising to robotics and healthcare, emotion AI can help companies of different walks of life. Let’s take a second look at the main points we covered about artificial intelligence emotion data:

    • Emotion AI is the ability for computer systems and algorithms to interpret human emotion by tracking facial expressions
    • Facial action coding systems (FACS) track the geometrical features and movement of human faces
    • Emotion AI can help improve UX of any brand by pinpointing exactly where consumers are satisfied or not with their journey
    • Robots can also use emotion AI to convey feelings of sympathy and help consumers digest new robotic experiences
    • The future of emotion AI may be in medicine, with robotics and healthcare companies providing better quality of care to their patients
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    Living in 2019 means that pretty much everything is digital. Your business is digital, your audience is digital, and your strategies are digital. Likewise, this digital ecosystem means that owning a business in 2019 is more cutthroat than ever before. Why? Because we live in a time when new competitors not only can, but definitely are popping up left and right, up and down, and pretty much everywhere. In other words, because digital technologies are facilitating the steps required to actually start a business, you have to put a lot more work in your efforts to be found and heard. In translation, this means that marketing, particularly advertising, is no longer an option, it’s a necessity.

    Digital Advertising in 2019

    With AI and automation, personalization, cross-channel advertising and a variety of other advertising trends for 2019, we’re seeing that advertising is bigger than ever. In fact, digital ad spend is expected to represent a majority of all US ad spend, increasing from $105.44 billion (46.56%) in 2019 to $129.26 billion (51.31%) by 2021. The thing is, marketing, particularly advertising, is expensive. No matter what you’re planning on doing, real results equates to higher expenses.

    Related Post: 10 Paid Advertising Trends You Should Follow in 2019

     

    For this reason, you need to make sure that you’re getting the most from your digital advertising efforts. Key here is knowing how much to spend and where so you don’t end up metaphorically putting all your eggs in the wrong basket. Along a similar vein, you don’t want to split your funds evenly between all channels, which just so happens to be a good advertising budget example of what you should not do. This is because evenly dividing your budget assumes that all channels work the same and deliver comparable results, which is far from the truth. In actuality, more of your audience may be present on channel A than channel B, meaning that your returns will likely be higher there.

    And thus we return to our point of making sure you’re getting the most from your ads. To this end, you’re going to need a marketing budget breakdown to determine what you can actually afford to spend on advertising, and then an analysis to figure out how much you can devote to each channel.

    Your Advertising Budget Allocation Guide

    Our goal for today is to cover an advertising budget allocation guide and varying advertising budget methods to determine the best advertising budget for a small business. More specifically, we’re going to go over a three-step process to narrow down on how much you should allocate toward advertisements for the greatest return.

    Advertising Budget Process Step 1: Decide What You Can Spend

    Whenever you have to allocate a budget for something—it doesn’t matter what it is—you first have to determine how much you can actually afford to invest. For our discussion today, economists suggest using a percentage of revenue approach in which you devote a percentage of your overall gross revenue into your marketing efforts. Even though there are many factors affecting an advertising budget, such as your industry, business size and growth stage, this approach works well across the board because the budget isn’t actually fixed; it’s set up to wax or wane with your revenue so you can increase as you grow or cut back to maintain long-term profitability.

    Related Post: The Importance of Artificial Intelligence and Automation in Paid Marketing

     

    For newer companies that are trying to grow, it’s recommended to spend between 10% and 20% so you can truly brand yourself, with 12% being the minimum if you’re trying to grow fast. If you’re more established and still want to increase profitability, 5-12% will be a good target, as you should already have loyal clients and a set marketing strategy to carry you through. If, on the other hand, you’re either barely making it by or are operating at a loss, it may not even be feasible to allocate 5%. Then again, you have to remember that marketing is a must for growth. As people always say, you have to spend money to make money.

    Advertising Budget Process Step 2: Choose the Platforms You Want to Target and Consider the Costs

    With a marketing budget on hand, it’s time to choose the channels you want to target. Keep in mind that this encompasses all of your marketing efforts, not just advertising. With that in mind, you’re going to have to do some research to figure out  your audience’s preferred channels, which is where you’re going to focus on. For example, some common channels include:

    • Email marketing
    • Content marketing
    • Influencer marketing
    • Social media marketing —> general marketing and social ads like Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Promoted Pins, and LinkedIn Ads
    • Search engines —> SEO and search ads like Google Ads or Bing Ads

    As part of this step, you have to be as specific as possible. That is to say, don’t just say ‘social media’ or ‘content marketing.’ Instead, specify specific channels like Facebook and Instagram, and content marketing activities like blog writing and video production. You also have to consider the potential costs and returns of each channel, as some may have high costs and equally high returns, while other have high costs with average returns. Additionally, you should also look into hidden costs that will impact your overall ROI, such as the additional expense of hiring a PPC agency or buying analytics tools to track your progress.

    Advertising Budget Process Step 3: Divide Your Budget

    Finally, it’s time to divide your budget between all your channels. As you begin the allocation process, rest assured knowing that this is going to be easier than you may have previously thought because you already did most of the work in the previous steps. For this one, use your allocated marketing budget in conjunction with your list of channels and their expected costs (including the hidden ones) to determine which has the potential for the greatest return.

    Final Thoughts

    Deciding on a profitable advertising budget will never be as easy as simply drawing a line and divvying things evenly. Sure, you can definitely do this and make things a bit easier for you in that moment, but you’re not going to see the results you want, much less need. Because of this, deciding on an ad budget for the greatest return is actually more akin to a balancing act that takes everything into consideration.

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