Technology and Transparency: The Growing Horizon of AI

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Technology and Transparency: The Growing Horizon of AI
“Talk to an expert in the tech field and they will tell you one certain fact about the future; it’s going to involve AI.” Wouldn’t you agree?

In our part 4 of the Predictions Series 2018, we make an attempt to delve deeper into the newer technologies in marketing, sales, and advertising. Untangling the bits and pieces of what’s to come in 2018, we bring insights from senior executives at Blis, HIRO Media, LiveWorld, PandaDoc, and CrossInstall.

When we spoke to Mahi de Silva, CEO of Botworx’ai, who predicted that marketers will undoubtedly see AI-assisted marketing go mainstream in 2018 with advanced machine learning being the key tool for success.

Mahi said, “What was once a foreign and Sci-Fi concept has become a very real and instrumental tool for many industries. While the capabilities of AI spans industries, marketers will see more effective AI-assisted marketing in 2018, powered by some real hardcore machine learning algorithms.”

Ads.txt and Fighting Fraud with New-age Transparency Standards

Oded Napchi, CMO, HIRO Media, said, “We expect fraud to be one of the biggest issues this year due to two important shifts: we anticipate more grappling investigations on the online patterns to expose fraudulent activities that happened within YouTube and Facebook and expect a larger focus on fraud arriving from advertising (whereas today the market focuses on traffic frauds).”

End of Arbitrage in 2018?

Oded said, “2018 will be the end of arbitrage. Yes, it is about time… ads.txt and SPO seem to be the final nail needed for closing the arbitrage world. Our concern is that the arbitrage companies will move to another shady activity in the advertising world.”

Amazon, Amazon, Amazon!

Oded added, “Last year, we expected the duopoly to extend. We didn’t expect it to be Amazon, but Jeff Bezos’ juggernaut emerged victorious. We expect this trend to continue also in 2018 as Amazon continues to grow its ad offerings, and perhaps a 4th player may thrust itself into the advertising aristocracy.”

The Rise of Blockchain Linked to AI! Common Consensus on Blockchain Business in Existing Advertising Ecosystem

Gil Larsen, VP, Americas at Blis, predicts that blockchain technology would be the most sought-after market for doing business in an accelerated mode. Gil said, “By enabling marketers to conduct transactions in a secure and transparent marketplace, blockchain has the potential to solve for many industry issues. With blockchain, the end-to-end processes of booking, buying, and placing digital ad space will be recorded and stored. And, because all these transactions would be available to the public and verified by common consensus, blockchain will help bring about greater transparency and end ad fraud. Integrating blockchain technology into our existing advertising ecosystems will take time.”

Legends versus Startups: Who will Win the Adoption Race

Gil added, “Larger players will take longer to adapt, and organizations from across the industry will need to come together and agree on a common set of standards. We’ll see more and more startups adopting the technology, and the IAB and other industry bodies will begin setting some key standards.”

Blockchain: A Transaction Ledger

Further, Gil said, “Within five years, the ad industry will transition into using blockchain as a transaction ledger. And within a decade, we’ll likely see it become a new industry standard. It’s time for brands and their tech partners to prepare.”

Convergence of Cutting-edge Technology for Marketing and Sales Teams

Brian Fitzgerald of PandaDoc has interesting predictions on how cybersecurity, the blockchain, and AI/ML would converge in 2018 to bring better business results. PandaDoc is a Document Management Cloud Software that streamlines sales proposals, contracts and other documents with e-signatures, templates, analytics, CPQ, and CRM integrations. Brian predicts that the advances in cognitive and systems neurobiology will lead to bigger breakthroughs in AI.

Brian said, “AI technology will become more efficient and precise, leading to a broad spectrum of use cases for businesses both large and small. Chatbots will be at the forefront of this change. The way people access information will continue to shift away from text-based query to voice and visual-based queries.”

Analytics to Become Core Offering in Marketing and Sales Technology Stacks

According to Brian, “Analytics and automation will be the focus of sales and marketing departments across most industries. As software becomes easier to use and more cost-effective, more widespread adoption will occur.”

He adds, “There will be major consolidation in the sales enablement, marketing automation, and CRM spaces. There will be a rush of acquisitions, and poor performers will be pushed out of business.”

Adoption of Cybersecurity and Blockchain Technology

Brian thinks that security concerns will continue to be a thorn in the side of SaaS companies dealing with government and enterprise level organizations. He predicts, “Custom development departments within SaaS companies will grow, as CIOs are pushed to find tools to improve upon the inefficiencies and reduce overhead. Fewer and fewer accounts payable departments will be saying, “the check is in the mail,” as digital transitions become the industry standard.”

Brian added, “Advances in blockchain technology will make “smart contracts” the next big thing. However, much work is needed before widespread adoption.”

Implementing AI for Disruption-free Customer Experience

Peter Friedman, Chairman & CEO, LiveWorld, predicts, “Usage of voice assistants will continue to rise in 2018, leading brands to adopt another communication channel to remain connected with consumers throughout the customer journey. Voice assistants can enhance the customer experience by always being there for consumers, so expect marketers to explore ways to most effectively implement AI marketing campaigns without disrupting the customer experience.”

AI will Continue to Be a Hot Topic for Marketers in 2018

Peter attributes much of the marketing buzz to the proliferation of AI/ML technologies. He said, “AI will remain the industry buzzword for marketers in 2018. However, next year brands will capitalize on the power of chatbots and virtual assistants to remain present throughout the customer journey to better understand consumers and increase their purchasing decisions.”

Botworx’ai CEO, Mahi said, “The workhorse behind AI-assisted marketing will be chatbots, that will emerge as the key channel for customer engagement and far surpass email when it comes to targeting the millennial generation. This tactic of marketing has been dubbed conversational commerce, and it allows brands to use contextual data about their customers to interact with them the same way a salesperson would in a retail store; providing that interpersonal communication on a global scale. We are already seeing chatbot used by brands to engage customers via Facebook Messenger, Instagram and the like, and based on those results, we can expect to see more in the future.”

The Power of AI-driven Messaging Apps

“Marketers will raise expectations for establishing two-way marketing strategies next year. The ongoing dialogue with customers will empower brands to enhance the customer’s experience. Marketers will put more of an emphasis on messaging apps than social media to drive an ongoing dialogue in marketing campaigns next year.”

Advertisers Will Ask More Questions and Demand Transparency

Jeff Marshall, CEO, CrossInstall, predicts, “With advances in both programmatic and social data, advertisers will ask more questions about inventory, messages, and attribution. Achieving scale and quality for user acquisition will reign supreme, but advertisers and the industry as a whole will no longer tolerate the black boxes or fraud in the typical attribution and traffic buying processes.”

Genuine ROI from Tools that Promise Transparency

Jeff said, “Advertisers will route their budgets toward companies that promote transparency and genuine ROI will rise to the top. This will cause a shake-up among those vendors that let ad fraud slide.The industry will promote tools that really work and hold those companies accountable that built their businesses on the back of ad fraud. 2018 is the year that companies will have to atone for dishonesty as advertisers push them to answer the difficult questions.”

Striking a Relevant Conversation with Customers without Losing the Pitch

2017 was a phenomenal year for AI and chatbots in the marketing world. Though still in its infancy, AI/ML, blockchain, and virtual assistants are most likely to make the conversations more intuitive. All that businesses have to do is plug ad fraud by setting higher standards for transparency and brand safety in 2018. This is what makes 2018 so exciting, in that we will finally begin to see the fruits of this labor and a new age for AI and marketing.

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3 Ways Retailers Can Use Mobile for Effective One-to-one Marketing


3 Ways Retailers Can Use Mobile for Effective One-to-one...

Today, mobile devices are like mini retail stores we carry around in our pockets: places where consumers can browse merchandise or place orders almost instantly.

But mobile devices also give consumers something they can’t get in stores: personalized marketing. Collecting data like shopping histories and browsing patterns, mmobile devices provide retailers with detailed insight into individual consumers and a means of communicating with them directly.

How can retailers use mobile insights and capabilities to craft effective, one-to-one messaging?

1. Get personal.

Today, consumers want—and expect—ads to speak directly to them. In fact, 74% of customers feel frustrated when their online experiences aren’t personalized.

The easiest way for retailers to personalize content is by harnessing their first-party data. If a customer purchases a dress online, the brand can use what they know about her (her fashion interests, browsing history and email address) to customize subsequent content. For example, the brand can serve an ad via email that suggests a pair of shoes to go along with the new dress.

With CRM data, the retailer can see what the woman bought online, but do they know what she’s purchased elsewhere? Or what she does when she’s not shopping? This is where location data comes in. Retailers that layer location-based insights on to other sources of data can get to know where and when consumers shop at brick and mortar stores. They can also identify other behavioral patterns, including which day of the week and time of day they like to go shopping—data can enables greater levels of personalization.

Let’s say a CPG brand wants to reach out to a previous customer who hasn’t been seen in store lately. The marketers can use their knowledge of the consumer’s daily commute to deliver the ad just before he leaves work, suggesting he stop by on his way home. They may even offer him a discount on the product he previously purchased.

2. Market to individuals, not devices.

Once retailer marketers have identified their ideal audiences on mobile, they shouldn’t see phones as the only means of communication. Consumers own an average of 3.6 connected devices, so retailers should communicate with consumers across the devices they use, including tablets, laptops, desktops and addressable TV.

However, if a retailer sees a user reading political news on the tablet all day but watching cartoons in the evening, it might not be the same same person. With families and partners sharing devices at home, marketers need to make sure they are constructing nuanced consumer profiles across devices in order to reach out to individuals, not just devices.

3. Don’t be creepy.

Personalized, cross-device marketing is on the rise in part because consumers are increasingly willing to disclose their data to retailers. After all, purchase histories and location data are essential for useful or interesting ads.

But how retailers use that data is key. Consumers want to feel understood, but they don’t want to feel like ads are invasive or drawing on data that’s simply too personal and private. Marketers need to make sure they aren’t crossing any personal boundaries or making consumers feel uncomfortable.

If marketers want to turn heads or, more importantly, turn consumers into buyers, they’ll need to do more than blast out generic ads to the masses. When retailers personalize ads with these three tips, they’ll see huge improvements in campaign performance.

But how, exactly, do they measure these improvements? Find out next week when we assess the best metrics for retailers.

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Embracing the Retailer’s Dream Metric: Cost Per Visit


Embracing the Retailer’s Dream Metric: Cost Per Visit

The twentieth-century American engineer and statistician W. Edwards Deming once said, “Just because you can measure everything, doesn’t mean that you should.”

This applies to retailer struggles today as marketing executives need to decide what they should measure and how. Do they care about impressions, views or click-through rates? And once they figure that out, how can they make sure their ad dollars are really working? The Partnership predicts that ad fraud will cost brands over $16 billion this year alone, while Infectious Media suggests that over half of all digital ads aren’t seen at all.

Fortunately for retailers, there’s a new metric in town—one designed to eliminate waste and increase sales. With a cost-per-visit (CPV) model, retailers pay only when a consumer sees an ad and visits a specific location. Here are four ways retailers are benefiting from this cutting-edge new metric.

1) Increased Foot Traffic

With the National Retail Federation predicting eight to 12 percent e-commerce growth this year alone, no one can deny the rapid rise of online sales. However, 85 percent of consumers still prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, where 94 percent of all sales are generated. That’s why it’s vital for retailers to keep their physical stores alive and continue to enhance their in-store experiences.

With the explicit goal of bringing visitors into physical store locations, CPV is a metric for retailers wanting to increase foot traffic—and pay only for successful conversions. While there are many ways to boost in-store visits, today’s leading location data solutions use predictive location modeling. With Blis Futures, we choose to charge on a CPV-basis because we are completely confident in this approach.

2) Greater In-store Sales

Driving consumers into brick-and-mortar locations may also encourage consumers to buy more than they anticipated. It gives retailers the opportunity to upsell consumers so they need to make sure they clearly advertise their promotional pricing, point-of-purchase displays and loyalty programs. Once you have a potential customer in the store, you can push tailored messaging in real-time and create personalized promotions. As anyone that has ever been into a Target retail location can attest – you may go in for one specific item but end up unable to leave the store for less than $100! So only paying when a consumer sees an ad and then visits a physical location reaps multiples rewards for a marketer.

3) Branding Opportunities

When retailers buy ads on a cost-per-visit basis, they don’t pay if the consumer sees the ad but doesn’t come into the store. That means the retailer also benefits from ad views and branding. In fact, a consumer may see the ad and make a purchase online rather than in-store, but the marketer still pays nothing for that conversion. At Blis, we are willing to take that risk and allow marketers “free” branding messages. Our confidence in the technology behind our CPV metric allows us to think of marketers first.

4) Risk-free Investing

CPV transfers the risk from buyer to partner, so retailers don’t have to worry about wasted ad spend: They’re making a completely risk-free investment. With free branding and zero downside, retailers have nothing to lose.

When Blis became one of the first tech partners to offer the CPV model earlier this year, we sent a critical message to both retailers and the wider industry: We’re ushering in a new era of transparency and accountability in advertising.

Check back again next week when we switch gears to discuss how retailers can use mobile to boost engagement, retention and acquisition.

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Closing the Retailer Purchase Loop: Solving the Challenge of Attribution


Closing the Retailer Purchase Loop: Solving the Challenge of...

You’re on your way to work when you pass a billboard featuring Nike’s newest running shoe. That reminds you: you just signed up for a half marathon, so you’ll need some new gear. You start googling top-of-the-line running shoes on your phone. You forget about the race until days later when looking at Facebook on your laptop, and there they are: the same shoes that caught your eye. Still, you won’t purchase them until you try them on. So what a pleasant surprise when, on your walk home, a banner ad appears across your phone: “You’re 3 minutes from a Nike store,” it says. Why not stop by?

If you go into that store and purchase those shoes, which ad was it that led to the conversion? Was it the original billboard, the social media ad, or the location-based banner? Perhaps a perfect combination of all three?

These questions reflect the challenges every marketer is currently facing when it comes to attribution. Today, a typical path to purchase is no longer a straight line to the point of sale. It looks more like a latticework of ads both online and offline, on our devices or in our neighborhoods.

Yet despite this added complexity, brands can begin to solve the mystery of attribution and determine the value of each marketing touchpoint. They just need to follow the footsteps.

Understanding Footsteps to Purchase

Brands can get a better understanding of which campaigns are boosting their ROI by taking a look at how digital ads directly relate to foot traffic.

First, advertisers can conduct an A/B test to determine which ads are bringing people into their brick-and-mortar retailers. By comparing how many devices were seen in store from an exposed group (devices that received an ad) to a control group (devices that didn’t receive an ad), brands can figure out what’s working and how well. This is the kind of study we conducted on a series of CPG brands earlier this year—where we found an astonishing 47 percent uplift in foot traffic for the exposed group.

Location data can also reveal more than just how many devices made it into stores. It can also tell advertisers the average time it takes for someone to enter a store after seeing an ad, or which locations are performing best. Brands can also layer this data with purchase histories and sales data for even more insightful stats and figures into how their customers are responding to ads.

So once brands have uncovered all these clues into what’s driving conversions and how, what do they do with it all?

Step Up Your Campaigns

Brands don’t strive for accurate attribution just for the sake of it. They want to know what’s causing conversions so they can do more of it—and cut out what might not be working at all.

An energy drink brand, for example, can use data about foot traffic and sales to make sure the next iteration of their campaign performs even better. Let’s say the brand discovers that people are 50 percent more likely to go into a store that stocks the energy drink when they receive an ad within 200 feet of the retailer. Rather than targeting everyone within 500 feet of the retailer, the brand can eliminate waste by just reaching out to those within a much smaller radius.

What if advertisers discover that no matter what distance, more people seem to be purchasing the energy drink from Walgreens than CVS? Perhaps next time, they can put a greater share of their ad budget into targeting those near Walgreens.

By solving some of the mysteries around attribution by finding which campaigns are driving sales, advertisers can continuously optimize their campaigns. And that means less waste and a greater bang for every marketing buck.

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