Tag Archives: Google

All I have to do is stream…

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Once again, the annual CES trade show in Las Vegas has shown us the future of consumer tech, from TVs to smart fridges, electric cars and even a wi-fi-connected hairbrush.

Some new products may seem like something out of a sci-fi film, such as LG’s PJ9 floating speaker, which hovers above its base station and offers 360-degree omnidirectional sound. However, most were much more down-to-earth, with many brands, including Sony, JVC, Kenwood and Audio-Technica, revealing new products pushing the boundaries of HD audio quality.

For audio giant Sonos, music streaming integration was a major theme. It announced a partnership with Spotify to allow seamless integration between the music streaming service and Sonos’s own app, which will mean users can manage their music without having to switch between apps.

Likewise, Naim’s newest Uniti all-in-one systems featured compatibility with all major streaming services, accessible via the built-in touch-screen. Expect this sort of user-friendly brand integration to be a major theme throughout audio in 2017.

Figures for 2016 show that 11 per cent of the UK population have a Spotify account, (around 5.7 million people), and around 2.6 million UK people have an Apple or Google Music account. The UK streams over a billion audio tracks each week – up 68 per cent year on year and up 500 per cent compared with 2013. Moreover, 45 billion tracks were streamed in 2016 – that’s around 1,500 per household per year – and streaming revenues grew 65 per cent for the top providers.

Total music revenues were up 4.6 per cent despite falling physical music sales and with streaming continuing its meteoric rise, this is good news for retailers stocking premium audio. Further integration between speakers and streaming services is a clear selling point. Use these announcements to highlight this connectivity to customers.

With 52 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds regularly streaming music online, increasing your range to suit different demographics can help to broaden your store’s appeal.

Sony’s upcoming SRS-XB range of Bluetooth speakers are a perfect example. They will appeal to younger audiences, with the two top-end models delivering lighting effects with an LED perimeter line-light, a strobe flash and speaker light that creates multicoloured patterns, ranging from pure white to rainbow, so you can have the lighting synchronise with the music.

This is all controlled through Sony’s SongPal app on your phone or tablet to start music playback, turn the speaker lighting on and off, add a speaker, or link up to 10 speakers. Make sure to utilise the product’s features to create some theatre in-store and attract potential shoppers to the audio area.

 

Smart speakers

The emerging smart speaker category is taking the technology found in smartphones (Siri, Google Assistant, etc) to the next level by adding a personal assistant to your living room or kitchen. Combined with a high-quality, 360-degree speaker, these smart speakers are fast becoming a staple in the audio market. The main players in the category are Amazon with its Alexa assistant, and Google with its Google Home smart speaker. These two are joined by Microsoft, which announced its own speaker featuring its digital assistant Cortana, in partnership with audio brand Harman Kardon.

As personal assistant technology continues to develop, expect the popularity of smart speakers to increase. As brands continue to integrate their services with Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana, consumers will begin to take notice of the real-life benefits of owning a smart speaker.

All these new audio announcements at CES prioritised high-quality audio, giving users the best possible sound. When displaying premium audio products in your store, you may not be able to sell the content, but you can help people experience quality audio.

Set up an area dedicated to premium speakers and headphones. Invest in a Spotify or Google Play Music subscription, allowing your display speakers to stream high-quality audio at the touch of a button. Make sure each speaker has plenty of room around it so as to produce the highest quality sound. And make sure smart speakers are connected to the store wi-fi.

Add-on sales are also achievable in this category through the introduction of wi-fi boosters. The Sonos Boost is a rather clever, powerful signal booster designed to ensure reliability of a Sonos over a large area. Make sure shoppers are aware of these products and potential issues they may face if their wi-fi network isn’t up to scratch. Also think TVs and soundbar options – there are many ways to bring audio into the sales mix. Aim for at least a 25 per cent add-on target with every sale.

Create an immersive experience that allows the shopper to fully utilise the speaker as they would at home. This is the best way to create an emotional, real-life connection.

Ensuring that your staff are trained correctly is also vitally important. With an expert staff member on hand to assist with demonstrations, shoppers can be reassured that the product is right for them and their needs.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/all-i-have-to-do-is-stream/

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Market intelligence

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The term AI is being bandied about in all forms of media, but do many people actually understand how Artificial Intelligence is now becoming part of the consumer-electronics landscape in some of the most everyday products – almost making smart technology seem old hat by comparison.

The reality is that in order for AI to function, you need smart devices to metaphorically ‘join the dots’ to create an AI solution that works for you in your environment.

Probably the most recognised mainstream AI product to come to market is the Amazon Echo, which is expected to sell three million units in 2016, with forecasts of 10m for 2017. You’ll know the product – it’s that black cylinder with a blue pulsating light on top, promoted through those awful adverts where some chap asks Alexa to add tennis balls and dog biscuits to his shopping list.

In essence, Amazon Echo and its sibling Dot – which has no speaker but effectively does the same thing – are intended to be your assistant, connecting all your smart devices.

Combined with other IoT products, Echo enables you to voice-control your heating, lights, online orders, music streaming and on-demand services like Uber.

It’s impressive stuff, but you’ll always have to ask for Alexa, prefacing all requests with her name, which may make you feel somewhat daft. After all, the only device I want to talk to is my phone, as part of a conversation with a human being. I’m sure I’ll adapt to AI over time. Generations younger than me and in the future will think this the norm – making AI a surefire success and as commonplace in the home as a TV or a tablet.

While Amazon’s product is reasonably priced, its users have fed back so far that 87 per cent are satisfied with the device. Eighty-five per cent use Echo to set alarms, 82 per cent to play music, and two-thirds ask for news updates. Overall, 39 per cent of Echo users plan to increase their usage as support grows for the platform, which will be intrinsically linked to bolstering Amazon’s revenues.

This remains unlikely, however, when you consider what’s coming next – Google Home. The future of AI in the home is way more than just a ‘smart speaker’, as the category is being tagged. This innovation outclasses all other mainstream AI devices when you consider its compatibility across all Google platforms, including YouTube, Google Maps and third-party streaming services such as Netflix and Open Table. Finally, it’s compatible across all OS devices, but complemented by all ‘Made by Google’ devices from Pixel to Chromecast.

Google Home changes the game by setting the state of play in the ‘smart speaker’ category, taking it to the next level and setting the benchmark many will struggle to follow.

AI is a mainstay, not a gimmick, which will intrinsically evolve with your devices, appliances, streaming platforms and all forms of entertainment. Alongside VR, it’s the next big thing estimated to become a $2 billion-plus category by 2020 that you can’t afford to ignore.

With an estimated $400 million being invested in 2016 on content development, the industry has established Virtual Reality as a credible platform over and above Sony’s PlayStation VR, which is estimated to sell 2.6 million units in 2016 alone.

What VR will potentially help is declining PC sales, as users transition to tablets and phablets. With an eight per cent decline in global PC sales, it’s unlikely that VR will fill the gap, however it will assist in particular within the PC gaming category.

VR will, it’s believed, be a $50bn industry by 2021, with only half of that generated from gaming. So the rest is to play for, with smartphone adoption accounting for seven per cent of the market, but interestingly achieving a higher volume due to the low cost of VR equipment. Those familiar with VR will know Cardboard, which has been around, in tech years, for ages. But now we have Google Daydream, a device that yet again changes the market with innovation, design and distribution only challenged by the Samsung Gear (Oculus).

Whichever way you view it, both VR and AI are here to stay and the new kids on the block are stealing a march. There was a time that many thought these innovations would come out of Infinite Loop, instead it’s evolving from Mountain View and Terry Avenue. For the times they are a-changin’.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/market-intelligence/

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Have a techie New Year

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Oh no, it’s happened again. The peak sales period is upon us and while consumers are getting over Black Friday and preparing for Christmas, retailers will be trying to predict the big sellers for 2016.

The next phase of growth is going to come from the Internet of Things (IoT), which is only going to be more relevant and significant in our lives as we all become even more connected.

The retail landscape is evolving and the need to be current in your ranging is as important as the service and experience you provide.

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Kitchen tech is continuing to battle for space on our worksurfaces and in the lead we still have blenders. This trend is sure to continue into the New Year, with the Nutribullet, Magimix and Nutri Ninja taking breakfast by storm for millions of smoothie lovers. Health blenders are a fantastic gift for any health-conscious individual looking to lose a pinch after all that Christmas feasting. John Lewis on Oxford Street sold an average 100 health juicers a day during ‘peak’ in 2014.

Streaming

Music streaming and multi-room speaker devices are expected to be a huge hit, with innovative products like Google’s Chromecast Audio streaming music from your smartphone, tablet, Chromebook or PC to any speaker in your home.

Likewise, multi-room speaker systems from Sonos will continue to be popular, but don’t forget alternative solutions from Bose and LG.

A perfect gift for audiophiles, music streaming is becoming mainstream with physical music now a collector’s pastime. Take the opportunity to attach sales of streaming devices to non-connected speakers, or upsell to a future-ready connected speaker system. Sales of connected audio devices such as soundbars, wireless speakers, headphones, etc, are expected to increase to 267 million units in 2018, up from 58m in 2014.

Multimedia

Streaming devices turn any screen into a multimedia centre and the leader of the pack is by far Google Chromecast and Chromecast Audio, both the easiest sale you’ll ever make – only £30 to turn any TV with an HDMI port into a smart TV. The original Chromecast sold over 20m units, so expect the updated model to sell even more. Other streaming devices, such as Now TV, allow users to purchase one-time subscriptions to premium channels, meaning they can watch the Boxing Day football on Sky without having to pay for an expensive box and subscription.

However, if users prefer not to pay for content, it’s no longer necessary to have an expensive subscription service as they can now have Freeview Play built into Panasonic TVs or upgrade any TV with a Humax set-top box.

Home tech

Smart home solutions are an inexpensive and practical gift for many and connected security cameras are fast becoming an IoT mainstay. Coming in from around £50, a smart security device, such as a connected doorbell or camera to monitor your house and pets remotely, would make a good addition to any home. Brands to look at include Motorola and Belkin.

With a cold winter in prospect, a smart thermostat can give homeowners complete control over their heating, wherever they are using their smartphone. Hive’s newest smart thermostat is a stylish statement for the home, with its unique design adding to its great practical features and fantastic app.

Appliances

Sales of smart devices are expected to explode over the next five years, so it’s no surprise to see brands across the home appliances spectrum, including Hoover, LG, Samsung and Whirlpool, investing in connected appliances.

Smart appliances from the likes of LG can also be integrated with existing smart thermostats, monitoring activity and setting appliances to switch on or change setting automatically when it deems best for a family’s lifestyle.

Retailers can get ahead of the curve, offering shoppers a connected product that will integrate with their existing smart devices and, more importantly, IoT products they are perhaps likely to purchase in years to come.

Wearables

Fitness wearables and smartwatches show no sign of abating, with sales of fitness gadgets having increased by 900 per cent over the past year, according to Dixons Carphone.

The New Year is a time when people’s thoughts turn to getting fit, and fitness wearables such as the Fitbit Charge HR are packed full of features.

A great way to sell the benefits of fitness wearables is to give them to staff to wear on the shopfloor. Linking the devices to their own smartphone will also help them to demonstrate the features.

Across every category, there is innovation to suit all pockets. Show your consumers how these innovative products work together, not as separate products. Do them justice and show your customers what the IoT is all about and how great it can be.

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Does social media ad spend equate to consumer engagement?

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Instagram and Pintrest have both announced that they are opening the doors to advertisers, and M&S is aiming to invest 20% of total media spend on social media to increase its story telling. And as if that wasn’t enough social media hype, this was hot on the back of the BBC claiming that it is planning to turbocharge its Instagram profile after an executive claimed that it has learned more about social media from brands, including Burberry, Nike and Netflix.

One could say that social media is making an impact on traditional advertising, as expected in a brand’s pursuit of Generation Y. However, what about the rest of us who are a shade older and perhaps with more disposable income, or younger or I hasten to add, just not interested in social media.

After all not everyone who likes M&S or its demographic customer is necessarily a fan of social media.

So is it a case that social media works for some brands but not all?

Gekko has understood through its shopper tribes research that the shopper journey which finished with a purchase in traditional retail has started online for 52% of those shoppers and therefore highlighting the importance of omnichannel for all brands but can you quantify 20% of your media spend on social media to generate 20% of total sales.

Claims by social media platforms would naturally draw any advertiser to favour one platform over another. After all, this is no different to how traditional media works. What’s interesting are the claims which don’t ultimately add up to sales.

Facebook claims that a recent campaign for mobile carrier Three achieved a click through rate of over 4% and reached 21 million unique users. The fact is, how does this translate to sales? No one knows the truth.

We can assume and attribute spikes to marketing spend, but I suspect in the long run we as consumers don’t necessarily want to mix are Social Media with brand advertising, and the negative feedback Instagram is receiving demonstrates this.

Now I don’t deny that social media is an amazing tool with which to engage, enthuse and affiliate a brand to a target audience and with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube claiming over two billion global users (101 million in the UK). It’s undeniably a powerful tool but we use it to connect with friends, tell our story and more importantly for pleasure to view and laugh at videos like Fenton the dog and sadly Psy’s Gangnam style, which to date is the most viewed You Tube video with more than two billion views.

Brands and social media platforms should consider, do we really want to be sold to every time we dip into social profiles and email via our smart phone a recorded 214 times a day. That’s a lot of ads and brands to digest and perhaps get annoyed with

Read more at: http://bit.ly/1KmhGO7
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MWC 2015: Is It More of the Same or Change for the Sake of Change?

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Mobile brands, including carriers and social media grandees such as Mark Zuckerberg, are in Barcelona at MWC15 to announce, prophesise, and speculate on what we as consumers will want, or think we need, in the form of mobile devices and the connected landscape. It’s true to say that we are a generation that relies on our mobile devices, even to the extent that we feel naked without a device to access the web 24/7. This now extends to wearables for fitness, virtual reality, gaming, and next, our virtual wallet and transport.

Next week at its March 9th ‘Spring Forward’ event, and as ever separately to every other brand, Apple will likely launch the Apple Watch to a global audience who may just be underwhelmed considering the announcement of advances in Android-based wearables demonstrated by HTC, Huawei, LG and Sony to name a few at MWC15. Underwhelmed is perhaps unlikely based on consumer enthusiasm, but the exclusive snapshot of the Apple Watch given by Lisa Armstrong, Telegraph Fashion Editor, demonstrates that Apple is offering what every brand must deliver to its consumers — choice. Apple offers choice of styles, straps, and faces, and of course the Edition variant in 18ct rose or yellow gold for those who like their wearables with a bit of bling. One thing these new arrivals, Apple included, all have in common is that they start to transcend the chasm of tech into fashion. They look great, work effectively, and are worthy cost-effective options (with the exception of Apple) that will further ignite the wearables market.

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But who’s copying who? Fashion brands such as Guess, and luxury watch brands like Tag and Mont Blanc, have made their intentions clear and some could argue are being driven by tech brands. However, why should tech need to look traditional to enable adoption, especially if it only works when I remember to charge it? Where is the value, efficiency, and worth?

On the other hand, we may be blown away by our friends in Cupertino. We have more to digest such as those car rumours in which Google is further ahead in realising, as are some of the more forward-thinking automobile brands. Volvo, for example, is exploring connected car services and is announcing a trial launch, progressing its published plan to create a fleet of driverless cars by 2017.

It’s an obvious move to connect our devices to our transportation – our devices will soon show us how to get to our destination and then take us there in the most efficient manner. Easier said than done, as we all know the pitfalls of satellite navigation. Does a driverless car have the potential to become annoying like a cab driver who is lost, can’t drive, or drives dangerously? Without exception, any mobile or wearable device that connects with our vehicle and 3rd-party applications, like social media, are going to involve advertising, data, and subscriptions, further sacrificing the joy of a quiet and peaceful drive home.

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With connected devices creating more opportunities for brands, every manufacturer understands that they need to have a cross-category approach to devices including phones, wearables, and VR, which is evident from the announcements made at MWC15. As the technology develops, however, brands also need to create amazing, intuitive, and secure software to encourage us to part with more of our tangible assets and transactions, in order to communicate and live virtually.

Are we ready or would we rather, brands included, slow down the pace? Technology is moving so rapidly that innovations are becoming obsolete before they have a chance to become a recognised part of history. The hardware needed to operate these innovations can become redundant sooner thus creating obvious problems in disposal as we can’t indefinitely deal with it by sending it off our shores to become someone else’s problem. Our perceived need to demand more out of our devices, brands, and lifestyles compounded with being forced to update, upgrade, and adopt as a result of market forces may be what drives us to come to a full circle and look for a device that allows a simpler and more traditional private life; unlikely but not impossible.

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The end of Google Glass?

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The end of Google Glass, in its current incarnation – yes. As a future viable, perhaps watered down, consumer based product – I doubt it.

It was ugly, you looked silly in them, and the health and social responsibility factors were questionable. Google Glass’s move back into a research project rather than a viable consumer product is indicative of the social stigma associated with this wearable technology.

It gained many column inches, which made it worthy of its impressive abilities. It also ignited the imaginations of programmers, who developed applications that enabled you to look up and see the solar system above your head, read signs in foreign languages and translate these signs in front of your eyes into your chosen language.

Even the beleaguered Tesco announced this week a Glass app for your online grocery shop. But with very few users purchasing and wearing, today’s was an unsurprising announcement from Google in response to poor consumer demand.

As seen at this year’s CES, wearable’s and VR have developed rather differently than expected giving Google, I suspect, an opportunity to exit with its head held high. It will review, redevelop, configure and improve what was a very clever innovation, but which unfortunately had significant flaws.

Google glass is not dead. It will I’m sure evolve and become something new, creating the same hype and publicity as Glass achieved, but come to market in a more viable form and function and perhaps a new name.

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A view from Google Glass base camp

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After much speculation and hype, Google Glass has finally landed in the UK. Many have asked why, citing that it’s pointless and you won’t buy it. You will.

The ‘base camp’ event was held on the 27 and 28 June by Google in Kings Cross. I was reliably informed it was staffed by not only event staff but also Google employees working on Glass; which probably explained hearing “welcome to the future” one too many times. For those less gregarious amongst us, it was perhaps a bit intimidating, especially when you get to the photo demo and are asked to strike four poses wearing the Glass while they take photos. Many seemed keen, I wasn’t.

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Following a brief tutorial wearing the new enhanced Glass with a flexible titanium frame, you get to learn the gestures whilst practicing not to squint, a natural reaction to something so alien but not necessary. Despite this, I couldn’t imagine wearing the Glass for a prolonged period.

Music, translation, star gazing were all on demo as were the different styles on display, which if I’m honest, whichever way you cut it, don’t look like normal glasses. I have no doubt however that these will change and get smaller, stylish and almost invisible like contact lenses.

What’s stunning about the device is its ease of use, clarity of vision, speed and endless possibilities. We’ve all read the scaremongering articles regarding the security or privacy aspects but putting that aside, this really is cutting edge technology that will change lives. Look at a sign in Italian and see it in English, look up at the sky and see the solar system geographically correct. I’m guessing we only experienced a minutia of what this product can really do but what we were allowed to try was impressive.

So will people buy and wear it? Are Brits going to shun this innovation as many have said? In my opinion, no, and avoiding any clichés, it is the future which will set the tech industry alive and move it to the next level.  This is a new category that changes everything, it’s the next step beyond your smartphone. Google the unassuming innovator has done it again.

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Will Google Glass arrive at retail or is it just a beautiful PR stunt?

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We simply cannot escape talk around Google Glass. It’s as ubiquitous as the Beckham’s and their PR allure. Ever since Google Glass hit the media, I feel like it’s an established and viable product as modelled by the curly-haired model in the original promotional photo, which the media are still using.

But despite years of buzz, the consumer is still no closer to adding the glasses to their ever-expanding tech kit. So is Google Glass just a clever PR stunt that refuses to give up, or are we set to see the product reach the hands of those who matter, the consumer?

Google Glass seems to have been everywhere but the shop shelves. Diane von Furstenberg used the product on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, while Virgin Atlantic has tied up with the brand for flight crew to check in passengers on selected trans-Atlantic flights.

Brands want to build partnerships with this newsworthy, futuristic piece of innovation and why wouldn’t they when Google Glass is experiencing a media frenzy? It’s exposure on a scale any business desires, singling out its brand through association as the future now.

But no one has had more positive brand awareness than Google itself, which is why this could all be a bubble about to burst. There are many barriers the brand has to overcome before it’s ready for public consumption.

It is heavily tested and commented on by the BBC’s Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who states: “So far, I’m intrigued by the possibilities that Glass offers, but not convinced that the user interface is up to scratch.”

Doubt clouds Glass sceptics as to the viability of the product in the face of increasing privacy rules and pressure on Google to respect these rules. Even in preliminary testing phases, Google Glass has opened a Pandora’s Box of legal concerns. If it does become the next big thing in wearable technology, what are the ramifications for intellectual property and personal privacy when somebody can secretly film or take a picture of you with, literally, the wink of an eye?

It’s now standard practice to see all manner of things documented online by people when using one hand with a mobile phone; what will happen when they are given glasses that make it possible for them to be recorded with two hands? Google responded by making modifications that would make this harder to do, but hackers will be only too happy to quickly find ways around those measures.

A report out highlights the fears consumers have over privacy issues pertaining to the product. It was found that 72 per cent of Americans cited privacy concerns as the biggest reason for not wanting to wear Glass. Those polled were especially concerned about the possibility of hackers accessing personal data and revealing personal information, including location information, Adweek reported.

That’s not to say I don’t applaud Google for this extravagant teaser campaign. It’s been executed extraordinarily well and it has built up a buzz and anticipation that may explode into fireworks or a flame, leaving us wanting more, but when’s the launch date?

If it does indeed arrive into the retail space, I can only imagine it will be a watered down variant of the present. But the fact that Ray-Ban sunglasses maker Luxottica announced last month that it has sealed a strategic partnership with Google over its Glass eyewear surely only adds fuel to the fire of concerns over privacy intrusion.

Imagine sitting on a train opposite someone who appears to be wearing a regular pair of Ray Bans, when really they’re analysing your data – it’s just not acceptable in a democratic society. Or has democracy gone full circle where the insistence on knowing everything has now come to threaten our right to privacy?

Nonetheless, this innovation, in which ever form it manifests itself, will eventually land in a retailer near you (I hope) and it will need investment in dedicated, knowledgeable brand representatives who can create the right consumer engagement with those cost conscious shopper tribes. This must be a priority if they are to make a connection with consumers and help them understand how this innovation works to enhance their day-to-day lives, to leave them with a memorable impression of both the product that will lead to a sale.

Whether Google Glass comes into the retail space or not, one thing is for sure: this has been an unstoppable PR masterpiece.

Read the full article at http://www.pcr-online.biz/news/read/blog-will-google-glass-arrive-at-retail-or-is-it-just-a-beautiful-pr-stunt/033797

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Google Endorsements: Industry reaction

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This weekend Google announced its latest advertising platform – Shared Endorsements. Similar to the soon-to-be defunct Sponsored Stories option on Facebook, Google’s Shared Endorsements will pull in users’ names and profile pictures in adverts, ranging from Google Play store recommendations to adverts for restaurants.

Following the announcement The Drum asked a cross section of marketers what the introduction of Shared Endorsements could mean for advertisers and what lessons Google could learn from Facebook’s mistakes.

It’s no surprise that Facebook’s Sponsored Stories didn’t meet with vast amounts of success. So how can Google’s Shared Endorsements avoid that trap?

The trick is to offer consumers exactly what they want. No-one likes to be bombarded with messages that are completely irrelevant to their tastes and buying behaviours. Think how frustrating it would be to be marketed a beer ad if you only drink wine.

Nonetheless, the potential this offers to marketers is huge, with a massive, global audience who will potentially see their ad.

Therein lies its key factor – its reach. Google’s audience is so vast that it outstrips all other forms of advertising. What brands must ensure, however, is that the content that they are putting in front of people actually appeals to them. After all, a targeted campaign will always be more effective than a blanket approach.

read more at: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/01/14/google-endorsements-industry-reaction-digitaslbi-havas-mec-iprospect-and-more

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