Lab Weekly — 09/01/2017

Your weekly fix of consumer tech & media news and what they mean for brands

Lab Original

An Advertiser’s Guide To Blockchain
The blockchain technology employs mathematical complexity to ensure that contents encoded in the blockchain stay immutable and transparent to all. This kind of distributed trust that blockchain technology can bring to digital advertising will serve as a strong antidote to the fraud, measurement, and transparency issues plaguing the digital marketplaces.

News Analysis

Google Debuts ARCore Platform In Limited Preview For Android Developers To Build Augmented Reality Apps [link]

Google had an early start in developing mobile AR with the Tango platform, but it failed to gain any first-mover advantage due to its inability to scale and limited hardware support. Now Google is pressured into launch a lightweight, baked-in AR platform for developers so as to compete with Apple’s ARKit, which has been gaining momentum and sparked some interesting experiments since its debut at WWDC this June. Google says ARCore will work with 100 million existing and upcoming devices by the time it officially launches in the winter, which means by the end of the year the majority of mobile handsets in market, both iOS and Android, will be capable of running mobile AR apps,. Therefore, it is time for brands to start incorporating AR-features into their mobile apps to bring their digital assets into the physical world.

Related: How new ad units utilizing AR are gaining traction among digital advertisers [link]; The first batch of ARKit apps reveal how Apple’s AR platform works [link]; QVC partners with AR app YouCam Makeup to boost shopper engagement with a dual-screen experience [link]

Amazon Teams Up With Microsoft To Let Alexa And Cortana Summon Each Other [link]

This unexpected alliance between Amazon and Microsoft throws a curveball into the race of voice assistants, but upon a closer look, it is a collaboration that makes sense for both companies as it allows both Alexa and Cortana to expand their functionality and reach. It is important to note that there’s no much detail on whether the two companies will be sharing the data collected via Alexa and Cortana with each other, but if they were to pool their data together, it’d be a great boost to the development of both voice assistants and help them become more competitive against Google Assistants and Siri. For brands, it will be fascinating to watch how this plays out as the voice platforms continue to evolve.

Related: Google started rolling out its Assistant iOS app to the UK, Germany, and France [link]; Google Assistant coming to more third-party speakers and LG home appliances [link]; Alexa is now COPPA compliant, adds Sesame Street & Spongebob skills [link]; Barclays bank customers can now make payments by asking Siri [link]

Amazon Rolls Out Price Markdowns And Put Echo Devices On Sale At Whole Foods [link]

Amazon is eager to assure Whole Foods shoppers that the acquisition will be beneficial to them with the goodwill gesture of reducing prices on popular grocery items and clearly communicating that those markdowns came courtesy of Amazon. Amazon is also eager to use Whole Foods as to expand the distribution channel for its smart speakers, which it has already rolled out to around two dozens of U.S. retailers such as Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond. Adding Whole Foods to the mix would help Amazon continue to expand the retail footprint of Echo devices to reach more upscale consumers. For other retailers, especially those in the grocery/supermarket space, it will be important to closely monitor how Amazon sets out to integrate Whole Foods into its fold and learn from its strategies.

Related: Westfield malls plan to spend $1 billion on digital upgrade to compete with Amazon [link]; New color options for Beats Solo3 headphones will be exclusive to Apple Store, Target, and John Lewis in the UK [link]; Target is moving away from Amazon Web Service as it takes precautions to keep its retail data off Amazon [link]

KFC’s Dreadful VR Training Experience Shows How Brands Should Not Be Using VR [link]

VR can be a wonderful storytelling tool, allowing brands to build new brand narratives in visceral, powerful ways that were not possible through traditional media. It can also be a great tool for simulating scenarios for training or educational purposes, as several medical institutions have piloted with positive results. What made KFC miss the mark with this VR chicken-frying experience, however, is that it tries to do both at the same time. The experience is reportedly somewhere in between a professional training tool and a spooky “escape-room” VR game. The jarring discrepancy between what the actual task is and the atmosphere it is set in readers the experience neither wholly informative nor entertaining. For brands developing VR content, it is important to set clear objectives and design the experience accordingly.

Related: Condé Nast produces a VR dating show for Facebook [link]; Netflix showcases interactive, room-scale VR experience to promote Stranger Things at Comic Con [link]; Intel True VR will live stream MLB games on a weekly basis [link]

The Washington Post Supercharges Its Native Ads With Artificial Intelligence [link]

Using a news-writing bot to generate personalized copy for branded content recommendations is a good use case of machine learning data processing capabilities. Studies have shown that personalized ads generate better ad recalls and drive higher engagement, and leverage an AI solution to automate customized messages help streamline the process. More brand marketers should be taking these emerging augmented intelligence tools into account to improve their targeting and campaign performance.

Related: MIT researchers unveil Pensieve, a machine learning system for enabling smoother streaming of high-quality online video with less rebuffering [link]; Nielsen acquires vBrand, which built a machine learning-enabled platform for measuring brand exposure and impact in sports programming [link]; Popular news apps in China are using machine learning to scour thousands of sources to find news and tailor feeds to individual users [link]

Digital Payment News Round-Up

  • Fitbit partners with Mastercard to bring contactless payments to its new smartwatch [link]
  • Mastercard and Gulf Oil partner to power payments at gas stations [link]
  • Amazon expands its cash deposite service Amazon Cash to UK as Amazon Top Up [link]
  • PayPal debuts physical credit card that offers 2% cash back on purchases [link]
  • Six big global banks including Barclays and HSBC join UBS-led blockchain project to build new digital currency [link]

The digital payment space is an interesting one to watch as legacy players and digital-native newcomers start to converge in their offerings. On one side, the digital payment services, such as PayPal and Venmo, are quickly expanding their offline use cases with physical credit card and better banking integrations. On the other side, banks and credit card companies are eagerly building out their digital payment services and expanding to new digital devices in order to stay competitive against their digital competitors. Amongst the rather chaotic landscape, there’s the blockchain-led disruption sweeping the financial service sector and bringing cryptocurrencies and a distributed network model to the payment market. How this space shakes out will affect not only retail shopper behaviors but also how brands collect purchase data for targeting purposes.

Stats To Know:

Millennials are more likely than any generation to buy from Amazon. According to a recent survey conducted by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, 79% of millennials have made a purchase on Amazon in the past month, citing its Prime benefits as the main reason for doing so. Overall, 63% of consumers of all ages have made a purchase on Amazon in the past month.”

Children are quickly becoming an addressable audience demo for voice experiences. According to a recent study by Edison Research, 90% of parents with a smart speaker said their children enjoy the devices, while 57% said they purchased one for their kids.

The reports of wearables’ death appear to be greatly exaggerated. Gartner’s latest reports predicts sales revenue of wearable devices will hit $30.5 billion in 2017, a 16.7% increase over last year.

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