What the Federal Budget means for the Digital Industry

Federal Budget 2015 digital industry

Last weeks Federal Budget announcements contained some important implications for the Digital Industry. The Digital Mantra blog outlines some of these here:

The 2015 budget proposes a reduction in tax rate by 1.5% for small businesses (<$2mn) and an immediate tax write-off for individual assets that cost less than $20,000 apiece. This will provide a fillip to small businesses that increasingly turn to digital for visibility and automation. Tech start-ups that are a sub-set of the small business community may also benefit through these incentives.

The budget attempts to deter families (via penalties) from accessing both government and employer parental incentives adding to the burden of families already struggling with childcare costs. More needs to be done to facilitate the re-entry of highly experienced digital women back into the workplace. An industry synonymous with long hours and that already struggles with high churn rates and a shortage of talent must work with the larger business community to find work-family life balance solutions.

Eligible start-ups can now offer employees share options that will be taxable only at sale. Start-ups can now use this as a sweetener to attract talent and also as a motivator to retain existing employees.

Changes to tax laws mean anyone on a working holiday visa will now have to pay tax from their first dollar earned, rather than their first $18,200 of earnings being tax-free. Many overseas digital specialists are usually on these visas when they first join Australian companies, a situation that works well for both parties. Local companies can fill vacant roles quickly and the candidates get to audition their skills in the hope of getting a permanent work sponsorship before their working holiday visa runs out.

New tax initiatives for startups were announced, specifically around crowdfunding. $7.8 million over four years will be spent getting the Australian Securities and Investments commission to work up and implement a new regulatory framework for crowdfunding money raised by startups. This is a step in the right direction and will hopefully offer a simplified yet more varied funding landscape for start-ups.

The above piece is of a general nature only reflecting the personal opinion of the author and must not be construed as professional financial or tax advice.

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Mobile Marketing in 2015 – A Wishlist

Two months ago, I was interviewed by a publishing partner for my views on the future of mobile and whether 2015 would finally be the watershed Year of Mobile. My answer broadly was that the year of mobile has already happened for consumers, but unfortunately its advertisers and publishers who haven’t kept pace. Australian consumers have advanced mobile habits – multi-screening, smartphone penetration and data usage but mobile spend hasn’t been proportionate.

For 2015 to be the year the advertising and marketing community catch up here’s a few things that the industry needs to work out:

Mobile Search: One of the highest performed activities on mobile, search on mobile has grown significantly as a proportion of desktop. Google with its Enhanced Campaigns change in June 2013 made mobile search mandatory for advertisers meaning search advertisers would have to up their mobile specific ads. In a recent research, only 38% of users said that the Click to Call feature is widely available in search results. Advertisers need to get the fundamentals of mobile bidding, ads and scheduling right before mobile search overtakes desktop and the battlefield and mobile cost per clicks gets more competitive.

Consolidation of mobile inventory: Defragmentation in the marketplace needs to occur or publishers need to bring mobile inventory sales in-house. Currently there are multiple players in market, each claiming strengths in inventory, targeting and production nous. New ways of pricing mobile impressions must be considered, for instance paying different rates for peak mobile usage times and days of week (similar to radio) – provided the underlying data can justify the differential.

Mobile data needs to be improved in Australia. In particular, accurate (not inferred) location targeting down to the post code level. This will unlock opportunities to target people at point of purchase e.g. Car dealer lots and inside retail stores. Finding a way to follow users across devices and push them further down the purchase funnel will also require the industry to find data led solutions to target unique persons not impressions.

Mobile payments need to be fast tracked: Australians have adopted contactless payments, so mobile payments are the next step and should benefit small businesses and peer to peer transactions significantly. Retailers, financial institutions and regulatory authorities need to work out the guidelines and processes to make this happen. Some banks already offer tap and go on some devices, but the kicker for growth should be when Apple Pay launches in Australia.

Build creative and UX design expertise: Agencies and brands need to hire specialists who have studied and understand mobile user behavior extensively. Understand how mobile is used in your category, within the consumer decision journey. Tailor your creative, content and user experience for each part of the journey. I recommend this fantastic book to everyone. And I predict in 2015 every digital team will consider embedding a mobile only specialist to acquire up this expertise

Make mobile easier to make it mainstream: Mobile is an afterthought or bolt on for most campaigns because campaign buying and set up is an added and hence annoying layer. The top technology companies like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn who’ve seen their mobile revenues soar make both the front end (for users) and back end (for advertisers) seamless when it comes to mobile advertising. You upload one image and text in the backend and you’re ready to go on all devices with a little device specific bid adjustment if required. No separate sizes and tags.

Macro view for mobile: Ensure mobile becomes an important part of every user touch point not just advertising and media plans. A mobile first transformation project should encompass UX, creative and content as well. When evaluating, take into account metrics like phone calls and location extension usage that lead to offline transactions or estimate them (e.g. Store visits) using historic data the way Adwords now offers.

Mobile is utility or entertainment: Mobile users are looking to take an action immediately or a quick entertainment fix. Deliver actionable links (click to call, location extensions) within ads or build a killer mobile solution that solves a need within the consumer journey e.g. Commbanks Property app a few years ago. For utility be guided by location and intent and for entertainment create snackable content.

Stay ahead of the curve: Programmatic, retargeting and video will drive the next wave of mobile investment as advertisers become disillusioned with past results from mobile banner activity. Cross-device targeting has loads of potential – advertisers will either create their own databases or rely on big players like Google, Facebook and Twitter who can use their member sign in’s to create cross-device unique identification layers.

Mobile measurement: Finally we need a robust and recurring traffic measurement system. We also need industry research that provide deeper insights instead of telling us multi-device ownership and multi-screening has marginally risen year on year.

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Keeping the Brand in Branded Content

Branded ContentIn years gone by organisations controlled the gateway to content, allowing them to own the message and the timing and the pace of release to consumers. Technology today allows consumers to control the discovery process – to choose the means and tools of access. This conundrum has compelled brands to increasingly create mass volumes of content for differentiation and branded content is the easiest and fastest way.

While branded content has been around for years in the form of advertorials or paid travel reviews, it is today an organised commercial practice with specialist agencies placing brands within existing or bespoke traditional and online environments. In this post I recommend five principles that advertiser should use to sense check their approach when undertaking a branded content project. Because what you put out there is not just content but your most valuable asset, your Brand.

Authenticity – Brands shouldn’t get into content creation unless they have a brand guideline manual in place, which lucidly articulates brand voice and personality. Resist the lazy option of outsourcing content creation to an in-between agency or publisher. Create as much content in-house as you commission through sponsored options. The best branded content arises from a perfect marriage of publisher and advertiser synergy, each bringing to the table the in-depth understanding of their readers and customers respectively. From this alignment springs content that appears authentic to the end user. A fail safe way to achieve authenticity is embed someone close to the brand (either from marketing or creative agency) within the leadership core of a branded content project.

Context – Always choose your final partners and environments with caution. Today decreasing revenue margins mean media owners are more open to offering editorial integration to advertisers. However tempting this may seem, it is better to wait for the right opportunity rather than rush in and allow the brand to appear in an irrelevant or worse still an inappropriate context. Consumers are more sensitized to branded content today, and jarring brand juxtapositions run the risk of harming the master brands credibility in the longer run.

Adding Value – Understand the needs of consumers in your category. What does the product (your product) add to their lives or simply what is the problem it solves. An easy way to identify these needs is by analyzing search queries in the category. Once identified create solutions that add value at every stage in the purchase funnel – information or comparison. A noteworthy illustration is the Commonwealth property app which allows prospective home-buyers to access.immediate buying and selling information as they are actually viewing properties.

Consistency – Make content marketing a part of an always-on budget line, so it’s not only done when you have a major campaign or launch. Just as it’s rude to leave abruptly after striking up a conversation with someone new at a party, don’t leave your readers in the lurch. And if you strike gold with a branded content series or sponsorship, stick with it. That is consistency. Transparency – Both publishers and advertisers must be transparent so as not to erode the trust of loyal advocates of both. Make it clear when a piece is paid for through clear labeling. Native advertising is a form of branded content that claims its place in the marketing ecosystem by seamlessly blending into editorial spaces. But consumers will soon wise up to the distinction through over-saturation with these formats. There is a fine line between deception and clever. Thread it carefully and err on the side of transparency always.

So there you have it, five principles to think about that should hopefully help you achieve your content marketing goals while also protecting your brand promise. If you have experience in this sphere and would like to share your own learning’s, I welcome the opportunity to interact and gain from your knowledge.

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Four must-do things to retain digital talent

Digital team

The digital skills shortage in Australia has been well documented previously by numerous industry and research bodies. With digital revenue on course to surpass all other media in years to come, a grab for the limited talent pool has started. More recently advertising agencies and client teams have begun to expand their digital resources by poaching from full-service digital set ups or media planning agencies.

This puts pressure on organisations who have done all the hard work in identifying and training talent either locally or from overseas. Training new staff or going through the lengthy process of interviewing overseas candidates with sponsorship requirements can be cumbersome. To check the rate of attrition, organisations should focus on four simple retention strategies to keep existing in-house talent.

1. Have a Digital vision

Organisations with a clear vision of the role of digital in their business are more likely to hold and attract digital talent. Internal candidates will recognize that such organisations are more likely to invest in tools and resources that will aid their personal growth. Do not commoditize the digital product through an over-reliance on trading desks and exchanges. A strategy first organisation will always attract and retain the cream of the talent pool.

2. Build a team

Don’t just add one token digital specialist under a generalist manager. Instead build a high performance digital team. As new technologies and formats roll out, digital executives need like-minded peers to bounce ideas off and to share learnings with. Make your digital team members feel they are part of something bigger rather than just resources to keep your basic search, website and social functions ticking over.

3. Support. Support. Support.

Nothing inspires employees more than top management support. Hire the best and get out of their way as the adage goes. Chances are there is very little you can teach your digital people, but what you can do is ensure you clear any hurdles impeding them. Also allow them the latitude to choose their tools, devices and operating systems of choice.

4. Reward as required

Recognize that digital specialists are in demand and their salary expectations only reflect what the industry is offering. This is simply supply and demand. A few thousands to retain someone with valuable intellectual property (IP) and the right cultural fit is peanuts compared to the loss in productivity due to the inability to replace them.

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New Gmail Inbox rolls out globally, Promotions get separate tab

Gmail has rolled out a new inbox layout globally as of last night. The inbox now divides messages into separate tabs as below.

Capture

You can choose from five optional tabs: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums and teach Gmail which messages you’d like to go under which tab. Your messages are automatically categorized into the above tabs eg. one on one conversations go into Primary while Facebook/ LinkedIn notifications go under Social and emails from deals sites go under Promotions. For retailers and deals sites, this may ensure their time sensitive offer emails get better visibility with the dedicated tab.

Due to its large storage on offer and nifty features, the Gmail service has largely usurped Microsofts Hotmail/Outlook and Yahoo Mail as most users default service. But Gmail does not offer a simple sorting option like most other services, so users have had to use Gmail features like Priority Inbox, Labels and its strong search features to control their inbox. Every iteration has an impact for email marketers as how consumers adapt their email habits has a flow on effect on email open and click rates.

Recent global benchmark data shows open rates rising globally while click rates are declining. This could be explained by growing mobile email usage (30% opens are now on mobile). So how email services and email marketing agencies master the mobile conundrum (and cross-device email opens) will be more significant in the years ahead.

Posted in Digital

Why I think Asos gets the customer journey right everytime

Just as I published my last post about Customer Journey to Purchase, there was a series of stories the next day covering the soaring success of UK online store asos in Australia. Now I’ll readily admit I’ve bought frequently from the site and keep browsing at least a few times each week. Asos ticks off most boxes in the BigCommerce infographic on customer journey but must also be commended on its online marketing strategy.

I believe the online retail sites have just filled in a gap albeit superbly that existed because of the complacency of the traditional retailers. Large bricks and mortar department stores have been charging us exorbitant prices for garments manufactured in Asia evident from the still attached tags. Shopping centre and store experience here is world class but in-store choice and size tends to be limited. I’ve often found myself shopping for new business shirts but confronted with a homogeneous selection of either light solids or checks and a sinking feeling I’m going to be in a meeting with someone else wearing the exact shirt.

Asos draws users in to browse with its frequent discount sales but also ensures return visits and stickiness due to the large and constantly updated catalogs and interactive shopping experience. When I short list an item, I can watch a video, see a short gallery of images and look for a custom size eg waist 32″ with regular leg length size. Today technology allows a shopper to research and buy across multiple sessions and devices as revealed in numerous multi-screen studies, unrestricted by real world hurdles like parking, store timings and commute time. As a digital marketer I think they’re doing a great job in using best practice paid search, email marketing and retargeting the last one a tactic barely used in this country. Ten minutes after I searched for leather jackets it was retargeting with a relevant selection on another website.

Asos

While Asos may not be to everyone’s fashion taste, it’s success is a clear indicator that there are unmet needs locally and local businesses can gain a lot by studying its strengths.

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New resources to improve customer journey to purchase

Earlier this week ‘Westpac Ready for Business Report’, found that over half (53%) of Australian small businesses do not have a website, equating to potentially more than one million businesses who are not online. Westpac and MYOB are combining to create a digital toolkit for these businesses, not dissimilar to the MYOB-Google Get your Business Online initiative in 2011.

For Aussies businesses taking the first steps into the digital space, two timely oustanding resources were released this week which shed light on the path to online purchase.

BigCommerce is a leading e-commerce platform that helps businesses set up professional quality stores online. Their new infographic What Influences A Purchase Decision answers questions about which store features affect buying and the role of smartphones and social media.

Googles Think Insights website is another treasure trove of research, insights and analysis where you can also find inspiring case studies from other advertisers in your market or industry. This weeks tool The Customer Journey to Online Purchase enables us to look at customer journeys / transactional data collected from 36K Google Analytics accounts/profiles across 7 countries. The sample chart from the website, shows the role various channels play in different parts of the purchase journey looking at data in the US for automotive clients.

Customer Journey to Online Purchase

You can use this data to plan your own marketing programs for your ecommerce store. Australia isn’t amongst the 7 countries, but the ability to see data by industry for advanced markets is still valuable.

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