North Thinking
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North Thinking


A monthly look at the world of digital from NORTH’s point of view

Yelp Introduces More Personalized Recommendations
By Caroline Desmond, Director of Media Strategy

Image Source: BusinessWire

Yelp announced this week that it would begin rolling out new, personalized recommendations for iOS and Android app users. Notably, all iOS users are expected to have full access this fall, while Android users will be able to access new search functionalities. Yelp says that Android users are expected to have access the full experience sometime next year.

Under the full updated experience, users who have downloaded the latest app will be able to set preferences using the “personalize your experience” option on the home screen. Customizable preferences include dietary restrictions/needs, favorite food and drink categories, interests, lifestyle attributes (pet owners, parents, etc.), and accessibility preferences (wheelchair accessibility, etc.). Here is a brief video demonstrating the new user experience.

As noted by Vivek Patel, Yelp’s Chief Product Officer, this app update is about “saving people time and giving them an easy way to find the right business for them.” For the first time, Yelp will be able to tailor a user’s home screen and search results based on personal preferences even when two users open the app from the same location.

The update comes as Yelp celebrates its 15th anniversary since its founding in July 2004. Over the course of the last 15 years, Yelp has amassed 192MM reviews. The Verge notes that Yelp will use AI and machine learning to extract information from such user-generated reviews, photos, and questions that users have answered after checking in at a location in order to categorize businesses based on user preferences. Although businesses will be able to edit labels applied to them through this process, it is possible that a business does not have to do anything to categorize themselves.

Image Source: Yelp Fact Sheet

For brands, customized preferences means a greater wealth of data to inform ad targeting on Yelp. As of right now, Akhil Ramesh, Yelp’s Head of Consumer Product Division, has said that preferences will not initially affect ads, but added in an interview with TechCrunch, that he “wouldn’t be surprised if which advertiser [Yelp] show[s] you will be based on your preferences [eventually], but there’s no ETA on that.”

Even the prospect of better targeting is good news for brands seeking to enhance the relevance of their messaging to Yelp’s coveted user demographic. According to the latest June 2019 stats from Comscore, Yelp’s users skew educated, affluent, and in their peak earning years (age 35–54).

Image Source: Yelp Fact Sheet

Moreover, a Nielsen study conducted in 2016 and based on the responses of roughly 2,000 consumers found that “92% of consumers who use consumer online review sites say they made a purchase after visiting Yelp at least sometimes, frequently or almost always.”

Given the potential efficacy of Yelp as a platform for driving purchase intent, we are excited about the long-term potential use of personalized consumer preferences that will help brands better tailor local ads that reach consumers near the point of purchase.

Road Tripping with Alexa
By Izzy Kramer, Media Planner

Image Source: The Verge

Last month, I wrote an article about the current and future presence of voice-enabled audio ads, with Spotify leading the way and Amazon not far behind. Already I have an exciting update: say hello to Amazon’s Echo Auto, an Alexa-enabled device intended for in-car use (though I can’t get over the resemblance to Babyface from Toy Story).

Nevertheless, Amazon released the Echo Auto about a year ago with the first invited customers receiving the device in January. The Echo Auto has been in the news more recently as more invited users receive their devices, reporting that it has come a long way since its release. According to The Verge, “the Echo Auto is perhaps the most impressive home for Amazon’s voice assistant yet. What once took a tall cylindrical speaker, or at least a chunky hockey puck, now fits into the space of a couple matchboxes…It’s got both 3.5mm and Bluetooth audio options to add Alexa to your car’s entertainment system, plus an eight-microphone array that’s so hardened against howling wind and road noise that Alexa can hear me when I’m going 70 on the freeway with the windows rolled down.”

My Echo Auto just arrived last week, and similar to The Verge, I am impressed by the size and capabilities. With a fully Echo-integrated household, I have become comfortable with Alexa, making the transition from house to car feel natural. And if anything, the two places I need a voice assistant most are in the kitchen and the car.

With that, Amazon seems to have just done that: taken the Echo, made it smaller, provided a dash mount, and — boom — Echo Auto. Because of that, Alexa has a long way to go to adapt to the new environment. For example, Amazon has needed to vastly improve their location-based technology, but especially now with a device dependent on providing location assistance. Echo Auto is on its way by being able to add “when I get home” and “when I leave home”-style commands that uses geofencing.

All of that said, the Echo Auto opens a door for brands as it is already very good at two things: playing audio content and picking up voice commands. According to Bloomberg, “while colonizing the car probably won’t generate much in the way of revenue at first, just being there would help Amazon position itself for a coming era of voice-based services.”

As a recap, Amazon launched audio ads with Amazon Music earlier this year and started accepting brands into their beta program in July. Straight from the source, I asked my Amazon rep to shed some light on the potential for brands. He laid it out: the Echo Auto connects via Bluetooth or aux cord to play through car speakers. The Echo Auto will have the ability to run Amazon audio ads, resulting in audio ad in-car inventory. This only makes Amazon that much more competitive to their major audio competitor, Spotify. Spotify is the front runner in terms of in-car targeting, as explained in last month’s Digital Digest. With the Echo Auto, Spotify begins to lose that lead, especially with Amazon being established in voice technology for far longer.

Image Source: Ad Age

Furthermore, Amazon sees in-car capabilities as the next big opportunity, so much so they are working to have Alexa manufactured into vehicles. As Bloomberg puts it, Amazon “is trying to persuade automakers to bake the voice-activated digital assistant into their entertainment systems. Those efforts are gaining some traction — BMW and Audi earlier this year began selling select models that integrate Alexa’s software by default.”

The only round block foreseen is that “Amazon is entering a market already contested by Google and Apple Inc., not to mention [most] automakers leery of ceding control of the dashboard to Big Tech.” The Verge further supports this by saying “the real problem with Echo Auto today isn’t the mountain of minor frustrations — it’s that today’s smartphones, not to mention Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.” Amazon is aware of this specifically stating on the Echo Auto detailed page that the device “works best in cars that don’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.”

Though, the closest we’ve seen Apple come to voice-enabled integration has been working with VW to integrate Siri into the VW Car Net app and with Telsa to allow Siri voice-enabled commands also via an iOS app. Though both examples are not integrated in-car. Apple’s only in-car capability is through Apple CarPlay, though it is not voice-enabled.

The closest Google has come is with Android Auto, though Google is not at the same place as Amazon with audio content and advertising, with Amazon Music growing by 70% since [2018], according to a Financial Times report.

Between Amazon’s voice technology, audio content, and now in-car integration, there is no doubt that Alexa is making a stronger case for shotgun.

Why Pinterest Should be Included in Your Next Marketing Plan
By Madelyn Engel, Performance Marketing Manager

Image Source: Impact

Pinterest is one of the quieter social media channels. You rarely hear about data leaks, political scandals, or Trump’s latest quotes, because with Pinterest they don’t exist. But just because it is quiet, doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. Pinterest can drive a significant amount of website referrals, and recently, they have made significant updates to improve their marketing offerings. With its successful IPO in April and its drastic revenue and user growth, Pinterest should definitely be considered in your digital marketing plan.

Pinterest recently released their second earnings report since going public and they are reporting staggering YoY growth. They reported $261 million in revenue in Q2, a 62% growth YoY, with 92% of that revenue from the U.S. Furthermore, Pinterest’s active monthly users are also growing, with a 30% increase YoY.

Pinterest is unique in that its audience lives in a future mindset and is typically used by consumers as a discovery platform to research products they want to buy, making them ideal advertising platforms for eCommerce sellers, most notably lifestyle-oriented retail categories such as apparel, luxury goods, beauty and home decor.

Pinterest cites that “90 percent of users say they make purchasing decisions on the platform, and 70 percent use it to find new products.” Furthermore, a GFK Path to Purchase report found that “78% of Pinterest users who engaged with home decor pins made a purchase based on content shared by brands on the platform — that number increased to 83% of users who engaged with fashion Pins on a weekly basis.” Lastly, eMarketer reported that 47% of Pinterest users use the platform to find new products, compared to only 15% of Facebook users and 11% of Instagram users, making it the top ranking product discovery social channel.

Not only is this audience engaged, but the majority of the audience are the main household purchasers, predominantly affluent women with HHI’s over $100,000. However, men are also embracing this platform with a 50% increase in male users YoY, and now make up one third of the users.

While many marketers use this platform strictly for brand awareness, the platform has multiple objectives, bidding types and ad formats to fit into all parts of your marketing funnel. Remarketing is especially effective for brand engagement, cross-sell opportunities, and new product releases. This can be a great way to re-engage users whose first touch point was a more passive social channel. In this way, you can leverage the reach of social channels like Facebook and Instagram to build your audience lists, and then re-engage with those users when they are in a shopping mindset. Furthermore, the CPMs for remarketing on Pinterest are some of the lowest I’ve seen across social channels, usually in-line with CPMs for cold audiences. Lastly, Pinterest has very unique and granular interest targeting giving advertisers the opportunity for highly personalized and relevant ads.

Now that I’ve convinced you to take advantage of Pinterest’s granular interest targeting and its highly engaged and growing audience, here are some best practices for creating highly engaging Pinterest ads:

  • Use a 2:3 ratio to maximize your placements and avoid any cut offs.
  • Have a clear focus: Make sure the product or brand focus is up front and center.
  • Use text overlays: Unlike Facebook, text overlays are encouraged on Pinterest to help communicate your main ideas or value propositions.
  • Make branding subtle: Add the logo to the top left or right corner, or feature a product with your branding clearly displayed on the product. Avoid placing the logo on the bottom corners as these can get covered up by Pinterest’s buttons.
  • Use a simple but compelling headline: Avoid truncation and get your most important ideas out first.
  • Place the product in context: Help the audience visualize the product or service in their life.
  • Align with moments: Place your products in context within life moments, whether that’s seasonal or simple everyday moments. According to Pinterest:
  • Awareness: Pins with content specific to moments had 11x higher aided awareness.
  • Online Sales: Pins with content specific to moments had 22% higher online sales lift.
  • Align with trends: Inspire your audience by leveraging cultural trends or current top searches.



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North is an independent advertising agency in beautiful Portland, Oregon that creates fans for brands and good companies who give a little more than they take.