​1) Amazon Challenges Google for the Advertising Throne

Google and Amazon are both competing to be the first place that online consumers turn to, to hunt for products and services. While Google has always been seen as the “King of Search,” search queries on Amazon’s website have been increasing by 47% year on year, according to ComScore.

We are seeing Amazon encroach on Google’s turf, having built its own advertising system to manage text ads within Amazon that used to be provided by Google. Clearly this advertising system is intending to control the pricing and capture more consumer data.

In addition, Amazon are looking to compete with Google’s 3rd party Display advertising network. The Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP), allows advertisers to “Reach de-identified yet targetable Amazon customers on Amazon owned and operated sites and on other high quality websites.” The APP has been around for a couple of years but Amazon is kicking it up a notch by testing new types of ads becoming more on a par with Google’s Display Network offering.

Amazon is not only trying to steal Google’s market share in Paid Search and Display sectors. Within the devices world, Amazon has extended its offering to now include not just the Kindle and Kindle Fire tablets but also the Fire phone. All with built in potential for advertising and data collection. In fact, advertisers can purchase full page display advertising on the Kindle Fire homescreen.

It’s not just Amazon encroaching on Google’s territory but Google is encroaching on Amazon’s retail turf as well. We have seen the expansion of Google Shopping over the past year and big tests such as, Google Shopping Express, offering one hour delivery to several cities across US, and local shopping feeds that share real-time inventory stock and availability of nearby physical stores.

You can just imagine a mobile user in store choosing to either check prices on Amazon to buy online or on Google where in one click they could either buy online or be directed to a cheaper physical competing store. For consumers, whether interacting with advertising or shopping, this all means greater choice. And so for brands whilst this means multiple advertising platforms and increased complexity, competition can only present more opportunity.

2) Personalisation Takes Priority

Consumers have more choice than ever before and according to eConsultancy, consumers will make 9.5 visits to a website before deciding to buy versus only 2.5 visits just 2 years ago. So, it’s more important than ever that brands reach the right audience and give them an experience that is personal and hyper relevant. In fact, according to Forrester, personalisation improves sales performance by 19%.

Over the last year we have seen an increase in the number of brands using data to personalise marketing campaigns. Asos, who sees the power of personalisation, has embarked upon a huge personalisation project in 2014. The campaign considers users’ past behaviours such as, what they browsed and purchased, the colours preferred, the “saved for later” items, their path through the website, users’ size and returns. They are currently rolling this project out globally.

In display advertising and particularly the programmatic space, brands have the opportunity to reach exactly the right audience and create an engaging and personal message. Products such as SkyAdsmart, launched formally in 2014, provides precise targeting for television advertising using Experian data. Due to its engaging and targeted nature, native advertising’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past 2 years, with a 113% increase in spend since 2012 according to eMarketer.com. Native Advertising offerings such as, Yahoo In-stream Ads and platforms such as Nexage deliver personalised messages to users using relevant content.

The smart brands will bring personalisation on-site and across marketing channels such as display, search and email. Tying this together in one integrated experience off and on site will be what pioneers will achieve in 2015.

3) Online and Physical Stores Draw Closer

65% of shoppers visit physical stores before purchasing online so it is imperative that physical retailers use the latest in technology to engage in-store consumers in all the ways they can. In fact, 60% of physical retailers intend to test beacon technology in 2015.

First and foremost, this will be about leveraging new digital technology to improve in-store consumer experience. John Lewis has invested in beacon technology that will potentially ease the Click & Collect process. This technology will detect when a customer walks into a store and alert staff to prepare their purchased items. Furthermore, if a consumer has an online wish list it can direct them to the correct departments and even allow them to pay for their items with their smartphones.

Beyond the customer experience, many advertisers face the omni-channel dilemma – how to connect online and mobile activity to in-store purchases. In 2015 Google AdWords will be launching its in-store conversion tracking product which recognises cross-device online users when they walk into a physical store. Facebook has also announced its online to offline solution with Atlas, its new DSP. This will be another step in tracking online to in-store, beyond other marketing techniques such as vouchers.

2015 will see new technology and new ideas to improve in-store experience and importantly sales.

4) Creativity Remains Key

Today the Holy Grail is both a consistent omni-channel experience and a truly personalised experience for the customer. So what’s next and how will you differentiate into the future?

This question has had me pondering recently and it made me think about something I recently read from Ideo’s founder, Tim Brown, who reviewed the book “The Innovators” by Walter Isaacson. In the book, an example is drawn out by Dame Ada Lovelace who lived back in the 1800s and was the famous Lord Byron’s daughter. Trained in both the arts and mathematics, she was well ahead of her time with her exploration of some of the basic concepts that would drive the development of computers.

She achieved this by tapping into the left side of her brain, the analytical mind, and more importantly the right side of her brain, the creative mind. It is the creative mind that allowed her to envision something that had never before been conceptualised by mankind.

Technology implementation and insight from data will be key to omni-channel and personalisation, but to go beyond will take creativity. Those that use creativity and a sense of innovative flair will be able to differentiate their products and their marketing. The rest will play perpetual catch-up.

5) Wearables and Data Signals for Marketing

Last year I talked about the expansion of the wearable technology market. I also discussed the real time marketing possibilities that will emerge as wearables become more mainstream. Though we have seen inklings of these predictions starting to arise, there’s still more to come.

We did see an incredible number of wearables released onto the market including, Google Glass, Fitbit Flex, Pebble Steel, Motorola Moto 360, Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch R, just to name a few. More are to come including Sony Glasses, which was announced late last year, and the highly anticipated iWatch from Apple. According to Samsung, within the UK last Christmas alone, over 1 million wearable devices were sold with a forecasted spend of £104.7 million. That is up 182% from Christmas 2013.

As I predicted last year, we have seen the first advertiser using wearable technology to engage consumers. Kenneth Cole incorporated a Google Glass application into its marketing approach. The app promotes their new cologne and encourages men to be more ‘gentlemanly’. Users are prompted to take photos of themselves completing good deeds every day for 21 days.

In 2015 wearable technology will become more mainstream and with that advertising opportunities will emerge leveraging new and unique data signals. Fitads is one of the first ad networks that is dedicated to the wearable health space. The platform is a mix of programmatic advertising and direct seller channels for health apps. It takes advantage of the milestone and achievement functions within most health apps. We can expect to see much more of this in 2015.

Sri Sharma, Founder & CEO of digital marketing experts, Net Media Planet.

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