Amazon’s TNF Stream points to an Interactive future

Last Thursday night kicked off Amazon’s live-streaming deal with the NFL, allowing them to broadcast 11 Thursday Night Football (TNF) games of the 2018/19 season. The feed, which was available for free on Twitch as well as offered to Prime Video customers, set the stage for what the future of interactive live television could be like.

For one, the stream was available just about anywhere someone could imagine watching the game – Amazon’s Prime Video app, Fire TV, mobile devices and anywhere with a strong internet connection. The ubiquity of it changes the paradigm of how consumers can take in this content. No longer is it primarily a passive event as the mobile and open nature of streaming platforms allow for more interactivity.

Amazon wasn’t shy about moving into this trend. Thursday’s broadcast on Prime Video included an ‘X-Ray’ feature, allowing users to see real-time stats as well as personalize their broadcast to follow Game Leaders and Team Stats as the game progressed. When digging deeper, users were able to discover more information on the history of the teams and players involved.

Another unique feature to Thursdays broadcast, and one that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, is the ecommerce aspect that Amazon integrated into the experience. Available within the Fire TV stream, users were able to browse and purchase officially licensed merchandise relating to the teams at hand. Carson Wentz just dropped a dime from 40 yards out in the back corner of the end zone? Cool, you’re 2 clicks away from owning his jersey and your eyes never had to leave the screen.

The other choice that Amazon gave users was with regards to the actual broadcasters. Three options were available on Prime Video, including the first ever all female booth, and Twitch highlighted a popular streamer, GoldGlove, to call the game for its viewers.

Within the Twitch platform, live reaction of viewers was a feature that was highlighted. After an exciting play, the Twitch chat was blown up with emotes (Amazon’s version of emojis) and the social nature of the platform made for a less isolating experience. Bringing people together for live sporting events is something Facebook and Twitter have been working hard at, but neither of them can reach the level of engagement that Amazon currently has.

Implications

Live sporting events have traditionally been viewed in a passive setting as users were mainly confined to a cable provider and their living room TV. That’s slowly but surely changing, and it’s a trend that’s not going to slow down anytime soon. It’s also one that has pretty wide ranging implications.

Niche sports executives should see this as a massive opportunity to get their product in front of a much wider range of audience. FloSports, a leader in partnerships for OTT sports, features rugby, track & field, wrestling, bowling and more. The company will steam 2,500 live events in 2018, increasing live streaming views and event attendance for hundreds of teams across the country. It’s all about getting your product in front of as many eyes as possible, and live streaming is doing that at a scale that hasn’t been seen before.

With those eyeballs, come brands trying to ride the pigtails of that success. Marketers will be able to closely align their product or service with teams that or events that closely align with their brand values. As the services mature, there will likely be opportunities to personalize these messages to individuals or segments. On top of that, the active nature of the service will continually allow for a reduction in friction to the path to purchase. Live streaming events and the interactivity that comes with them may be the last domino to fall in the fight against cutting the cord.

Alexa’s Ecosystem Expands

On Thursday, Amazon held its annual hardware event, and the company unleashed a slew of new Alexa related products onto the world. While we were given an upgrade to the companies classic line of Dot, Show, and Plus devices, we were also introduced to a few entirely new product categories. The Echo Sub allows users to pair a high end subwoofer to their existing echo, aiming to compete with likes of Sonos and Apples HomePod.

Amazon also introduced a few auxiliary devices, like the Echo Auto, bringing Alexa into the in-car entertainment space as well as an Echo Input, which will allow users to access the voice assistant through their existing speaker system. We’re also given an Echo Smart Plug, used to turn on and off household appliances. Finally, the event included an Alexa Wall Clock, to visualize alarms, and an Alexa Microwave, because why not?

If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now. Amazon is dead set on bringing Alexa into your life in as many ways as possible. While different from Apple and Google, who are both increasingly pushing Siri and Assistant respectively, Amazon is similar in the fact that it’s building an ecosystem around its voice assistant, starting with the hub.

Implications

For Apple and Google, the hub is the smartphone. It has been for quite some time, and consumers utilize additional products like the HomePod and Home, to tap into that hub. However, most of the interaction with those assistants occur on the mobile device itself, either through Apple’s built in Siri integration, or the Google Assistant App. Amazon is building an ecosystem of IOT devices, and sees voice as the primary interface.

Thursdays event greatly expanded this ecosystem, moving beyond the home into the vehicle, as well as expanding the presence throughout the home. Consumers who opt to utilize the hub for all its benefits, will begin to see Alexa learn and adapt towards them. One of the few software upgrades on Thursday was called Hunches, and it will allow the voice assistant to offer occasional suggestions if it thinks you may have forgotten something as part of your daily routine. For example, turning off the outdoor lights before you hit the hay.

Marketers will need to understand that as we move toward a world like this, it will be less about marketing towards consumers, and more about marketing towards assistants. As Alexa, Assistant and Siri begin making more and more of our decisions on their behalf, our mundane decision making, like making sure the fridge is stocked with groceries and Friday night plans are booked, will be handled by our artificially intelligent systems. It’s incredibly important to begin laying the building blocks of that future today, before it quickly passes you by when it shows up.

Amazon’s Attribution Pixel Tests Ad Effectiveness

Outside of being one of the worlds largest E-commerce platforms, Amazon also runs a growing ad business, competing with the likes of Facebook and Google. That product offering just got a lot more appealing to advertisers, as the company began testing its Amazon Attribution tool.

The tool will help advertisers measure the exact impact that their display, search and video media channels have on how consumers discover, research and buy their products within the E-commerce giant. Brands will be able to optimize their campaigns to page views, purchase rates and sales. Currently, the tool is only available to advertisers that sell on Amazon, rather than through it.

The move by Amazon signifies a big step in their fight against the duopoly, which has historically dominated much of the year-over-year growth within online advertising. Advertisers will soon get a much better understanding of how their media on Amazon compares with that of other platforms, especially when it comes to driving actual sales.

Additionally, Amazon’s moves into the brick-and-mortar space with its Whole Foods acquisition, Amazon Go and Amazon Books will mean that the company should soon offer a way to attribute online media to offline conversion – a necessary step to effectively compete with Google.

Implications

Amazon moving further into the advertising space shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it should be taken seriously. Brands that don’t currently utilize Amazon’s ad products, should look to them as a way to test the effectiveness of their ad dollars across tactics. Take a look back at what your KPI’s are, and use this Attribution Pixel to determine where there’s room for improvement.

If your brand already has a big presence within the site, whether that be percentage of total sales or a higher comparable market share, a shift of budget to Amazons products will help to continue to drive sales and page views, while also allowing your brand to hone in on a specific target.

In one case study, a protein brand found that health publications performed better than all other media types, accounting for 83% of their ad-attributed sales on Amazon. Without this tool, that information would have gone unnoticed, and the brand wouldn’t have been able to effectively use its budget. In todays day and age, it’s incredibly important to understand exactly what sparks your E-commerce business, with Amazon at the helm, this tool makes their ad products worth a second look.

Who is Doctor Fork?

This week, Google’s Unskippable Labs team released its findings with regards to an interesting little experiment they had been working on. The question? What could we unveil about advertising effectiveness for a pizza brand, if we weren’t afraid to fail? To pull it off, the team created a fake company that was ultimately called Doctor Fork.

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The team was able to compile 33 ads using stock footage, and because it’s Google, they were able to deliver over 20 million impressions through the YouTube platform. The delicious sausage pizza you saw last night.. ya, you’re going to have to go somewhere else for that. The team explained that because they weren’t following an explicit client brief, they were able to knock down so called guard rails, typically used in food ads.

Implications

Ultimately, there were a list of findings and underlying implications that came out of this study, and brands should be keen to incorporate some of these into their campaigns. For example, ‘bite and smile’ is not the only way to show a pleasurable food experience. Classic brands may feel constrained by this emotional presentation because they know ‘it works’, however, these findings show that there are a range of approaches that are equally appropriate and may even perform better.

This begs the question, what other findings can we uncover when removing constraints on our advertising? In an industry that relies on creative thinking and innovation to break through to new consumer segments, brands should begin thinking outside of their typical processes to determine new insights. If you have the means to conduct a test similar to what Google’s team did, it could provide valuable information to move your brand forward. If you don’t, take a risk, it’s one of the only ways to move forward.

The Evolution of The Camera

Computing is quickly moving from the small screen in our hands, to the world around us. The camera, and advanced AI algorithms behind it, are driving this shift.

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‘The Evolution of The Camera’ dives into the trends and use cases that we see today revolving around three key areas.

Communicate: How the camera has changed the paradigm of communication and virtual presence.

Enhance: How computer vision and AI can play a role in digital engagement and what that means for consumers.

Augment: How AR is enabling new experiences and utility through the camera.

 

AR Steals the Show at WWDC

Virtual tape measures, Memoji’s, Tongue Detection, and more were all part of Apple’s AR updates announced at this years WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference). As part of ARKit 2, developers will be able to upgrade their experiences to include improved face tracking, realistic rendering, 3D object detection, persistent experiences and shared experiences.

The first few of those updates allow for greater looking experiences, whereas the latter completely shift the paradigm of what is possible in an AR environment. Multiplayer experiences will be big for gaming, allowing multiple users to interact with each other in their own synthetic layer of reality. Apple will surely aim to bring this functionality to other aspects of their software – one can only imagine shared data visualization, product demonstrations, educational experiences, and much more.

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Persistent experiences will turn AR applications into something that was once a one off use case, into an environment that offers an incentive to return. An easy way to visualize this is that if you were to hang up a virtual painting one day, you can return the next and that painting will still be there. Unless of course, your son or daughter went into that same virtual environment and decided to draw all over it.

Memojis are Apple’s way of personalizing yourself, just as Samsung, and many multiplayer games have done before them. However, in this case, Apple is allowing you to bring your Memoji into the camera – overlaying your virtual avatar onto your physical body. It’s somewhat of a snapchat like effect, which should lead to more native sharing within the messages app.

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With all these AR updates, Apple needed to make it easier for creatives to develop content for them. They did this through a new file format for AR entitled USDZ. In partnership with Pixar, this new file format will make it easier to create and share AR concepts. What’s better, Adobe will be integrating USDZ support into its suite of creative cloud applications. Developers will be able to natively edit AR designs and objects within software that they already know and love.

To cap it off, Apple made a few nods to web based AR integrations, which will entirely change the landscape of the consumption of AR content. Within Safari, virtual products will soon be instantly viewable in a users physical environment, and will eventually evolve into full on AR experiences, completely negating the need for one off apps and reducing the friction involved in accessing them. AR has long been hyped as the next great computing platform, and while we’re still not there yet, Apple has certainly provided us with some exciting updates as we work towards that day.

Implications

For brands and marketers, AR can seem like a shiny object that may look cool, but not necessarily bring value. As more and more users are given native ability to access an augmented world, and developers are given more tools to create objects that inhabit that world, that will no longer be the case.

It will soon be table stakes for ecommerce sites to offer AR viewability of their products and experiences will be inherently personalized as live data is brought into the experience. AR is an extremely exciting category, and will soon be an integral part of digital experiences, as computing moves from the mobile phone into spatial existence.

Apple’s Business Chat is Another Blow to Facebook

Late last week, Apple revealed that they were beginning to test its’ Business Chat feature for a few companies across the U.S. Apple’s Business Chat works similar to Facebook Messenger in that it allows consumers to chat with businesses in a familiar messaging format. At a time where a select few features are keeping users on the Facebook platform, Apple’s release is surely not a welcome one for the social networking giant.

 

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To begin, Business Chat will feature only a select few companies – including Apple, Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, 1-800-Flowers and a few others. A number of industries are represented on this list, which should serve as good case studies for designing future interactions. These blueprints will be needed because as far as user experience goes, Business Chat differs a bit from some of the messaging offerings that came before it.

No where in Apple’s verbiage do they describe these services as a chatbot, a major difference to platforms like Facebook, Slack, SMS, Kik, etc. Instead, Apple wants you to believe there’s a real person behind the conversation at all times.

For this reason, not everyone can go into a basic chatbot builder and deploy their experience to Business Chat. In order to use it, businesses must integrate one of several approved customer service platforms. This is a smart move on Apple’s part. Consumers are going to want quick and easy customer service and straightforward ecommerce abilities – allowing consumers to quickly checkout with Apple Pay. Apple aims to cut out all the clutter of previous chat experiences by going with this route. They also understand that these conversations are going to live right next to your ongoing conversations, with, you guessed it, real people. So keep it familiar.

In order to get into one of these Business Chat experiences, consumers can access them through a companies organic digital presence, from Apple Maps listings, spotlight search, and through siri search results. The conversation however, must take place through Messages.

Implications

Business Chat is going to be a seamless way to reach and interact with consumers at scale. Apple is allowing businesses to reach their consumers at a place that they visit 10s if not hundreds of times a day, their Messages app. If your business currently uses one of the approved customer service platforms (including LivePerson, SalesForce, Nuance, Genesys, ZenDesk, and inTheChat) it’s well worth it to sign up for the beta program and begin the process of getting your Business Chat identity.

Additionally, it would make sense that Apple could use Business Chat as it’s avenue towards bringing third party services into its Siri platform. While Siri can only discover these businesses now, it would make sense that she’ll soon be able to be used as an interaction point as well. Amazon and Google opened up their platform to third party services and have been acquiring users left and right. Meanwhile, Siri has suffered and Apple has continued with its closed doors policy. Business Chat could be the avenue in, and if and when they do allow for those types of interactions, it will be incredibly important for advertisers to have their infrastructure in place.