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Key Takeaways from ad:tech San Francisco: Programmatic, the User Experience, and Mobile


ad:tech San Francisco proved to be a success for both exhibitors and attendees. The expo floor never saw a quiet moment, and the keynotes and sessions were packed with a star lineup of speakers. ad:tech is about the tremendous opportunity technology provides advertising. Brian David Johnson, chief futurist at Intel, reminded us that science and technology have progressed to a point where our only limitations are our own imaginations.

Programmatic, Programmatic, Programmatic

Programmatic emerged as the topic of discussion at this year’s conference. Technologies, like programmatic, can help publishers make more money, and can help advertisers get better results. Automation frees us from carrying out the mundane and allows us to have more time for creativity. In his keynote on the future of online advertising and programmatic buying, Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AOL, said, “[Programmatic] is the ability to let humans do non-manual things and use creativity to bring it to the next level.” Armstrong added that as programmatic becomes a part of everything we do, a combination of technology and high level creativity will help marketers solve big problems in the future.

AOL doesn’t see programmatic as a pricing threshold, but instead as the new platform for advertising. At AOL, programmatic is a means of connecting direct response, acquisition-focused marketing with marketing focused on increasing brand equity. Online advertising is at a crucial turning point. Offline competition is decreasing and companies are moving dollars online. “In terms of offline dollars coming online, I know we’ve seen a huge spike so far, but that will probably pale in comparison to what we see in the next 5-10 years,” added Armstrong.

In another session on programmatic, a relatively recent addition to the Lumascape was discussed: guaranteed, programmatic premium. Companies are making new inventory available programmatically, and not via exchange. This is inventory that’s upstream from what’s currently available on ad exchanges — true premium inventory.

The User Experience

As technology allows for increasingly sophisticated communication with our customers, there was a major focus on the user experience at this year’s conference. Dana Middleton, Global CEO of Performics, reminded us that advertising is no longer about convincing someone to like you. Instead of persuasion marketing, we are in the business of participation marketing. The moment a user interacts with your brand in any way, even if they have yet to make a purchase, their experience is key to your brand’s success.

User experience has become a core aspect of brand equity. Sara Khoury of Walmart eCommerce discusses the evolution of the user experience. The success criteria for user experience used to be “is a product usable?” It then became, “Is this user experience a good experience?” Today, the criteria is, “Is this a unique experience and is it excellent?” The age of the customer requires excellence in user experience.

The fastest-growing sector of retail isn’t online sales, it’s online-influenced sales. That refers to sales that take place in a store but are influenced by online shopping, online research, or online price comparisons. Khoury said thirty-seven percent of retail shoppers compare prices online while they’re physically in the store. The sooner retailers realize that this kind of shopping is the new normal, they will be able to provide the user experience that will win purchases.

When it comes to the WalMart experience, Khoury has to address how they can make apps, websites, and mobile better for their shoppers and how technology can help customers save money and time as well as help sales associates do their job more effectively. By addressing their users’ needs, WalMart has created a powerful, easy-to-use, and award-winning mobile app that’s designed for shoppers making purchases at home, and for shoppers to use inside the store. They’ve created an app that’s made the shopping experience better for their customer, and in doing so, they’ve increasing engagement, customer satisfaction, and conversions. (As a retailer, you really do always have to be looking at conversions).

The Future of Mobile

There’s a significant audience that’s now consuming content almost exclusively from mobile. Around 15% of Google’s traffic is coming just from mobile. For Facebook, that proportion is even higher – a whopping 19%. According to some analysts, tablet sales may actually eclipse notebook computer sales as early as this year.

“In under a decade, mobile technology has revolutionized how we interact with each other. Eighty-seven percent of Americans own cell phones and 45 percent of those are smartphones.” – Erik Muendel, Brightline Interactive. We know that smartphones are so much more than just phones, and “[very] soon mobile devices will be integrated into everyday mundane things,” added Muendel.

Michael Lazerow of Salesforce highlighted the growth of networked products. Today, there are 1.7 billion networked PCs and IDC predicts 3.4 billion networked products by 2015. There is a new definition of mobile. It’s not restricted to what we traditionally consider “mobile” devices. Every product we interact with will be connected to the Internet. In the future, we will be able to identify a customer across every networked product they use.

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