Twitter Expands Buy Buttons to Shopify, Bigcommerce and More

buy buttonA year after the initial launch of its ‘buy button’ solution, Twitter is expanding the service dramatically through partnerships with Bigcommerce, Demandware and Shopify, three popular online commerce platforms.

The partnerships will enable merchants using the various platforms to run their own online commerce services to market through Twitter, creating a streamlined path to purchase through the social media platform.

While the buy button solution remains a US-only product for the moment, Twitter has invested considerable resources in ensuring it sees significant take-up, hoping that the addition of integrated calls-to-action in tweets will help the company bring in more advertising revenue.

“The goal for all our commerce initiatives on Twitter is simple: make it as easy as possible for businesses to connect directly with, and sell to, customers on Twitter,” said Nathan Hubbard, head of commerce at Twitter. “With Buy Now, businesses can drive more conversions and remove much of the friction in the mobile purchasing process.”

In addition to the commerce platform partnerships, Twitter has also signed direct deals with several big retail brands, chief among them electronics retailer Best Buy and sporting brand Adidas, who will use Stripe to power sales directly using promoted tweets.

“We’ve been a long time partner of Twitter and this is the latest step in working together to innovate our social shopping and commerce experience,” said Chris Murphy, managing editor of Adidas’ newsroom. “We will continue to work with Twitter to lead the social and digital conversation with a focused pursuit of seamless shopping.”

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John Lewis’ JLAB Invests in IoT Door Camera

peepleJohn Lewis’ annual startup incubator JLAB has announced the winner of its 2015 cohort, a smart camera that enables users to look through their home’s front door from anywhere in the world.

Peeple is a smart camera that attaches to existing peepholes in front doors and connects via the home wi-fi network, sending alerts to the owners when anyone arrives at or opens the front door and enabling them to identify and screen visitors.

The team behind Peeple worked alongside other startups as part of the JLAB incubator for the past 12 weeks, developing the product with the assistance of a panel of expert mentors. As the winner of this year’s accelerator, the company will receive £100,000 in funding and a contract to sell the device in John Lewis shops.

“I first came up with the idea of Peeple when my three-year old son walked out the front door to walk to his grandma’s house without my knowledge,” said Chris Chuter, CEO of Peeple. “The initial fright led me to start tinkering on a way to find out automatically when the front door is opened. We’ve come a long way since then, and JLAB has been instrumental in helping ready the product for launch in the UK and beyond.”

Among the other finalists at JLAB was smart home control app Alfred, solar-powered iPhone cover maker Ikinen and in-store queue management solution Qudini, all of which worked with a variety of tech and business mentors to develop their products.

“I love JLAB because it connects John Lewis with our Partnership’s roots in innovation,” said Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis. “This year’s competition has been even better than when we founded it last year.

“The winner, Peeple, is an innovative product in this year’s really hot area of the Internet of Things. We see great opportunities for developing this product into a ‘must have’ app and home security device.”

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Fifth of World Population Now Use an Android Device

Android handsetsAndroid now has 1.4bn monthly active users – equivalent to a fifth of the world’s popualtion

The figure was revealed by Google CEO Sundar Pichai at the company’s Nexus event, which also saw the unveiling of two new handsets.

That figure has increased from 1bn in May 2014, with emerging markets driving the growth. Pichai singled out Indonesia and Vietnam, two markets where the number of Android users has doubled in the past year.

“These people are adopting the smartphone for the first time in many cases,” he said.

It’s worth noting that this figure includes forked versions of Android, which don’t include access to Google services, most notably the Play store. The number of non-forked users is likely somewhere around 1bn users – the amount Pichai said now access the Play store each month.

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Adblock Plus Forms Independent Review Board for Ad Whitelisting

Ad-Block-Plus-Till.jpgAdblock Plus is forming an independent review board to manage its Acceptable Ads program, to decide which ads get ‘whitelisted’ and shown to users of its ad blocking software.

The program has been criticised in the past, as its whitelist contains publishers and ad firms – reportedly including Google, Amazon and Microsoft  – which have paid for their inclusion. Adblock Plus insists paying companies still have to meet the same criteria as everyone else, but it’s easy to see how questions about a conflict of interest could arise.

In an attempt to make that process more transparent, the review board will eventually take total control of what criteria are required for a campaign to be considered ‘acceptable’.

“We started as an open source project, so from day one, the Acceptable Ads program has been managed in an open and public forum,” said Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus. “Users determined the original criteria and can object in our forum to whitelisting proposals, but since we were the only ad blocker to offer such a compromise we have taken on a large role in the day-to-day maintenance of the criteria.

“We have been looking for a way to make the Acceptable Ads program completely independent while also updating the criteria to evolve with changing forms of online advertising. An independent board solves both issues.”

The board is slated to be formed next year.

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YouTube Unveils Native Ad Units for Quick Shopping

youtube product review adsYouTube has announced that it will introduce integrated shopping ads that will enable viewers to jump directly from videos to retailers’ websites and buy the products featured in the clips, streamlining the purchase journey.

The video streaming service already lets advertisers show links to products within their own videos, but the new solution will let product ads be placed on any video on the site provided the clip’s owner opts in, monetising content like product reviews in a much more direct way.

The ad unit appears to be YouTube’s answer to the ‘buy button’ that is becoming increasingly popular on social media services such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, providing consumers with a quick way to purchase items they are exposed to through the services.

Product reviews are a popular type of video on YouTube, with viewership jumping 40 per cent in the last year for product-related clips, and tens of thousands of reviews available for everything from the latest gadgets to frozen pizza.

Users who opt in to the new ad service, and who produce videos containing products that match YouTube ads, will have an icon displayed in the top right corner of their videos. Viewers can click on this icon to view images and prices of products featured in the video, with links taking them directly to retailers’ websites for more information and the option to buy.

“Over the course of the year, we’ve been working hard to make videos more interactive, shortening the distance between the time a viewer sees an ad and their actual purchase,” said a YouTube spokesperson in a news release.

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Google Unveils First Metal Nexus Handset

Nexus handsets Sep 2015Google has unveiled two new Nexus handsets, the 6P and 5X.

The 6P is a 5.7-inch device. Made by Huawei, it’s the first metal Nexus and features a 12.3-megapixel camera, front-facing stereo speakers, and Nexus Imprint fingerprint authentication, which Google said will work seamlessly with Android pay for mobile payments.

The 5.2-inch 5X, made by LG, also comes with Nexus Imprint and the 12.3-megapixel front-facing camera. Both handsets will run off Android 6.0 Marshmallow and will go on sale in October, with the 6P selling for £449 and the 5X for £339 in the UK.  Both are available for pre-order from the Google Store in the UK, US, Ireland and Japan, and come with a free 90-day subscription to Google Play Music.

Google also used the launch event to unveil the Pixel C, a 10.2-inch tablet with an optional separate keyboard that attaches to the screen via magnets and connects via Bluetooth. When you don’t need the keyboard, you can slap it on to the back of the screen. Additionally, the tablet charges the keyboard inductively so you don’t have to.
The Pixel C also runs Marshmallow, and will be available in time for the Holiday season, with US pricing starting at $499 for the 32GB version, with the keyboard costing an additional $149.

Finally, Google unveiled new Chromecast devices, and an updated app that serves as a TV guide, showing the user the videos that are available to display on their TV via Chromecast, based on the video apps (Netflix, YouTube etc.) they have on their phone.

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The End of the Road for Digital Advertising?

Murphy's Law Crystal ad blockWill 2015 go down in history as the start of the end for online – and mobile – advertising? It will certainly go down as the year when ad blocking entered the public consciousness, on mobile at least, nine years after AdBlock Plus made its debut as a Firefox browser extension in 2006.

Two things have put ad blocking firmly on the radar in 2015. The first was the announcement from Israeli developer Shine that a number of mobile operators were looking at deploying its technology at source, so that anyone looking at online content via the operator’s cellular network would have the ability to block ads, both in-browser and in-app.

This was a significant departure from ad-blocking’s traditional browser-only domain, particularly when you consider that most people’s time on mobile is spent in-app as opposed to browsing the mobile web – around 90 per cent in fact, according to the last stats I saw, from comScore and Nielsen.

But for all Shine’s bravado, there has been no word, to date at least, of any operator deploying its tech. Despite that, ad blocking has risen further up the agenda, thanks to Apple’s decision to add ad-blocking capabilities to the latest version of its Safari mobile browser, which came as part of the iOS 9 upgrade for anyone who managed to install it without crashing their phone.

Alarm bells
The iOS 9 deployment, of course, only affects browser use – a cynic might say Apple makes too much money from its cut of in-app ad revenues to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But nonetheless, Apple’s decision to support ad blocking to any degree is naturally ringing alarm bells in many quarters, and unleashed a raft of ad-blockers including Crystal, Blockr and others in to the App Store

The response from the ad industry has been reasonably consistent. Writing in our latest print edition, Jon Mundy, UK MD of Zapp 360, says it’s symptomatic of the unnecessary complexity and clumsiness of the mobile ad industry, with multiple tags being used to collect audience data and so slowing down the serving of the ad and the page on which it appears. What the industry needs to do, he argues, is to declutter, simplify and standardise, while at the same time becoming less intrusive and more appealing to the viewer.

In a Guest Column published on this site in June, Geoff Gower, executive creative director at AIS London, also argued that digital advertising needs to become more engaging in order to reduce the desire among consumers to deploy ad-blocking software.

Gower also noted that, according to a 2014 report from PageFair and Adobe, less than five per cent of the internet population had installed ad-blocking software. That said, with the Crystal ad-blocker for iOS currently sitting top of the paid-app Utility charts in the App Store, that figure is likely to have risen significantly in recent days.
Indeed, in the 24 hours immediately following the launch of iOS 9, ad blockers occupied three of the top five places in the paid apps chart in the App Store overall. Interestingly, the app that had occupied top spot, Peace, was subsequently pulled by its developer, Marco Arment, who said its approach to what to block was not nuanced enough.

In Germany meanwhile, earlier today, a court in Cologne ruled in favour of Adblock Plus, the most popular browser extension for blocking online ads, with over 400m downloads to date. The firm was defending a lawsuit brought against it by publisher Axel Springer, which had claimed that journalism is merely a vehicle for delivering ads, and that no product should be allowed to block those ads.

And in this weekend’s Observer, John Naughton, who writes a weekly column on tech and its implications, was in no doubt that ad blocking will effectively kill off the online ad industry. “The rise of ad blocking will force us to confront the fact that the free lunch provided by advertising is not long for this world” he wrote.

One solution to the problem, Naughton argues, could be micropayments, enabled by cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin), that will make it possible and easy for web users to pay tiny amounts of money for content they want to consume online, whether it’s an article they want to read or a video they want to watch.

Certainly, some publishers, such as the FT, are enjoying success with content locked behind a paywall and accessed via micropayments. Dutch start-up Blendle is also attracting a significant user base, aggregating content from the major publishers in the Netherlands, with Germany soon to follow, and making that available to its subscribers on a per-article basis.

Personally though, I feel the death of online and mobile advertising may be being greatly exaggerated, notwithstanding this morning’s news from Nielsen that consumer trust in advertising overall is on a downward trend. Most of us old enough to swipe an iPad are accustomed to the value exchange of looking at ads in exchange for content (even if those iPad users still in nappies don’t quite appreciate what’s happening yet). My suspicion is that a lot of people running ad-blocking software, or tempted to run it, may have second thoughts when it gets to the point where they learn that the ad-funded content they want to see will disappear unless they are prepared to start paying for it, to make up for the ad revenues that are no longer subsidising their enjoyment of the free content.

Exactly how that plays out across millions of small, niche, much-loved, and most-importantly ad-funded sites over the coming years remains to be seen. But if the ad industry really is going to be defeated by ad-blocking, then it’s obviously not half as creative as it’s had us believe all these years.

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Urban Airship Connect Promises Real-time App Engagement

Urban Airship ConnectMobile engagement platform Urban Airship has introduced Urban Airship Connect, which it says makes it easy for digital marketers and data teams to select and stream granular mobile signals of customers’ interests, preferences and intentions to any other business system, driving actions within marketing automation platforms, ad targeting solutions, business intelligence systems and customer databases. The solution is launching with connections to more than 50 business systems across 10 launch partners.

The idea behind Urban Airship Connect is to enable brands to react to individual in-app events in closer to real-time, rather than relying on aggregate data and batch exports. For example, a marketer could send a “win-back” email the moment a user uninstalls an app; present a can’t miss Facebook offer based on a product they just researched; or notify a sales associate when a VIP customer is looking for answers in-store.

On the business intelligence front, it could feed mobile campaign and audience data to BI solutions for cross-channel attribution and to understand mobile’s ROI impact on the business; or send signals across a supply chain, as safety or inventory checks are being performed, to speed the flow of information and drive business efficiencies.

The solution ties the user journey together across any business system through a flexible user identification system using device IDs, user IDs, Apple’s IDFA and Google’s Advertising ID, custom CRM identifiers, or other IDs, which the company says results in more accurate campaign attribution and personalization. Existing Urban Airship customers can simply turn on Urban Airship Connect. New customers just need an SDK to access it.

“Redbox uses numerous solutions to deliver a great digital experience to our customers, including Urban Airship and Adobe Marketing Cloud,” said Kimberlie Christen, senior manager, mobile strategy & innovation at Redbox. “With more than 60 per cent of our online traffic coming through mobile channels, we see tremendous value in having real-time mobile behavior data connected to our analytics and CRM systems for deeper analysis and to drive more relevant and targeted cross-channel marketing. Urban Airship Connect has the potential to help us close the data gaps to further optimize our mobile marketing while continuing to personalize the mobile customer’s experience.”

Urban Airship Connect will be generally available in Q4 this year, including pre-built connectors to Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) and Amazon Kinesis, as well as many other partner integrations.
There’s more information here.

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Deutsche Telekom Report Highlights the Connected Home Telco Opportunity

DT Holger Knoepe

Knoepe: “In the near future… we will support our customers in connecting the majority of their domestic devices and appliances”

Deutsche Telekom has released a report entitled How To Create Growth From The Connected Home, which outlines how the telco industry can realise the next stage in its growth trajectory – moving beyond triple and quad play – by exploiting the potential of the connected home. The report outlines a number of prospective growth spaces, many of which align closely with telcos’ existing offerings, or which can be realised through brand partnerships.

According to a 2014 Strategy Analytics report, the Western European connected home market is set to be worth up to €12bn annually by 2019, with a total of almost 50m homes having installed such technology.  Deutsche Telekom, which has invested significantly in building its open connected home platform, believes that telcos need to actively exploit the opportunity, otherwise over-the-top manufacturers and service providers could potentially disintermediate them, and they will fail to capture a fair share of the value, but rather just the cost, in terms of incremental network investment and increased operating costs. In the report, Deutsche Telekom says that telcos should consider establishing ecosystems of third party manufacturers and service providers to create greater differentiation and so engender enhanced customer loyalty.

“The connected home is a natural extension of the core quad play offer, which we as an industry are all focused on,” said Holger Knoepke, vice president Connected Home at Deutsche Telekom. “We believe that the connected home represents one of the next big growth opportunities, and for operators who provide customers with their broadband router or TV set-top box, it is an obvious next step.

“In the near future, we won’t just be providing wi-fi connectivity, so customers can connect their PCs, tablets, smart TVs and smart phones, but increasingly we will support our customers in connecting the majority of their domestic devices and appliances. We will be responsible for providing connectivity across multiple different types of devices, different manufacturers and brands, and then enabling a range of incremental services that enhance this.”

The report outlines a number of other specific points for operators, including the top 10 key success factors to drive growth in the market, one of which is how to leverage cloud-based data analytics so that – with the customers’ approval – telcos can create more personalised service offerings and so enhance customer loyalty. It also states that device and data security, which is a key strength of Deutsche Telekom’s platform, can be one of the areas where telcos can differentiate from other players in the market.

One of the greatest challenges facing operators seeking to enter the connected home market is the lack of common standards and common architectures. Today, many proprietary and incompatible wireless protocols exist, which continue to limit the mass market adoption of connected home services. To help the industry realise the opportunity, Deutsche Telekom has built an open platform, leveraging OSGi (Open Services Gateway initiative), and Eclipse SmartHome, an open source software environment. It will also deploy an open API and SDK to provide seamless integration so that customers and partners can rapidly integrate new connected devices and create new innovative services.

“Having a truly open and interoperable connected home platform that can be licensed by any telco will, we believe, bring multiple benefits to the industry, from improved time-to-market, to access to a common open source developer community, which will ensure that we, as telcos, maintain more of the value,” Knopeke concluded.

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Five Actionable Tips to Build Closer Customer Relationships

Teradata Mobile director of customer success Einat Dror shares the finding of the company’s recent study into the top shopping apps in the UK, and what we can learn from them.

TeradataDid you know that 96 per cent of the UK’s top retailers have mobile apps? Did you also know that only 21 per cent of these apps sent push messages during a four-week period? Seems shocking, right?

Our study monitored apps offered by the UK’s top 50 online retailers. Push notifications, individualization and special offers were observed over a four-week period. According to Criteo’s Q1 2015 State of Mobile Commerce Report, mobile shopping is becoming increasingly popular among consumers with 46 per cent of all ecommerce transactions now coming from mobile. Retailers in the UK have clearly picked up on this trend and are recognising the important role of mobile apps – but the million dollar question is, are retailers getting everything they can from apps?

Let’s take a look at five lessons on how to increase your customer engagement that we learned from the study.

1. Communicate with your customers
Communication is the key to keep your customers engaged. How do you do that? When it comes to mobile, Push messages is the key.

During the course of the study, only 21 per cent of the apps sent out push messages. It is puzzling to me why you wouldn’t use push notifications.  You might be afraid that by sending push messages you will make your users uninstall your app, and indeed sending push apps is an art and needs to be executed correctly. How?

Send relevant information, vary your messages, send messages  when your customer is most alert, and personalize your messages. The point here is to engage your customers, not annoy them. Keep in mind that customers are viewing these messages on the go. If you don’t peak their interest immediately, you lose out.

An example of how not to send push messages – vary the content

An example of how not to send push messages – vary the content

2. Give them control
Give the user control of their push notifications by using a push preference center. To make sure your customers use the push preference center, make sure that it opens upon the initial activation even before the operating system message pops up. Allow your customers to be in control of their push notifications, enables them to control what and how often they want to receive notifications. This will increase your push opt-in rates since users are more likely to opt into push messages once they know they will receive only the content they’ve signed up for.

In the research, we observed that 56 per cent of the apps indeed use a push preference center. While this is encouraging, when adding this to the data we mentioned before, that only 21 per cent of them actually sent any push during the course of the study, this is confusing. As a user, if I sign up to specific push messages, I expect to receive those messages, and not getting them is a missed opportunity for the company to engage me.

Teradata content marketing manager Yael Kochman says that offering the user to choose which messages he or she wants to receive, while ultimately not sending them these messages, can be a very disappointing experience for the customer. See the full interview with her:

3. Ask them to sign in
Providing a sign-in option allows you to connect the user profile with the information you have on this user in your CRM. This is advantageous as it gives you first-hand information for the user himself and not just from data you have collected from app activity. 50 per cent of the shopping apps in the study utilsed this feature, however the majority of them made this option mandatory, by that potentially driving users off if they are reluctant to sign in at that point. My recommendation is to make the sign in optional and re-enforce it only if the user wants to actually make a purchase.

4. Remind them to finish their purchase
A surprising finding in the study showed that none of the apps sent an abandoned cart push message.  Sending these reminders has shown to generate a higher conversion rate for our customers, as well as improving customer retention and the customer’s long-term value.  Ideally, you should send out a reminder 24 hours after an item was added to the basket to encourage the user to complete the purchase. For your most valued customers a coupon or special offer can be sent out but it is not advised to do this every time as the customer will come to expect it.

5. Speak to each customer individually
Sales people are taught to use their customer’s name during the sales call as much as they can. People like hearing their names and they are more likely to buy from someone using their name.

Similarly, when sending any communication to your customer, you must individualize the communication by using customer’s name as well as any other data you have (for example, the last item they  looked at). We were surprised to find that only 13 per cent of the apps individualized messages by name.

Another way to keep your customer close is to remember the dates that are important to them – birthday, anniversary.  Only two per cent of the retailers sent a birthday message during the time of the study. Who wouldn’t feel good about receiving a birthday greeting from their favorite retail store, maybe even offering you a birthday discount?

Connect with your customers, tap into their personal lives in a non-intrusive way. Send out messages which include their name. People react better if the message is made out to them and not just mass message.  Our top 50 UK online retailers study showed, that there is a 40 per cent increase in open rate when the messages are individualized by name.

According to our study, retailers still have a long way to go when it comes to fully leveraging the power of mobile apps. They should increase the amount of individualization and improve their outreach to customers by using strong calls to action.

Adopting this type of approach has been shown to substantially increase customer engagement and lead to higher revenue and brand loyalty.  It is important to keep the user’s interests at heart while customizing mobile marketing strategies. As they say, a happy customer is a loyal customer – and that is ultimately the goal, am I right?

For more insights and actionable tips you can download the complete study here.

Einat Dror is director of customer success at Teradata Mobile

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