Fast Forward: Everything From Apple’s WWDC 2016 That Brands Need To Know

Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

  • Apple released SDKs for iMessage, Siri, and Maps, allowing brands to integrate with those three platforms at the core of the iPhone experience
  • Apple Pay will work on mobile and desktop in Safari, allowing brands to create a seamless shopping experience, and will support third-party Watch apps
  • iOS 10 will add 3D-touch support and rich interactions to notifications, continuing a trend toward more powerful notifications

What Apple Announced
Apple kicked off its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) yesterday in San Francisco with a jam-packed, two-hour keynote presentation. For a summary of the announcements that Apple made today, TechCrunch has a great summary. The announcements from the opening keynote that are relevant to brands and marketers include:

  • Apple Pay – including loyalty cards and coupons – now works with third-party Watch apps as well as on the web in Safari, which will make checkout seamless on both desktop and mobile.
  • The Messages app receives a massive makeover in iOS 10, gaining a more animated interface and tons of fun new features. Most importantly, Apple is introducing an App Store for iMessage, turning their messaging app into a platform that can be extended by developers and brands. These apps can be bundled with a full-fledged iOS app or they can be distributed independently.
  • Apple Maps in iOS 10 launches Map Extensions for developers to integrate services such as restaurant booking or ride hailing right into Maps
  • Siri SDK allows Siri to perform actions in third-party apps in supported domains, including messaging, ride-sharing, photo search, and payments via apps like Square Cash and AliPay.
  • Siri search in the new tvOS for Apple TV will include YouTube results, allowing brands to get in front of more people by partnering with YouTube creators.
  • iOS 10 beefs up notifications with rich interactions and 3D Touch support.

 

New noticificationsWhat Brands Need To Do
As iOS 10 introduces news ways to increase user engagement with apps by helping the system suggest your app to users at appropriate times, it is paramount that brands make sure to properly index their app content so that users can access in-app content and services through Spotlight, web search results, and Siri suggestions. Brands should make sure the locations and amenities of owned or partner stores, hotels, and restaurants are properly indexed for Siri so that users can easily access the information they need.

Between new rich notifications, Siri support for some types of apps, and widgets becoming available on the iOS lock screen, Apple has begun unbundling the app-centric model it helped create. Though these features are all delivered and supported by an installed app, it’s increasingly possible for users to never have to open the app itself to accomplish a task. Brands will have to work with developers to ensure their branded apps support these new features to maximize engagement.

For any brand that sells directly to consumers online, especially those in the retail and fashion industries, the updates for Apple Pay spell exciting new opportunities to create a frictionless shopping experience across devices. The new Safari integration allows customers shopping on brands’ websites to easily check out using Apple Pay on mobile browsers and, thanks to the Continuity feature in the new macOS, on their Mac devices as well. And the API allows brands to integrate Apple Pay into their Watch apps to provide a seamless purchase experience.

How We Can Help
Please contact Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or want to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss how your brand may benefit from integrating with Apple’s ecosystem, particularly in messaging and in the living room with Apple TV.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your input will help us immensely.

 

Fast Forward: What Brands Need To Know About Google I/O 2016

Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

The Highlights

  • Google Instant Apps allows brands to enable immediate access to their apps with the native experience consumers expect, including frictionless payments
  • Google Assistant is a personification of Google search for both voice and text with hints at brand partnerships
  • Daydream is a new virtual reality platform, building on Cardboard with headsets customized to future high-end Android phones and giving brands an important new platform to engage consumers with immersive content
  • Firebase 2.0 is a new toolset for brands to create apps across Android, iOS, and the web on a budget with integrated analytics to understand customer interactions

What Google Announced
Google’s annual developer conference started on Wednesday, and the company announced a series of products including a voice-controlled, smart home speaker; a rebranded and updated virtual assistant; a new Android Wearable OS; two new communications apps; and a new virtual reality platform. Wired has a great summary of all the announcements, but here’s what marketers need to know:

  • Google unveiled Android Instant Apps to enable fast, temporary access to Android apps with just one click. Similar to App Streaming, which was released last year, Instant Apps allows users to access native Android apps without installing them. Unlike App Streaming, Instant Apps requires that app development is modular, with parts that are quickly downloaded as needed. Importantly, Android Pay works with Instant Apps so that consumers can pay for products and services in two taps instead of filling in their payment and shipping information.
  • Google consolidated OK Google and Google Now voice search to the rebranded and expanded Google Assistant, a conversational virtual assistant that can process natural language and offer contextual answers and follow-up questions. Google Assistant will be available on all platforms eventually, but for now it will be the service powering the voice on Google Home, a connected speaker similar to the Amazon Echo, and via text in Allo, Google’s new smart messaging service. It will start with a limited number of partners including Uber and OpenTable.
  • Google also announced a new VR platform called Daydream, which will be a native part of the upcoming Android N. Google said it is working with major Android OEMs including Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, and Huawei to make Daydream-compatible smartphones with 4K screens. Daydream is effectively a much-more-advanced Cardboard platform, allowing Android handset manufacturers to create comfortable headsets that compete with Samsung’s Gear VR (a partnership with Facebook’s Oculus). Daydream compatible phones and headsets will then have access to shared VR content and a remote control-like input device designed by Google.
  • Among the developer tools that Google announced today, Firebase 2.0 stands out as a great tool for brands to create and test their apps. It allows simultaneous development for Android and iOS and includes advanced analytics, secure storage, and targeted notifications. Its main competitor is Microsoft’s Xamarin, another cross-platform mobile development toolset.

What Brands Need To Do
Google Instant Apps gives users the power of native apps with instant loading and without the usual commitment of download time and storage space. The feature works with 95% of Android phones — back to Jelly Bean — and can help brands by overcoming the initial app installation hurdle and dramatically reducing payment friction; however, users might not fully install an app and keep the app icon on their home screen as a reminder to come back later. Also, links from messaging, social media, or elsewhere could lead to a native app experience on Android, instead of just a website. Because Google Instant Apps works with Android Pay, it supports frictionless payments and checkouts that will help retailers boost conversions. Brands could use Instant Apps in many ways. An auto brand could use this feature to drive potential buyers to a build-your-own feature that works better natively than as a website, and an entertainment brand could leverage this feature to reach more users with their in-app content. Therefore, brands need to work with developers to break their branded apps into appropriate modules to enable this feature. Look for ways to convert Instant Apps users into habitual app users.

With Google Assistant and Google Home, Google is trying to catch up to the success of Amazon’s Alexa and Echo by leveraging Android, their industry-leading machine learning expertise, and strong developer ecosystem. While we are skeptical that Google’s new messaging app Allo will ever have a meaningful audience for marketers, it might be a great way to test integrations with Google Assistant before it rolls out to other platforms (if Google opens the API soon as expected). For brands, this is another push toward a meaningful presence on conversational media channels and to optimize their content and partnerships. There are new rules of SEO in conversation that are much closer to winner-take-all, because unlike Google Search there’s no second page of results and there’s often only one recommendation per request. Not every brand is a good fit for this ecosystem but there are lots of opportunities. For example, travel brand may integrate their service with Google Assistant to enable personalized recommendations, booking reservations, or checking itineraries. On messaging services like Allo, those services could extend to integrations with all participants’ calendars.

Google Home is an Amazon Echo competitor

Daydream, the new VR platform built into Android N, will offer brands a new channel for immersive content that approaches the reach of all Android users like Cardboard but with more power and headsets comfortable enough to use for more than a few minutes. As the audience for VR content continues to grow, brands can follow the good examples set by early adopters like Marriott Hotels and JCPenney and start developing branded VR content. Google also mentioned it is partnering with a number of media companies including The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and USA Today to create VR apps for Daydream, and users will also be able to watch content from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Major League Baseball. So brands can also team up with one of those media partners to create or sponsor VR content.

Firebase 2.0 is a great toolset for brands developing their own apps. Production cost is kept low by developing once and then Firebase does the work of making the app work on Android, iOS, and even the web. Other features particularly appealing for brands include an integrated social referral system to easily convert your most loyal users into advocates, automatic App Indexing so that in-app content is shown in Google Search, customizable and segmentable push notifications, and powerful analytics that even syncs with AdWords campaigns to aid in customer acquisition and lifetime value analysis. All of these features are free with paid add-ons for hosting and database storage.

Market Impact
Google’s announcements this year are mostly about playing catch-up with its competitors. While the new products and features enrich the Android ecosystem, they will not necessarily pull users away from iOS. Google Home, however, will put pressure on Amazon, particularly with Home’s ability to push content to TV screens. Whether or not consumers will be more willing to trust Google or Amazon to keep an open ear inside their homes remains to be seen. Google Assistant gives Facebook’s M a significant threat and the competition should make both better, faster. We don’t expect Android Wear to catch on based on the 2.0 updates but Firebase 2.0 is a real threat to Microsoft’s Xamarin with a full suite of tools and an active community.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in developing text-based Messenger bots, voice-based apps as Alexa skills, and VR content. We can help our clients assess market trends and figure out how to apply emerging media technologies in marketing strategy. Please contact Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss how Google-powered and other solutions can help you better reach and serve your customers.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please send any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your input will help us immensely.


Pictures featured here are promotional images courtesy of Google.

Fast Forward: Microsoft Rolls Out Conversations As A Platform

• Microsoft announced a major initiative that enables the development of cross-platform bots
• Brands can develop bots to reach customers on messaging apps that are popular among mobile users
• Branded bots are poised to become a crucial tool for brands to get on conversational interfaces

What Microsoft Announced
On Wednesday at its annual developer conference Build, Microsoft unveiled its grand vision for building out the next-gen tools for conversation-based platforms. And at the center of its plan is a bot framework that will allow developers to build cross-platform bots that will enable brands to communicate with customers, enhance services, and gather feedback across websites, social media, messaging apps, and Office 365 email. The BotBuilder SDK is now available on GitHub under an open source MIT license.

Moreover, Microsoft also announced that it’s adding Cortana, Microsoft’s AI personal assistant, and an API for bots to Skype with the launch of Skype Bots Platform. Skype users will soon be able to book trips, shop, or order take-out just by talking with Cortana, who will communicate with third-party party bots to carry out the tasks as needed and aiding in the discovery of new services. The company also previewed the Skype Video Bot, which aims to bring bots into real-time video.

What Brands Need To Do

• Develop useful bots to reach customers on the messaging apps they’re already using
• Take advantage of the emerging popularity of conversational interfaces with messaging-based customer services
•  
Integrate some humanizing touches into automated replies to make users feel more comfortable engaging with bots

For many brands, bots can be a great tool to reach customers on the messaging apps that they are already using. By developing cross-platform bots, brands will be able to tap into the marketing potential in conversational interfaces, which we discussed in detail in our Outlook 2016. Since mobile users spend the majority of their times in social and messaging apps, it is getting increasingly difficult to convince consumers to download an app for tasks that aren’t daily habits. Chat bots can help brands remove the friction in that process and serve customers directly in the places and methods that they are accustomed to.

Furthermore, well-designed bots can create an environment in which users are more willing to share free-form answers to open-ended questions than they would in a formulaic questionnaire, which could uncover valuable insights for brands from regular customer feedback. This kind of software is also much easier to iterate and improve as functionality that users want is requested explicitly and updates can be rolled out without the approval of App Store gatekeepers.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 3.07.33 PMFor travel and hospitality brands, bots can help users look up travel information and book flights and hotel rooms. Hyatt Hotels currently employs of a team of 60 across three global locations to help guests with their customer service needs via social and messaging channels. Earlier this week, KLM airlines announced a partnership with Facebook that will allow KLM customers to receive flight confirmations, check for flight status updates, and ask questions right in Facebook’s Messenger app. Building cross-platform bots with Microsoft’s framework can help automate and expand these use cases to more platforms and reach more customers.

For restaurants and QSR brands, bots can be of great help in handling online orders and gathering customer feedback. Microsoft showcased a Domino’s Pizza bot created with the BotBuilder framework, which works in multiple apps such as Skype and Slack and supports natural language interactions.

For retailers, bots can be a great tool for product recommendations while also allowing retailers to sell directly to users on messaging apps. For example, Sephora recently created a bot on messaging app Kik that will guide users through a short quiz and offer them a customized product recommendation based on the answers users give.

Market Impact
Microsoft is hardly the only company that wants to help developers and brands build bots. All major players in the development of conversational interfaces, from big companies such as Facebook and Google to messaging apps like Kik and Slack, have all announced their own programs and tools to help brands build bots to communicate with consumers. What Microsoft announced on Wednesday, however, will make it a lot easier for developers and brands to build bots that will work across various marketing channels and touchpoints. The coming proliferation of bots should also propel the mainstream adoption of conversational interfaces, which would change the rules of search and content discovery and further alter brand-customer interactions.

How We Can Help
Please contact Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or want to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss how your brand may benefit from integrating with messaging apps and voice platforms.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your input will help us immensely.

 


All images courtesy of Microsoft’s developer site

Facebook Canvas

Fast Forward: Rich Media Comes To Facebook Ads

Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

  • Facebook Canvas extends the fast, clean, and frictionless Instant Article experience to mobile ads
  • Brand storytelling will be more engaging and outside the reach of ad blockers
  • Advertisers need to make sure the experience they provide matches consumers’ heightened expectations

What Is Canvas
Last Thursday, Facebook launched Canvas, an ad product that loads Facebook-hosted, full-screen rich media right from the News Feed, bringing the instant-loading, cleaner mobile experience introduced by Instant Articles to Facebook’s ad suite. The social network is also offering brands a user-friendly self-serve tool to help them build Canvas ads with no coding required, allowing brands to add interactive rich media like animations, carousels, product catalogs, tilt-to-view images, and videos to their ads with ease. Different versions of a Canvas ad can be targeted to different demographics, just like other Facebook ads.

The first advertising partners have seen much higher engagement than with other Facebook ads. ASUS, the computer and electronics manufacturer, saw 42% more clicks on their Canvas than other ads and 70% of their Canvas viewers clicked through to the ASUS website. Viewers of Lowe’s Canvas spent 28 seconds on average and the 16 million people Coke reached averaged 18 seconds.

12765831_693974300742934_571885871_n

What Brands Need To Do
With Facebook making Instant Articles available to all users last week, users will soon be served with a lot of Instant Articles-enabled pages, familiarizing them with the fast-loading experience. This means that Facebook users will expect a similar experience when it comes to ads as well. Therefore, brands should use Canvas to create rich-media ads that tell the full creative story that otherwise would require a microsite. Here are some good examples of brands that are already trying out this new ad product.

For restaurant and QSR brands, Wendy’s test campaign serves as a good example of the rich media experience that Canvas offers. Wendy’s created an ad that deconstructed a cheeseburger and let people scroll, swipe, and see GIFs of all the different ingredients in one of its burgers. The ad received 65 seconds of average view time, and 2.9% of viewers got all the way to the bottom and used the Wendy’s restaurant locator.

instant-ads-rich-media1

For fashion and retail brands, Canvas offers a great tool to build engaging mobile ads with a lot of beautiful images that fully showcase their products. Usually, pages with a lot of images would take a long time to load, losing impatient consumers in the process. Canvas’ fast-loading ads solve that problem without loss of fidelity or simplification in storytelling. Several brands including Mr Porter, Michael Kors, and Carrefour were brought on as launch partners to try out the new format and had successful results.

For entertainment brands, the new ad format also allows the creation of deeper narrative and engagement of viewers through video and interactive media. NBCUniversal, for example, is featured on Facebook Canvas’ launch site with an interactive ad for the Minions with videos, GIFs, and social content, ending with a buy button for the movie’s DVD.

Market Impact
Facebook started testing the immersive full-screen ad unit last September, and the company says early tests have shown users spend more time on Canvas ads with the top Canvas ads averaging over 70 seconds of view time per user. While it remains to be seen if the increases in engagement are due to the novelty of the format, the flexibility and responsiveness make us believers. As consumers avoid ads more frequently, Facebook is offering a way for advertisers to build compelling, targeted experiences with potentially broad reach and that can’t be blocked.

How We Can Help
Please contact Engagement Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss content strategies and tactics on how to engage your audience with storytelling on Facebook and elsewhere.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your feedback will help us immensely.

 


All pictures featured are promotional images courtesy of the Facebook Canvas site

Fast Forward: CES 2016 Highlights

This is a special edition of our Fast Forward newsletter, bringing you a summary of the major trends we spotted last week at CES 2016. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

CES 2016 may be over, but the technologies showcased in Las Vegas last week will no doubt continue to impact the market in the coming months. Here, we highlight the most important market trends we saw and what your brand can do in response.

What We Saw

Televisions used to be the focus of CES, and this year a ton of manufacturers rolled out High Dynamic Range sets, adding better color and contrast to their 4K displays. But the real innovation in television is happening in software and distribution, with Netflix expanding to a hundred and thirty new countries, and nearly every set-top interface supporting universal search across cable and streaming services.

This year cars took over CES. What used to be dominated by the aftermarket is now filled with OEMs. Last year, the story was all about driverless cars. And while that’s still present, this year manufacturers are eager to tell you how quickly they’re transitioning to electronic vehicles. Cars are becoming less like machines, and more like smartphones on wheels.

If a device has any electronics, you can assume that there’s a connected version, but not all of them are quite what we’d call “smart”. Some of the best connected devices were Whirlpool’s new washing machine, which can automatically reorder detergent from Amazon when you’re running low, and Samsung’s Family Hub fridge, which takes a photo of its contents every time you close it, so you never have to wonder if you ran out of milk.

Virtual reality was still in high demand at CES, with Oculus opening pre-orders for its Rift headset on the first day of the show and both Sony and HTC expected to launch their devices later this year. While there were still long lines to demo the major VR headsets, this year we saw even more hardware to create it. Cameras to shoot in 360-degrees were all over the show floor.

And of course, drones were everywhere at this year’s show. Drones that pilot themselves, drones that follow you, and drones that go faster, farther, or behave more like pets. Even a drone that will carry you. This year also saw the announcement that Nevada would house the world’s first droneport by 2018, designed to train and license the workforce of the future.

For more industries and actionable suggestions for your brand (like the two following examples), check out our CES 2016 Fast Forward playlist here.

For Automotive Brands:

Auto brands should capitalize on increased availability of 360-degree videos, which can now be viewed on Facebook and YouTube as consumer-grade 360 cameras grow in popularity. They are perfect for viewing car interiors. 3D printers are also now cheap enough that consumers will adopt them or otherwise have access. Providing 3D models of popular and aspirational cars can let fans download and print them out. Encouraging a community of enthusiasts to modify those models with their own suggestions could build brand engagement and loyalty.

For Entertainment Brands:

For content owners and distributors, Cisco showed off their cloud video delivery platform that allows instant interface updates across cable boxes, phones, and tablets. With the incredible proliferation of content, experiments around discovery are more important and now much easier.

Entertainment brands have a lot to think about as the industry quickly evolves. Integrating OTT services that promote co-viewing like Genii’s Cast can help engagement and reach. Offering downloadable content for fans to 3D print their favorites at home, as SyFy did with characters and habitats from The Expanse, can help spread the love. And as 360-degree videos get adopted both as a new form of consumption on Facebook and YouTube and on new cameras like the Ricoh Theta S, consumers will crave more from the pros.

What You Can Do

For more industries and actionable suggestions for your brand, please check out our CES 2016 Fast Forward playlist here. 

And that was CES 2016! We hope you find something useful in our recap of this year’s biggest tech event. We’ll be back next year to help you sort through the rubble. In the meantime, look out for our Fast Forward updates and events, and reach out to our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett ([email protected]) if you’d like to schedule some time with The Lab in person. 

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please click here.

 

Fast Forward: CES 2016 First Look

This is a special edition of our Fast Forward newsletter, highlighting the major trends we are seeing so far at CES 2016. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

The 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show is set to open tomorrow in Las Vegas. The Lab team has arrived in advance and scouted the venues to bring you a sneak peek at this year’s CES.

More Gadgets Start Talking

This year at CES, we are seeing more and more devices that can talk with users with a conversational interface. Instead of forcing people to learn how to use it, new devices are as easy to use as talking to or texting with a friend. For example, Sengled unveiled a smart LED bulb that responds to voice commands. It has a built-in speaker and microphone, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. Intel showcased a pair of Oakley sunglasses that can give you advice as you work out via a set of attached headphones. The new pair of fitness-focused sunglasses can report your stats, coach you through your workout, and be controlled entirely by your voice.

Similarly, Ford teamed up with Amazon to use virtual assistant Alexa to connect smart home devices to your smart car. With Ford’s Sync Connect and Amazon Echo, users can ask Alexa to start their car from their living room, and drivers can talk to Alexa and control their house while inside their car. Conversational interfaces are showing some serious momentum in both applications and adoption. In the near future, devices that don’t support voice commands might seem broken in the same way that non-touch screens have started to.

Video Cameras Expand Their View To Create 360-Degree Content

Ricoh cameras

While most news surrounding the VR space in the past year has been about hardware for viewing content, a lot of news at CES this year centers on hardware for creating content, and capturing 360-degree views. These videos can be viewed in VR headsets or in new spherical video viewers on Facebook, YouTube, and elsewhere.

Whereas established camera-makers like Samsung and Nikon are joining in the trend and coming out with their own 360-degree video cameras, upstarts are still pushing the boundaries, adding 360-degree viewing experiences to new use cases like the Vuzix iWear VR headset and Vozz smart helmet. Ricoh’s Theta S 360-degree camera comes with an impressive 8 GB storage and is a consumer-grade 360-degree camera for $350. And if you don’t have hardware that will do it for you, Videostitch can help video creators assemble 360-degree videos in real time.

Cars Are Getting Cleaner And Smarter

Last year at CES, self-driving cars made their debut and took the spotlight. This year, driverless cars are getting closer to reality with major automakers such as Ford, Volkswagen, and Audi (working with Nvidia) all stating their commitment to developing autonomous cars.

But the real hype this year belongs to the electric cars. Faraday Future unveiled its first concept vehicle, the FFZERO1. It’s a sleek, single-seat, all-electric supercar that could produce as much as 1,000 horsepower. Ford announced plans to bring 13 electric vehicle models to market by 2020. Similarly, Volkswagen also introduced a couple of new electric car models in their press conference on Tuesday. GM CEO Mary Barra summed it up best when he said that the car industry is going to change more in the next 5 years than it has in the last 50. Cars are well on their way to becoming more computer than machine.

Smart Home Appliances Get Smarter

You can assume that there is a connected version of every product now. And as more and more devices and appliances get connected to the Internet, they are also getting a lot smarter. For example, Samsung introduced the Family Hub Refrigerator that comes with a 21.5-inch touchscreen built in. Working with MasterCard’s Groceries app, it will allow users to shop for groceries right on its door. Similarly, Whirlpool added Amazon Dash service into the smart appliances in its new Smart Kitchen Suite to enable simple re-ordering of household supplies.

Soon, those smart home devices may help develop smart cities. Panasonic has started working with the city of Denver to develop its first smart city project. Using Panasonic’s Internet-connected cameras and other technologies, Denver’s citizens will be able to access real-time information about utilities and mass transit.

The bad news is that not all connected devices work together. Some of the most heated competition is over which IoT smart home standard will rule them all, with entrants ranging from the major smartphone players to plucky startups. Until there is a clear winner or two, early adopters will face confusing choices and frustrating connections.

TVs Dazzle With Ultra HD Displays And New Interfaces

LG Flexible displays

Every year at CES, the TV manufacturers pretty much have the same narrative – TVs are getting bigger, thinner, and better picture quality. This year is no different. One of the main stories this year is increased contrast and more colors based on technology called High Dynamic Range or HDR. Sony introduced three new TVs with crisp 4K HDR and ultra-thin bezels. Similarly, LG is set to debut a giant 98-inch 8K display and a new OLED 4K TV with HDR. LG is also showcasing a prototype of a flexible 18-inch display you can roll up like a newspaper. However, the very limited supply of 4K content to date is no doubt hurting the mainstream adoption of those ultra HD TV sets.

Perhaps more importantly, we are also seeing TVs get new interfaces to reflect changing viewing behaviors. Instead of focusing only on live TV’s rigid programming grid, we are seeing some new TVs integrate OTT content services with live TV, such as Samsung’s new SUHD Smart TV and TCL’s first-ever Roku 4K TV. Samsung’s new interface will make switching inputs as simple as switching channels and allow searching for content across live TV, Netflix, and soon YouTube.

Game of Drones

As with last year, drones are everywhere at CES. Some are getting bigger and steadier. Others are getting smaller. Most are gaining autonomous features. This year, the competition among dozens of drone-makers are pushing the UAVs into new heights. Among them, the fixed-wing Parrot Disco, which can fly at 50 MPH and whose shape resembles a paper airplane, and Fleye, which operates in a protected nest design for added safety, are the two early favorites.

What You Can Do

If you happen to be in Vegas now, make sure to check out some of the exhibitors we mentioned above. And stay tuned for more CES coverage.

Please contact Client Services Director Samantha Barrett ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab.

Fast Forward: How Yext’s Xone Can Reach Black Friday Shoppers On Cyber Monday

•  Yext launched Xone, a beacon network for offline-to-online engagement
•  Retailers can message shoppers in real-time or retarget later on Facebook and Twitter
•  Analytics dashboard gives transparency to repeat visits and increased footfall driven by ads

What Yext Announced
Yext, a leader in digital location management and one of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the US, launched a location-based real-time audience engagement tool which is integrated with retargeting and online-to-offline attribution analytics. The new product is called Xone (pronounced “zone”). The Lab had a chance to sit with the Yext team on Friday, and we came away impressed.

Yext Xone App

Working with commodity beacon hardware, the SaaS tool allows retailers to accomplish three main goals. First, if a customer opens a Xone partner app while in range of a store’s beacon, the retailer has the option of displaying a “Xone Tip” that could promote a specific product or offer a discount. Note that this only happens inside a partner app as Xone does not do push notifications. Second, all customers with a partner app and bluetooth on that come within range of the beacon have their device IDs added to a database and can be retargeted on Facebook and Twitter now and soon on Instagram, Pinterest, DoubleClick, and more. That audience retargeting can be filtered by location, number of visits, and visit age. Third, there is an analytics dashboard pulling everything together, including attribution and analysis of visits to stores after online retargeting.

What Retailers Need To Do
The holiday shopping season is coming soon and it’s not too late to install and implement a complete system in your stores. For example, if you want to retarget customers that come in on Black Friday for Cyber Monday sales, Xone is the best way we know of to do it. While you’d have the option of in-store messaging that most people associate with beacons, you can also buy ads for both real-time or later placement in Facebook’s News Feed or Twitter’s Timeline. Black Friday or Christmas Eve deals are a great reason to target in real-time, even with different messages throughout the day, followed by retargeting on Cyber Monday or later in the holiday season. The retargeted ads on Facebook and Twitter can be cross platform, to appear on mobile, desktop, or both.

Xone’s attribution analytics can also help you calculate ad effectiveness in driving customers back to your store, even without new creative. For example, you could measure repeat customer visits for an audience that is seeing your ads versus a control group. Xone is the first beacon ecosystem product we’ve seen that completes the full circle from in-store data aggregation and messaging, retargeting, through attribution. If you’ve been waiting to try beacon technologies in your stores, the cost and time associated with setup have past the point of impediment.

We’ll soon have a demo of Xone in the Lab and can walk you through the setup, retargeting, and insights you’ll gain. Please contact us to schedule a demo.

Market Impact
Yext represents retailers’ digital location data for more than 500,000 locations, giving retailers an easy way to push updates to store hours, phone number, or other data to more than 100 app and map publishers, including Apple Maps, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Yahoo, and Yelp. With that foundation supporting it, we expect the platform to get buy in from more and more app owners. For now though, Xone partner app network is limited to 30 million monthly active users, not all of which have bluetooth turned on. However, with the growing adoption of wearable devices and bluetooth audio, more and more consumers are leaving their bluetooth on, so the reach of Xone’s network will expand accordingly.

How We Can Help
Please contact Engagement Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss strategies and tactics around retail technology and beacons generally, or Xone specifically.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your feedback will help us immensely.

 


All pictures featured are promotional images courtesy of Yext

Fast Forward: What You Need To Know From Oculus Connect 2 Event

Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

•  New Samsung Gear VR, the VR product with broadest consumer potential, in time for Christmas this year
•  Oculus Arcade, Video, Touch, Platform, and Minecraft all coming soon and with lots of partners
•  Get ready for commerce, interactivity with haptics, social experiences, and many experiments

What Oculus Announced
On Thursday at its second annual developer conference, virtual reality leader Oculus announced new partnerships across hardware, software, and content as well as updating ship dates for all but its signature product, the Oculus Rift. At the keynote, Mark Zuckerberg talked about how he and Facebook see virtual reality as the next big medium in the evolution of communication, even though we are essentially just getting started on video.

Oculus Star WarsThen, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, Samsung’s Peter Koo, and others from the Oculus team explained their roadmap for the next 12 months:

  • Oculus Arcade, which will launch with dozens of games including Gunjack and Land’s End, from Monument Valley studio ustwo; and Oculus Video, with major studio and content partners including Netflix, Twitch, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Vimeo, and Hulu.
  • A consumer version of Samsung Gear VR, launching before Black Friday, for $99 and compatible with all 2015 Samsung phones. We think the key to consumer adoption is to power VR through the smartphone and the price point and timing announced at the keynote were big crowd pleasers.
  • Minecraft, the enormously popular 3D sandbox game now owned by Microsoft, is coming to Oculus in Spring 2016.
  • Hardware partners Asus, Dell, and Alienware will all ship Oculus Rift-ready desktop PCs next year for under $1,000, in time for the Oculus Rift launch in Q1.
  • No new information around price or timing for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift. Their signature product is still coming “Q1 2016.”
  • Oculus Touch, the handheld controllers that make interacting with a VR world possible, will launch in Q2 next year. We tried these in the Toybox demo and in Epic’s VR game Bullet Train, with great success. They make interactivity in VR real, both as a personal and as a shared experience with someone else, anywhere in the world.

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What Brands Need to Do
We came away from the event with a much deeper understanding of the timeframes around the virtual reality industry and market. We expect that strong consumer adoption is still a few years away, though the types of experiences that are possible now are extremely impressive. There are two main paths to a successful VR experience now. The first is an immersive, powerful experience developed for an event where dozens or hundreds get to share the experience but the point is PR value. The second is a mobile-based experience driven through Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR in which greater scale is the goal. Either way, virtual reality is as Mark Zuckerberg said the next big communications and storytelling medium. Connecting with your customers and fans with the right VR experience can cement the relationship in a way never-before possible and in a way that’s impossible to understand without experiencing. The Media Lab can help strategize as well as connect you with the right partners to make a vision reality.

•  Auto brands can create virtual test drives that jump from the mundane traffic near a dealership to s-curves in the Alps. For example, Lexus created a fully immersive driving simulator to promote the 2015 RC F Sports coupe, complete with racing seat, pedals, and steering wheel. They showed the setup off at multiple events. With a different take, Chrysler put together a virtual tour of the Chrysler 200 factory. The 30-second video, available on laptop and mobile devices, takes viewers through the five million square foot factory.

•  Education brands can connect students with teachers or visualizations in seemingly impossible ways. For example, Google built a virtual field trip product called Google Expeditions, which uses Google Cardboard and any smartphone. Google says that “now, teachers can choose from a library of 100+ virtual trips to places like Mars, the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China.”

•  Entertainment brands have unlimited possibilities, from exploring side-stories and changing perspective to interactive experiences that make the viewer part of the story. For example, HBO created an installation centered around the Oculus Rift for Game of Thrones fans. The experience gave users the feeling they were scaling the 300 vertical feet of ice known as The Wall in the show.

•  Fashion brands can strut their stuff in a variety of new ways. For example, Elle magazine created an experience for a 7 For All Mankind’s fashion show in February. Greatly expanding the possibility of feeling like you’re in the front row for the show beyond a select few, the experience was distributed a few weeks after the show. Rebecca Minkoff also distributed a look at their Fall 2015 runway show, designed for Google Cardboard. They even sold a branded Cardboard unit through their website for $24.

•  Healthcare brands can train practitioners, help patients in new way, and more. For example, USC’s Bravemind helps assess and treat PTSD through exposure therapy and they created another project that helps amputees rehabilitate.

•  Retailers can finally create the shopping experience of Alicia Silverstone’s dreams. For example, The Line worked with SapientNitro to develop a virtual tour of their flagship store in Manhattan, designed for Samsung Gear VR. Viewers navigate the store by locking their gaze on “hotspots” designated by a diamond icon, then can complete a purchase with a tap on the headset.

•  Travel brands can tease potential visitors with a sense of presence that can only be beat by booking a flight. For example, Marriott tapped Media Lab partner Framestore to “teleport” users to virtual vacations in Hawaii and London last year and expanded to Chile, China, and Rwanda this year. Marriott referred to the experience as “destination sampling.” They set up events around the US for visitors to try the experience.

In the meantime, Facebook also announced that 360 video is already available in News Feed, with Star Wars, Discovery Channel, and Vice early partners. Content developed for an immersive VR experience can now be viewed by everyone on Facebook, though on a flat screen. This is a great way to get additional scale and capitalize on press before your entire audience or customer base has access to a full VR experience.

How We Can Help
Please contact Engagement Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss strategies and tactics around developing VR experiences. The Lab also currently has VR headsets— Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR—ready for demo in the Lab. Virtual reality is something that has to be experienced to be understood. So come by the Lab and get a VR demo to see just how engaging it can be, and understand why consumers would be excited by this technology.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your feedback will help us immensely.


All images included in this post are promotional images courtesy of Facebook/Oculus

Fast Forward: How Brands Can Take Advantage of the New Apple TV

Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

•  Apple unveils new Apple TV, complete with a new tvOS platform and App Store
•  Brands can now develop TV apps to connect with consumers in their living rooms
•  A new path to native sponsorship and call-to-action opportunities

What Apple Announced
During Wednesday’s press event, Apple finally debuted the long-anticipated update to the Apple TV that aims to revolutionize the way people interact with their TVs. Equipped with a brand-new iOS 9-based operating system called “tvOS,” the new Apple TV comes with an App Store, Siri-enabled universal search across content platforms, and a touchpad remote that doubles as a game controller. The new Apple TV will ship in late October, and the tvOS developer beta is available now.

What Brands Need to Do
While we’re likely to see an explosion of new modes of interaction as developers explore the platform, we already know that good content works well in the living room. For brands who have existing content plays, such as Red Bull’s video and event content, it’s time to secure the OTT streaming rights. If your brand doesn’t currently produce content, an event sponsorship is a great way to get started. In an on-demand, App Store world, you don’t need to worry about producing a full slate of content to justify an app install — Apple themselves have an Apple TV app dedicated to the iTunes Music Festival, which this year will only feature a week’s worth of content. Focus on quality over quantity.

A couple of features which weren’t discussed on stage could provide interesting go-to-market strategy for brands: support for interactive video, and deep-linking between Apple TV apps. We expect these will be combined to form a paid app install ecosystem much like we have on mobile, with early leaders likely to be ad-supported platforms with premium content, such as Hulu and YouTube. Ahead of any such announcements, however, there are still opportunities for brands to partner with existing content creators and game developers to drive app installs or to push value offers and reminders from the TV to a phone with a single click.

What Retail & Ecommerce Brands Need to Do

•  Apple TV brings ecommerce into the living room and creates a shared online shopping experience
•  
Experiment with shoppable videos built upon Apple TV’s support for interactive videos with links to additional info

During Wednesday’s press event, Apple invited online clothing retail platform Gilt on stage showed off their new app designed specifically for Apple TV. Users can use the new touchpad remote to scroll and swipe through the categories of clothing, view product details, and even purchase items direct from their couch. Support for ecommerce apps brings online shopping into the living room and make it a social affair to be shared with family and friends. Apple’s tight integration between TV and mobile will also allow activities to be handed off to a user’s phone, allowing a brand to activate mobile coupons which could easily be triggered automatically when the customer enters a retail location.

Moreover, brands should take advantage of Apple TV’s support for interactive videos and start experimenting with shoppable videos, which embed clickable info providing viewers with product information and an easy way to purchase, turning video content into direct sales channels. Brands such as Sears, Kohl’s, and Gap have been experimenting with shoppable videos with some early successes, and with Apple TV, shoppable videos seem to be on the cusp of mainstream adoption, demanding attention from retail brands.

What Entertainment Brands and Content Owners Need to Do

•  Apple TV can deliver a rich media experience
•  
Index your content to make sure it is discoverable via universal search
•  
Explore the interactive storytelling opportunities and new types of engagement

As MLB demonstrated during the event, apps provide a great way for content owners to deliver a rich media experience with additional information and interactivity. Apple TV supports universal search across integrated apps, providing an unprecedented opportunity for new content discovery, especially those on lesser-known services. Although only available for select partners at this time, it seems reasonable to presume Apple to open this feature up to all eligible platforms down the road, similar to the universal search in iOS 9. Brands need to index their content for it to appear in favorable spots when users search for certain keywords. The added interactivity also brings new storytelling opportunities for content and ad creators to explore and connect with viewers.

Market Impact
As expected, the new Apple TV introduces a new app platform, while not (yet) providing a truly new way for consumers to subscribe to television content. Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue called it the “foundation for the future of television,” which it may yet be, timed to take advantage of a holiday season which is primed for cord-cutters. It notably provides a way for Apple to extend their entire ecosystem – which may one day include platforms like iAd and Apple Pay – into the living room, along with their massive iOS install base and developer network, something that competitors such as Roku and Amazon cannot offer.

While it remains to be seen exactly how wide adoption of the new Apple TV will be, Apple’s new products quickly reach tens of millions of units sold and they are putting significant effort behind this one. Since a large share of marketing budgets are focused on the living room, a significant change in the way content is consumed there, away from linear and even streaming and towards the interactivity of apps, is worth adapting to. For both content creators and advertisers who support them, the new Apple TV offers expanded ways to reach users who earn more and spend more, whether that’s with traditional video content, expansions of existing iOS apps, or hybrids which blend video with interactive content of different types.

Apple’s entry into the living room gaming market is a bit more of a wildcard. While it opens up an obvious new market for existing iOS games, and we’ve seen some initial support of the device from big cross-platform games like Skylander and Guitar Hero, without a first-party game controller it remains to be seen whether the platform will be used for gaming or what price points it will support. Most at risk will be Nintendo, whose Wii U hardware and mainstream audience overlap with the new Apple TV’s capabilities and appeal. But if Apple follows its usual path of year-over-year hardware upgrades, Sony and Microsoft’s consoles may also be at risk, especially if Apple can woo top-tier game developers. As far fetched as it may seem, Apple was already EA’s biggest revenue generator all the way back in 2013. For the time being, our standard recommendations for brand integrations with gaming hold true for the Apple TV as well: integrate as natively as possible with branded content, sponsorship of in-app purchases, or participating in the wider gaming community.

For More Information
Please contact Engagement Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss strategies and tactics around tapping into the marketing potential of the new Apple TV.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your feedback will help us immensely.

 


Header image courtesy of www.apple.com/tv/

Fast Forward: Facebook Unveils Virtual Assistant “M”

Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

•  Facebook started testing its own improved, human-assisted version of Siri
•  More than just making suggestions, it will also complete tasks on users’ behalf
•  Brands need to explore the new functional layer that many messaging apps are adding to their platform for transactions, customer service, and reaching new customer

What Facebook Announced
Over a month after initial reports suggesting Facebook started preparing a human-staffed personal assistant service, the social network announced on Wednesday that it has started testing a new service for its Messenger mobile chat app called M that handles user queries and requests in a text-based interface that looks similar to other conversations on the platform. The service is currently available for a few hundred users in the Bay Area, and will eventually be rolled out to all Messenger users.

Unlike rival virtual assistants Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Google’s Google Now, Facebook claims that M will take it one step further and actually complete tasks on users’ behalf, such as purchasing items, getting gifts delivered, booking restaurants, making travel arrangements and appointments, and more. In addition to AI-powered responses, Facebook also has a team of so-called “M trainers” to handle the requests that AI can’t, ensuring all requests are answered properly.

Facebook M In action
Facebook M in action. Image credit: David Marcus on Facebook


What Brands Need To Do

•  Reach customers on apps they’re already using – in this case, Facebook Messenger
•  Take advantage of emerging platforms with messaging-based customer service
•  Prepare for a new version of SEO to conquer the prime space in AI-generated suggestions

At a time when the U.S. market is finally catching up with the Asian market in discovering messaging apps’ great potential as a commerce platforms, Facebook is looking to take initiative in a nascent ecosystem that brands of all types could benefit greatly from. It is time to start expanding your customer service from phone call-based to include text-based messaging, reaching consumers on the platforms they already use.

As of now, Facebook seems to be deliberately keeping M neutral and completely devoid of “opinions”, i.e. whether something is good or not. Instead, it merely presents all available options as generated by algorithms. While this approach may not seem too welcoming for brand integrations, we are optimistic that Facebook would open up M for sponsored content and branded recommendations in the near future, given Facebook’s trajectory in making Messenger’s platform more brand-friendly so far. And brands need to be ready for what could essentially be a updated version of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) that plays around AI algorithms to make sure their content shows up in advantageous positions in M’s recommendations.

Market Impact
M will certainly face some tough competitions: Amazon unbundled its virtual assistant Alexa from its smart speaker Echo in June; Microsoft has launched Cortana on new platforms; and Apple is reportedly integrating Siri into its updated Apple TV for voice command. But unlike other virtual assistants, Facebook M holds the advantage of being a hybrid of AI and real-human touches. Boasting over 700 million monthly users and still growing, Facebook Messenger has been actively adding new brand-friendly features to integrate businesses into its platform, clearly aiming to become go-to place for mobile discovery and customer service. Moreover,  it bucks the convention of being voice-activated, and instead is text-based. Given the flexibility of conversational UI, however, it seems reasonable to expect Facebook M to adopt speech command down the road as an option, just as its competitors could easily move to texts-based communications to best suit user’s’ needs.

In recent months, we have seen some messaging apps adding a “functional layer” on top of its chatting features to connect customers to businesses. For example, popular Chinese messaging app WeChat has been actively onboarding certified brand accounts to expand the functionality of its messaging platform, to some great success. Similarly, apps like Kik, Vurb, Path, and Tango all updated their platform to add features that seek to connect users to businesses and brands via chat or in-app shops. On the other end of the spectrum, there is Magic, a startup that promises to fulfill any legal request that users send via texts, and employs real humans to handle those requests.  Other similar texting-based on-demand service includes Operator, helpa, and the travel-focused Pana. Everywhere we look, the major tech companies are expanding their platforms with business-friendly features that aims to connect consumers with brands in a natural, conversational context.

For More Information
Please contact Engagement Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss strategies and tactics around tapping into the marketing potential of virtual personal assistants and conversational UI..

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglabstg.wpengine.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your feedback will help us immensely.