Wake up, retailers – mobile is now a must

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As smartphone and tablet sales continue to climb north, mobile commerce is expected to make a major jump. For all intents and purposes, this is good news for online retailers, that is, as long as they make the requisite changes to their infrastructure.

According to a recent trend report from Cisco and DHL, an estimated $8 trillion will be generated through new connections over the next decade. The study cites a number of factors driving this value, such as enhanced customer experience — something Google has very publicly deemed a priority.

Earlier this year, Google announced big changes coming to its search algorithm. It will start favoring mobile-friendly websites (those that have large, readable text, easy-to-navigate links, and webpages that resize to fit the screen they are being viewed on) and ranking them higher in search results. This means that many high-profile retail brands could potentially fall in the rankings if their mobile sites aren’t up to snuff. And for e-commerce companies, even a slight drop in organic traffic can be a huge, direct hit to sales and revenue.

The change, which occurred this week and many are calling “Mobilegeddon,” reinforces Google’s mobile focus. As of now, more than half of online traffic comes from mobile devices and with its new mobile-friendly algorithm; Google is making it a point to guide users to websites where they can have a positive experience.

Since the update was announced back in February, brands have been scrambling to make the requisite changes to prevent their sites from falling off mobile search results. Google has even created a mobile-friendly test for businesses to evaluate how their website will fare.

It’s a pivotal moment in digital development. And making the shift towards a more friendly mobile user experience is arguably overdue. Still, the changes businesses must make extend well beyond investing in good technology and design. They must begin to understand how to transition into a mobile era where thousands of devices have been linked together, creating what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

Mobile search, rankings and communication will also be impacted by automatic identification technologies like near field communication (NFC). Right now, there are roughly 1 billion NFC-enabled phones across the globe.

According to Mathew Bright, Chair of the NFC Forum’s Retail working group and director of technical marketing at Thin Film Electronics, “the tag will guide consumers to information without having the person type a query into a box.”

“The point of using NFC and not typing something into the search box is the event triggers the capability to guide consumers to information mediated by the brand, rather than Google’s search algorithm.”

While Google’s search algorithm focuses on making websites more visible, in the future there is likely to be a shift towards Internet-connected objects like wearables, smart meters, cars and other devices that make use of embedded NFC tags. Even previously unconnected products, such as food, beverages or clothing will eventually come with NFC tags attached, turning consumer goods into Internet-connected advertising platforms that close the gap between the physical and the digital.

Consider a retail store where NFC tags are placed on products, allowing customers to access more personalized information about the product by simply scanning them with an app that integrates their personal information. For example, if you are allergic to wheat, the product scan would be able to determine if the product contained wheat (or was processed in a factory containing wheat) and let you know. The scan would also be able to provide instant coupons, ideas for usage, or various payment options.

Not only does this provide consumers with a more enjoyable shopping experience, it provides retailers with a significant amount of information and data about their audience. And in turn, presents opportunities for marketers and media to leverage the data that arises from so many connected things.

Aside from beacons and messaging, retailers must focus on creating even greater efficiencies in the entire consumer experience, from beginning to end. According to the Cisco and DHL report,  this includes mobile payments, checkout optimization, in-store shopper guidance, and what the study calls hyper-relevance, which enables consumers to find what they want, when they want, and in exactly the way they want it.

ARE YOU USING ALL 5 SENSES?

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For an example of “sensory marketing,” take a look at Singapore Airlines. They not only implement highly consistent visual themes, they’ve taken things up a notch by infusing the hot towels and perfume worn by flight attendants with a single fragrance, Stefan Floridian Waters. The patented aroma was specifically designed to complement the airline’s brand, and has since become a distinct trademark of Singapore Airlines.

The company also mandates that their flight attendants adhere to stringent appearance criteria, and wear uniforms made from fine silk, which coincidently, incorporate elements of the cabin decor. Each of these finely tuned details aims to serve one purpose — to create a unique experience that evokes feelings of comfort and luxury that the customer associates with Singapore Airlines. And for all intents and purposes, they do.

What Singapore Airlines understands, and what mobile has yet to truly embrace, is the power of sensory marketing.

Sensory marketing is a tool used to stimulate a consumer’s relationship with a brand and to create a long-lasting, positive emotional connection. Our senses — sight, sound, touch, smell and taste — help build emotion, and thus stay with us longer.

While sight is the most stimulated sense, sound is an effective complement. Certainly we all recognize the specific Intel notes at the end of their commercial, not to mention catchy jingles like Rice-A-Roni’s “the San Francisco treat.”

What about the less obvious – but equally impactful – examples? Did you know that Audi associated the sounds of a steady heartbeat, a piano and a breath with its cars? Or that Mercedes Benz established a team to create the most appealing sound for a closing car door? These sounds are not merely more pleasing to the ear, but are a great way to inspire lasting memories that tug at people’s heartstrings.

Yet sensory marketing goes beyond first impressions. As detailed in a recent article in Adage, research has shown that it can actually influence people’s purchasing behavior. No wonder real estate agents bake cookies in a house for sale, and wine stores play classical music.

So how can mobile make a move towards sensory marketing? By playing to its strengths. Mobile hardware natively contains sensory elements that stimulate people’s emotions and create engaging experiences. And mobile users are actually pre-conditioned to respond to sight, sound and touch. By leveraging these points, brands can make not only make ad viewing engaging, they might even make it fun.

Consider a user playing a mobile game. When he or she succeeds, the app could vibrate, sounding a “reward” tone, then provide the user with a branded ad and coupon to reinforce the positive moment. Or an ad for the film American Sniper could deliver vibrations that correspond with action scenes, like guns shooting and bombs exploding. These types of ads create highly immersive and memorable experiences, and can strengthen the brand’s ability to connect with the viewer.

Take, for example, the mobile ad unit Gyro360, which engages both the consumer’s visual and tactile senses. Designed to view panoramic or 360-degree images, such as the interior of a car, the user rotates their mobile device, which simulates the turning of the head. The image can be viewed within the banner or expanded to full screen, creating a fluid and immersive experience. Research has shown that this unit has high interaction rates and is uniquely effective at driving brand awareness and building brand loyalty.

Of course, there is such a thing as going overboard, and brands must be careful not to annoy their viewers. There’s a fine line between engaging and just plain distracting. But by partnering with ad technology vendors that have thoroughly vetted sensory marketing features and have thoughtfully tested their mobile products to ensure a positive user experience, brands can make an important shift in their mobile thinking to deeply leverage the medium’s unique attributes.

Photo Credit: Patrick Hoesly via Compfight cc

Announcing Opera Select, the first premium mobile exchange

OperaSelect_LightIn 2012, we introduced OMAX, the Opera Mediaworks Ad Exchange, a real-time marketplace for efficient, automated buying and selling of mobile media.

Since then, we have facilitated programmatic access to key demand partners, delivering impressions in an automated way to over 18,000 mobile sites and apps – driving better monetization for mobile publishers through scale and operational efficiencies.

Advertisers, too, have benefited from the increased access, speed and efficiency of the RTB open auction model.

In the larger landscape, programmatic also took center stage. In nearly every marketers’ guide to 2014 trends, programmatic was a key topic. Panels about programmatic buying at mobile conferences were often standing room only, and nearly every day there was a story in the trade media about it. Just this week, the IAB published a Mobile Programmatic Playbook.

But if there is one constant in mobile, it’s change.

In the past year, we’ve seen a giant shift in the programmatic space – and that shift is toward private marketplaces and programmatic direct, where the massive, open exchange is narrowed down to a smaller subset of buyers and sellers to create a premium environment that is perfect for brand advertisers and publishers.

That is what we are announcing today: a private marketplace to connect the buyers and sellers who work with Opera Mediaworks.

Opera Select

The best media companies in the world already monetize their mobile properties through our platform, so the stage is set for a premium environment. It’s a curated mobile marketplace where advertisers will know their premium brands will appear alongside premium content. Their messages will be delivered to the right audience, allowing them to combine their own targeting capabilities with the ones we offer, and they will have access to highly valuable early session impressions, for maximum campaign efficiency.

Publishers already use the platform to set up their own private exchanges with agencies and brands. Opera Select adds an additional layer of connection to premium demand, managed by Opera Mediaworks. The end result is a comprehensive waterfall, enabling us to monetize publisher inventory better than ever before.

Opera Mediaworks is committed to providing the best mobile platform for brands, whether that means an advertiser or a publisher brand. As the mobile ecosystem moves toward an increasingly programmatic future, we are excited about the ways Opera Select supports that mission. The ability to run the highest-quality, rich media display ads on the highest-quality sites and apps is an important first step, but it’s just the start. Look for more information later this year about programmatic for video and native advertising.

To learn more about Opera Select, contact us at select@opera.com.

The View From the Opera Innovation Lab: So What Do You Guys Do, Anyway?

As always, Apple’s entrance into a market – namely, wearables – has elevated the conversation around the market overall.

And based on our experience at last week’s Mobile World Congress, we’d say that consumer adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) – which goes beyond smart watches to connected cars, and clothes and houses – will be very interesting for the mobile ad industry.

Just ask Ben Dimond, Director of Strategy for EMEA at Opera Mediaworks, and a leading voice in the Opera Innovation Lab. In the video below, he shares his thoughts on how connected devices and wearables might change things for mobile advertisers in the near future.

He also sheds light on the top regions of innovation in EMEA (hint: South Africa is on the rise), and answers one big, burning question about the Opera Innovation Lab. Namely … what kinds of things go on in an Innovation Lab, anyway?

 

 

Is the Apple Watch the bridge we’ve been waiting for?

Opera Mediaworks CEO Mahi de Silva shares his thoughts on this week’s Apple announcement and what it means for the mobile advertising community.

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The Apple Watch will create new ways for brands to connect with consumers on the go

Why? Because the Apple Watch is a new medium for apps, across a broad range of content from health, wellness, social media, sports, news and entertainment – all aiming to engage consumers. Marketing within these apps will be confined to sponsorships or “badging,” because of the size of the screen, so advertisers will need to keep interactions short and sweet. However, it will also create an important bridge between the tiny screen on your wrist and the larger screen on your phone or phablet, which can deliver a richer content experience monetized through advertising, complete with rich media and video.

The Apple Watch will strengthen the bond between people and their favorite brands

The watch also creates a new modality for delivering unique and relevant notifications to a consumer’s wrist — that will ultimately re-engage the consumer on the bigger screen for a more immersive content experience. If you are a brand that has earned that precious spot on a user’s phone via a brand app, then they have the ability to engage that user in a quick and easy way. Maybe you can notify that user of a sale nearby based on a beacon they walked by, or alert them about the release of a brand’s newest product line.

Privacy-friendly data signals from the Apple Watch will improve consumer profiles

Savvy publishers will connect and coalesce data signals ranging from frequency of use and location to context and behavior observed in their apps on the Apple Watch and iPhone. These signals will contribute to better understanding the consumer, who in turn will see more relevant marketing. The Apple Watch will utilize low-power Bluetooth to connect to its companion iPhone, and, in turn, makes it more likely that that the consumer will participate in Bluetooth-enabled technology, including beacons. This single product will ensure that Bluetooth-based beacons will become a reality — driving a whole new world of location-based advertising, tracking and attribution.

The Download: Three Takeaways from Mobile World Congress

MWCPICThe booth has been disassembled, the business cards have been exchanged, and the flights back to various home cities (including London, Buenos Aires and of course, San Mateo) have all been booked. As we look back at the Opera Mediaworks experience at the bustling, buzzing Mobile World Congress this year, three major themes come to mind:

  1. Beyond the Smartphone: Connecting Everything to Everything Else

It makes sense that a conference dedicated to all things mobile would focus heavily on connectivity – including the technologies that actually enable us to talk, text and FaceTime each other. But at Mobile World Congress this year, connected devices like smart cars, smart watches, and even smart homes took center stage.Fitbit MWC 2015

There was almost an entire expo hall dedicated to device connectivity beyond the smartphone, with exhibitors like FitBit, AT&T Digital Life, and Xensr showing off how connectivity can help consumers stay active, stay safe and stay productive.

Of course, as processors, batteries and transmitters all get smaller and more powerful, the idea of connecting everything from a coffee cup to a bike becomes less far-fetched. The question on our minds though, is how do all these connected devices change the landscape for mobile advertising?

2. Globalization + Localization = Long-Term Success

Mobile advertising is a global game – but there are times when the conversation feels very U.S.-centric – at least here in the States. That’s not the case at Mobile World Congress – and not just because the conference takes place in Barcelona.

Globalization was a core theme, with demonstrations and installations in multiple languages, as well as a focus on localizing both content and commerce for countries like Indonesia, India and Brazil.Innovation City MWC 2015

Although the U.S. drives much of the demand for slick, innovative mobile ad campaigns, marketers, carriers and device manufacturers all realize that some of the strongest growth will come from outside of North America for the next few years. The companies that help facilitate content localization, payments in multiple currencies, and even low-cost, reliable access to the internet, will be the ones that enjoy long-term success.

  1. Own the Data – Own the Customer Relationship

Just a few years ago, content and advertising companies needed deep, favorable relationships with mobile carriers if they wanted access to their subscribers. But the proliferation of devices, apps, and the two dominant operating systems – Android and iOS – has made it far easier to connect with mobile users directly.

Even platforms like Facebook have their own stream of mobile user data, leading some to say that the carriers have been so disconnected from the customer relationship, that they may not ever enjoy the control over the market they once had.

That means the next land-grab in terms of mobile marketing and advertising will likely be over the data (and thus, the direct relationship) with the end user. Perhaps we’ll even see the carriers try to jump back in the game, given that they make all the interactions with apps and ads possible.

 

More photos from MWC:ATT Drive MWC 2015 Entrance Innovation MWC 2015 MWC 2015 Entrance Oculus Rift MWC 2015

 

From NFC and Beacons, to Apps and Apple Pay: Where is Mobile Marketing Headed Next?

mahi-panel2Where’s mobile marketing headed next?

It’s a tough question to answer – given that mobile as discipline crosses devices, platforms, content types and even countries – but our CEO Mahi de Silva offered some glimpses into the future during his panel on Mobile World Live, the official broadcast of Mobile World Congress.

Joined by Arlie Sisson, Associate Director of mobile product strategy at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Michael Collins, CEO of Adelphic Mobile, Mahi and the other panelists shed light on what marketers have to look forward to when it comes to using mobile over the next few years and months.

  • Location, Location, Location

It’s been discussed for years, but it seems like the infrastructure is finally in place – NFC, Bluetooth, beacons, etc. – and widespread enough, to fully leverage location-based features.

For companies like Starwood, Arlie said that means learning to use mobile location features for both utility and marketing purposes:

“We’re elated to offer Bluetooth keyless check-ins and let people open their doors with a phone,” she said. “But it changes the relationship, since there’s no face-to-face check-in process. That means we have to have content, and be able to market through the phone when they’re on the property.”

  • More Apps and Less SMS (At Least in the US)

For brands, the future of mobile marketing looks more and more like an app. Michael said that Adelphic was seeing a definite shift away from SMS as a marketing tool:

“There’s still some SMS activity, but brands are far more interested in the depth of relationship [with the customer] that comes from an app … Apps are taking over.”

That deeper relationship also leads to greater control over the kind of experience a marketer can craft, according to Mahi:

“We know that consumer engagement through an app is much stronger than on a browser, but apps also let [marketers] do things tied very closely to the device OS,” he said. “That’s where in-app marketing gets interesting, because you can integrate with features like the GPS chip or Apple Pay, or deep linking from one app into another.”

Still, Arlie added that the shift away from SMS to apps was somewhat region-specific:

“We have 1200 properties around the world, so while the EU and US are dominated by apps, SMS is still very powerful in APAC.”

  • Tapping the Power of Payments

Ultimately, mobile marketing is marketing – and although marketing campaigns may focus on engagement, loyalty, or brand building – the underlying goal is to drive the sale. And that’s why the promise of making phone-based transactions and payments as seamless as possible was so exciting to the panelists.

Mahi noted that mobile payments offer a blend of convenience and trust that may be hard for consumers to resist:

“Apple Pay takes the value proposition that providers like PayPal have had on the desktop and brings it to mobile,” he said. “It’s starting with in-store purchases and physical goods, but we’ll see it transfer to virtual goods and other items that people can order and get shipped.”

We’ll link to the full video of Mahi’s panel as soon as it’s available. In the meantime, you can find coverage of the highlights from Mobile World Congress 2015 here.

Come see us at Mobile World Congress!

mwcThe biggest mobile conference in the world will be underway in Barcelona, Spain from March 2 - 5, and Opera Mediaworks will be there. Come visit us at our booth located at App Planet Hall 8.1 Booth B20 at Mobile World Congress. Watch out for the big “O” on top to locate us easily at App Planet!

We will be represented by our teams from around the world who will be showcasing our world-class products and services such as AdMarvel, AdColony Instant-Play™ HD video , OMAX (Opera Mediaworks Ad Exchange), Opera Audience Network (OAN) and others.

We’re excited this year to be one of the finalists for the Global Mobile Awards at Mobile World Congress in the Best Mobile Advertising and Marketing category for The Flash campaign. We will be attending the Global Mobile Awards ceremony on Tuesday, March 3.

Opera Mediaworks CEO Mahi de Silva will also be talking on Global Mobile Live TV on Tuesday, March 3 at 1:30 pm local time – he will be talking with representatives from Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Adelphic Mobile on “Mobile’s role in Direct Marketing.” Keep an eye out for him on the big screens at the show.

In addition, Opera Mediaworks will be having a presence at the Mobile Media Summit at MWC this year on March 4. Mark Slade, Managing Director EMEA for Opera Mediaworks will be moderating a panel “Mobile in the C-Suite: What do CEOs want?” alongside representatives from Tata Communications, McCann London, M&C Saatchi Mobile and AMV BBDO.

Hope to see you there!

Africa’s mobile revolution is happening faster than you think

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.30.07 AMThe mobile landscape in Africa is changing faster and more furiously than anyone imagined. Mobile internet users are dominating the market, according to Opera’s recently released State of Mobile Advertising report, and as the pace of mobile innovation and efficiency across the continent continues to accelerate, It’s clear that the last blue ocean of consumer demand for technology poses big opportunities for mobile operators and advertisers.

The report indicates that across the continent, roughly 57.8% of Africans are accessing the internet from their mobile devices. In some countries, such as Kenya, 99% of internet users gain access using a mobile device.

The preference of mobile devices for online activities over other mediums such as laptops or desktop computers should come as no big surprise, given the weak or non-existent landline infrastructure in many parts of Africa. In fact, in a number of regions, there never was a landline infrastructure to begin with. Mobile enabled anyone with a phone to access the internet.

While Africans are still more likely to use a non-smartphone than the global audience, the report indicates that smartphones, specifically Android devices, are a growing part of the mobile landscape. And Android users interact with the mobile web at twice the rate of feature phone users, and as they get into the hands of more of the African population, mobile internet use is bound to increase. Case in point — in the submarkets of Middle, Northern and Southern Africa, the average number of page views and data consumed exceed the average.

The rapidly growing penetration of smartphones and the increased ease and use of the internet is also changing the way that Africans communicate and engage, and in turn, opening up new opportunities for advertisers. Taking a closer look at mobile users in Nigeria and South Africa, the data shows that social networking is the most popular activity, with high levels of consumption in that category. South African users consumed many more pages, however, which means there is significantly more inventory on social networking sites and apps for advertisers to consider.

App use is also something for advertisers take note of. While only about 5% of internet traffic in Africa comes from games and other apps, the report suggests this market will grow substantially as more users adopt smart devices. And the fact that app traffic tends to monetize better than web traffic still applies, meaning big opportunities in African markets.Given the prevalence of the mobile device in Africa, it makes sense for mobile operators to cater to the users and make it easy for them to access web content. Enter the “web pass.” These short term passes, which can be sponsored by brands or mobile operators, allow users who do not want to make a full commitment to hop on the internet for limited amounts of time. Web passes not only help operators bring new internet users online, but present a way for sites to attract users, or for brands to offer valuable incentives to engage customers.

Mobile may even have the power to revolutionize critical sectors in Africa, such as healthcare. African countries with the most doctors per capita account for 90% of impressions to health sites, while countries with the fewest doctors per capital consume less than 1% of health-focused site impressions. These numbers reflect the healthcare “gap” and reveal large untapped audience for healthcare related sites and apps. Building such sites could be a shrewd move, providing African users affordable access to critical information, reducing the need for travel and perhaps even reducing the pressure on doctors.

See highlights from Africa: The State of Mobile Advertising in our press release, or read the full report here.

Opera Mediaworks delivers record revenue and profits, exceeds $100M in quarterly revenue

Today Opera Mediaworks’ parent company, Opera Software, announced financial results for Q4 2014. Opera Mediaworks delivered yet another record quarter, surpassing $100 million in quarterly revenues in Q4 2014.

 

Here are some highlights from the financial results, broken down for the Opera Mediaworks business.

 

  • Revenues of $103.2 million in Q4 2014, up 139% versus Q4 2013
  • Overall Opera Mediaworks 2014 revenues of $272.8 million
  • Total mobile advertising impressions managed (including Opera Owned and Operated properties) was 190.8 billion in Q4 2014, up 6% compared to Q4 2013.

Overall, Opera Software reported revenue of $154.4 million, up 72% versus Q4 2013 and Adjusted EBITDA* of $34.4 million, up 43% versus Q4 2013. In Q2 2014, Opera Mediaworks’s revenues surpassed the 50% mark of overall Opera Software revenues. In Q4 2014, the Opera Mediaworks subsidiary now comprises two-thirds of overall Opera Software revenues.

4Q14_Presentation

 

 Mobile video and performance advertising fuel growth

 

The strong results from Q4 were driven by increased revenue from premium and performance advertisers and “app install”- driven spend from primarily the mobile gaming sector. In Q4, Opera Mediaworks brand business ran campaigns with 49 of the top 50 global advertisers including Samsung, Wells Fargo, Toyota and Pepsi.

 

Based on the latest financial results, Opera Mediaworks business is becoming more balanced, more so leaning toward brand advertising versus performance advertising in its strongest market – the United States. A majority of that growth in revenues comes from the mobile video medium, which is the fastest growing ad format on mobile, and has 5X the brand recall compared to other formats. Today, more than 50% of Opera Mediaworks’ revenues come from the mobile video, compared to less than 20% a year ago.

 

With the acquisition of premium mobile video ad platform AdColony in Q3 2014 and its full addition this quarter to revenues, Opera Mediaworks is now particularly strong in mobile video advertising. AdColony clearly complements Opera’s traditional strength in rich media advertising and greatly strengthens Opera’s position in the high growth user acquisition/app install segment of the mobile advertising market.

 

AdColony has a strong record of driving high fill-rates and premium eCPMs to publishers all over the globe. All in all, a record quarter for Opera Mediaworks in terms of videos viewed by our audience too.

 

International expansion

 

In Q4 2014, Opera Mediaworks committed itself to expanding rapidly in markets outside its core regions such as the United States and Europe. In December, Opera Mediaworks announced the acquisition of AdVine, South Africa’s leading premier mobile advertising network, to better service advertisers in Africa, frequently known as the “mobile continent.”

 

The company also launched a team in Asia Pacific in Q4 (announced more recently) to meet the growing needs of brands, agencies and publishers in the region. In our most recent State of Mobile Advertising report for Q4 2014, we reported that Asia has overtaken Europe in terms of overall mobile ad impressions by a big margin – making 26% of global mobile ad impressions share.

 

“Once again, Opera Mediaworks has delivered a record quarter on all fronts — campaigns, impressions under management, video views and installs,” said Mahi de Silva, CEO, Opera Mediaworks. “The company is on track to achieve key strategy milestones in order to deliver a highly-differentiated experience and results to our customers — advertisers and publishers globally — with the launch of several products and services in the past few months.

 

Record sales of smartphones globally in Q4 2014 is fueling a strong start to Q1 for our business. We see brand and performance advertisers go after the multiplying consumer eyeballs as a result of more smartphones flooding the market worldwide.”

 

You can read more about Opera’s Q4 2014 results here.