After similar moves for Shopping and Flights, Google makes hotel listings free

Last year, Google made a significant change to its Google Shopping destination by making it free for e-commerce retailers to sell on Google, when before the Shopping tab had been dominated by paid product listings. It also made it free for partners to participate in Google Flights. Today, the company announced it’s now doing the same thing for hotel booking links on the Google.com/travel vertical.

Beginning this week, Google will make it free for hotels and travel companies around the world to appear in hotel booking links on Google.com/travel — a change that will give users a more comprehensive look into hotel room availability as they research and plan their trips.

The company is positioning this change as a way it can better help meet consumers’ needs, ahead of the expected return of travel as the pandemic comes to an end.

“When travel does resume in earnest, it’s crucial that people can find the information they’re looking for and easily connect with travel companies online,” writes Richard Holden, VP of Product Management for Google’s Travel efforts, in today’s announcement.

In reality, the adoption of free listings is part of a larger effort underway at Google to shift many of its destinations that were previously powered by paid ads to become free listings. On the e-commerce front, this shift was meant to strategically counteract the growing threat from Amazon in e-commerce, which has steadily grown its ad business over the years. Amazon is also now often the first place users go to search for products, bypassing Google entirely — a worrying threat to Google’s core ad business.

Image Credits: Google

Shortly after the launch of free e-commerce listings, Google said it saw increases in clicks to its Shopping tab (70% lift as of last June) and an increase of impressions on the Shopping tab (130% lift). The idea is that, over time, Google will be able to pull in more brands to its e-commerce platform, increasing competition. As the market becomes more crowded, some brands that were previously benefitting from the free listings will turn to ads in order to increase their visibility.

Travel, including flights and hotels, are other areas where Google is positioned to grow in terms of post-COVID web traffic. For the past several years, however, hotel booking links were offered on Google through paid Hotel Ads, which would display the real-time pricing and availability for specific travel dates.

With these listings now becoming free, consumers will have an expanded set of options. And that will make Google a more reliable place to search for bookings. It could help Google compete with an array of travel booking apps and services, which are also expected to boom in the post-COVID months to come. And though the pandemic is not over yet, there are already signals that some are treating it as such in the U.S., with states lifting mask mandates and Spring Breakers planning their annual trips to Florida beaches, for example. The full effect of the pandemic’s end hasn’t yet to be seen in travel, but consumer appetite is surely there after a year of locking down and staying at home.

Google today argues that the addition of the free listings will generate increased booking traffic and user engagement on its platform. And this will, in turn, expand the reach of advertisers’ Hotel Ads campaigns.

Meanwhile, the shift to free listing will help bring potential new advertisers into the pipeline, too, as hotel and travel companies will be able to list for free by establishing a Hotel Center account. Over time, Google says the onboarding process will be made even easier and it will reduce the complexity of its tools to provide the hotel listings. It notes that its existing hotel partners who already participate in the Hotel Prices API and Hotel Ads don’t have to take any action to appear in free booking links.

 

#ad-tech, #advertising, #advertising-tech, #google, #hotels, #search, #travel

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Spotify to launch Spotify Audience Network, an audio ad marketplace

Spotify provided more details today about how it plans to monetize its investments in podcasts. The company said it’s launching a new audio advertising marketplace, the Spotify Audience Network, which will allow advertisers to reach listeners across Spotify’s own Originals and Exclusives, as well as podcasts via Megaphone and creation tool Anchor, and its ad-supported music, all in one place. The company also said it plans to offer podcasts on its self-serve ad platform, Spotify Ad Studio, starting with Spotify Originals and Exclusives in the U.S., in a beta test phase.

This will expand to include third-party podcasts in the future, the company noted today during its live online event, “Stream On.”

Currently, Spotify Ad Studio is being used by advertisers across 22 markets following its 2017 launch, to reach Spotify music listeners with both audio and video advertisements. Spotify said the service is its fastest-growing buying channel, but didn’t provide specific figures to detail that growth.

Image Credits: Spotify

However, the larger news on the advertising side was the launch of the new audio ad marketplace, Spotify Audience Network. Similar to some of its other forward-looking announcements today, Spotify was light on details about how exactly Spotify Audience Network would work — saying only that it’s in the “early stages of developing the offering,” and it expects to be able to share more at a later date.

However, the company positioned the marketplace as a “game changer,” particularly for podcasters looking to make money from ads, as well as for advertisers who want to reach Spotify’s audience of hundreds and millions, both on and off Spotify.

This news follows an investigative report by The Verge earlier this year which found Spotify was the main sponsor for Anchor advertising to date — despite its promises to find sponsors for smaller podcasters. It now appears Spotify has been in the process of building out its ad marketplace and tooling to make good on those promises, and may not have prioritized advertiser outreach in the meantime.

Image Credits: Spotify

Spotify today also spoke about how its recent acquisition of Megaphone would allow it to scale its Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) technology, launched in early 2020, to publishers beyond its own Originals and Exclusives audio programs. Today, SAI is available in the U.S., Canada, Germany, and the U.K., and will expand to other new markets in 2021.

Since its debut, SAI has been rolling out new features like audience-based buying, native ad placements, and reporting on creative performance. Later this year, Spotify says it will make SAI available to Megaphone podcast publishers and “leading” Anchor creators.

But Anchor creators won’t be limited to advertising to grow revenues.

Spotify also briefly noted it will, in a few months, begin beta testing a new feature that will allow Anchor creators to publish paid podcast content to Spotify aimed at their most dedicated fans, as TechCrunch previously reported.

 

#ad-tech, #advertising, #advertising-tech, #anchor, #media, #megaphone, #music, #podcast, #podcasts, #spotify, #streaming, #streaming-service

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Google will let you turn off YouTube ads for alcohol and gambling

If you’ve ever had a Father’s Day ad offering great deals for your dead dad sail into your inbox, you know that online advertising can be disturbing sometimes. Children’s gifts for people struggling to get pregnant, pet toys for your deceased doggo, the list goes on.

Google is taking a small but helpful step to help people control what ads they run into. Starting with YouTube in the U.S., users will be able to toggle off ads for alcohol and gambling — two subjects that are very sensitive for a big swath of people. The new option will roll out to Google Ads and non-U.S. YouTube early next year.

In a blog post Thursday, the company said that it would add the option to its ad settings controls, which already allow people to turn off targeted advertising altogether. Technically Google says that uses who opt to limit gambling and booze ads will see “fewer” of them, but that language is likely allowing for anything that slips through accidentally.

As a sober person, this is a helpful decision for a lot of people I know who’d rather not run into booze deals online out of the blue. More of this please!

#ad-tech, #addiction, #advertising-tech, #alcohol, #gambling, #google, #online-advertising, #tc

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TikTok invests in social commerce via new Shopify partnership

TikTok is further investing in social commerce with today’s announcement of a new global partnership with e-commerce platform Shopify. The deal aims to make it easier for Shopify’s over 1 million merchants to reach TikTok’s younger audience and drive sales. The partnership will eventually expand to include other in-app shopping features, as well, the companies said.

At launch, the agreement allows Shopify merchants to create, run and optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from the Shopify dashboard by installing the new TikTok channel app from the Shopify App Store. Once installed, merchants will have access to the key functions from the TikTok For Business Ads Manager at their disposal.

These ad tools allow merchants to create native, shareable content that turns their products into In-Feed video ads that will resonate with the TikTok community. Merchants will be able to target their audiences across gender, age, user behavior, and video category, and then track the campaign’s performance over time. The campaigns’ costs will vary, based on the merchant’s own business objectives and how much they want to spend.

As a part of this effort, Shopify merchants can also install or connect their “TikTok Pixel” — a tool that helps them to more easily track conversions driven by their TikTok ad campaigns.

Currently, e-commerce merchants can track user actions like a user browsing their page, a registration on a website, adding items to their cart, placing an order, and completing the payment.

Image Credits: Shopify

Shopify tells TechCrunch a small number of merchants previously gained access to these features as part of a beta test. But as of today, Oct. 27, the product is being made available to all merchants across the U.S.

“TikTok is one of the world’s fastest growing entertainment platforms with over 100 million highly engaged users in the U.S. alone,” said Satish Kanwar, Vice President of Product at Shopify, in a statement about the new partnership. “The TikTok channel means Shopify merchants—even those without a strong TikTok following of their own yet—can connect with these new audiences using content that feels authentic and genuine to the TikTok experience,” Kanwar added.

Image Credits: Shopify

To get started with the new features, merchants who want to advertise on TikTok will first install the TikTok channel app, then create and connect their TikTok For Business account and install the one-click pixel. They can then deploy In-Feed shoppable video ads by selecting the product they want to feature using ad templates specifically designed for commerce. Because these templates use existing imagery or videos, the TikTok channel can work for merchants of any size, Shopify notes.

To kick off the partnership, merchants are being offered a $300 ad credit to get started with their first TikTok campaign.

In addition, the two companies have partnered on their first co-branded Hashtag Challenge Plus campaign, #ShopBlack, to celebrate Black-owned businesses. Shopify had earlier featured Black-owned businesses in its own app, Shop. But from Nov. 10 through Nov. 15, the TikTok community will be able to browse videos from over 40 Shopify merchants via the new hashtag and its accompanying branded effect within TikTok, too.

Shopify and TikTok had been working together to test various social commerce initiatives ahead of today’s announcement.

The companies, for example, had been spotted trialing a new shopping button that allowed TikTok creators to link their Shopify storefront from their videos. (Teespring was also testing this with TikTok). TikTok had offered a TikTok Ads Pixel for Shopify merchants before today, as well.  But the partnership makes the pixel integration a 1-click install, so merchants don’t have to manipulate code.

Image Credits: Shopify

“We are delighted to partner with Shopify and provide a channel for their merchants to reach new audiences and drive sales on TikTok,” said Blake Chandlee, Vice President, Global Business Solutions at TikTok, in a statement. “As social commerce proliferates, retailers are recognizing that TikTok’s creative and highly engaged community sets it apart from other platforms. We’re constantly exploring new and innovative ways to connect brands with our users, and Shopify is the perfect partner to help us grow and expand our commerce capabilities globally,” he said.

TikTok and Shopify’s partnership won’t be limited to the new TikTok channel app, however. That’s just the first step.

We understand the deal will soon expand to other shopping features, too.

TikTok says it plans to start testing new in-app features that will make it easier for users to discover Shopify merchants and their products by expanding their reach through video and on their account profiles. These features will also “let users browse merchant’s products and shop directly through the TikTok app,” a spokesperson said. They didn’t offer specific details about the features or how the payments portion would work, saying that more information would be available when the new tools launched.

However, the features will launch to a limited beta group of testers soon, a TikTok spokesperson confirmed.

Image Credits: TikTok

Shopify isn’t the first to recognize TikTok’s potential as a new type of social shopping platform. Its ability to drive merchant traffic and sales was a key reason for Walmart’s participation in the TikTok-Oracle deal — a deal whose current status is still unknown, of course, given the ongoing TikTok lawsuit and the upcoming Presidential election whose outcome could impact the Trump Administration’s TikTok ban.

TikTok itself has been steadily ramping up its tools for merchants and other social shopping features. To date, it has  experimented with allowing users to add e-commerce links to their bios; launched “Shop Now” buttons for brands’ video ads; and introduced shoppable components to hashtags with the e-commerce feature (soon to be used for #ShopBlack), known as the Hashtag Challenge Plus.

Shopify, meanwhile, has been working to deliver more tools that give smaller businesses the ability to compete against Walmart and Amazon, while at the same time partnering with Walmart to give its merchants broader reach.

The TikTok-Shopify partnership could help the video platform better compete against other sources of social commerce, including the growing number of live stream shopping apps as well as efforts from Facebook and its family of apps. The social giant has recently rolled out a bevy of shopping-focused updates across Facebook, Instagram, and — just last week — WhatsApp, with the goal of directing users to shop in its apps, then check out seamlessly with Facebook Pay.

TikTok’s advantage is that it’s a video-based social network, more like YouTube, rather than a platform whose roots were in editorial-quality imagery, like Instagram. On Instagram, video features have been added in over time. Now, a number of Instagram products include video — like  Feed posts, Stories, Instagram Live, IGTV, and, finally, Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels. But overall, the impact is that Instagram has started to feel overcrowded.

TikTok says the new TikTok channel for Shopify merchants is available today in the U.S. It will roll out to other markets next year, including elsewhere in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia.

#ad-tech, #ads, #advertising-tech, #bytedance, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #shopify, #social, #social-media, #tc, #tiktok, #video

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Taiwan-based TNL Media Group raises $8 million to build its publishing and data analytics businesses

Since launching in 2013, Taipei-based TNL Media Group has grown from an independent news site to a media company with several online publishing verticals and a data analytics business. The company, formerly known as The News Lens, announced today that it has raised $8 million from New York-based investment firm Palm Drive Capital, as part of its Series D round.

TNL Media Group’s last funding announcement was a Series C round announced two years ago. Co-founder and chief executive officer Joey Chung told TechCrunch that its latest infusion of funding will be used to add more media verticals, continue TNL Media Group’s international expansion and finish its current pipeline of data analytics and tech service products.

TNL Media Group’s previous investors include North Base Media, the firm co-founded by Washington Post and Wall Street Journal veteran Marcus Brauchli (who is also a member of the startup’s board). The News Lens launched seven years ago as a bilingual site to give millennial readers an alternative to traditional media outlets in Taiwan, where coverage is often sharply divided along political lines and traffic is driven by celebrity gossip and other tabloid fodder.

Since then, it has grown through a series of launches and acquisitions. In addition to its main news site, it also operates separate sites for tech, sports, lifestyle, gadgets and entertainment content. Earlier this year, TNL Media Group acquired Taiwanese mobile ad technology startup Ad2iction, a cloud-based platform for brands to manage and create digital ads.

Since TNL Media Group already has offices in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and also has a media vertical dedicated to covering Southeast Asia, Chung said the company is now looking for opportunities to expand there. At the same time, he added that TNL Media Group has “had numerous very late-stage conversations” about partnerships to launch in Japan.

The company’s media verticals complement its data analytics business because it is able to draw on TNL Media Group’s user base for data, which Chung said is “one of the largest readership pools for digital audiences in the greater China market.”

On average, TNL Media Group’s sites have around 14 million monthly unique users. Its data analytics business, which launched within the past year, currently has about three to five clients per month. “But of course, we are planning for that to be ramped up substantially in the coming months and years and that will gradually grow to become a very important part of our entire business portfolio,” Chung said.

TNL Media Group’s other products include mobile ad tech, digital ticketing services, online events and online classes, and a content management system (CMS) it will start licensing to other companies.

Chung said that by the end of this year, many of these products will be integrated with its readership and data to develop a demand side platform (DSP, a tool that connects ad buyers with publishers) and a data management platform that are already in production.

In a press statement about its investment in TNL Media Group, Palm Drive Capital managing partner Nick Hsu said, “Palm Drive Capital focuses on investing in global technology startups using software to transform traditional industries. This is evident in the media industry, particularly as Taiwan’s online ad expenditure has already reached over one billion U.S. dollars and is estimated to grow to 1.65 billion U.S. dollars by 2021. Having known the TNL Media Group team for years, we see massive potential to leverage data to drive growth, consolidation, and international expansion in the media industry.”

#ad-tech, #asia, #data-analytics, #media, #publishing, #taiwan, #tc, #the-news-lens, #tnl-media-group

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Spotify tests in-app offers, an interactive ad format for podcasts

Spotify is testing a new, more interactive ad format designed for podcasts: the in-app offer. Instead of prompting listeners to remember a coupon code or visit a specific website address, the in-app offer allows users to redeem an offer at a time that’s convenient for them. This is done by way of a visual reminder within the Spotify app which displays the sponsors on the podcast episode’s page.

Below the podcast and description, a new section titled “Episode Sponsors” will appear, allowing listeners to then click through on the offer to redeem the coupon or other special deal. This will open the user’s browser to the advertiser’s landing page for immediate redemption, says Spotify.

“The average podcast listener has heard a countless number of ads ending with promo codes or show-specific websites, carefully repeated three times so as not to forget it. In-App Offers makes it vastly simpler for listeners to redeem deals whenever they come back to the app, and we can all benefit from one fewer ‘w-w-w-dot’ spelling lesson from our favorite podcast creators,” says Joel Withrow, Senior Product Manager of Podcast Monetization at Spotify, in a statement.

The product is designed to better fit with the way users actually listen to podcasts — usually, while they’re doing something else, like cooking, cleaning, working out, or driving for example. That means they often have to make a mental note of the offers they hear and want to research later. But this can be challenging.

The new product is in early alpha testing in the U.S. with Harry’s in Last Podcast on the Left and in Germany with HelloFresh in Herrengedeck. There isn’t yet a way to sign up to participate.

Image Credits: Spotify

The new feature builds on Spotify’s existing Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) technology, introduced at beginning of 2020 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. SAI technology makes key data — like ad impressions, frequency, reach, plus anonymized age, gender and device type — available to podcasters and advertisers on Spotify for the first time. This sort of data was more difficult if not impossible, to collect via podcasts that were served only as downloads from RSS feeds.

The company explained at the time of launch the problem it aimed to solve was on the advertiser’s side — they didn’t not whether or not the ad they purchase is being consumed by the user.

SAI will be widely available to advertisers in the U.S. starting this summer, and is now available to select advertisers in Germany.

The addition of in-app offers to Spotify’s suite comes following a continued heavy investment in podcasts, podcast tools, and podcasting ad technology on the company’s part. The company recently announced an exclusive audio partnership with DC & Warner Bros. and the launch of podcast playlists, for example. Spotify also just landed a podcast deal with Kim Kardashian West, focused on criminal justice, and brought top podcast The Joe Rogan Experience to its platform exclusively.

Meanwhile, Spotify says it’s seeing triple-digit growth in podcast consumption, year-over-year, on its platform while podcasts, more broadly, are reaching 1 in 3 or 100 million Americans every month.

Spotify didn’t say when the new in-app offers ad experience would be publicly available.

#ad-tech, #ads, #advertising, #apps, #media, #mobile, #podcasts, #spotify

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YouTube announces a new shoppable ad format

YouTube today announced a new direct response ad format that will make YouTube video ads more “shoppable” by adding browsable product images underneath the ad to drive traffic directly to brands’ product pages. The introduction of the format comes at a time when advertisers are trying to find new ways to capture consumers’ growing interest in e-commerce shopping, amid a pandemic that’s kept people from shopping brick-and-mortar physical stores for fear of infection.

YouTube, in particular, believes its platform can serve this shift in interest, given that today 70% of people claim they’ve bought a brand’s product because they saw it in a YouTube video.

To use the new shoppable format, brands will first need to sync their Google Merchant Center feed with their video ads. They can then visually expand an ad’s “call to action” button with the best-selling products it wants to feature in the ad in order to generate traffic that sends viewers directly to the product listing on the brand’s own website.

 

One early tester of the new format was Aerie, which wanted to advertise on YouTube to both boost consumers’ love for its brand and its apparel sales for its Spring 2020 campaign. The company ran targeted ads on YouTube and saw a 25% higher return on ad spend than the prior year as well as 9 time more conversions than with their traditional ad mix, YouTube says.

Related to this news, YouTube also announced “Video action campaigns” — a way to bring YouTube video ads that drive these sorts of calls-to-action to YouTube’s home feed, watch pages, and Google’s video partners, from within one campaign. The company says it will also include any future inventory that becomes available, like the What to Watch Next feed.

An early tester for this ad product was the startup Mos, which aims to help students find college scholarships. Over the past few months, Mos saw 30% more purchases for its service at the third of the cost, compared to its previous YouTube benchmarks, said YouTube.

Brands can also use the lead generation forms along with their video ad campaigns to capture more leads while also running their ads, as Jeep did with its Korea branch leading to a 13x increase in completed leads at an 84% lower cost per lead.

YouTube isn’t the only tech giant that’s focused more heavily serving the needs of brands — and particularly ecommerce brands — in recent months. Facebook and Instagram rolled out Shops in May, to turn business profiles into online storefronts where consumers can buy directly from brands without leaving Facebook’s or Instagram’s app. Snapchat also this month expanded its dynamic ads for e-commerce retailers worldwide, allowing brands to easily run automated product ads on Snapchat’s app by way of templates connected to product catalogs.

But YouTube’s ads are perhaps more similar to those shoppable video ads now appearing on streaming services like Hulu and NBCU’s Peacock where viewers can transact using their remote control. In YouTube’s case, however, viewers are just clicking and tapping their way through to the advertiser’s site.

Like many, YouTube believes businesses will continue to need solutions like these to find leads, boost their web traffic and drive more online sales, even when coronavirus-driven government restrictions lift and physical stores re-open.

Typically, announcements like this would have been made at YouTube’s NewFronts presentation, but as that event is now online-only due to the pandemic, YouTube has rolled out the news early.

#ad-tech, #advertising, #advertising-tech, #e-commerce, #google, #shopping, #youtube

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Snapchat’s ‘dynamic ads’ product for e-commerce retailers rolls out worldwide

Snap today announced the global expansion of its new advertising product, Dynamic Ads. The ad product first introduced last fall allows advertisers to automatically create ads in real-time, using the brand’s extensive product catalogs. Snap provides a variety of mobile-ready templates for advertisers to choose from, then serves the ads to Snapchat’s 229 million daily active users based on their interests.

Before today, the ads were only offered in the U.S. Now, Snap says it’s making the ad product available to all international global advertisers.

Dynamic Ads appeal to advertisers as they enable them to reach Snapchat’s user base more efficiently. Advertisers don’t have to spend time manually creating their advertisement to fit Snapchat’s vertical format, but instead, sync their product catalog with the social platform and allow Snap to build their ads in real-time. Another advantage of this format is that as product availability or pricing changes, the Snapchat ads will also automatically adjust.

The launch of Dynamic Ads first arrived at a time when some advertisers felt the Instagram ad market had become too crowded, resulting in saturation and higher prices. In the case of DTC (direct-to-consumer) brands, in particular, Snap’s ads were often more affordable than Instagram.

The coronavirus pandemic, of course, has shaken up the ad industry. But even as advertising budgets were slashed during the first quarter of 2020, direct-response ads — meaning those that direct a consumer to take a specific action, like buying from an e-commerce site — remained a bright spot for tech giants Facebook, Google, and Snap, CNBC recently reported. 

During its Q1 earnings call, Snap noted that direct response advertising had nearly doubled as a share of its revenue over the past two years, and now represents more than half Snap’s revenue.

“We have made remarkable progress with advertisers looking to drive consistent, measurable ROI—launching dozens of new features over the last two years, such as bid optimizations for conversion events like app installs, as well as advanced targeting and measurement capabilities,” said Jeremi Gorman, Snap Chief Business Officer, during the earnings call. “This has helped scale our direct response revenue in particular, which has more than doubled as a share of our total ad revenue over the last two years. Consequently, this strategy has put us in a strong position for this immediate crisis as well as to continue to take share of the digital ad market on the road to recovery.”

Snap’s ability to cater to retailers and brands is now more critical than ever, as the COVID-19 lockdowns have accelerated retailers’ e-commerce efforts.

Snap noted today that online sales in April grew to a 10-year high, representing a 23.8% year-over-year increase, according to data from IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group).

Ahead of today’s international expansion, the ad format has been beta tested by brands including Adidas, Topshop, and Farfetch. Other partners on Dynamic Ads include 4C, Smartly.io, and Brainlabs.

“In the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic, adidas has further accelerated its digital business. With e-commerce a key focus for us in 2020 and beyond, we’re excited to beta test Snapchat’s Dynamic Ads in the U.K., Germany, France and the Netherlands,” said Rob Seidu, adidas’ Senior Director of Media Activation in Europe. “Within weeks we saw a 52% growth in ROAS (return on advertising spend) and we have subsequently grown our investment. The launch of Dynamic Ads allows us a route to reach our target Gen Z and Millennial audiences with relevant product creative throughout the consumer journey,” he said.

Snap touts the global expansion of its Dynamic Ads as yet another step forward in its direct response offerings for advertisers as well as a way to serve brands in the post-COVID era.

“The coronavirus has accelerated the need for businesses to look at their digital sales channels and encouraged them to be more innovative in how they do that,” said Ed Couchman, GM for Snapchat U.K. “Since we opened up the beta testing, I was impressed at the number of businesses who wanted to get involved – far above what we expected -which really shows the appetite for brands to get on board with e-commerce,” he added.

 

#ad-tech, #ads, #advertising-tech, #e-commerce, #snap, #snapchat, #tc

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Levi’s partnered with TikTok on social commerce and doubled its product views

Levi’s is leveraging its advertising partnership with TikTok to connect online shoppers with the denim brand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced retailers to close their doors — including most of Levi’s own stores. The company announced today its success as one of the first retailers to use TikTok’s “Shop Now” buttons that allow consumers make purchases through links posted to TikTok. Though the implementation is still in the early stages, Levi’s says it has already seen high engagement and increased traffic to its website, as a result of initial tests.

To send traffic to its e-commerce site, Levi’s recently partnered with TikTok influencers Callen SchaubCosette RinabGabby Morrison and Everett Williams who used Levis’ laser-powered Future Finish 3-D denim customization technology to create their own customized denim. While the collaboration itself began before the shelter-in-place orders rolled out across the U.S., the resulting videos were only posted last week.

TikTok users viewing the influencers’ videos, which appeared on TikTok as in-feed ads, could then click to buy the same design on Levi.com up until the experiment wrapped on April 19.

Levi’s reports that watch time for these videos were twice as long as the TikTok platform average.

@callenschaubIn my Montreal studio putting my spin on the Levi’s® Future Finish jeans – Shop online from home! ##stayhome ##oddlysatisfying ##levishausmiami ##ad♬ original sound – callenschaub

In addition, Levi’s notes that product views to Levi.com’s “Future Finish” pages more than doubled for every product included in the experience.

Though these are not hard numbers, few retailers have yet to share the results of their TikTok-powered social commerce efforts. In fact, the “Shop Now” call-to-action button itself is fairly new, so only a handful of advertisers have used the option to date.

TikTok is not the first social network the Levi’s brand has worked with — it also has similar partnerships with top social platforms like Snap, Instagram, and Pinterest. However, the company said it was drawn to TikTok due the size of its audience, noting that in November 2018 TikTok was then seeing 680 million monthly active users worldwide, and is now estimated to have as high as 800 million. Levi’s also noted that nearly 60% of that user base is in between the ages fo 16 to 24.

TikTok, meanwhile, has been dabbling in social commerce for over a year through a variety of efforts.

For example, AdWeek in April 2019 reported on Hollister’s participation in a program that allowed retailers to run in-feed ads that directed customers to its e-commerce site by a “Shop Now” button. And Digiday last July noted Poshmark had done the same. In August 2019, Kroger became the first brand to try a new Hashtag Challenge Plus feature, which added a shoppable component to a TikTok hashtag.

Last November, TikTok also began to allow some TikTok users to add e-commerce links to their posts and their bios. Many of the beta participants testing this feature began linking from their video directly to Amazon, The WSJ had reported at the time.

In the case of the Levi’s influencer program, the videos from the creators ran as in-feed ads, linked to the retailer’s website. Some influencers also included a Levi’s website link in their bio, but this is separate from the advertiser-facing feature. (See photo on right).

“TikTok was the perfect platform for us to expand our efforts in social commerce. Over the last decade, we’ve been on a journey to not only grow our digital footprint, but also help our fans buy our products at the point of inspiration, when they see something they love,” said Brady Stewart, managing director, U.S. Direct to Consumer, in a statement about the TikTok partnership. “As consumer behavior shifts over the coming months and people explore different online channels for shopping and engaging with brands, we are here to connect with consumers, wherever they are,” he added.

The line between social media and commerce has been blurring for years, thanks to influencer-fueled advertising, in-feed ad units, shoppable media, and more. Instagram today event lets you shop from some retailers without leaving its app. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Marketplace has turned into an eBay and Craigslist-sized rival and its business Pages help customers and brands connect in a number of ways.

TikTok, however, has only dipped a toe in the water of social commerce as of yet. But given its app’s sizable reach, particularly among Gen Z, it’s an area to watch. And as the pandemic forces more retailers to remain closed to foot traffic in stores, being able to attract young shoppers to their online shops will be more valuable than ever.

 

#ad-tech, #adtech, #advertising, #advertising-tech, #e-commerce, #online-shopping, #social, #social-commerce, #social-media, #tc, #tiktok

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