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Why generation Z will drive the growth of visual search

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eCommerce navigation and exploration has remained largely unchanged in recent years, even as retailers have scrambled to pinpoint more effective and personal ways to engage their customers in the process of product discovery.

This is likely why there’s been no shortage of hype surrounding voice search technology, despite ample grounds for skepticism: A recent report found only two percent of people with Alexa-equipped devices have made purchases through voice search this year, highlighting the vast gulf between expectations for the technology and the reality of its usefulness.

Even as developers and retailers fine-tune their voice search products and strategies in hopes of capturing a market filled with promise, a growing realisation has emerged that eCommerce search must account for more than what words simply can’t capture alone.

Enter visual search technology.

Much more sophisticated than text-best search, visual search uses an image as its query for results by analysing how a variety of components such as colors, form, and objects come together. Pioneers like Microsoft’s Bing have been experimenting with visual search functions as early as 2009, even sunsetting its product in 2012 due lack of accuracy. But with the launch of both Google Lens and Pinterest Lens, consumers are ready to ride a new wave in visual search, inspiring older plays like Bing to revamp its technology.

With a newfound ability to conduct visual searches based on parts of an image via cameras and augmented reality applications at greater levels of confidence, Pinterest now sees 600,000,000 visual searches on its platform every month. Contrary to voice, there’s a significant user base ready to embrace visual search tools in ways that will drive engagement and purchases in relevant sectors like fashion, beauty, home design, and more – with Generation Z as the linchpin of the revolution.

Digital natives disrupting search

As digital natives, it’s no surprise members of Gen Z are attuned to the benefits of visual search – in fact, they’re craving the kinds of experiences the technology can provide.

Avid users of social media, the nature in which they maintain relationships and connect with the world around them is intrinsically image-driven – and with millennials and Gen Z slated to dominate retail, it’s this visual-savvy cohort that has the power to reshape eCommerce experiences in a big way. Take Snapchat’s recent partnership with Amazon, a new feature codenamed “Eagle” which allows users to scan an object or barcode from directly within the app to surface a product’s details (or similar items) on the commerce giant’s site.

Considering forecasters expect mobile to account for 48 percent of all retail site visits over the upcoming 2018 holiday season, retailers have been working assiduously to optimise their sites for mobile. And in their hunt to offer consumers the most authentic, personalised interactions possible, visual search will ultimately become a game-changer in a retailer’s arsenal when it comes to driving deeper engagement with shoppers, connecting consumers with the products they want via the channels they love.

Highly tailored search tools are already reaping dramatic rewards, like in the case of Pinterest, a site made popular by millennials and Gen Z which leverages a smartphone camera and machine learning applications to match customers to objects and designs for a rich product discovery experience. After acquiring Kosei back in 2015 to help them better understand and categorise images, over time, Pinterest saw its monthly visual searches increase 140 percent between February 2017 and February 2018, surging from 250 million to 600 million. And with current features like ‘Shop the Look’ and plans to monetise visual search within its paid advertising package, there’s no doubt retailers will soon wise up to the chance at modernising their strategies.

Looking towards the future

Visual search is on the ascent, but in order for it to chart a new path in eCommerce during 2019, key hurdles must be cleared first.

While prime visual shoppers constitute a fairly young population whose choices are shaped by ever-changing digital trends, celebrities, and influencers, the older generation is less inclined to pull out their cameras and snap their way into shopping carts. Long-term sustainability makes visual search a clear performer given the growing predominance of digital natives and their influence on technology in the marketplace, but brands must find ways to also resonate with other demographics.

Moreover, while sectors like fashion are well-suited for visual search, retail industries like electronics, automotive, and other industrial eCommerce sectors who typically target shoppers according to brand loyalty may pass over the bells and whistles. So, while visual search will continue to grow in importance, the opportunity won’t be a one-size-fits-all for retailers.

Make no mistake, text-based search isn’t going the way of the dinosaurs, and voice search may well see significant improvements in the years to come. But visual search is set to become an indispensable piece of the eCommerce puzzle, already driving meaningful results with Gen Z shoppers, whose influence and adoption of the unique technology makes it highly relevant to key sectors. The sooner retailers adapt their strategies to the diverse marketplace of today and tomorrow, the better-positioned they’ll be to not merely succeed but thrive.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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10 questions with… Anna Watkins, UK managing director of Verizon Media

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In an attempt to showcase the personalities of the people behind the media and marketing sector, The Drum speaks to individuals who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what insights and life experience they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 Questions are put to Verizon Media's UK managing director Anna Watkins.

What was your first ever job?
It would have been washing my dad's car to earn my £1 pocket money each week. Smart man.

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?
Relatable.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?
@POTUS is truly mind-boggling.

what is the highlight of your career (so far?)
Working with such a creative, inspiring and intelligent bunch of people every step of the way.

What piece of tech can you not live without?
It's baffling that I was born in London yet still seem to use Citymapper every day.

Who or what did you have posters of on your bedroom wall as a teenager?
Adam Ant and Count Dracula (aged 7). I'm not quite sure what that says about me.

In advertising, what needs to change soon?
We need a truly diverse workforce.

If you could change anything about a social media platform you use, which one and what would you choose to do?
It’s more a question of changing myself – I need to flex my creative muscles if I’m ever to make more than one friend on Tumblr…

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?
Scarface / Sign of the Times / War and Peace – delusions of grandeur, mine and theirs.

Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?
The big awards bashes – it's like going to a series of weddings where you know half the guests.

The Drum's 10 Questions With… runs each week with previous entries available to view here.

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Mobile carriers end data sharing with location aggregators; should marketers worry?

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The collection and use of real-time mobile-location data has emerged as a critical piece of the larger data-privacy debate. A recent run of negative stories have conveyed the impression that location data usage by marketers is tantamount to spying on consumers.

We’re also starting to see lawsuits, like one recently filed by the Los Angeles City Attorney against the Weather Company, for allegedly misleading consumers about how their location data would be used. More suits will likely follow.

Carriers cut off data sharing. The negative coverage and exposure of some high-profile abuses have motivated major U.S. mobile carriers to cut off location data sharing with third party “location aggregators.” The latest to do so is AT&T, following a story by Motherboard that indicated carrier data was getting into the hands of unauthorized third parties — bounty hunters, in this case — and being used for legally dubious purposes.

As a practical matter, these moves are unlikely to significantly impact use of location data by advertisers on major platforms or in the programmatic ecosystem. AT&T owns AppNexus; Verizon owns Verizon Media Group (the rebranded Oath). Location data will probably still be available to advertisers on these platforms — they’re not “third parties.” (We’ve asked Verizon for clarification on this point and will update the story if they respond.)

Calls for more regulation or legislation. Location data are so valuable and widely available that abuses are inevitable. Some of these increasingly frequent reports are adding momentum to calls for federal data privacy legislation. The carriers’ decision to cut off location aggregators is at least partly an effort to preempt investigations and potentially forestall regulation.

Some location data companies embrace the proposition of clear regulatory or legislative guidelines, however.

For example, PlaceIQ CEO Duncan McCall recently told me in email: “I think that the California Consumer Privacy Act and hopefully a similar federal law (as a state-by-state patchwork of different laws would be good for no one) will not only give consumers protection and confidence, but will finally give the digital data and location data ecosystem a well-thought out set of rules and guidelines to adhere to. This will bring stability and predictability to the industry, and help weed out some of the “wild west” players that have had no interest in investing for the long term good of the ecosystem.”

Most location-data companies also say they adhere to ethical data-collection practices and are scrupulous about being “good actors” in the ecosystem. Some are vocal about the responsible and/or socially beneficial use of location technology. And some organizations (e.g., NAI) are seeking to enforce transparent and ethical data collection standards. Foursquare told me in email that their apps and partners seek opt-in consent for use of location data.

Why you should care. Location data is available from a wide range of sources in the market, including app developers and the programmatic bid stream. The loss of carrier location is not a significant blow to the ecosystem.

However it is reflective of a trend toward the tightening of access to location information more generally. While it remains to be seen whether federal privacy legislation passes in 2019 (multiple bills have been proposed), California’s Consumer Privacy Act will go into effect January 1, 2020. Other states may enact similar or more strict laws, which would lend further impetus to comprehensive federal legislation.

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Catalina adds first attribution tracking service

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Best known as a provider of retail marketing intelligence based around loyalty cards and in-store printed coupons, Catalina this week released its first attribution service.

Called Catalina Multi-touch AttributR, it traces a path from digital advertising — in various channels on various devices — to a purchase made in a store with a loyalty card. The company is able to track purchases down to the UPC bar code level.

At the level of the Diet Coke flavor. Coca-Cola, for instance, can now track how a web site ad shown on a computer affects the purchase of a Diet Coke, as well as whether the flavor chosen is Twisted Mango versus Ginger Lime. Additionally, the attribution service can report if it’s the first time this consumer bought Twisted Mango.

Previously, Catalina measured how its printed in-store coupons affected buyer behavior, but it didn’t track the impact of ads. The new attribution solution is the company’s first effort to link digital ads to buyer behavior, and it plans to add addressable TV ads to the system.

Catalina tags the digital ad with its own attribution pixel, which is called when the ad is shown and provides data on the specific campaign deployments.

But the connection between the ads shown, the various devices used by a single individual, and the in-store purchases are actually made by consumer data firm Experian on Catalina’s behalf, through such persistent identifiers as phone numbers or email addresses.

“Not in the business of knowing who you are.” In the new attribution service, the retailer sends the loyalty card ID to Experian, which matches it with the digital cross-device profile of a given individual and with the ads shown to the user on those devices. Experiam then returns a report to Catalina that uses an anonymized ID.

Catalina CMO Marta Cyhan told me the company deals only with anonymized IDs because “we’re not in the business of knowing who you are,” although Experian does have PII.

The data is updated daily to a self-service dashboard for brands (see below) and, since Experian tracks profiles, the attribution can also include the effect of ads on repeat purchases, new buyers of a product category and other consumer behaviors.

Difference from NCS. Catalina, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month, is also known as a partner in Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS), which employs data from the in-store coupons and loyalty cards. But, Cyhan said, Catalina’s new attribution measures individuals across multiple channels deterministically, since the actual people are known through the Experian matching, while NCS is focused on measuring single channels through probabilistic modeled data.

Additionally, she said, Catalina’s new solution is updated daily, includes buyer behavior changes and provides granularity down to the UPC level, while NCS provides post-campaign reports on overall sales lifts.

Why you should care. Catalina’s shopper data is used widely by marketers, and this first attribution service will help brands determine the impact of their paid media spend.

Additionally, Catalina is providing a very fine level of granularity, down to the individual product bar code, with a very high level of certainty. This approach could provide the kind of accurate, return-on-spending results that major consumer brands have clamored for.

The post Catalina adds first attribution tracking service appeared first on Marketing Land.

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