The Engagement and Monetization Landscape for 2015

The engagement and monetization landscape for 2015 is defined by the new digital reality we live in, as defined by today’s consumer.

How Today’s Consumer Is Shaping the Engagement Landscape

There are several characteristics that define today’s engagement landscape:

  1. Today’s consumers have control over when, where, and how they will engage with brands.

The internet gives users the ability to block advertising, navigate away from pushy sales sites, and ignore irrelevant content. Mobile devices allow retail shoppers to engage with one brand while standing in the store of another.

Overt marketing, pushy sales tactics, and spammy messages will often alienate customers and erode profit margins.

Since so many users are finicky, have short attention spans, and little patience, brands must do their best to create competitive user experiences. Top-notch content, design, and performance are all necessary for companies to acquire and retain brands.

  1. The internet gives users the ability to perform product research at their leisure.

Users now have access to enormous quantities of product information. They can read reviews, compare multiple products, and educate themselves, all from any internet-enabled device.

This means that consumers are interacting with sales staff much later in the funnel. Salesy content, when introduced too early in the funnel, will turn off and disengage customers.

Engaging consumers in this digital marketplace requires stage-based content that covers the entire spectrum. Marketing must nurture prospects with light, informative content. Later, they can narrow the focus and introduce specific solutions.

  1. The vast majority of content is free, which has created a monetization landscape built on advertising.

Free content has necessitated certain monetization strategies for companies that want to earn money from their content.

Since consumers are tight with their purse strings, it’s harder to get people to pay for content. A flood of free content-driven websites, blogs, and apps have made magazine subscriptions almost a thing of the past.

As a result, publishers have turned to advertising as a means of monetization. On the one hand, this allows publishes to offer content for free. But on the other, it’s generated an ocean of advertising.

Many consumers expect free content, but complain about advertising’s effect on the user experience. So publishers have developed innovative workarounds, such as native advertising and on-site search monetization.

  1. Consumers are becoming more demanding.

Technology has made the world more connected and more convenient than ever, which has made the consumer more demanding.

To keep up and stay engaged with audiences, brands need to stay on top of the curve. Here are a few trends that are shaping the consumer landscape:

  • Immediacy With the internet at our fingertips, we have access to instant information, online shopping, fast delivery, and more. The faster and more mobile technology becomes, the more we will see immediacy become a priority for consumers. Brands will need to be able to deliver immediately if they want to keep up.
  • Personalization – Data gives companies the power to deliver relevant content, advertising, and information to consumers. And as these services evolve, consumers will grow to expect it. Marketing, advertising, and content that doesn’t personalize won’t be able to compete.
  • Immersion – The best online services are those that are present everywhere. Facebook and Google, for instance, follow customers from device to device. Accounts and services are accessible across a multitude of platforms and channels.
  • Always On – Customers are always on and conversions can happen at a moment’s notice. Brands must be ready and able to engage customers wherever customers want to be engaged. Some customers are strictly Twitter users, others are strictly mobile users, and yet others prefer email. Brands must be fluid and adaptable in order to meet these always-on consumers.
  1. Data drives engagement.

Effective data analysis lies behind successful engagement and monetization strategies.

For brands to deliver relevant, personalized, predictive, and immediate services, they need to collect and analyze data. Understanding – on a granular level – the way that customers behave gives brands the ability to deliver all of those features.

Untargeted, generalized marketing has historically delivered poor or even negative results. Today, the most successful brands will be those that collect and use customer data to deliver even better user experiences.

In 2015, data-driven marketing continues to become more of a focus for the world’s most successful companies. And in 2016 and beyond, this trend will become more magnified.

Mobile technology, wearable technology, and analytics are becoming more and more robust. Detailed information about customer behavior allows businesses to create hyper-detailed profiles and personas of their customers.

Those companies that can use data to deliver personalized services and solutions will be the ones to win in the engagement and monetization landscape. Those that can only serve up generalized content or experiences will end up falling behind.

 

As we move from 2015 into 2016, the engagement and monetization landscape will become more consumer-focused. Personalized user experiences will be the hallmark of the brands who are most successful.

The Best Xmas 2015 Ads: Lessons for Marketers and Advertisers

The best Xmas 2015 ads can offer a few good lessons to marketers and advertisers.

Let’s look at the top ads, see how they stack up, and dive into some top takeaways and lessons you can apply in your marketing.

Duracell – Star Wars

This year’s Duracell ad features a pair of children diving straight into the Star Wars universe.

After a battle with the Empire’s forces, we return to reality, watching the kids playing with toy lightsabers. The voiceover declares, “Never underestimate the power of imagination,” then follows with a Duracell battery and a quick Star Wars plug.

Takeaways

  • Brand names are powerful. Star Wars lends significant credibility to the Duracell name. Partner with non-competitors whenever possible.
  • Never underestimate the power of imagination. Many people’s lives don’t involve fantastic adventures, so offer an escape. However unrealistic the tie to the brand, it can sell a point or a product.
  • Pay attention to time limits. This ad clocks in at 1:00 exactly, which works for two reasons. For one thing, it’s short enough for the majority of viewers. For another, the time limit is round, even, exact, and visible as soon as viewers hit the page…this number itself was clearly calculated to go down smoothly.

BBC One – For Christmas Together

In this ad, which also clocks in at exactly one minute, a sprout wanders lonely and lost. The ad follows him as he meets a few characters, none of whom “love a sprout.” After several rejections, he finds himself at a dinner table surrounded by BBC One celebrities, such as Doctor Who and Sherlock. At Christmas, “everyone loves a sprout” and “For Christmas together, BBC One.”

Takeaways

  • The 1:00 ad length applies here again. Studies have shown that video length and the thumbnail are two key factors that determine whether audiences will hit the play button or not. Videos longer than 2 minutes tend to lose views and decrease engagement quickly, which may be why the 1:00 ad is followed by a 1:00 montage of shows, making the YouTube video 2:00 exactly.
  • Celebrity boosts recognition. The ad is narrated by the actor who plays Doctor Who, and the final selling point is a table surrounded by BBC One celebrities. This virtual, celebrity family appeals to the viewer as an extension of their family – so even if viewers identify with the Sprout Boy, they can find comfort and warmth with the BBC One family.

 Coca Cola – A Bridge for Santa

This Brazilian short film opens with a boy asking his father about Santa Claus…who has apparently never visited this town. During the ad, the town comes together to build a bridge that will give Santa access to the town. Coca Cola’s well-known, illuminated Christmas trucks then roll into town and the boy finally meets the Christmas figure.

Takeaways

  • Marketing isn’t limited to traditional ads. This ad is actually a short film, which was screened at theaters across Brazil. It clocks in at almost 5 minutes, requiring more attention than the other ads we’ve looked at so far. However, this longer format adds more complexity, depth, and emotion – which, in turn, increase brand awareness and presence.
  • Heartstrings are meant to be tugged. The caravan rolls into town and brings Christmas and Santa to the boy who has never experienced them. The Coca Cola brand, then, redeems Christmas for this young boy.
  • Technology is just a platform for the story. This story itself, written by a well-known journalist and moviemaker, is the real meat of the campaign. The story itself will be told throughout Brazil via the real-life Coca Cola caravans. And for those who can’t experience the parades in real life, they will be able to vicariously experience them inside Google Cardboard.

Lloyd Bank and Apple Pay – Love You to the Stars

In this ad, a young girl narrates her efforts to find a gift for her mother, who says she already has all she wants. The girl wants to buy her mother a star, but her dad says there are some things money can’t buy. The elf, however, reveals that you can buy a star. Thanks to Apple Pay and Lloyd Bank, she bought her mother the rights to name a star.

Takeaways

  • Christmas stories are emotionally driven stories of loss and redemption. These ads tend to focus on a problem that stands in the way of familial love. At the close of each story, the problem is resolved and family prevails. This ties closely in to the spirit of Christmas, so brands would be wise to follow similar patterns in their advertising efforts.
  • Brands are heroes. The story arcs follow characters who run into an obstacle that threatens the spirit of Christmas. And brands are always the catalyst that save the day.

 

From these ads, we learned that stories are the most powerful vehicle to convey emotion and sell brands. Not all Christmas ads follow the same story arc, but with these, we see the same underlying pattern. Brands rescue the spirit of Christmas and enable families to experience the full joy of the holidays.

Design Trends: Modern Look and Feel Sites for 2016

In 2015, website designs trend toward a more modern look and feel, and sites for 2016 will continue to evolve in that direction.

This article will examine some of these modern design trends, how they stem from consumer consciousness, and what these trends mean for marketers and website owners.

The Consumer’s Impact on Web Design

Design trends respond to the whims and the tastes of consumers. In 2015, we’ve seen modern web design trends respond to many of the major shifts that are also impacting the marketing industry. In 2016, we’ll expect to see these trends become even more pronounced.

Here are a few of the biggest trends we’ve seen this year:

People want more authenticity.

The proliferation of banner ads, pop-ups, incessant marketing, and pervasive advertising left their mark on the consumer.

Today’s internet user reacts negatively to overt marketing, which is one reason why ad blockers have become so popular. The desire for more authenticity and transparency in brands is the result.

In design, this trend manifests itself most prominently in the images websites use. “Classic” stock photos are out, while the down-to-earth, gritty stock images are in. A new breed of stock photo companies has arisen to meet this demand, such as Death to the Stock Photo and Stocksy.

This trend reflects other movements in the marketing world, such as user-generated content and native ads.

Bigger and simpler is better.

Simplicity is perhaps also a reaction to the overly complex designs that cluttered screens in the early 2000s. Though there are exceptions, many websites have decided to strip out crowded sidebars, headers, and footers.

But removing ads and distracting secondary content is only the first step. Many web designs push the trend to the max, by bringing a single piece of content front and center, to the exclusion of all else.

Maeemo is one good example. Their minimal design is sparse, drawing attention to the powerful imagery and concise copy.

The advantage of this approach is the “wow” effect, which focuses attention on a single image and impression, rather than distracting with too many options.

Mobile rules the web.

Mobile web traffic continues to climb year over year and this growth will only continue. Given the increase in mobile traffic, Google has gone so far as to push mobile-friendly sites higher in mobile searches.

Responsive design is the natural result of the mobilization of the web. Virtually all WordPress themes released today, for example, are mobile-friendly or even designed specifically for mobile. The more complex themes allow you to fine tune which content appears on mobile and which appears on desktop.

Consumers love video.

Video is becoming easier to stream, since bandwidth continues to explode along with the rest of the internet.

In design, this can be seen with the rise of autoplay video backgrounds. Unlike autoplay videos in the sidebar, background videos contribute directly to the site design, rather than interrupting it.

The result is often stunning and captivating, which is exactly what the designers are shooting for. The best designs combine these video backgrounds with interactive elements, allowing the user a sense of control over how the experience plays out.

Modular, mosaic is tentatively moving forward.

Though Window’s Metro didn’t work out, it has still snuck quietly into Windows 10.

The modular, mosaic grid is also tentatively moving forward in the web design world. Wired’s latest design update, for example, makes use of this design trend. In Wired’s case, they have created a sense of balance, proportion, and structure by using and organizing variously sized grid items.

Cookie cutter designs are going meta.

The latest, most advanced WordPress themes are diving deeper into the code to give users a great deal of control over the sites they build.

While there are still many cookie cutter themes and designs out there, many of the most popular ones are extremely robust. WordPress themes such as X and The7 are multipurpose themes that allow very versatile designs.

Rather than packaging a single layout or design, these themes may come with several. And they are often flexible enough to create unique designs from their design components.

Interaction design is taking the forefront.

In 2016 and beyond, expect to see interaction-heavy designs play a prominent role in web design, app design, and even advertising design.

The internet, by its very nature, is interactive. Users can control how and what they wish to view, so it’s up to designers to develop an experience that is valuable and engaging.

With HTML5 and the plethora of other front-end web technologies, it’s now possible to create extremely rich websites and user interfaces. In the coming years, technology will become more complex, and so will interactivity.

While design labels vary, most designers agree that the design focus in 2016 and beyond will revolve around the user experience. To be successful, websites will need to engage users with content, user interfaces, and designs that deliver a top-notch user experience.

The App User Engagement Landscape in 2015: iOS, Android, and the Rest

The app user engagement landscape in 2015 looks different, depending on whether you develop for iOS, Android, or another platform.

As app developers know, iOS has gotten all the attention in recent years. Users are more engaged, more willing to pay for apps, and the stricter app store policies keep out the competition.

Android phones are typically cheaper than Apple phones, so there are more low-budget users. In general, Android users have been less willing to make in-app purchases, pay for apps, and so forth.

Therefore, it’s natural for developers to gravitate towards iOS.

However, there have been some shifts that have affected the app user engagement landscape in 2015. In this article, we’ll look at that data to see how it affects app developers and the app industry.

Android Is Just Too Fragmented…Or Is It?

There is a commonly held belief that Android is a highly fragmented OS, with many versions that make it more difficult for Android apps to penetrate the market. On the other hand, iOS is completely closed and Apple has complete control over the hardware and software.

However, 90% of Android users are using 4.0.3 or higher, according to OpenSignal. It’s most definitely true that Apple iOS enjoys a much less fragmented state of existence, but the issue for developers should be one of targeting and backwards compatibility.

Other fragmentation issues that concern developers are device and brand fragmentation. OpenSignal’s same data reveals that Android’s brand and device fragmentation can’t even be compared to Apple’s: there are around 24,000 distinct Android devices, 28% more than last year.

The question for app developers is whether or not this fragmentation affects user engagement and monetization.

Some feel that Android fragmentation may actually be a good thing.

While this fragmentation may give developers headaches, it also gives Android a much larger market share. Android’s market share has hovered around 80% for the past few years globally. In countries like India, that number is higher, while in the EU and the United States, it is lower.

This level of fragmentation can certainly eat away at both market penetration and engagement, especially when it affects app performance, compatibility, and the user experience.

However, app developers should take global numbers with a grain of salt. If a developer is targeting a specific niche, geographically or topically, then those numbers may vary from OS to OS. According to some data, high-end Android phone users are actually 40% more engaged than iOS users.

While it’s widely acknowledged that iOS users are more engaged, it’s also worth noting that Android has more users. When building for Android, developers should focus on their target audience first and foremost.

If your target demographic is less engaged but four times as large, where should you focus your efforts? An app targeted at mass consumers in India, for instance, should probably start development with Android, which owns around 90% of the market share there.

Other Discrepancies Affecting Android Engagement

The overall user demographics and engagement levels are certainly big considerations for any developer.

There are other details, however, that affect engagement. A recent report revealed that the way each OS handles push notifications has a significant impact on user engagement.

The difference between the two is this: Android notifications remain visible until they are dismissed by the user, while iOS notifications fade away into the Notification Center when the phone is unlocked. This little UI discrepancy affects engagement patterns by around 12% for medium-performing apps.

iOS Still Rules User Engagement

It pays to dig deep into your target audience and your target market before unilaterally jumping on board the iOS ship. While it’s clear that fragmentation does rule the Android landscape, it’s also clear that there are some engagement peaks in that valley. Namely, using push notifications and targeting the right demographic can earn you significant bonuses.

That being said, iOS still rules in terms of user engagement.

This time last year, iOS app launches doubled Android’s and they were used for twice as long. For years, Apple has been touting that its users are more affluent, more engaged, and more valuable than Android users.

Apple does have a smaller market share in general, but the fact that its users are more affluent and engaged means Apple developers make more money. Also, in some markets Android has been losing ground to Apple.

Google has apparently learned its lesson, and will be changing its policies to improve the user experience. Language in Google’s new policies echo similar verbiage that already exists in Apple’s app guidelines, including the removal of apps that have “irrelevant, misleading, or excessive keywords in apps descriptions, titles, or metadata.”

In this, Google appears to be following the example that iOS has set. While those changes may improve the user experience and user engagement in the long term, for now Apple still takes the cake when it comes to both.

 

On the one hand, Android’s fragmentation may not be all it’s cracked up to be. With the right targeting and the right engagement strategy, an app can be made profitable. But, on the other hand, iOS still controls the more affluent and engaged user base. In time, Android may make strides to catch up, but in terms of app user engagement in 2015, Apple still rules.

2015 Marketing Technology Landscape: Top to Bottom, Inside and Out

The 2015 marketing technology landscape has doubled its size from last year.

According to ChiefMartec’s Scott Brinker, the number of companies has grown from 1,000 to 2,000 in the space of one year. The publication of his 2015 Marketing Technology Landscape infographic revealed a huge variety of marketing companies in a wide range of sectors.

Whether you’re an experienced veteran of marketing or a newcomer, it pays to know what these sectors are and how they are changing from year to year.

In this article, we’ll cover the sectors that focus on the marketing technology industries that focus on the front end experience, or the Marketing Experiences section of the chart.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing companies perform a variety of mobile-related marketing functions, from user acquisition to advertising to mobile payments. Mobile app marketing company growmobile, for instance, helps app makers acquire and retain users, as well as implement social advertising campaigns.

Display and Native Ads

Display advertising use display ads that stand out and can appear across platforms, from desktop to smartphones to tablets. Native ads, rather than standing out, attempt to blend in to the content and offer more contextualized, relevant value. Both have their merits and both sectors continue to grow.

Video Marketing and Ads

Video marketing and ads are two of the fastest growing marketing industries. They will continue to skyrocket in the coming years, for several reasons: video is becoming easier to produce, mobile technology makes it easier to consume, and people demand video.

Search and Social Ads

Search and social aren’t going away any time soon, since these are two of the most time-consuming online activities. Along with mobile, social advertising is one of the fastest-growing marketing industries.

Communications and Reviews

Public relations and communications are some of the most important ways to maintain reputations and build trust with customers. From Ning to Muut, a number of platforms have been developed to help businesses build community, collect customer reviews, and display comments.

Email Marketing

As every marketer knows, email marketing is one of the most reliable ways to maintain communication with customers. The email marketing industry continues to advance, bringing with it a variety of companies that offer new technologies, from advanced segmentation to trigger-based personalization.

Influencer Marketing

In the digital world, insight and intelligence is the name of the game for businesses who want to stay ahead of their competition. Influencer marketing ranges from content analysis engines such as Buzzsumo to brand monitoring platforms, such as Zoomph.

Events and Webinars

Online connectivity allows businesses to communicate with prospects around the world. Marketing technology companies have risen to meet this need and offer services that range from small-scale webinars to massive online events.

SEO

SEO hasn’t died, but it doesn’t command the same piece of the digital marketing pie that it once did. However, with 7.5 million monthly searches for the term “SEO,” it clearly still holds major important for many businesses and marketers. There are plenty of well-known SEO companies listed on the 2015 Marketing Technology Landscape infographic, including well-known names such as Moz and Yoast.

Customer Experience/VoC

Customer research is part and parcel of the marketing function, and there are plenty of companies that offer this service. These companies offer website surveys, customer tracking, and other tools designed to help retain customers.

Loyalty/Referral/Gamification

Loyalty, referral, and gamification services take user retention one step further. These programs automate referral and reward programs, which offer incentives to users for referring friends. This helps to grow the customer base through word-of-mouth, social media, and so on.

Personalization and Chat

Chat services, clearly, give users the ability to chat with one another, enhancing the end user experience. Personalization solutions use sophisticated analytics and prediction engines to offer customized user experiences across devices and channels.

Testing and Optimization

Testing is a hallmark of marketers, and as the marketing landscape continues to expand, so do analytics companies. As time goes on, marketing analytics are giving marketers the ability to create campaigns that are much more relevant, personal, and timely. Testing and optimization companies give marketers the insight they need to keep up with their customers and continually improve their results.

Interactive Content

One of the advantages of digital media is the interactive potential of online content. These platforms may be sophisticated SaaS solutions that deploy, test, and measure interactive content. Or they may simply provide sweepstakes, polls, contests, and so on. Regardless, these solutions give marketers the ability to engage with and learn more about their users.

Content Marketing

Though content marketing is a relatively new term, it’s now a core pillar of any good marketing program. Content marketing solutions range from video explainer solutions, such as Wyzowl, to content creation services, such as Zerys.

Creative and Design

Every marketer must make heavy use of creatives and designers. Content, ads, and all other forms of marketing communications rely heavily on the creative industries, and there are a number of creative companies that step up. Some act as portfolio sites for designers, such as Dribbble, while others develop high-end software for designers, such as Autodesk.

Sales Enablement

The final sector listed under the Marketing Experiences section of the chart, Sales Enablement companies offer relationship management solutions, sales cycle analytics platforms, and sales content optimization engines.

 

The 2015 Marketing Technology Landscape infographic has several other sections, which cover marketing operations, middle-ware, backbone platforms, and infrastructure. However, the sectors covered here are particularly interesting to any marketer that deals with the front-end marketing experience.