Voice search, header bidding and more creative mobile ads

In the latest in our series of predictions pieces running between Christmas and the New Year, Katie Jansen, CMO of AppLovin, identifies three trends to look out for in 2019.

As 2018 quickly comes to a close, it’s time to set sights on the new year. For marketers, that means looking at the biggest marketing trends for the largest computing platform in the world: mobile.

More and more consumers are relying on mobile as their primary computing platform, and marketers must anticipate their needs. It’s no longer enough to simply have a mobile app and website. Marketers must consider the entire customer journey across platforms, devices, and services. Here’s what I expect to see in 2019…

Voice search marketing will become a key point on customer journeys
Interactions via personal voice assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Siri are on the rise. These technologies will be pushed hard by leaders like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft in the coming year, as consumers become more accustomed to using voice to accomplish tasks and searches. ComScore estimates that by 2020, half of all search queries will be voice-based.

In 2019, creating customer journeys that can respond appropriately to voice search as a first touchpoint will grow in importance. Voice input will appear in a wider range of products, from microwaves to cars.

However, even if it’s not directly on mobile (like Siri), the actionable responses from voice search will still rely on mobile devices – search results, restaurant directions, and event details will all require a smartphone as part of the experience. This means marketers must consider how voice and mobile work together when crafting mobile marketing strategies.

As a first step, marketers need to learn how these services currently present responses, then design appropriate content and services to become part of the flow that starts from a voice search. In sales terms, Amazon Alexa currently has the best transactional implementation. Perhaps surprisingly, those transactions are not confined to Amazon itself. For example, online supermarket Ocado has built a skill that seamlessly integrates with its existing mobile app to allow customers to use voice to add and remove items from planned or placed orders, ask for order status updates, and even check for details on foods that are in season.

Google and Amazon are the only voice platforms currently integrating advertising, and they only do so in a limited manner. For example, Amazon will offer recommended brands for generic voice commands like “buy toothpaste.” Google features traditional radio ads between news stories for a user’s “good morning” routine.

Ecommerce is a natural way to market on voice assistants, but the entire user flow should be considered when exploring additional marketing opportunities for voice. Can a user achieve everything via voice, or will a mobile experience be needed? How can a mobile experience be integrated with voice to keep the experience fluid? These are the questions marketers must ask in the coming year.

Teams that can facilitate Alexa-driven sales, exploit the lead that Google has on search, or initiate a transaction via Siri’s penetration amongst key demographics will find that the time invested will pay dividends.

Mobile marketing will be increasingly efficient, transparent, and fair
While mobile may be the biggest computing platform in the world, there are still things mobile can learn from desktop advertising. One trend we see today is the gradual shift to mobile header bidding, a technology that originated on desktop, where buyers are able to bid simultaneously on a publisher’s ad inventory.

The current standard is a manually curated system where buyers are prioritised by their position within a publisher’s pre-set hierarchy, often called a “waterfall.” The programmatic waterfall has persisted on mobile, but header bidding is becoming the new mobile advertising standard.

One of the biggest benefits of mobile header bidding is efficiency. Instead of relying on a manually-curated waterfall of preferred buyers, header bidding auctions happen simultaneously and automatically, which means the highest bidder always wins. Allowing advertisers an automated auction to bid across all inventory at once means they will be able to reach the high-value consumers they want, and app developers running the ads benefit from the higher yields these ads generate. With header bidding, the mobile ad ecosystem becomes fair for all parties.

Additionally, header bidding makes ad buying and selling much more transparent, as it allows all buyers an equal chance to bid, rather than the waterfall method, which is based on direct deals and a network’s historical bids. This year, we will see header bidding extend to the full mobile ecosystem, and ultimately, this means better and more relevant ads for consumers.

Creatives will need to become more creative
Strong creatives are key for successful mobile marketing. Ad quality has improved dramatically over the past couple of years, and being reactive rather than proactive just doesn’t cut it any more. In the fast-moving world of mobile, trends that appeal to users can quickly turn into new standards. Naturally, we’re all inspired by the work of our peers, but an ad that’s impressed from six months ago may not hit your performance goals today.

Video ads continue to dominate on mobile, but we’re seeing more and more advertisers building playable ads, allowing mobile gaming companies to provide a taste of their game to potential players.

Playables increase engagement, by allowing users to dictate the experience. 2019 is the year to innovate with ad formats and ideas that don’t just capture attention, but engage it too. This will provide the best returns, and also move the industry forward.

The way that consumers receive and interact with content on mobile has completely changed over the last year. Whether it’s through voice activation or eye-catching ads, consumers do not have to look far to find high-quality campaigns aimed directly at them. For mobile gamers, the continued success of hyper-casual games will influence mobile gaming as a whole.

The overall trend across mobile is the maturation of marketing strategies and understanding that the complete consumer journey is more important than ever. Mobile marketers that will survive 2019 and beyond will be those that recognise the importance of adapting new technologies like header bidding and keeping the customer journey across platforms, services, and experiences front and centre.