Facebook’s New Gift Service: Nice, But Not Yet An E-Commerce Game Changer

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Just in time for prime gift-giving holidays like Friday’s World Rabies Day (or if you prefer, Ask A Stupid Question Day), Facebook today launched a social gift service. It’s rolling out to only a select few for now.

I must be one of them, because I was able to send something to my wife to try it out. But in its current form, I doubt I’m going to use it much.

This isn’t the 2.0 version of the Facebook Gifts virtual-gift service that the company shut down two years ago, by the way. In fact, the new Gifts is built upon, and run by, the folks at Karma, the gift-giving service Facebook acquired in May.

It actually looks pretty good. And while I have ordered precisely one gift that obviously has not yet been delivered, so I can’t judge the entire gift-giving process, it worked quite smoothly. I clicked on my wife’s Timeline, clicked the gift button, and off I went to order her some caramels. She can even pick her own flavor–that’s pretty cool.

In this case, I obviously know her address, so one advantage of Facebook Gifts–not having to know or ask for someone’s address–is moot in my case. What’s more, I didn’t get an automatic reminder I might get if it were her birthday, so that bit of friction elimination wasn’t a factor for me either. But it’s fast and easy to send gifts to friends, and that’s great–not just for consumers, but for Facebook, which can use a service that brings in revenues not dependent upon its brand of advertising that many large marketers are still doubtful about.

So what isn’t great, at least for me?

* A lot of the most prominent gifts are pretty vanilla–teddy bears, spa appointments, flowers, cupcakes. Maybe they’re fine products. Maybe they’re the sort of thing most people give their friends. But for a service with a tagline “real friends, real gifts,” too many of these products seem just too impersonal. Products, especially gifts, are not necessarily fungible, and all the less so for close friends for whom you’re supposed to be getting something special. And if they’re not close friends–and let’s be honest, most people don’t have several hundred close friends–I probably won’t be sending them many gifts, from Facebook or anywhere else. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

About these ads

Apple’s New iOS 6 Ad Tracking Feature Is ‘Broken,’ Says One Source

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

With the new iOS 6 operating software released with the launch of the iPhone 5 last Friday, Apple introduced a new version of a feature that allows advertisers to track phones to serve targeted ads. But it seems that for people who updated their iPhones via wireless networks, Apple’s new Advertising Identifier is not working.

That’s a big deal for advertisers, for which iPhones and iPads are a rich channel for mobile marketing. Without being able to identify users–or more accurately, their phones–they can’t track whether those ads produced a sale or other “conversion” such as an app installation. And they may not to spend a lot on iOS ads until they can do that again. “It’s crucial for the advertising market,” says Ravi Kamran, CEO of the apps marketing platform Trademob, which discovered the problem. “It drives the whole ecosystem.”

Apple’s new Advertising Identifier, which replaced a Unique Device Identifier widely seen as flawed from a privacy perspective, shows numerical IDs that are entirely zeroes instead of the usual unique sequence of numbers. In an interview, Kamran said the problem affects only those phones updated via WiFi, not via iTunes on a computer or via Xcode that Apple software developers use, but that’s a lot of people.

For the time being, advertisers will have to depend on third-party identifiers such as Open Device Identification Number, Kamran says. IPhone and iPad users who don’t like being tracked may be perfectly happy the Advertising Identifier doesn’t work. But the new identifier also offered a way to opt out of tracking, so ultimately a working Apple identifier is probably desirable for all concerned.

I’ve contacted Apple on whether it’s aware of the issue and what it may do about it and will update this post if and when I hear back.

Yahoo Pitches New Ad Network To Battle Google’s AdSense

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Search ad giant Google grossed about $10 billion last year from AdSense, the program that syndicates text and display ads to thousands of websites from the New York Times to the tiniest niche publishers. So it’s no wonder that more than two years after shutting down its own AdSense competitor, a struggling Yahoo is taking another crack at it.

Today, it’s announcing a partnership with Media.net, an under-the-radar provider of contextual advertising like AdSense’s that runs ads on websites matched to the site audience’s interests. The program, called Yahoo! Bing Network Contextual Ads, will allow websites to run text ads (like those pictured on the top right) from the Yahoo! Bing Network, the recently renamed search alliance between Yahoo and Microsoft.

The awkwardly named program has the potential to be a badly needed boost in revenues for Yahoo, which have been stagnant for a long time. Despite Yahoo’s weakened state, it still has a valuable brand, worldwide audience of a half a billion, and search ad deal with Microsoft. Those factors will lend the venture instant credibility in an online ad industry that’s an increasingly crowded, competitive morass of ad networks (perhaps including a likely new one from Facebook), ad exchanges, an alphabet soup of ad tech providers, and, of course, Google’s AdSense.

Talks have been underway between Yahoo and Media.net since 2010, even before the Yahoo Publishing Network was shut down, according to Divyank Turakhia, founder and CEO of Media.net. And Turakhia’s other related ad companies had worked with Yahoo for a couple of years before that. So don’t get the idea that this is a big new idea from Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s relatively new CEO. …

Read the rest of the post at The New Persuaders.

Google Research: No Mobile Site = Lost Customers

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Google has increasingly pushed its advertising customers to create special mobile websites because, as we know all too well, most conventional websites look awful on a smartphone. Now, Google’s providing more research to back up its advice.

The search ad giant is hoping, of course, that the better mobile experience people have, the more they will use Google search to find sites and products. A poor mobile experience reflects badly not only on the sites but on Google searches that sent them there. That’s especially worrisome today as Facebook, to name one rival, and Twitter, to name another, double down on mobile advertising. And it happens that Google has some relatively new mobile ads to hawk as well.

So in a survey of about 1,100 U.S. adult smartphone users (not tablets, in this study) conducted by  market research firms Sterling Research and SmithGeiger and released this morning, Google offers advertising folks ammunition to get their laggard information-technology and marketing chiefs moving. A few of the highlights (or, in some cases, low points):

* Two-thirds of smartphone users say a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a company’s product or service, and 74% say they’re more likely to return to the site later. “Mobile is creating massive opportunity,” says Jason Spero, head of Google’s global mobile sales and strategy.

* 61% says that if they don’t find what they’re looking for (probably within about five seconds), they’ll click away to another site. Half say that even if they like a business, they’ll use its site less often if it doesn’t work well on their smartphone. “This is a wakeup call,” says Spero. “You will lose customers at the moments that matter” without a site specifically made for mobile devices.

* 72% of users say a mobile-friendly site is important to them, but a nearly unanimous 96% have visited sites that aren’t. “When you offer users a desktop experience on mobile,” Spero notes, “it’s kind of crap.”

Google’s advice: Create a fast mobile site with big buttons and text, keep steps to complete tasks to a minimum, and–you knew this was coming–promote the site with Google mobile ads for the two-thirds of people who use search to find a site. That last may be self-serving–though one Google mobile advertiser, online discount perfume merchant FragranceNet.com, told me that the ads were a significant factor in a 48% jump in mobile sales following its creation of a mobile site. But it’s hard to argue with the rest.

Apple’s iPhone 5 Sales ‘Shortfall’ Means Precisely Nothing

Eager buyers crowd Apple’s Palo Alto store shortly after Sept. 21 opening

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Only one company could see its stock fall when it sells 5 million of its newest product in a single weekend: Apple.

Apple said today it sold 5 million iPhone 5s the past three days, and its shares promptly fell $9.30, or about 1.3% on the day. The reason: Analysts had forecast it would sell up to 10 million. Now they’re scrambling to explain what happened.

The correct answer: Nothing. Let’s get real. First of all, it’s not clear that Apple really fell short of any reasonable expectation. As one person noted today, the supposedly disappointing 5 million in iPhone 5 sales in a weekend is more than Nokia sold of its latest Lumia smartphones in an entire quarter. So Apple is hardly losing much ground to competitors.

Second, that 5 million–actually, as Apple put it, “more than 5 million”–doesn’t count people who preordered but haven’t yet received their iPhone 5s. It’s unclear how many that would be, but one analyst estimates it could be 1 million or more, even assuming Apple was correct when it previously said most customers who preordered would get their iPhone 5 last Friday.

Third, while Apple no doubt would like to sell as many iPhone 5s as possible, it so routinely runs short of demand on new products that you have to wonder if that’s part of its marketing plan. Scarcity, at least for a product generally well-reviewed and certainly highly anticipated, suggests to potential buyers on the fence that this is the device they’ve got to have. It’s hard to imagine that Apple, of all companies, doesn’t have the means to fulfill that pent-up demand over the coming weeks and months. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

Facebook To Start Charging Businesses To Run Offers

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

After launching Offers several months ago, Facebook now is switching the retail and local merchant deals service into money-making mode.

The No. 1 social network, under pressure to prove that it can juice revenue growth to justify its $50 billion-plus valuation, said today that it will require merchants to buy at least $5 worth of ads in order for their offers to appear in  the newsfeeds of their target audiences and their friends. The amount businesses are required to pay for these ads, specifically Page Post ads, will vary depending on the size of their Facebook pages.

Facebook also has added several new features to Offers. For one, they’re available worldwide to all Pages with more than 400 fans. Also, merchants can add a bar code to an Offer so they can track results more easily, as well as potentially run Offers on their e-commerce sites.

Facebook says the changes, in particular the requirement that merchants spend money, should produce Offers that consumers view as higher-quality and more relevant because businesses will be incented to make those offers better if they’re paying for them. The changes also position Offers more squarely against incumbents Groupon and LivingSocial.

Facebook isn’t providing much in the way of numbers on how Offers are doing except for one example: It says the ARIA resort in Las Vegas booked more than 1,500 nights, producing a return of five times its investment from running Offers.

Although many of the new ad and commerce initiatives Facebook has been rolling out no doubt were planned well before its May initial public offering, the company has introduced a flurry of new ad formats lately. Facebook’s share price had fallen by half from the IPO, thanks to concerns by investors about whether its ads are catching on fast enough, especially on mobile devices.

Another Funny Samsung Ad Ridicules Apple iPhone Fans

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Samsung is an old hand at poking fun at iPhone fans.

It ran an ad last November for its Galaxy S II smartphone that portrayed Apple fanboys and girls as blindly obedient doofuses. It ran another for the S II in January during the Super Bowl that portrayed Apple fanboys and girls as blindly obedient doofuses.

And now it’s running a new one that extols the cutting-edge virtues of the Galaxy S III that and portrays Apple fanboys and girls as–you guessed it–blindly obedient doofuses. Give Samsung points for consistency–and some real humor.

“I heard you have to have an adapter to use the dock on the new one,” says one guy standing in a line in front of a building in Chicago that heavily suggests an Apple store. “Yeah yeah, but they make the coolest adapters,” another line-waiter earnestly replies. “This year,” says another young man, “we’re finally getting everything that we didn’t get last year.”

Later, a guy in line using a Galaxy turns out to be holding a place for someone else. His parents. Zing!

The initial numbers for iPhone 5 pre-sales suggest the ads may fall on deaf ears, or at least ears plugged by Apple headphones. But the spots last January may have had an impact. BrandIndex said the campaign helped Samsung edge past Apple in brand perception, at least for awhile.

It looks like the iPhone 5 will do just fine. And if Samsung’s predictions are any indication, the S III will do well this year, too.

But Samsung, along with Google, maker of the Android software running on the devices, clearly hope to steal some of the iPhone 5’s thunder, as well as siphon off some of its sales. Will these ads do it?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 88 other followers