Consumers are in charge more than ever: Thursday’s daily brief
Consumers now prefer virtual to real world window shopping
Good morning, Marketers, and consumers are in charge.
That’s the theme I see threading together the stories in today’s newsletter, especially if one extends the term “consumer” to cover attendees at events. First we have marketers starting to recognize that consumers are jaded by ads. We all know that, don’t we? We click to skip the pre-roll ads on YouTube videos, or jump to another open tab while the ad plays out; we turn down the sound on TV ads; we ignore or “x” out pop-ups.
When shopping online, we’re increasingly interested in what our peers have to say about products and services rather than what brands want to tell us. And we’re in the process of making up our minds about what conferences and trade shows of the future should look like: live, virtual or hybrid. We’ll let you know.
Below, you’ll find an advocate for visual storytelling as opposed to interruptive advertising, a vendor which offers brands the chance to boost discovery through user-generated content (UGC) rather than ads, and a discussion of what “hybrid” means in the events context. We are living through changes.
NFTs, ‘new’ social and the future of brand content
In the second part of our two part feature on visual storytelling, Shlomi Ron, CEO of the visual Storytelling Institute talks about the problem of “fake” stories, the appeal of blockchain-based storytelling through non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and how brands are learning to serve non-interruptive content — engaging narratives rather than pop-up ads.
Visual storytelling, Ron told us, must cut through the clutter to reach the customer. “The audience is jaded by traditional ad methods,” Ron said. Much of advertising is based on interruption, like the pop-up ad or the TV commercial. Now one-third of the cable TV audience will probably disappear by 2024 as they cut the cable to go online.
“I look at visual storytelling as the next evolution from interruptive marketing,” Ron said. Brands are starting to craft their own documentaries and short films that tell stories to reach viewers. “Their guard comes down,” he said. “They don’t perceive it as an ad. That’s where visual storytelling is shining,” said Ron. “I strongly believe a good story with relatable characters, high stakes, a roller-coaster emotional arc, and an inspiring moral always wins.”
More than half of consumers now prefer virtual to in-store
The headline from an international survey of 9,000 consumers by UGC platform Bazaarvoice is that 54% now say they enjoy browsing for products online more than shopping in-store. And enjoy it or not, 61% say they discover items more frequently by browsing online. The reasons? Number one, convenience, closely followed by wider choice and the ability to research products.
In-store still wins for impulse buying, however (67% against 53%), because of the comfort of seeing and touching the products. Smartphones are about twice as popular as desktops when it comes to browsing.
Why we care. Bazaarvoice has skin in the game, of course, as it promotes UGC as a key discovery tool for e-commerce — but it’s still interesting to see virtual window shopping nudging ahead of actual window shopping. It would be useful to break this down by types of shopping (which the survey doesn’t do) because it seems likely to us that some kinds of products lend themselves better to virtual discovery and research than others.
What does hybrid mean to you?
As more and more people get vaccinated against COVID-19 the idea of going back to in-person events is becoming more realistic. Although many events will remain online until 2022, it’s time to start thinking about what events will look like post COVID. I don’t expect an immediate return to what was considered normal before the pandemic. It’s likely that events as we knew them have changed forever. More and more, I hear about hybrid events, but I’m realizing that hybrid means different things to different people. I’ve seen explanations describing hybrid events as in-person events with sessions that are live-streamed at the same time. Another description of hybrid events is one larger in-person event with smaller virtual events on the same subject matter happening throughout the year.
Rising Media, producers of SMX London, SMX Munich, SMX Paris and others are trying an innovative hybrid event idea for SMX Advanced Europe taking place June 21-22 that has piqued my interest. Sandra Finlay, Conference Director at Rising Media explained their plan. SMX Advanced Europe will take place virtually. However, there will also be in-person hubs throughout Europe for a maximum of 10 people each depending on local COVID restrictions. At these hubs, attendees will watch virtual sessions and will have the added benefit of interacting with others in-person. In some cases, there will be speakers presenting their virtual sessions from these hubs and a lucky few will get to witness the session in-person. If Europe experiences more COVID restrictions that won’t allow for the hubs, the event will continue as planned virtually.
I loved this creative idea for a hybrid event that allows attendees an option for an in-person experience if they choose it. It feels like a step toward getting back to some definition of normal.
What do you want to see in a hybrid event? Let me know at email@example.com.
Verizon is the latest to test a FLoC alternative
Privacy is the topic du jour, and it seems like almost everyone is in the race to figure out how to preserve the privacy of internet users by eliminating the need for third-party data while still being able to serve them targeted and customized ads. Google, of course, introduced FLoC, which plans to bucket consumers by interest and allow advertisers to market to those interest groups — which effectively cloaks individual data, according to Google.
“Verizon Media became the latest player to enter the space earlier this month with the launch of Next-Gen Solutions, a tool that helps advertisers and publishers target audiences without any online identifiers. Using artificial intelligence (AI) trained on first-party data from Verizon Media websites like Yahoo, Next-Gen Solutions infers audience characteristics based on context and real-time signals from devices. Similar to Google’s FLoCs, Verizon’s solution does not rely on cookies, mobile app IDs, or hashed email. What differentiates the product is that Verizon’s Next-Gen Solutions requires no user-level profiles, and it works across multiple Internet browsers,” wrote Stephanie Miles for Street Fight.
Why we care. “This is going to fuel the next generation of ad tech solutions,” said Patrick O’Leary, CEO of the publisher ad sales CRM Boostr. “Marketers will likely be confused and will need to run lots of experiments to find what gives them comparable or better ROAS than targeting solutions based on third-party cookies.”
Quote of the day
“Somewhere the CEO just messaged the marketing team: WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING FOR EARTH DAY???” Dave Gerhardt, CMO, Privy