The new iProspect Future Focus report explores the intersection of consumer attention, commerce and data.    Today, we officially launch Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated as the essential read for conscientious marketers seeking to explore and exploit the latest consumer and industry advancements for brand growth. The 75+ page report addresses some of the most pressing aspects of modern marketing including; the battle for attention, wholesale changes in data privacy, and the emergence of assisted commerce.    Combining evidence-based research with interviews and responses from over 200 brand marketers in 29 countries, the Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated report delves deep into the challenges and opportunities faced in the current global climate and within the immediate media landscape. And, convenience and relevancy of media to the consumer is key, as 61% of marketers, polled for the report, considered ‘building a highly convenient experience for the consumer’ as the most powerful lever to generate business growth.i    The content of this sixth edition of the Future Focus series typifies the intricacies of bringing brand and performance together to achieve growth.     “Despite the challenging times we live in, I believe there have never been so many opportunities in media. With our new and unique approach of performance-driven brand building, we are firmly optimistic about the future and resolved to make it happen, today. With Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated as their guidebook, I hope all marketers will be able to leverage the growth potential afforded at these significant intersections of media, data, commerce and culture.”  Amanda Morrissey, Global President of iProspect    The findings showed that around 2 in 5 marketers (42%) still think the linear path to purchase is as relevant today as it was decades ago, despite the rise of digital. While at the same time 32% of marketers feel that expanding commerce capabilities is important for the 2021 roadmap, however 26% see this as one of the most difficult challenges this year.ii      Practical advice to marketers.   In addition to discussing and dissecting the impact of major global industry trends and innovations, the report spotlights the relevancy and opportunity for brands, regardless of sector, to capitalise on these seismic shifts in the media landscape. Examples of the report’s advice and guidance for marketers worldwide include:    #1: Commerce is Everywhere    Organisations should strive to build and maintain an accurate picture of their commerce capabilities across five key dimensions: desirability, availability, findability, buyability, and repeatability. This will help them define the most profitable commerce model for their brand, better integrate their e-commerce and stores into an actionable omnichannel strategy, explore new growth channels, and turn media opportunities into transaction opportunities.    #2 The Battle for Attention  Brands should consider factoring attention into their media optimisation and measurement efforts to elevate the impact and efficiency of their investment. To maximise audience attention, they should ensure the content and experiences they design truly align with consumer intent, and that the campaigns they develop do not relegate diversity and inclusivity as afterthoughts.  #3 The New Data Playbook    On the data front, organisations should embrace the new privacy-conscious world by re-evaluating the value exchange they offer to their audiences and anticipate technological changes to minimise business disruption. This is the occasion to explore opportunities for automation, evaluate the quality of the data they collect and process, and more broadly reflect upon how data is effectively used to inform decisions.    The last point is of particular significance as the report found in some circumstances there are huge disparities between what the consumer and brand marketer think, when it comes to assessing data value. Only 9% of marketers believe helping a company improve products or services is an incentive for consumers to share their data, while 44% of consumers believe it is a good enough reason to release personal identifiable information (PII) to the brand.iii     Download your copy of Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated now.    -----------------------------------------   [i] Proprietary omnibus survey: iProspect, 2020 Global Client Survey, 12 Oct–11 Nov 2020, 202 respondents. [ii] Proprietary omnibus survey: iProspect, 2020 Global Client Survey, 12 Oct–11 Nov 2020, 202 respondents. [iii] iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey (Oct 2020) and iProspect and Microsoft Advertising, Consumer Privacy and Data Survey (Mar 2020) 0

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There are multiple benefits of automation for brands, from more consistent user experiences across platforms to a competitive edge in performance optimisation to reduced media waste. According to the iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey, about one marketer out of two has already automated data and analytics (54%), search (50%) and programmatic (47%) activities – at least partially. One out of three (32%) has automated social efforts and one out of four (24%) has automated effectiveness measurement. As automation is increasingly accessible to brands, with increasing numbers of automation focused solutions made available by vendors and tech platforms, it is relatively easy for brands to launch decent campaigns – but it also makes differentiating from competition more difficult. This is why structured data and feeds continue to grow in importance.   Structured data and feeds power automation Structured data and feeds are collections of data (e.g., price, product availability, weather) with useful associations that can be used consistently across a large array of marketing channels (e.g., search, social, email). By organising information to be understood and utilised by various systems, structured data is the true cornerstone of automation, powering the brands’ ads across many verticals, such as airlines (e.g., flight rates), hospitality (e.g., hotel listings) and automotive (e.g., nearby dealerships). Structured data is becoming increasingly important for three reasons: Structured data can be used to automate the integration of any data signal into the media ecosystem, especially the brand's products and service details. Products and service data sets do not include personally identifiable information (PII) data and are not impacted by data privacy concerns, which means marketers can confidently invest in these specific structured data to deliver the best value for audiences regardless of the ever-changing privacy landscape.   Six marketers out of ten (61%) declare the most powerful lever to business growth is building a highly convenient experience for the consumer (iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey). Feeds enable marketers to make the most of shoppable media opportunities, which make the consumer path to purchase more convenient. They also improve the relevance of ads through more personalisation possibilities. For instance, iProspect helped a retail apparel company to dynamically adjust which product image to use for each product via the feed and connect it to media campaigns. Analysing performance data, we realised that for women's products, images featuring models performed much stronger than images of the product by itself. For men's products, it was the exact opposite. We were able to increase the relevance of ads by optimising the images featured for each product, resulting in stronger engagement and increased average order value.   With the current recession putting marketing budgets and resources under pressure, structured data and feeds can make media management more efficient. For example, campaigns can automatically be paused when a product is momentarily out of stock, reducing media wastage. They also make maintaining ad accuracy of large catalogues more efficient. For instance, we augmented the feed of all the properties managed by a real estate client with point-of-interest data and neighbourhood data - both critical to how people search for properties - so that the ad copy could be updated automatically with minimal human intervention.   How to get started with structured data and feeds There are three challenges most marketers will face when exploring how to use structured data and feeds to create a positive value exchange: identification, access and execution. The following considerations are key to overcoming these challenges. Data signal audit (People): Conducting a thorough data audit to understand what data sets are available to you and what signals are relevant to your brand is the first step to tap into structured data. When it comes to automation, bad data input can quickly turn into a very bad output, which is why collaboration is critical at this stage. Involving internal stakeholders (e.g., IT department) to align on how to structure data sources and setting quality standards for third-party feeds is a good practice to prevent potential issues later. Data acquisition (Platform): Securing continuous, real-time access to the right data signals requires identifying a technology platform able to both connect to your own internal data systems to pull in relevant data and ingest third-party data sources into a single data environment, such as iProspect’s FeedConnect and iActivate. Data management activation (Process): Connecting structured data to active media programmes can be challenging, as each platform has its own technical integration, and each channel its own requirements. For instance, paid search keyword campaigns typically call for short titles of products without brand names, while product listing ads and organic search require longer titles and descriptions. On top of technical know-how, it is important to include a complete testing strategy to make the most of each data signal in the feed and inform campaign management decisions, for instance, by factoring product seasonality to adjust bids throughout the year, or by including margin data to the feed to optimise against bottom-line performance.      Product-to-audience affinity is the future of structured data We believe the future of structured data leans toward optimising how likely a given audience segment is to purchase a specific product, and we predict there will soon be an opportunity to use additional data signals to maximise the affinity at the product level. It could mean using analytical data at the CRM and product SKU levels to determine which products drive the highest contributions to a consumer's lifetime value, looking at the types of products that most often drive a second purchase to boost them through advertising and drive customer retention, etc. For instance, a smartphone brand will be able to use structured data and feeds to increase the bid of ads featuring their most recent device - and not the bids for its entire smartphone range - when communicating specifically to early adopters.   The possibilities are endless, but it is crucial to coordinate between departments to create models with tangible applications.     This article is excerpted from the report Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated. Download it now for key insights on how brands can make the most of brand and performance to accelerate their growth. 0

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Desire, confidence, shock, delight. Emotions play a critical – if not the most important – role in communication. They capture hearts and minds, build relationships, and urge action. Yet, according to the iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey, a third (34%) of marketers declare the lack of emotional connection is a challenge for increasing long-term consumer trust in their brand. Here are three inspiring and recent examples of companies embedding emotions such as excitement, fascination, and surprise at the heart of their communications to build attention-grabbing experiences.   Enhanced reality Brands able to add a new layer of reality to everyday experiences and provide a new perspective, as a result, can deliver a deep yet scalable immersion into their world. Not all experiences have to be grandiose and high tech - simple ideas with impeccable execution are often the best. To promote tourism amongst New Yorkers, the Austrian Tourism Board designed an immersive AR audio wherein Vienna’s most famous son, Beethoven, guided users through specific Manhattan locations that are related to Austria. Through the combination of geofencing, 3D sound effects, and exciting stories, people were able to discover the Austrian connection of locations such as Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, Café Sabarsky and Carnegie Hall. By letting New Yorkers experience their city in a whole new way, this campaign created five times more impressions through owned and earned media than paid media budget.   Where music and culture meet  Sonos have always focused on ensuring their products deliver greater sound quality than the competition and wanted to showcase this in a campaign that would deliver premium sound messaging through environments where music and culture meet.  To do so, Sonos used out-of-home (OOH) advertising to deliver visual impact across iconic locations with a connection to music such as the Opera station in Paris and the Hamburg docks. To own relevant cultural environments, Sonos also used OOH during an audio exhibit at Barbican station in London and around the major music complex Philharmonie in Paris. This OOH strategy increased aided awareness by 82%.  Additionally, Sonos partnered with popular podcast hosts, specifically those who were Sonos fans, to give authentic testimonials to their audiences about the sound quality of Sonos products. This strategy delivered a 19% uplift in consumers’ association of Sonos with superior sound quality and a six-fold increase in unaided awareness vs. control.  Sonos also created a bespoke “Brilliant Sound hub” on Amazon Prime offering discounts on select films with quality sound and connecting their brilliant sound proposition with the big screen. More than 40% of Prime users clicked to view the hub, and that increased consumer searches for Sonos products on Amazon.    Multi-sensory experiences As most brands mainly rely on visual cues to communicate their messages, the ones leveraging other senses as well stand a much better chance of creating deep-rooted memories. Sound drives brand recognition like nothing else, while smells are a shortcut to emotions. Hendrick’s Gin wanted to offer a surprising and refreshing detour to Londoners during the dullest time of the day: their commute. The brand used a 1,000-square-metre vinyl wrap to cover the floors and walls of the 74-meter-long tunnel in the capital’s busiest station with illustrations from its imaginative world, such as floating beluga whales, hot-air balloons, and dapper gentlemen atop unicycles. The installation featured 20 scented posters immersing commuters in Hendrick’s signature scent, a rose-and-cucumber infusion. More than 400,000 people experienced this multi-sensory and distinctive campaign, and five times as many through the pictures shared on social media by delighted commuters. Guides such as Lonely Planet even featured the experience as a must-visit in the city.     These examples show how brands can build powerful experiences to capture the attention of new and existing consumers. By combining emotional value for people and fidelity to their brand territory, marketers can turn attention into memorable experiences that build their brands, one moment at a time.     This article is excerpted from the report Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated. Download it now for key insights on how brands can make the most of brand and performance to accelerate their growth. 0

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According to the iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey, the main advantages of a better integration of brand and performance are a more effective measurement of marketing ROI (60% of respondents), more consistent consumer experiences (54%), and more efficient touchpoints that build customer relationship (38%). On the flipside, one out of two marketers (51%) sees the difficulty in measuring the contribution of brand initiatives to business performance as a key barrier to brand and performance integration.   In the context of less predictable shopping patterns, a shoppable-by-design approach, wherein brand interactions offer consumers a convenient path to transactions at any given time, can help marketers make the most of both their brand and performance efforts to elevate the consumer experience, maximise impact and track business results.   Shoppable media connects brands and commerce Shoppable media is nothing new for digital advertising which has embedded interactivity since its infancy. One could also argue that traditional channels have had shoppable mechanisms for a long time (e.g., newspaper coupons, direct response TV). However, technology is now driving an acceleration in this space, bringing commerce features to media without compromising brand experiences. All the main digital platforms have recently intensified their efforts to create more shoppable formats. For instance, people can now use the Google App to simply tap and hold any image in order to shop the exact item featured in the image or similar items. On YouTube, brands can pair their video ads with a browsable catalogue, so that while the video showcases the brand key message, the catalogue facilitates navigation towards the product page that matter. The TV industry is also active in this space, and networks have been leading the charge. Following the launch of ShoppableTV (a QR code-based solution for letting viewers shop products featured in shows they’re watching), NBCUniversal has announced Checkout, a unified shopping cart across its TV and digital properties, and recently partnered with PayPal to facilitate payments on the platform. TV manufacturers are keen to get their share of the shoppable media pie as well. For example, LG has announced a solution powered by artificial intelligence enabling its clients to easily purchase what they see on screen. These types of solutions could improve how brands measure the profitability of product placement and TV ads, and lead to new product personalisation opportunities (e.g., selling a limited edition tailored to what is happening on screen). In the long run, they may also change the nature of TV investment through the development of commission-based business relationships alongside the more traditional GRP-based trading. In the meantime, brands should focus on collecting insights through testing and building consumer habits through clear instructions when content is shoppable.     Livestreaming reinvents TV shopping channels for the digital age Today, the most dynamic place for creating shoppable-by-design brand experiences sits at the intersection of social platforms, influencer marketing and livestreaming. By combining the unique strengths of these three channels - collective experience, personal touch and sense of urgency - brands have a powerful recipe at their disposal to boost their commerce strategy. The most emblematic example of this convergence is TikTok, which has seen a spectacular audience growth over the last twelve months and is now expected to join the very exclusive club of +1B monthly active users in 2021. The platform has rolled out a series of shopping features that natively fit the content from creators, such as Shop Now buttons, shoppable livestreams with in-app transactions, and shoppable ads in partnership with Shopify - all of that while topping the other major digital platforms in terms of ad equity according to Kantar. It is no surprise that brands targeting Gen Z are investing in TikTok. For instance, Levi’s tapped into the #oddlysatisfying movement and partnered with TikTok influencers to create customised denim products that consumers could buy for a limited time. Livestreaming is an important growth opportunity for brands selling through third-party commerce platforms as well. In China, Taobao Live (Alibaba Group’s livestreaming channel) alone generated roughly $48B in gross merchandise value in twelve months. In Japan, the department store Isetan used Instagram and YouTube livestreams to introduce products to a user base larger than what would show up in-store. As livestreaming continues to grow, marketers should explore how they can make the most of this format that connects entertainment and commerce to design experiences improving both the image and sales metrics of their brands.   Technology advancements prefigure better shopping experiences The future of online shopping has never seemed so bright. Many of the technologies that were much anticipated over the last years are finally getting into consumers’ hands, opening new commerce possibilities for brands. Certainly, the most discussed is 5G, and, to a lesser extent, Wi-Fi 6. As coverage increases and the list of compatible devices grows, consumers are starting to experience these new networks that promise lower latency (e.g., enabling better livestreams) and higher reliability in environments congested with connected devices (e.g., enabling a smarter home). These improved connections could lead to smoother brand and shopping experiences, but they could also heighten consumers’ expectations, for instance, in terms of speed standards for brands’ websites and apps. Another exciting technology, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), is gaining increasing attention. It uses laser pulses to scan the environment around the device and create high-fidelity three-dimensional maps. While most of its applications to date have been reserved for professionals, it is now literally at our fingertips, with the latest iPhone flagship models featuring a LiDAR scanner. For consumers, it is an opportunity for more accurate augmented reality (AR) experiences, which can help visualize items at scale before purchasing. For instance, Apple announced that the IKEA Place app (which enables users to place furniture in their home in AR) will feature a new Studio Mode harnessing its LiDAR scanner. Tech platforms are also seizing this opportunity, with Snapchat now enabling brands to create LiDAR-powered lenses. These examples are only a glimpse of the various technologies that already, or will soon, make it easier for consumers to shop and easier for companies to create compelling experiences that bring brands and commerce together. Now is a good time for marketers to examine how they can make the most of these opportunities in the near future to bolster their commerce capabilities.     This article is excerpted from the report Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated.  Download it now for key insights on how brands can make the most of brand and performance to accelerate their growth. 0

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One of the most important considerations in building experiences that truly capture attention is to make sure everyone feels included. It may sound obvious but is yet to be a reality for many population groups, despite their growing economic influence (in the US alone, the buying power of racial and ethnic minority groups is close to four trillion dollars). Like attention, diversity and inclusivity should not be taken for granted and require continuous effort. Brands have a critical role to play in that space. According to dentsu and SeeHer, 81% of US consumers agree media plays a crucial role in shaping gender roles, but less than a third (32%) think media usually portray women accurately.     A pivotal moment in time 2020 has been pivotal in allowing many to realise for the first time the disparities endured by minorities. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit minorities hardest and several tragedies in the US such as the murder of George Floyd have spotlighted systemic discrimination against people of colour. The global public outrage that followed made waves across all aspects of society, including consumption, through movements such as #BlackoutDay2020, and brands, with many major companies publicly confronted for the lack of diversity in their boards.   Brands can no longer neglect diversity and inclusivity. It may lead to uncomfortable realisations, difficult conversations and mistakes along the way, but embracing inclusivity is now an imperative for brands to become or stay relevant to population groups that have been overlooked for too long.     There has been progress, but the road to diversity and inclusivity is still long. According to the iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey, 96% of marketers now believe inclusive marketing is important, most of them (63%) seeing it both as a moral imperative and a business opportunity. Interestingly, the percentage of marketers who believe it is only important for the business potential it represents is decreasing (-7% YOY), while the percentage of respondents seeing it as important solely on moral grounds is increasing in the same proportion. It could be a sign that more companies are growing more comfortable with embracing a societal role.     Reflecting on the campaigns they ran over the last six months, 55% of marketers declare they featured people from a different ethnicity/caste than the dominant one in their market at least once in a positive way. This increasing figure (+3% YOY) could hint that the increasing visibility of movements like Black Lives Matter progressively change perceptions and actions around social justice.   However, not all population groups follow the same trend. For instance, we observe the percentage moving down for people with disabilities (-4%), which makes them underrepresented compared to the global share of people living with some form of disability (15%).   These figures show that, although inclusive marketing is gaining traction, there is still a lot left to do to improve the visibility of minorities in media and advertising and to build authentic stories that accurately reflect minorities’ experiences. Although there is no inclusive silver bullet, there is definitely a starting place: the diversity within the organisation. Building inclusive marketing campaigns requires inclusive marketing teams wherein diverse voices can be heard. This is a sine qua non condition for brands to resonate with all their potential customers.     The fight against bias   Bias is everywhere in society, and technology and data are no exception. Far from being neutral, technology and data can perpetuate and exacerbate disparities, prejudice, and discriminatory patterns. Many fields at the core of data marketing can be subject to bias, from insights to algorithms to targeting and performance analysis.   However, tackling bias is a difficult challenge as it can appear in many forms and on multiple occasions. It can be intentional (e.g., a decision to exclude a certain ethnic group from a campaign) or unintentional (e.g., combining multiple data targeting dimensions such as income and location that could de facto exclude minorities living in certain areas). It can play out at an individual level (e.g., due to the personal values of an employee) or at a company level (e.g., due to a lack of diversity in a product development team). It can stem from organizational inertia, negligence, or ignorance. (e.g., if a community was never targeted by the brand, a predictive model using historical data can incorrectly conclude the community is less likely to purchase its products and thus that the brand should not target this community in the future). It can emerge from within or be imported into the organisation (e.g., by using incomplete or poor-quality data from third parties). It can be a combination of the factors listed above and more, which makes bias detection even harder.   Because of the omnipresence of bias across organisations, it is crucial for companies to actively seek to identify and eliminate bias through various, overlapping strategies.   According to the iProspect 2020 Global Client Survey, a majority (52%) of marketing teams are now diverse and inclusive (+9% YOY). This is an important milestone as minority groups should not only be visible in consumer personas, but also around the marketing table.     Guidelines and best practices on diversity and inclusion are the second option favoured by brands (44%), followed by multidisciplinary bias training (32%, +8% YOY).   From the results, it seems that brands are increasingly concentrating their efforts on the people within the organisation (e.g., through recruitment, training, committees) to drive change, rather than relying on external partners or focusing on processes. However, the latter should not be overlooked. An external perspective can be useful for organisations to look beyond their filter bubble (e.g., through advanced analysis of data and algorithms, hiring process testing, or consulting on website design accessibility), and a systematic audit of product development and marketing campaigns can prevent oversights.   Marketers should keep in mind these additional considerations to reduce bias specifically in data marketing: As with the move toward privacy and Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), the fight against bias calls for better data. Question the quality of the data you use in your marketing campaigns to prevent bias from spreading into data-powered activities. Your teams are not the only ones who should have frequent bias training. Your predictive models should be retrained regularly as well to learn from new, real-world data. Tools such as the AI Fairness 360 by IBM and The Linux Foundation can help you understand the bias in machine learning models. Keep investing in diverse teams. Human critical thinking is an essential safeguard to remove blind spots automation can generate.     This article is excerpted from the report Future Focus 2021: Brands Accelerated. Download it now  for key insights on how brands can make the most of brand and performance to accelerate their growth. 0

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London, Jan 12th - dentsu today confirmed its intent to integrate iProspect and Vizeum to create a new, future-focused, end-to-end global media agency under the iProspect banner. By integrating these two award winning agencies, dentsu brings Vizeum’s media strategy and planning, storytelling, and brand building capabilities together with iProspect’s digital expertise, audience knowledge, and performance mindset. Clients will have access to the unique capabilities of both agencies, all from one integrated team leading the new territory of performance-driven brand building by delivering digital-first media strategies underpinned by data and technology at every touchpoint in the consumer journey. The new iProspect media agency will draw from the broader dentsu capability set, allowing clients the flexibility to seamlessly build bespoke and specialised teams with resources from across the network. Clients will gain access to expansive new audience insights, integrated and more effective strategies, market-leading planning and activation, and unparalleled business performance. Carat and dentsu X clients will continue to access industry leading digital performance services through our dentsu Media Scaled Services. The new iProspect entity will be led by Global President Amanda Morrissey, bringing together more than 8,000 media and performance specialists across 93 key global markets. “iProspect is designed for clients at the intersection of brand and performance. We believe brand drives performance, and performance drives brand. We no longer exist in an ecosystem where these elements can be planned and bought separately. We must look at business and brand goals through a combined lens, bringing accelerated growth for our clients,” said Amanda Morrissey, Global President, iProspect. “By focusing on how consumers behave in their digital world and applying that to real world scenarios via a highly connected and creative use of all channels, we position our clients to combine the learnings from the short and long term to drive more effective business growth today and tomorrow.” Peter Huijboom, dentsu international Global CEO Media & Global Clients, said, “At dentsu our goal is to help our clients to make meaningful progress and thrive in a world of change. Because we know people better than anyone else, we deliver human-centric solutions designed to drive growth for our clients and good in society. By bringing iProspect and Vizeum together we are creating a global digital-first, end-to-end media proposition. This will give our clients a scaled choice that sits alongside Carat’s brand-first approach and dentsu X’s experience-driven approach while also allowing greater access to our Creative and CXM service lines.” The new agency will now be launched through a phased market plan over a three-month period with a target completion date of 31st March 2021. This integration is a proof-point of dentsu international’s strategy to simplify how it operates to deliver even greater agility and flexibility for clients through a more focused portfolio of six leadership brands. 0

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An evolutionary change for Shopping Ads on Google is upon us, yet many searchers will never notice the difference. For the first time since Froogle, effective immediately, Google is allowing unpaid product listings on its “shopping properties” (the Google Shopping Tab). You heard that right, free product advertising on Google Shopping! No need to create a new feed, just ensure you are opted-in to “surfaces across Google”. Why make this change? The answer is two-fold. In the short-term, amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, Google wants to help businesses combat the decline in brick and mortar sales. This change offers all brands the opportunity to sell on Google Shopping, without the need for investment in ad spend. The update was scheduled for later in the year and would have most likely been a slower roll out, but in response to the challenges in the retail sector due to the coronavirus pandemic, Google advanced their plans. From a long-term perspective, this is the next phase in competing with Amazon. Products on Google Shopping are no longer limited to brands with big budgets, allowing new and unique products to be displayed, which may better suit consumers' needs, creating an improved user experience and increasing the likelihood of a purchase. In addition, Google added PayPal to its list of eCommerce partners, opening the door to future advancements and the possible expansion of “Buy on Google”, a feature where the user completes their purchase without ever leaving the Google Shopping property. Via increased relevancy, increased conversion rate, and decreased barriers to entry, Google is hedging their bets that over time, this will create a behavioral change away from both their large eCommerce competitors and their new social eCommerce competitors. For the consumer As a result of the lowered barrier to entry for retailers (zero cost), consumers will get more choice in product selections due to the increased number of brands on the page. However, there is another factor which increases consumer choice. With large retailers, typically, only about 30% of their feed inventory is displayed due to the nature of Paid Advertising and the drive for efficiency in spend. For the other 70% of inventory, the performance metrics simply did not make Google Shopping a viable solution. For example, the cost of listing a $4 nail glue in Google Shopping outweighs the potential profit so advertising would need to be paused. However, Unpaid Product Listings open up this 70% of inventory as there is no cost. The consumers truly benefit from this update, getting more variety both in overall brand as well as individual product selection. But what does this mean for you as a retailer? There will be an impact to Performance, Reporting, and Optimization, but it is up to you to ensure it is a positive impact. Performance – The Paid Media real estate on Google Shopping properties will be dramatically reduced. Similar to the removal of the right rail ads in 2016, we can predict that this will lead to instability in product visibility (ad position and impressions) and inflating CPCs, as advertisers battle for the limited ad slots which remain. These limited ad slots will be housed in their own carousel at the top of the page while the new organic listings will populate underneath. However, it is worth remembering that there is now an abundance of free listings to take advantage of, so the potential increase in CPC will likely be offset by the free clicks elsewhere on the page. Additionally, as it stands, the majority of paid traffic still flows via the traditional SERP on Google.com, which remains unaffected by this change. With new products, more choice, and possibly lower price points, CTR could potentially drop. Google’s plan is to increase product relevancy for the consumer by allowing free product listings thus directly competing for that all-important “click”. While CTR is an advertising metric, what you, as a retailer, truly care about is qualified site traffic. This change may allow your brand to serve in both a Paid slot and a Free slot, therefore increasing the likelihood of incremental site traffic, offsetting any decrease in CTR. Also, at the present time, the majority of traffic is via the SERP which remains unaffected. Reporting – Currently, reporting for the Unpaid Product Listings sits within Google’s Merchant Center and exclusively focuses on clicks. For tracking and analysis purposes, you will likely want to enable auto-tagging or build custom click parameters. It is important to note that organic clicks will be aggregated together in one-line item. Google is working on the ability to segment data by category, product, and brand. As Google Shopping becomes more comparable to marketplaces like Amazon, it will be beneficial for retailers to aggregate metrics to share insights and inform strategy. Reporting will remain challenging in the short term. However, we must bear in mind this was an accelerated roll out by Google and that more functionality is to come over the next few weeks and months. Optimization – This update opens the doors to a new and exciting world of Shopping Feed SEO. Like Google Shopping Ads, these new unpaid listings will be powered by a product data feed managed through Google Merchant Center. We previously mentioned that CPCs are likely to increase, CTR may possibly decrease, and the best way to combat these from an overall business perspective is by maximizing visibility in the unpaid slots but this is a challenge without a robust data feed solution. The quality of your product data (paid and organic) is directly correlated to higher visibility on the SERP so your feed set-up matters now more than ever. A “functional” feed is not enough to drive success. But what differs between a functional feed and a best-in-class feed? Merchant quality, product data quality, and user engagement are three of the most important factors, but are also just the tip of the iceberg. From an Organic and Structured Site Data standpoint, there are a few elements that should be considered essential: ● The feed should use only Canonical URLs to avoid pulling information from the wrong version of a page. ● Schema Markup should be utilized and must match the contents of the page. ○ Pricing Schema should be considered, especially for any sale price items Retailers need to consider developing a technology-based frame of thought that outlines a strategy to achieve performance goals, layered into the role and impact of data feed solutions to arrive at that destination. While we expect results of this evolution in Google Shopping to be relatively small in the short term, we believe Google will now look to establish innovative ways to increase traffic, thus increasing the impact, both positive and negative. Unpaid Product Listings are valuable for Google, helpful for the consumer, and can be beneficial for brands as long as marketers monitor performance, optimize toward the data, and increase focus on feed based optimization. Amend these practices immediately to future-proof yourselves and truly reap the benefits. 0

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