Three-quarters of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in North America said digital marketing was effective for attracting customers, according to a November 2014 study by BrightLocal, and 37% planned to spend more on digital in the next 12 months. However, a lack of skill sets, budget and time could prevent advancements from happening.
When asked about their attitudes toward digital marketing, the percentage of SMBs who understood it and were able to execute it on their own fell 11 percentage points between 2013 and 2014, from 40% to 29%. A close 28% were taking steps to learn about digital marketing, though, in order to be able to do it them! selves but again, they weren’t yet.
Meanwhile, the percentages of those who wanted to do digital marketing but faced hurdles rose across the board. More respondents cited budget (17%) and time (10%) restraints than did the year before.
New technologies have made monitoring fitness and health anywhere, at any time, on any device easy for consumers, and a December 2014 study by Rocket Fuel found that usage was picking up. Among US internet users, 31% identified themselves as “self-trackers”—those who monitor health via apps, smart watches, wearable fitness trackers and/or websites. An additional 25% of non-users were interested in using self-trackers, and 20% lived with someone who used one.
Weight and calorie counting played big roles in usage. Self-trackers were most likely to use these tools to monitor weight (51%), while 47% focused on calories burned and 42% on diet and calor! ies cons umed. Despite this, less than one-quarter looked at a more detailed summary of body fat. Self-trackers were also interested in tracking distance, with 47% monitoring steps taken. Health and wellness info that some may consider more serious issues—heart rate and blood pressure, for example—weren’t as important.
Mobile app ads have been found to perform better than those on mobile sites, and other analysis suggests time spent with mobile internet skews heavily toward apps. However, in a December 2014 study by Harris Poll for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Mobile Marketing Center for Excellence, US smartphone owners didn’t view usage the same way: 33% said they used mobile sites and apps with about the same frequency, compared with 18% who said they spent a significantly larger amount of time with apps.
The study pointed to in-app browsing as one reason for the difference in time spent figures vs. user opinions, and results suggested the two actually work together plenty of the time, as mobile apps act as a “portal” to web articles. Fully 52% of smartphone owners said they tapped links in mobile apps that led to articles on mobile websites at least sometimes, with around half of that group doing so often or very often.
Respondents who had been brought to articles on mobile websites after clicking in-app links found more value from such content, possibly because they’re already in an environment that relates somewhat to their interests. Fully 50% of smartphone users said they had learned new things as a result of accessing articles this way, and 39% said they found articles they wouldn’t have found otherwise. More than one-quarter (26%) also said this was a way to find publications and websites they didn’t know about.
Amid their interest in millennials, marketers look to the 19 million-plus US college students as an audience worth courting. After all, it is a mostly millennial subset that already deploys considerable spending power and (with degree in hand) will be poised to outearn and outspend noncollege millennials for decades to come, according to a new eMarketer report, “US College Students 101: Updating Fundamental Facts About This Diverse, Digital Cohort.”
An October 2014 Student Monitor survey probed students’ preferences in the media through which they learn about products and services. Internet ads got more mentions than TV ads, albeit not by a vast margin. Email messaging had! a signi ficant constituency, despite the popular notion that young people regard email as hopelessly old-fashioned. Not registering in double digits (and, hence, not included in the chart here) were ads in campus or national newspapers, printed catalogs and information on a company’s Facebook page.
The proliferation of social networks and mobile messaging services has provided college students (and others) with social options beyond Facebook. But Facebook remains the social venue where students are most likely to interact with brands, according to a July 2014 survey by ID.me, where 86.2% of US college students said they followed brands on the social network. (One caveat: This poll was conducted via Facebook.) The Facebook-owned Instagram was runner-up, at 43.3% of respondents.
Smartphones and tablets also come into play in students’ shopping, especially for research. But as a July 2014 survey for the National Retail Federation found, this tendency has plenty of abstainers. More than four in 10 respondents said they did not plan to use their phone or tablet for researching or buying back-to-school items.
Given the high incidence of mobile usage among students, brands naturally see it as a channel for reaching this audience with ads. Research by Ball State University, as summarized in an April 2014 release, might prompt second thoughts. According to Michael Hanley, advertising professor and director of the university’s Institute for Mobile Media Research, “research continues to show young people are annoyed by mobile ads. About 65% of students report receiving mobile ads, and 70% of them don’t like it.”
Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) [pdf]
Notes: Some 81% of CEOs from around the globe consider mobile technologies for customer engagement to be strategically important for their organization, according to a recently-released survey from PwC. Data mining and analysis (80%) and cyber security (78%) follow closely in consideration, with the Internet of Things (IoT; 65%), socially enabled business processes (61%) and cloud computing (60%) in the next tier of importance. Separately, the study’s results indicate that digital technologies are currently producing the most value in the areas of oper! ational efficiency (88% citing “quite” or “very” high value), data and data analytics (85%), internal/external collaboration (77%) and customer experience (77%).
Source: Forrester Research, Inc. 2015 [download page]
Notes: B2B marketers will average an increase of 6% in their budgets this year, with 51% expecting budget increases as opposed to just 8% seeing decreases on the horizon, according to a Forrester Research survey of 132 North American B2B senior marketers. In-person trade shows, conferences and events will occupy the largest estimated share of their budgets, at 14%, followed by digital advertising and marketing (10%), content marketing (9%), websites (9%) and direct marketing (9%). But while there will be little change in event budgets (with 18% forecasting! an incr ease versus 19% a decrease), digital advertising/marketing (48% increasing versus 4% decreasing) and content marketing (45% increasing versus 3% decreasing) are set for considerable spending hikes.
Notes: Netflix yesterday reported better-than-expected subscriber growth in Q4 2014, adding almost 4 million paid streaming subscribers quarter-over-quarter to reach nearly 54.5 million worldwide (versus its forecast 54.1 million). In the US, Netflix reported 37.7 million paid streaming members, up from 31.71 million in Q4 2013 (19% year-over-year growth) and 25.47 million in Q4 2012. It had a particularly strong quarterly internationally, however, adding more than 2 million paid streaming subscribers, a quarterly increase that appears to be the largest in its history.
Facebook continues to be the dominant social platform for content sharing, per the latest quarterly report from ShareThis, an unsurprising result given its popularity among American adults. Interestingly, the report finds that of the most prominent social sharing platforms, Facebook’s stature rose the most during 2014, while Twitter experienced a decline. And as the report notes, while Facebook is a “fundamental channel,” other major channels “serve niche interests.”
<p! >During Q4, the ShareThis study reports that Facebook accounted for 81% of content shared to social networks, trailed distantly by Pinterest (7%) and Twitter (6%), with no other platform (email included) accounting for more than 2% share of shares (excuse the pun). During the year – between January and December – Facebook gained more than 8% points in its share of total activity, with Twitter’s share of the total receding by 3 points.Some of Facebook’s gains can be attributable to the rising influence of mobile. As the report details, almost two-thirds of sharing activity in December occurred on smartphones (51.9%) and tablets (14.5%), and Facebook owns the mobile sharing space to a greater extent than the desktop equivalent (85% and 74%, respectively).
FBX launched as Facebook’s answer to Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange and Yahoo’s RightMedia — which, incidentally, Yahoo shut down earlier this month. It was the first ever social media real-time bidding (RTB) ad exchange and let advertisers buy Facebook ad inventory that retargeted users based on their online browsing history. It was largely responsible for those “right-rail” ads you see on Facebook. It fulfilled a very specific marketing objective — “demand fulfillment — and very early on produced some stellar results for advertisers against search campaigns.
But just three years from launch, those kinds of ads are out-dated for two reasons:
News Feed Facebook’s focus is on News Feed ads, not the right-rail. FBX inventory did also consist of News Feed ads, but Facebook’s big sell to advertisers is about the branding opportunities News Feed ads can offer as it looks to take on other media like TV for ad dollars. FBX inventory was more about direct response ads, which do not command the expensive ad rates that broadcast ads do. Elsewhere, it has also been prioritizing and embarked on a hiring spree for its Atlas ad server, which allows the company to! sell an d deliver ads outside of the Facebook platform.
Mobile Facebook has pivoted to becoming a mobile company. Unfortunately for ad exchanges that specialize in retargeting, cookies don’t work on mobile. As Digiday points out, to overcome this, Facebook has been touting its Custom Audiences product, which uses a smartphone’s unique identification number to allow advertisers to retarget people who have used their mobile apps.
Facebook’s mobile ad revenue set to completely dwarf its desktop revenue next year, and by 2018, 75% of Facebook’s users will be mobile users, according to estimates released this week from eMarketer. So it’s little wonder FBX, Facebook’s shiny new ad product a mere three years ago, is being sidelined.
The study found that bots weren’t too picky when it came to ad preferences. Video ads were the most likely to fall victim, with bots accounting for 23% of video impressions observed in the US. Retargeted ads came second, at 19%, followed by programmatic display (17%). Display ads didn’t miss out on the action either, with 11% of traffic served to bots.
Concerns about ad fraud are high for marketers and advertisers across the board. In a July 2014 study conducted by the Digital Place Based Advertising Association, 42.8% of US agency planners were highly concerned about digital ad fraud and viewability, and an additional 52.2% were somewhat conce! rned. Au gust 2014 polling by Adap.tv found that 60% of US video buyers and 41% of sellers were worried about ad fraud such as bots and ad stacking, the second-highest response rates for each group. Fully 37% of US marketers surveyed by Marin Software in August 2014 were worried about click fraud and suspicious traffic in retargeting, and Chango research from September 2014 found that fraud was inhibiting programmatic usage for 47% of marketers in North America and the UK.
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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