Looking behind, looking ahead.

The rules of VR are still unwritten. A rare opportunity for brand communication.

Innovations in the communication sector are routinely advertised and seldom redeemed. With virtual reality, it is different. This ‘Next Big Thing’ justifies every hype. VR used to be under rather than overestimated because it really is a completely new medium.

When a new, successful medium develops, it must be compared for a time with what is already known, in order to learn about the concepts. This influences the creative form for a while. Film began as, ‘living photography, perfect in every detail and life-sized’, television as visual radio, the World Wide Web as hypertext. With VR it is exactly as the name implies, which in this case refers to: VR is ‘something like reality’. Naturally, VR explains as little about reality as any other medium. But we leave out research and convention, in order to classify VR as a medium. That is why every article about VR is a personal account, and that is why experience really makes a difference here: you cannot grasp what you have not experienced.

VR will be regarded as an immersive medium, with the promise of ‘as if’ — as if you were there, as if you are the person, being represented. The idea of visual immersion is, however, actually older. In 1787 Robert Barker built his walk-in, 360-Degree-Views and called it ‘Panorama‘. Even older are the ‘peep-boxes’, which were popular in 19th-century salons and funfairs; small, wooden apparatuses for viewing exhibitions on paper, wood or glass. Early VR-Gears as well.

These panoramas and peep-boxes were primarily optical illusions. With digitalisation in the 1980’s, came tactility in production, the viewer becoming an actor. Jaron Lanier developed the ‘Data Glove‘ and characterised the notion of Virtual Reality. The visual representation, which the Data Glove can operate, is still abstract and prone to blocks, but trendsetting. One’s own body awareness influences what we see. We can act within the picture.

In modern VR both come together — physicality and panorama. To that end, VR has a few tricks up its sleeves, which effectively outwit our brain. And currently, it seems to be, as if we still fall for this repeatedly. The transfer to the virtual abyss in the laboratory for the umpteenth repetition got the heart pounding and generated measurable, bodily fear. False experiences in the VR-Dummy, the simulated person, who ‘I’ am, can trigger quasi-traumatic effects. So noticeable , that the consciousness researcher Thomas Metzinger, formulated an Ethics of VR Production with his colleagues.

vr-gocht-header

In British Thorpe Park, the mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown, been sending visitors to his ‘Ghost Train‘ since July. Equipped with a VR gear kit, you are literally a participant in a gruesome scenario, attacked by demons and other such passengers. Brown strengthens the already convincing VR illusion with motion, change of location, and being touched by actors. Pure immersion.

And there is a lot to say about it, that this miracle of ‘presence’ passes, that it is a phenomenon of the pioneer phase. It does not lack the experience of recipients or the rules of form. Both producers and recipients are still experimenting. It is an exploration of the grammar of the medium, the conventions made possible.

This shows in a wide variety of forms, leading to an explosion of ideas. Currently, it seems VR can be anything: theatre, film, documentary, e-learning, horror-trip, and yes, even video conference. One of the founders of the US production firm Wevr, Anthony Batt, describes it perfectly [‘Studio 360’, New Yorker, 25. April 2016]:

‘Does that mean our stuff is always perfect? Fuck no! It means we start with no idea of how we´re gonna make a project work, and we make it work. Or we don´t, and the whole thing turns to jello, and we learn.’

It is a great opportunity for brand communication, to take part in the development of this grammar. Two features help in the process: first, today short formats are best suited for VR and second, are comparatively cost-effective, feasible productions.

Let’s face it: 90% of brand communication is more or less friendly circumvention. Re-targeting is no fun for the audience. With VR, an ad may finally be a spectacle. Well done, it allows your audience to have a (spectacular, enlightening, shocking) experience. To take part in this entirely new medium is an opportunity, that will not so quickly come again.

 

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Join the VR experience live with our Roadshow “Reality by Virtuality” in Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and Berlin.

Fear not! Connected Retail in Four Steps

In a few years, commerce might look like this: since I can see online that the jeans I really want are available at the shop around the corner, I can just head out to try them on in person. Just before I go into the shop, I receive a push notification on my smartphone telling me that I can buy the shirt from my wish list immediately, with a five-euro discount. The trousers are already ready for me in the shop. The trousers and shirt both fit, but because I don’t want to take them with me right now, the shopkeeper sends them to me at no extra cost. As the shopkeeper has also looked at my purchase history and knows what I like, he also recommends a jacket to me. The jacket might not be available in-store in blue (the colour I want), but I can take a look at it on a digital signage screen. I then add the jacket to my wish list, which I can access online and in-store. I pay for the shirt and trousers with my smartphone – there’s no need for cash – and leave the shop. Everything is conveniently delivered to me at home the next day.

This is one of many scenarios currently being tested to offer clients the best possible digital and personalised customer service, even at point of sale (POS). For salespeople who haven’t yet considered the idea of connected retail, it might seem almost menacing at first glance: How are you supposed to do all of that? What aspects are relevant to me? And where should I start?

From my experience, I’d like to recommend the following steps:

1. It all starts with the CEO

The first requirement is a business leader who is completely behind the idea. Without that, it just won’t work. Developing and implementing successful connected retail solutions is a matter for the boss as this can influence the entire structure of an organization.

It’s important for all internal stakeholders to be involved in the project. A cross-channel shopping experience that combines analogue and digital elements requires a variety of skills: marketing, IT, sales, and the shopkeeper must all be brought to the table. Even the employees in the shop play a key role because only they can successfully apply the concept in practice. You therefore need to create a holistic vision from the very beginning for all participants to work toward.

2. The client is the focus of all activities

The target audience is, of course, the client. “User centricity” shouldn’t just be a buzzword, it should be self-evident. You shouldn’t begin without identifying the client’s needs and understanding their behaviours. Only by doing so can you really offer them relevant services on the appropriate POS touch points to offer interactions that create added value.

Even a simple tablet can enable added value interaction: a shopkeeper can call up additional product information for the customer and offer them additional products that aren’t currently to hand. Furthermore they can access the customer’s purchase history, which is saved on a digital customer card and offers information about the customer’s preferences.

3. Think big, but start smart

Complete your vision with an integrated view on your comprehensive touch point system, but develop new touch points step by step. Gain experience and develop it further. And, above all: avoid an off-the-rack solution that isn’t tailored to your clients.

Come up with potential solutions for small problems, develop the approaches to implementing them, and test them directly in short cycles. This iterative approach allows you to start with minor investments and safeguards against losing investments. Only when the scenario is successful as a prototype should you start with elaborate linkages of ERP-, CRM-, or till systems.

4. Don’t wait, start now

Start collecting ideas from smaller projects with your partners (retail, agency, etc.). These experiences will improve your collaboration before larger projects arise and create a uniform image for clients.

But most importantly: start now! Anyone who hesitates now will be left with nothing in the long run because, ultimately, the client will shop at the business that makes the correct information or products available at the correct time, in the correct place, and in the correct context – online and offline.

This article was also published at wuv.de.

Four Steps to a Secure E-Commerce Solution

It was possibly only a simple development error that led to a security gap at eBay in December 2015, which had the potential to intercept client passwords during the login process. The consequences of hacker attacks that take advantage of such breakdowns can be substantial – and extremely unpleasant for the user: SPAM-mail, Phishing or stolen credit cards are only a few of them.

And the eBay example shows: large players are also not spared. Up to 87 percent of all websites have medium security flaws, while 50 percent have serious security gaps. The resulting annual loss worldwide is over 400 billion US Dollars. Stores not only risk serious damage to their image with data loss. Online stores are responsible for the security of client data, and are accordingly liable for data leaks. Processes and methods that target the security of e-commerce solutions are therefore indispensable for stores. However, this is not limited to a particular phase in a project, but runs through the entire period up to the day of implementation and activation. Security is an indispensable part of the design process, part of the implementation, part of the system infrastructure and part of the operation.

Sichere E-Commerce Lösung

The following points in particular should be addressed:

Define clear requirements

It seems so mundane, but it is so important: Security begins before the project starts. And each web-store has its own requirements. In a B2B shop which charges a fee for the download of technical documents, it is of course extremely important to design very safe identification or customer registration and access protection. For a telecommunications provider that offers all of its products through a self-service portal, it is equally crucial that only the authorised user has access on the contract and invoice data. Although both examples require the implementation of access security tools, the underlying requirements are different. These must be recognised in the “Requirements-Engineering” phase, and form the basis for later implementation.

Set your standards

“Secure Coding Standards” help developers write secure codes for the web. Ideally, they fall back on safety tested frameworks. Although these preventive investments are immensely important for the security of the web application, there are still no recognised industrial standards, or a norm which defines the security of web applications. Therefore each agency or online shop must take on the responsibility itself and create its own portfolio of standards in the areas of quality assurance, security and testing.

Therefore, a few years ago we started to collect best practices or recommendations from experts, for example the Open Web Security Application Project (OWASP), so that every client does not need to search for a standard themselves, and to be able to offer truly measurable security.

Search for your security flaws

In addition, at the end of any development, we put it through a “Web Application Security Test”, which checks whether our security standards are actually adhered to. In order to do so, we work with a certified “Ethical Hacker”, a specially trained IT expert that possesses a hacker’s knowledge, but who is working for us. Additionally, this is done using various software tools (we use, for example, IBM AppScan) that simulate attacks on the application. Any suspicious reaction by the application is documented and must later be manually verified or falsified. At the end, there is a report that documents the security flaws that have been found, and provides technical assistance to help rectify the problems.

Consider each security flaw found in this phase not as an error by the programmer, but rather as a success! You’ve discovered this in the development phase. The later an error comes to light, the more expensive it is to rectify.

Conduct continuous monitoring

Factors that cannot be influenced, such as the execution environment (browser), different devices (desktop and mobile) and heterogeneous systems introduce challenges to e-commerce solutions that are not always predictable in advance. Selective security and penetration tests, in which experts (e.g., certified ethical hackers) perform targeted attack attempts, help to keep these factors in mind. Because the number of newly discovered security flaws and the ways in which software gaps can be exploited grows daily.

Moreover, there is the option to install an additional “Web Application Firewall” (WAF). This one checks every incoming request before it is passed on to the actual web application. Therefore, a WAF needs to have a complex set of rules that is customised to the particular web application. Suspicious requests are rejected immediately, and, under predefined conditions, could raise an alarm (e.g., through an email to an administrator, when 100 requests per second are sent from an IP address that contain the code for a SQL injection). As a WAF is an independent system, attack attempts do not even come close to the protected application, or the data to be protected.

Be Secure from the Beginning

The cornerstone for a secure e-commerce solution must therefore already be selected during the design – even before the software is actually used. In addition, regular testing of the software, as well as any resulting updates is unavoidable and absolutely necessary. Only then it is possible to keep the software up to date, and to ensure its safety.

This article was also published at e-commerce-magazin.de.

The Opportunities of Digitisation

“It is time to expose the heinous nature of the phone, and condemn its many inventors.” No, this critique is not aimed at the smart phone. This is not about digital detox or the NSA. The citation comes from an 1877 edition of the New York Times. The author was already worried about the privacy of citizens. But criticising technology has not stopped its development: more than three-quarters of Germans now have a smart phone. For those under 30, it has superseded the television as the most “indispensable” device. Digitisation has reached our pockets and handbags, and even our bodies.

This fact has far reaching implications, and has created many opportunities, but also risks. As with every important technological development, there will be attempts to misuse these new capabilities. However, the opportunities created by digitisation far exceed the risks. We will learn, as a society and as individuals, to deal with it and we will mature in the process of digitization.

Opportunities for the Individual and Society

Today we take completely for granted that we can use our smart phones to buy our bus ticket, read the news or weather forecast, listen to music, time our jog, and chat with friends. For individuals, this digital transformation means more comfort, quicker access to information and new forms of communication. According to Statista, around 14 percent of Germans meet their partners through online dating sites. We pay for this comfort with our data. How we deal with this new currency in the future will be a social and individual learning process. Data protection is an important topic in politics, business and for each individual.

Before the discovery of printing, knowledge was hoarded in monasteries, where information was copied by hand. Reading was a privilege for those who could afford books. Today, everyone with an Internet connection has global access to information and educational resources. The democratisation of knowledge includes not only the consumption of information, but also freedom of expression: via commentary, blogs and social media, we can take part in public and political life. But we must also be able to cope with the fact that these capabilities will be used to every degree of stupidity. More importantly, in a networked world, social mistakes get visible more quickly than ever before. The Wikileaks revelations, for instance, could never have happened without digitisation.

Opportunities for Business and Marketing

In many markets, digitisation has allowed companies to provide service without spatial or temporal restrictions. This will give a boost to all industries. And digitisation will help processes to become even more efficient. A recent Bitkom study estimates that the potential for increase in productivity (keyword industry 4.0)  in Germany could result in a gain of up to 78 billion Euros by 2025.

For marketing and brands, the digital transformation means they can, and must, be more relevant and employ more targeted communications. The right message at the right time in the right place requires data – not necessarily personal information, but also anonymous information are sufficient. People, users and consumers expect brands to offer more service in the future, as well as clear added value and to take meaningful action.

Criticism of technology is always an important part of societal debate. However, the past has proven that it is much more useful to make market developments than to reject them categorically. This is especially true for the digital transformation.

This article was also published in Horizont, edition 40/2016.

The customer in the centre! Seriously?

Personalisation is currently one of the mega trends in marketing. In less than two years, the market has developed to the point where there is no avoiding it. For business clients and solution providers as well. On the provider side, almost all industry giants, such as Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft, and IBM are building out their cloud marketing solutions. On the client side, they are increasingly looking for answers on how to use these new opportunities for profit. Finally, as a private user, most individuals have experienced how impressive personalisation and automation can be when scrolling through recommendations on Amazon, or when their own smartphone calculates, unasked, the time it will take to get from work to home. And new capabilities promise that this is just the beginning. It’s high time to use this potential for your own customers. Many of the mentioned cloud solutions now provide hitherto unimagined possibilities. Customers can now find more relevant information and be more quickly and efficiently served and supported, whether it is before or after they make a purchase.

Nevertheless, individual companies should be cautious. Experience shows that, over time, personalisation cannot remain a marketing trick. The decision to adopt these technical solutions is only the beginning. True personalisation means the desire or intention to distinguish one client from another. And you must be willing! This is not just a task for systems and machines, but rather it is a task for people, and, finally, the whole organisation. When companies take the route towards personalisation, they quickly realise where the opportunities lie, as well as the risks. Departmental structures, which for years guaranteed successful business management, now prevent many companies from truly understanding customers’ interests and using that knowledge effectively. It seems logical and paradoxical at the same time: to serve and support customers individually with relevant information, more people and departments in the company must work together without barriers.

This means creating horizontals that include departments such as sales, marketing, customer service etc. When a customer has just signed a mobile phone contract, it doesn’t make sense to them to continue seeing incompatible products from the same brand. Or if the customer is inconvenienced with answering further questions to supplement an online profile, but they’ve been a valued customer in retail stores for a long time. Vertical integration is required as well: areas such as procurement, IT, legal, etc., need to implement the necessary infrastructure, data and systems, as well ensure legal compliance. How should an IT department know which system is the best fit for a certain marketing strategy? The consulting market to prepare companies for the age of personalisation is booming right now. From a conceptual standpoint, but as well from the organisational perspective, removing barriers across departments makes companies more capable of acting.

But the challenge goes even deeper, who says that personalisation is a good fit for every organisation? Who says that it will be the decisive competitive advantage for a company within a sector? Companies should truly consider whether this is a mega trend they need to follow, and if so, how they can differentiate themselves from competitors. Is the desire to serve clients on a more personal level really in the DNA of the company, and therefore a competitive advantage, or is the competition ultimately superior? In the digital age, personalisation and automation mean an extremely fast pace and the ability to interact, which must be overcome in the long run. And this is a question not only for “old” competitors: this isn’t the first time a mega trend brought new players to the field who understand little of the traditional performance-related competitive advantages of an industry. However, recent factors, such as a consistent focus on personalisation as a key success indicator, have made attacks on established industries…

The Amazon Dash Button: Born in the wrong world?

The Amazon Dash Button has been hotly debated in all forms of media over the last week. Readers of Germany’s “Stern” magazine, for example, had a very clear opinion. More than 70% answered the question “What do you think about the Amazon Dash Button?” with the answer “A load of rubbish”. (Source: stern.de) Why has the response to the Amazon Dash Button, which aims to make a lot of peoples’ lives easier, been so negative?

Lots of arguments against the Dash Button

There are apparently many arguments. After its introduction on the German market, the Dash Button is being hotly debated. Data privacy advocates warn of the possible misuses of the button’s new features. Consumer advocates warn of a lack of price transparency when ordering. Usability experts raise the question of how many Dash Buttons it is sensible to have in a household and we’re wondering what actual benefits they would have for us. But where is all this aversion coming from? After all, with the Dash Button Amazon is the only company offering us a product integrated in everyday life that reflects the ideas of pervasive computing and the internet of things.

The Dash Button is currently only aimed at a specific target audience

Amazon was certainly aware that the Dash Button wouldn’t be mainstream at this stage and that it wouldn’t be every customer’s cup of tea. But we should also be clear that we are living in the world of connected commerce where the effect of the long tail is still valid because the target audience for the Dash Button may be small relatively speaking, but in absolute numbers is large enough to make the Dash Button a successful model for Amazon. Because, according to a survey by “Stern”, 10% of respondents clearly advocated the Dash Button. They said: “Great, I hate shopping in supermarkets!”

Could the real home of the Dash Button possibly be in B2B?

Another reason for the harsh criticism might be that the Dash Button was born in the “wrong world” – in the world of B2C e-commerce. Would it not actually be better suited in B2B e-commerce? Imagine a production operation. Synchronised supply chains, as well as just-in-time and just-in-sequence processes are already a reality in the area of series production. Demand impulses between manufacturers and suppliers synchronize the order and product flows here. But there are still a great number of processes that run manually.
Aside from the rigorously timed series production, there are plenty of production facilities that do not deal in large-scale production. They use machines and tools that need to be serviced at irregular intervals. Replacing and topping up auxiliary and operating materials is also performed according to need. In this scenario, the Amazon Dash Button could optimise internal logistics. If attached to the respective machines, it could be used for various materials or even maintenance services. Orders placed would go to the warehouse or requests to the servicing and maintenance service provider. Using the buttons, internal processes can be initiated and the costs allocated to the correct cost units. If equipped with NFC and the “Purchaser” code carrier, it would even be possible to assign the respective purchaser and thus ensure that only authorised individuals can submit material orders or service requests.
If we take a step back from the manufacturing industry and consider everyday office life, the Dash Button could also be of use in such environments: for example, an employee takes the last pencil or notebook from the material store and immediately orders new products by pressing a button on the shelf. Orders that have been placed can, if desired, be combined into a weekly or monthly order and the order is then automatically submitted at the specified time.
There will certainly be many scenarios like this where the Dash Button could make life a lot simpler. Without any security concerns.

The Dash Button – an exciting first evolutionary step

The Amazon Dash Button is a first mover product of its kind. However, it hasn’t necessarily been greeted with the appropriate levels of euphoria, but instead with a great deal of scepticism. “I am convinced that the Dash Button in its current form will not survive the next two years. But maybe that wasn’t even the idea behind it,” said Gerd Güldenast, Managing Director of hmmh. The Dash Button is a new generation of device that will evolve over the next few years and find new fields of application. It is a further step in the integration of connected commerce in everyday life, in order to improve and simplify life.

Maybe the Amazon Dash Button will find a wonderful home in B2B commerce.

This article was also published at internetworld.de.

The Apple WWDC 2016 – fireworks without a big finish

Yesterday marked the beginning of the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Over the course of the two-hour kickoff event, there was innovation and information around all aspects of every operating system in the apple cosmos. While new software features were being presented, there was no mention by Apple of trending topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning or virtual reality. It remains exciting therefore whether – and how – Apple will position themselves in this area.

From an agency perspective, a couple of innovations were extremely exciting, however. Many interfaces are being opened to developers, creating new opportunities for the optimisation of existing apps, and for the conception of new ones.

Siri can now finally be integrated into apps, and a new Maps API improves individual functions and interfacing with third party apps. And with new iMessage apps, completely new service and communication options for brands arise.

Because the WWDC goes on until Friday, and during this time many labs and sessions will be held for visitors, it could be that further interesting themes will be discussed. Here is a summary of the most important changes to the individual operating systems:

watchOS

The upgrade to watchOS 3 for the Apple Watch contains new performance improvements, and a reworked Dock. Apple has also devoted more to the theme of health in the OS’s third generation. In this regard, there is an app that helps one breath properly at regular intervals. Fitness and health are clearly at the forefront here for Apple.

tvOS

tvOS also got a couple of new improvements, even if these were a bit smaller in comparison. A stronger integration of Siri and ‘Single Sign-on’ (with help from Apple, the user can automatically log into apps via a single click) are the update’s highlights.

macOS

The name OS X is refreshed to macOS, and now fits better into the family of names. Applause for a name change? Yes, only with Apple!

Apple_OS1012-SiriDocSearch

Source: Apple

Siri now also moves to the desktop. The highlight: internet payments can be made with Apple Pay. Verifications are made via fingerprint on the iPhone, or with a click of the Apple Watch.

iOS

iOS 10 received the biggest update with many new functions. The first thing that strikes you, is the lock screen’s new look and  notifications. But even the widgets get a visual redesign, and can no longer be found in the Notifcation Center; instead, links are placed prominently on the home screen. With a hard press of the icons, widgets can be opened vis the means of 3d Touch.

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Source: Apple

Apple Music gets a long overdue update, and Apple News gets a new coat of paint. Apple Photos now marks individual photos according to content, which can then be searched. Altogether, an attempt has been made to connect with the Google photo app via new intelligent functions.

The theme of data protection was also often mentioned during the presentation. For example, with regard to this, the computing power of the iPhone is used to analyse photos for keywords and not the Cloud.

For those who can’t get enough of innovations, there’s also the possibility to while away the hours at the Swift Playground, and learn how to program apps. The promotion of little ones’ ‘code skills’ is obviously close to Apple’s heart; therefore, Tim Cook was very happy about Developer Conference’s youngest participant: a 9 year old girl!

 

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Source: Apple

A view into the future. The Sample City Lab 2016.

The Sample City Lab shows us where we’re headed

Organised by Trend One, the Sample City Lab shows us the upcoming trends that will keep us busy next year. The event is focused on topics such as virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things in particular. The Plan.Net Mobile team were there in Innsbruck, where they weren’t just thrilled by the view from the ski jump (Bergiselschanze), but also by the content there.

Sample City Lab 1

Nils Müller, co-organiser of City Labs and founder of Trend One, introduced the innovations that would be shown at the exhibition. One of the exhibits at the show was the NAO robot. A completely programmable, autonomously acting humanoid robot that can supposedly help with issues such as programming, robotics and steering and control technology, as well as creativity, problem solving and working as a team.

Sample City Lab 2

The scanning robot NavVis measures room interiors quickly and cost-effectively. 3-dimensional diagrams of interior spaces can be called up via a browser based app to realise virtual tours.

Sample City Lab 3

The highlight of the show was the Microsoft HoloLens. The augmented reality glasses allow to display the user information and interactive 3D projections on the direct environment. The HoloLens works without a computer or smartphone, and can be used independently.

Sample City Lab 4

A few people at the Sample City Lab were allowed to test the HoloLens themselves. Games and videos right up to Office Programs can be controlled with hand gestures.

Sample City Lab 5

The fitness device ICAROS connects workouts with virtual reality. A virtual reality flight simulation is shown while you balance on the device, creating the believable illusion that you’re actually flying through a VR world. The positive side effect: training is fun this way.

Sample City Lab 6

An additional controller on the fitness device ensures that every movement of the device is measured precisely. Furthermore, it can control the virtual reality glasses and trigger specific actions.

Sample City Lab 7

Barbie has also arrived in the digital age. With artificial intelligence, she patiently answers all questions, and will gladly get into conversations. Sometimes, Barbie herself asks for advice, or wants to know more about her counterpart. The answers are surprisingly complicated, and some conversations take a rather interesting course. Childhood dreams come true here.

Sample City Lab 8

A holographic display was an eye-catching highlight. Video projections are reflected in a glass pyramid that conveys a 3-dimensional feeling, and brings the content to life. Additionally, the projections can be examined from three sides, and the scenery can be perceived from various angles.

Sample City Lab 9

The Sample City Lab shows us where we’re headed: virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. These are the themes that drive us, and determine what our world will look like in the future.
Almost everything is fitted out with intelligence, is mobile networked and can react to environmental stimulus. With virtual reality, anyone can quickly immerse themselves in a unknown world, and experience new things. Mobile internet connects (almost) everything, and robots undertake tasks that previously only humans could do. The development is faster than ever before, and one thing’s for sure: it remains exciting!

Google AdWords changes 2016: First experiences in the practical test

Some exciting changes to the search engine giant from California in San Francisco were introduced at the Google Global Performance Summit last Tuesday. In addition to new features in local search ads and important extensions of the Google Display Network (GDN), now Google provides also expanded advertising and display options in the classic search ads, called Extended Text Ads (ETA).

Plan.Net Performance is one of the first agencies in Germany to test the new Google formats for a customer and enlightening experiences were gained.

Finally, there is more space with Google Extended Text Ads

25/35/35. Hitherto the number of characters was limited in the creation of text ads on Google Search for the title, text and URL. This limitation could cause sometimes real difficulties to advertisers, for example, if you wanted to promote a “pet owner liability insurance”.

Since last week, Google offers more freedom to selected advertisers: two headlines of 30 characters each and an 80 character line of text offer sufficient space for the use of USPs and call-to-actions. The domain of the URL display is generated automatically from the stored destination URL, additionally there are two fields for the individual definition of the URL path.

The easier ad creation by expanding the character limit is only partly true. In the old format advertisers were forced to restrict the texts to the most important information. Now there is a risk to use unnecessary text filler, thus distracting from the actual core.

Google AdWords: Google Extended Text Ads

Google Extended Text Ads

Is this a logical compensation after a few weeks ago all ads in the right column were deactivated from the search results? Agreed, for those who were used to the ads on the right side and the left-aligned view for years, Google search results page looked in February almost a bit empty.

The expanded text ads are available since Monday, 23 May 2016. The first results are promising and confirm the expected uplift in the core metrics (higher click-through rates, CTR, at slightly lower CPC). Google itself predicts an uplift in CTR by up to 20 percent. Since the new format during the beta phase is only limited and only few advertisers are unlocked, the actual effect will probably become clear in a few months.

Google’s strategy to further strengthen the premium positions has not changed meanwhile. Thus, the expanded text ads, as other enhancements, increase also the premium positions 1 to 3. The competition will not be lower.

GDN: Cross-exchange for Display Remarketing Campaigns and Responsive Ads

Through the Google Display Network (GDN) advertisers can publish classic display ads on a variety of participating websites and blogs. Under the keywords “Cross-exchange for display remarketing campaigns” Google facilitates its customers to extend their remarketing campaigns through additional inventory sources. So far, Google fell back on the DoubleClick Ad Exchange. DoubleClick is also part of the Google Group.

A major difference between the GDN and the major ad exchanges is the order process. While in GDN usually there are only incurred costs when an advertisement is actually clicked (CPC – cost per click), the Ad Exchanges are generally remunerated for each advertising appearance (CPM – Cost Per Mille). You might think that with the expansion of GDNs to additional ad exchanges, Google is taking a certain risk. Theoretically, this is also true, especially since Google most probably buys the advertising service on a CPM basis and offers it to its customers on a CPC basis. However, it would not be Google, if they did not know exactly what they are doing.

The newly acquired range is limited exclusively to remarketing campaigns. The generated CTRs are known to be many times higher than for campaigns with other targeting options. CTRs of 0.20 percent and higher for standard formats are not uncommon. With the higher expected CTR, Google is also in the position to pay the corresponding higher CPMs, or rather to ensure its own margin. This purchase model can be very successful, as other vendors like Criteo have long proved.

The extension of remarketing campaigns in the GDN to additional ad exchanges thus represents not necessarily a cannibalization, but rather a useful supplement for Google.

Another announcement are the “Responsive Ads for display”, i.e., advertisements that individually adjust to the respective content in which they are placed. This allows to place advertising spaces in the GDN which do not follow the usual format standards. It was exactly with especial formats when DoubleClick was not a very flexible partner. “Responsive Ads for display” should have a positive impact, especially on mobile devices and facilitate native advertising integrations. Google positions itself step by step in a “Mobile First” world and will significantly expand its range through adjustments.

What the new feature actually brings, will only be known in detail after a test. With the increasing “playground” of Google grows also the overlap with other areas of marketing. It is therefore more important to evaluate all the accordingly activities under an overarching strategy and coordinate the most important.

Other advertising opportunities in the local search

Finally, new features for Local Search Ads (LSA) were announced in San Francisco. So it will be possible for advertisers in the future, to highlight their ads on mobile devices and the Google Maps service. “Promoted Pins” put the company logo in the navigation via Google Maps prominently in scene. If a potential customer looks for services or products on the go and clicks on such a pin, in addition to the usual display texts, current information of offers or promotions will be available in the future. Google responded with this innovation to the unbroken trend towards mobile use of its services. According to own statements, one third of all mobile searches relates directly to local services, such as cafés, restaurants or shops. In addition, mobile requests with a local connection grow around 50 per cent faster than the totality of all mobile searches worldwide.

Google changes its appearance as an advertising platform in the context of an increasing competition and a rapidly changing user behaviour. Especially Facebook has been able to benefit from the increasing mobilization of internet usage. For advertisers and agencies, this means to observe developments and innovations closely and to have the courage to experiment and question traditional paths.