Understanding Comparison Shopping Services

Following the recent launch of our CSS solution and the announcement of our Premium Google Comparison Shopping Partner Status, our Head of Performance, Max Flajsner, led a highly insightful webinar explaining Google’s latest platform.

Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) were a huge industry in the 90s, but after Google launched Google Shopping they noticed that their search traffic was being decimated as they were forced down the SERP. One lawsuit and a record-breaking €2.4 billion fine later, and Google have been instructed to clean up their act. In response, Google has opened the doors for CSSs to buy Google Shopping space.

The biggest benefit of using a CSS is that you can save over 20% just by signing up. As an incentive, Google introduced a 20% discount on CPCs in the SERP, making you 20% richer in the auction, and a Spend Match, giving you ad credits based on your spend within a 30 day period.

How does it work?

CSS Shopping campaigns work almost identically to Google Shopping. While you do need a different Merchant Centre, this looks mostly like the standard one with a few additional functions. You also manage your activity through your usual Google Ads account. Within Google Ads, you’ll see your discount appearing as part of your campaign performance metrics – which should be 20% better – and your Spend Match vouchers will appear like any other voucher from Google.

On the SERP, you will never serve the same product more than once, which means that you will never be bidding or second priced against yourself. When a user clicks on the product name they will be directed straight to your product page, or if they click on the CSS name they will be redirected to the CSS with the search term pre-populated.

When setting up your new Merchant Centre you have two options: to clone your Google Merchant Centre or switch over. The choice will depend on who you are as a brand and the kind of measurement you want to see.


  • You’ll be able to test performance of CSS vs Google for yourself.
  • You can split traffic by Shopping tab/SERP.
  • You will lose campaign data from previous campaigns
  • It will take longs to make changes.
  • We suggest you lower your bids by 15% and slowly scale up to account for the discount. At the same time, you should scale your shopping bids down.


  • You can keep all of your old campaign management.
  • There’s no change to your GMC management.
  • You can’t manually test CSS vs Google.
  • You can’t split SERP and Shopping tab data.

How to pick a CSS Partner

There are 4 main things to keep in mind when choosing your CSS Partner.

  • Are they direct linking? Do they send users straight to your product page or do a redirect to their site first?
  • How strong is their Google Shopping Offering? Since CSS Shopping campaigns are exactly the same as Google Shopping campaigns, you’ll want to investigate their prowess on Google Shopping to give you an indication of how their CSS Shopping will fare.
  • What commercial model do they use? Depending on your needs, be it gap coverage on an affiliate CPA model or the traditional agency model, you’ll need to see who offers what you’re looking for.
  • What level of servicing do they provide? Do they offer reporting or dashboards? How often push feeds to the CSS GMC, and how often do they update their site.

To find out more about NMPi’s CSS solution, visit our Comparison Shopping Services page or read our latest case study from client Watch Shop.




NMPi First Ad Agency Named Premium Google Comparison Shopping Partner

It was just over a month ago that we announced the launch of our Comparison Shopping Service and official Google CSS Partner status. Within that short time, we have become the first advertising agency to receive the Premium Google Comparison Shopping (CSS) Partner badge for our proprietary CSS technology, By Buy Bye.

The Premium Google CSS Partner badge is only given to those who hold the skills and expertise to assist over 100 merchants on their platform, and we are thrilled to be the first advertising agency to achieve this milestone. Our heritage and depth of understanding of Google’s Shopping capabilities has allowed us to rapidly scale and provide leading brands with our technology, consultancy and expertise. 

What’s so exciting about working with a CSS?

If you haven’t yet heard, Google expanded its Shopping proposition earlier this summer, encouraging several large agencies to become a part of their new partner programme, which now includes over 50 CSS platforms.

Google has confirmed that running Shopping activity via a CSS is 20% cheaper than running through Google Shopping. For example, a £1 bid through a CSS is worth £1 in the auction, whilst a £1 bid through Google Shopping may only be worth 80p.

Overall our campaigns have seen a significant drop in CPCs, averaging a 30% reduction in costs whilst maintaining optimal campaign performance.

If you have any interest in learning more about CSS and how you can receive Google’s CPC discounts and spend match benefits, get in touch.

NMPignite: The Customer is Always Right

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The main message in the presentation delivered by Fred Maude, Performance Manager for NMPi, was that the customer is always right. At an industry level, at a brand or advertiser level, and at a campaign level, the customer is always right.

Experience Matters for the Industry

“Globally, monthly active desktop ad-blocking has grown 400% since January 2013 to 220 million” according to Adobe. This is a frankly staggering statistic and highlights a problem that rests above any one advertiser. Consumers are not happy with the industry in general, and we as an industry have the most to lose. The ad industry plays a major role in keeping a lot of web content free.

Experience Matters for your Brand

More than ever before, the customer is right. They wield more power and influence due to:

  • A wealth of choice – if you aren’t providing an experience that delights, then a consumer will just find someone who does.
  • Ease of switching – a consumer and switch to a competitor with little to no effort, and possibly pick up an introductory offer along the way
  • Louder voice – it only takes one trending review or social media post to make or break your campaign.

The bottom line is, if we don’t give them an experience that they like, they can punish us in ways and speeds not possible before the digital age. Fundamentally, if we don’t provide exceptional experience, then someone else will.

Experience Matters for your Campaigns

At the lowest level, the customer is still right – you just have to find them. There are people out there who will purchase from your campaigns, but finding them within budget constraints is difficult. On top of showing new and creative ads, you have to ensure that you are maximising performance potential.

Ads are like Marmite, so find the people who love your digital marmite by making your campaigns as granular as possible, breaking down your internal silos, and underpinning it all with analytics. Find out what technology your partners are using and work to integrate them. Make sure your channels are all working towards a common goal. Creating this greater experience will lead to higher engagement and increased direct response.

If we look after our own campaigns in this way, then the industry can look after itself.

NMPignite: Storytelling Through Light and Video

Tupac Martir has worked with some of the world’s finest artists. From designers like Alexander McQueen and Alexander Wang, to bands like Porter and Unkle, and artists like Xu Bing, Martir has used light and video to create impeccable experiences for audiences. His work is perhaps the perfect embodiment of our topic, using art and science to create flawless experiences for audiences around the globe, and perhaps the best example of this is his collaboration with Johnnie Walker.

HIK+ (Johnnie Walker)

In late 2017, Tupac Martir took over the side of Mexico’s tallest building on behalf of whisky brand Johnnie Walker with a “visual poem” dedicated to Mexico City. The city was recovering from a devastating earthquake, and so with free reign to design whatever he wished, he decided to write a love letter to its people.

“Keep improving, keep succeeding, keep walking Mexico.” – epigraph

There were two main elements to the piece. The first half took data from Instagram to display posts about the audience’s greatest successes. As Martir and his team were sharing their success, he wanted to give the people a chance to do the same.

The second half of the piece used motion capture to record the movements of ballet dancer Isaac Hernandez. Showing his escape from a labyrinth, and overcoming an internal struggle in the process, it symbolised the struggles that the city had pulled itself through. Through artistry, picked up through data capturing technology, Martir was able to tell a story that was seen by thousands on their commute home from work. All in all, the piece lead to an increase in sales of Johnnie Walker of 17%.

In essence, it was a great experience developed by the melding of art and science, demonstrating how in the purest sense the two work hand in hand.    

NMPignite: Customer-First Marketing through Technology

Customer first marketing is the holy grail of advertising, but we tend to only talk about marketing on a one-to-one basis. This is where the idea that marketing is creepy comes from: what we’re calling customer first is still just driving our sales. We should be putting our customers, rather than our marketing goals, first if we want to truly lay a claim to the “customer-first” mantra.

Science, but no Art

James Sleaford, Managing Director of DQ&A, uses many of his own experiences to demonstrate the problems with the current model of “customer-first”. Up until February 2018, he was still receiving emails from Booking.com with recommended destinations in Bali – a place he visited back in October 2014. Science and data are clearly telling them that this works, but for some this has an opposite effect. A customer would likely have a better experience if they were given similar locations, but not the same.

This is hardly the only example of this. Consider an ad for a German classical music streaming app, served to an English tourist only after they returned home.

A free drink offer sounds like a good idea, but if it’s not on anything your consumer ever buys then what’s the point? What about a dress that you might view once, but ends up following you around the internet for months after? The data and science might suggest that it works, but by only using science you’re never going to give a consumer a great experience.

Full Digital Transformation

If we as advertisers want to communicate with customers who want to engage – which leads to higher lifetime values, and develops a mutually beneficial relationship – then we need a full digital transformation. The path to customer-first marketing will take us from a media-centric approach to a tech-centric approach, up to a data-centric approach until our approach places the customer firmly at the centre.

Now, there are “6 Ps” of digital transformation: Plan, People, Partners, Platforms, Process and Personalisation. Of these, James focuses on Platforms, and in particular the Google Marketing Platform. A unified tech stack such as Google Marketing Platform allows you to move data from one place to another – something that wasn’t possible before. It also improves efficiency and performance straight away, gives you better data integrity, and helps you to break down human silos.

There are some things that marketers can’t get hold of through Google Marketing Platform, such as logistics, business reporting and CRM data. These business insights can all be stored in the Google Cloud. With all of these insights in one central place, you can increase collaboration across your media and creative agencies, your ecommerce team, your data & business analytics team and your tech team to once again break down silos and improve efficiency and performance.


To move towards true customer-first marketing without appearing creepy, we should be taking on even more signals from our customers to find out how to create an experience that delights. Check out DQ&A’s case study on Transavia to see how this can be done in practice.

NMPignite: The Creative Renaissance

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The digital media landscape has changed substantially, and it is Dave Rosowsky’s – COO of Joystick – belief that we are now in the midst of a creative renaissance. We are in a unique opportunity to bring together media, creative and technology in a way that has never been done before. Historically, technology has supported media or creative, but not both. We are now in a position where technology is mature enough that we can start to find new and innovative ways to integrate them.

Professor Clay Shirky argues that “tools don’t get interesting until they get technologically boring”, and this is precisely where we are with programmatic. We can’t start experimenting with technology until society has become comfortable with it until we take it for granted. Now the industry has come to grips with programmatic, we can begin to play around with new formats and so on.

We’ve seen display advertising go from the first banner ads of 1994, back when you could expect a CTR of 44%, to the launch of DoubleClick in 1996. We’ve seen advertisers take down one of America’s largest airlines, and win a presidential election. We saw the birth of programmatic and RTB back in 2010, and now we’re at a point where it’s become boring.

This is the time for creative to shine. The creative renaissance is driven by data, delivered programmatically across a multitude of channels, can be tracked, analyzed and reported on, and of course, is fueled by creative.

Predictions for the Future

  • With the massive growth of programmatic media channels and the technology in place to deliver across “all mediums” we can now focus on what can be done creatively to bring our ideas to life.
  • Publishers will provide creative with the canvas they need, while also taking more responsibility for how ad inventory appears on pages and ensuring the ad-serving experience is much more consistent and clean.
  • Programmatic Direct will open up premium inventory and increases our opportunities to deliver visually compelling creative.
  • Creative will not only become more personalised but personalised across all channels.
  • High impact formats will make a resurgence.
  • Data, technology and analytics will enable collaboration between media, creative and experience in new ways, something that both the Google Marketing Platform and Joystick’s new partnership with NMPi and DQ&A are trying to realise.

Media enables us to reach the right person, but when you reach them, it has to be great experience. Creative is the answer. Creating experiences that delight our users is the answer.

NMPignite: Creating Exceptional Experiences

Great experience drives great performance, but with so many touchpoints and variables plus an ever-increasing amount of data, how do we pull it all together to create exceptional experiences that drive customer loyalty? We sat down with Claire Rampen, Head of Growth & Digital at Beryl, Elizabeth Vince, Creative Agency Lead at Google, Amy-Lee Cowey, Senior eCommerce Manager for Charlotte Tilbury, and Craig Brown, Performance Development Director at NMPi to ask the hard questions and deep dive into what creates captivating connections.  

Q: Are we making too much of a big deal out of customer experience?

The running theme throughout everyone’s responses is that customer experience has to be at the forefront of everything you do. Teams across your business have to make sure that customer experience is one of the first things they consider. As Craig notes, there is no such thing as good customer service anymore. Customers expect their experiences to be good, so they only call you out if it’s bad. You might be able to drive the best traffic in the world, but if the user has a bad experience on site you’ll never be able to get them to convert. On top of this, Claire argues that there is a second tier to this. You’re not only trying to get customers to convert but make them advocates for your brand, and ensure they stay loyal.

And the importance of customer experience is reflected industry-wide. Creative eCommerce and Brand Experience & Activation are now their own categories at Cannes. The industry itself is seeing how crucial this is for brands and advertisers, and we would do well to adopt Google’s number one principle: focus on the user and all else will follow.

Q: What are the challenges and barriers that you face?

Working in separate industries, our panellists face separate and distinct barriers. Beryl looks at how to get all the data together in a way that you can trust it, something Claire doesn’t believe anyone has cracked yet. One thing she does note is that the legacy behind established businesses often holds them back in this regard.

Reiterating comments from Fred Maude’s earlier presentation, Elizabeth reminds us of how easy it is for consumers to switch off and even switch to one of your competitors. They have so much more control than ever before and are much more likely to change channels if they want to avoid your advert for example. However, if they love something they will happily binge it. If a customer is leaning in and engaging with your advertising and brand, give them more to let them engage and roll with it.

From an agency perspective, Craig discusses his experiences with barriers in the industry. Often, he sees cases where brands don’t want to adapt to the point where it can become dangerous. Rigidity is great for brands as it allows them to keep their identities and inspire brand advocates, an incredibly important factor for retailers, but if they don’t adapt to what the customers want then you’ll start running into problems. In many cases, digital is much further down the line than you would expect and so they are often left with branding and creative that doesn’t appeal to the customer they want to reach.

Q: How do you effectively measure the success of your tactics?

The problem with measurement is that different things matter to different companies. Amy-Lee explains that Charlotte Tilbury is more than happy being a content-led brand, but this will never help with KPIs. This is obviously not the same for all retailers, and so it can feel that measurement is sort of arbitrary without a universal benchmark.

Each customer is different, and they interact with your brand in different ways. So something that is important to measure is the loyalty within separate categories. For example, a customer who just buys mascara is very different to a customer who buys foundation. Retaining these customers is one important metric to measure, but if you can graduate a customer from mascara to foundation, this is an even greater success.

Elizabeth’s advice is just to let your customers do the talking – this is the best way to understand how effective your campaigns are, and helps you to test and experiment with new content.

Q: How do we ensure consumers have a seamless experience both online and offline?

Craig argues that many businesses aren’t doing enough to set themselves up to create a coherent online/offline customer experience. A good starting point is to begin to understand the movement of the customer between online and offline, and what is bringing them into the store – something that media can really help with. If you know that it’s your higher-end products that are bringing people in store, which is often the case, then you know that you need to push that.

Before you start preparing this kind of approach, it is important to note that without a single customer-view, an omnichannel approach that covers both online and offline is redundant. You also need to ensure you’re doing as much data capture in store to build out a greater understanding of your customer.

Once you’re ready to begin rolling out an omnichannel approach, it’s difficult to know where to start. One technique that Amy-Lee recommends is a triangular experience of consuming online content, first-time purchasing in store before the consumer replenishes their supplies online.

The key piece of advice that came up repeatedly throughout the discussion was the importance of breaking down silos. It is silos that often create barriers to exceptional experiences across many different parts of the customer journey. Keep your silos in check and the rest is sure to follow.

NMPignite: Challenges and Learning from Optimising Digital Customer Experience

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Alain Portmann, Partner and Head of Strategy & Insight at House of Kaizen, has a long history in the industry, which has shown him that while formulas work in media, it is principles that drive consumer experience. Unfortunately, media on its own will not solve you commercial challenges. We assume that the consumer is a passive and obedient recipient and that they will automatically route to the most optimal decision. We aide this by placing incentives and disincentives to shape consumer behaviour. However, in reality, there are things that we have little control over.

Challenges in Customer Experience

House of Kaizen sits at the middle of the consumer journey, and from this position, they can see 2 of the biggest challenges that come up in Customer Experience. The first challenge is that optimising the customer journey is daunting and messy. It’s virtually impossible to tackle the whole of the customer experience at once. The solution, then, is to break up the journey to understand the pressure points within it.

The second main challenge is that teams focused on retention and teams focused on acquisition are kept in silos, even though often they are working with the same individuals. The siloed approach results in different sets of competing KPIs and teams, preventing a seamless experience for the consumer.

The solution that House of Kaizen uses is the Asset Optimisation Model, which breaks up the customer journey into 6 components that a brand can optimise to improve CX:

  • Customer Interactions
  • Media – both paid and earned
  • Brand & Value Proposition
  • Pricing
  • Content and Forms
  • Product

Case Study: Subscription Client in EMEA

In this case study, research and behavioural insights show that price accounts for 85.3% of reasons to switch from this brand to a competitor. However, was it actually the sticker price or was there something else which was causing friction? Further insights showed that at the core of these concerns was a question of value for money.

With the main problem being pricing, House of Kaizen decided to take a step sideways and look at optimising the content and form assets with a cart redesign. Before the project, 50% of traffic was lost at cart level as consumers didn’t have a good understanding of the product’s value for money. So to remove friction and improve conversion rates, improvements were made to the design, hierarchy of information and the way that the information was split up and presented. Cart optimisation saw an uplift in conversions.

In order to further improve conversion rates, they also optimised the auto-renewal process; something which is a huge source of anxiety for customers. Improvements to remove friction by putting calendar reminders that you’re up for renewal, and generally removing the anxiety from auto-subscribing. However, they did not see any kind of uplift, because this was trying to rationalise something that cannot be rationalised based on data alone.

You cannot be both data-driven and strategic. Data-driven is a short-term thing. The best thing is to be both data-driven and data-informed: pulling from each when you need to.

Google Express – The Neutral Marketplace?

What is Google Express?

Google Express has been around for a while in the US, but it has enjoyed a recent rise to prominence after removing its subscription fees to become a completely free service, as well as expanding the number of stores it partners with on its marketplace. As a response to Amazon’s overwhelming dominance as a hub for online shopping, Google Express offers users the opportunity to shop local groceries, gadgets, and luxuries, all from one site.

At first glance, Google Express sounds identical to Amazon, but there is one striking difference. Where Amazon houses its vast stock in warehouses, Google Express delivers products directly from local retailers. This leads to a particular constraint on their marketplace, since you can only order from specified stores and must reach a minimum spend per-store to receive free shipping ($25 or $35 for most stores).

However, looking at the retail giants like Target and Walmart, who have signed up for Google Express, this new venture is becoming a real contender.

What does Google Express aim to achieve?

The reason these heavyweights are being attracted to Google Express is that Google has positioned itself as a neutral marketplace, not competing against third-party retailers. In other words, Google doesn’t own any of the products it is selling, as Amazon does, so the success of third-party retailers is its main focus. They aim to promote and nurture customer loyalty, providing great customer experience and helping to expand the retailers’ digital touchpoints. Ultimately, this will save retailers time and allow them to focus on other channels.

Google Express brings a whole new service offering into Google’s already immense eCommerce portfolio. By showcasing a vast number of products from a variety of stores on one marketplace, Google has developed a powerful platform to further synergise its online AdWords solution with its offline logistics solution.

Below is an example of a Google Shopping PLA, where the listed merchant is, you guessed it, Google Express. This ad takes you through to the Google Express marketplace where you are able to complete your purchase, entirely through Google services. Expect this to be an increasingly frequent occurrence as Google inevitably ramps up its all-encompassing collective shopping service.

Getting ready for the dominion of voice

Not only do we expect Google Express to dominate in Google Shopping results, but it also allows users to search, browse and purchase products through their voice search feature, Google Assistant.

Though Amazon’s Alexa can also be used to browse and order products on the Amazon marketplace, all through voice, this requires an Alexa-enabled device and Prime membership. Google Assistant, on the other hand, is a free to use voice service and is compatible with multiple devices, including smartphones as well as Google Home.

We can expect to see voice-purchasing rising to new heights in the near future. 

Amazon vs Google

With Amazon already dominating around half of all eCommerce transactions, Google Express will have a real battle on its hands. It’s unlikely that they, or anyone for that matter, will be able to trump Amazon’s delivery service, especially with two-hour delivery available for Prime members. When time and convenience are an increasingly important factor for consumers, this is a big tick in Amazon’s box.

As we’ve already seen, Google Express is positioning itself as a neutral marketplace, available to all, with no membership fees. This has a certain appeal, but will consumers really shift their purchasing behaviour when they are so used to visiting the merchant’s website? This is why so much hope for Google Express comes from their belief that voice-driven search and shopping will take off dramatically in the near future.

Google is thoroughly engrained in the lives of many online users, from Gmail to Google Search. This makes them well placed to take over online shopping. But ultimately, when you’re able to shop everything (including fresh fruit & veg) from one site – Amazon – and in one basket, to be delivered at a time most convenient to you, who would choose otherwise?

What does the future hold with Google Express?

As Google expands its powerful array of products and services, expect these to become increasingly integrated with each other. With some of the biggest retailers flocking to Google Express, this could well become an eCommerce platform to rival Amazon, particularly with the rise of voice search.

As digital marketers, we need to consider how Google Express could change the advertising landscape. For instance, it is already present in Google Shopping results, showcasing some of their leading brands. As these eCommerce giants develop their new initiatives, we should prepare for a game-changing phenomenon and Google Express could be the one to watch.

Whilst, it is currently only available in the US and there is no international shipping available keep an eye on this space. Google has not announced any future plans to expand but if the service is successful it undoubtedly will look towards Canada, the UK and Europe.

Top 5 Takeaways from NMPignite

Last week, we hosted our latest NMPignite seminar – Great Experiences: Where Art and Science Meet. There were impactful insights and enigmatic speakers in abundance, so we’ve highlighted our top 5 takeaways from the afternoon.

The Creative Renaissance

Taking a quote from Professor Clay Shirky, Dave Rosowsky of Joystick argues that “tools don’t get interesting until they get technologically boring”, and this is precisely where we are with programmatic. Now that programmatic has reached a stage where it is so well integrated within our industry, we are in the middle of a creative renaissance. This renaissance is driven by data, delivered programmatically across a multitude of channels, can be tracked, analysed and reported on, and is of course fueled by creative.

Download Dave’s Presentation

The Customer is Always Right

Fred Maude’s presentation had a very clear message right from the start. Put simply, the customer is always right. At an industry level, an advertiser level, and at a campaign level, customers have more opportunity to influence what we’re doing than ever before. As we take steps to improve the customer experience, we must:

  • Be Granular – this will allow you to reach the right person, in the right place, at the right time with the right message.
  • Be inventive – win new customers to your brand by being different.
  • Seize it – if you spot an opportunity to do something with a partner don’t be afraid to take that leap.
  • Spread the Word – we need to all take these steps, so we can rebuild trust.

Download Fred’s Presentation

Breaking Down the Problem

Alain Portmann from House of Kaizen recognises that optimising the entire customer experience is a daunting and messy exercise. To do it in one go would be virtually impossible. So, break it down into something you can solve. For example, if you know that one of the main reasons why people switch from your brand to a competitor is the price, tackle smaller, individual issues like a cart redesign or auto-renewal optimisation. These are much easier to tackle, but still have a profound impact on customer experience as a whole.

Download Alain’s Presentation

True Customer-First Marketing

To tie this all together, James Sleaford of DQ&A highlighted how advertisers can move towards true customer first marketing. Sometimes, personalisation can be messy. A German-language ad might be served to an English-speaking tourist simply because they’re on holiday in Berlin. A coffee chain might send a frequent customer a discount code on a product they have never bought, or a customer might see the same advert for the same dress following them around for years. This is something that advertisers need to remember when they start integrating more and more personalisation.

Download Jame’s Presentation

Creating Great Experiences

Lighting and Creative Designer, Tupac Martir provided a much more literal combination of art and science, showing how his art is very much guided and supported by technology and science. Pieces such as his collaboration with Jonny Walker use high-spec data capture to record movement, which was then rendered and projected on the side of a building in Mexico.

In a real encapsulation of our seminar title, his work combines both art and science to tell a story and create an emotional connection with his audience. In an interview with Tupac, he states that “emotional intelligence is the most important thing in the world.” We need to start reaching our customer on an emotional level and whilst data and analytics is important we need to reach out and know our audience. 

While we as digital advertisers are not creating “art” in its most fundamental sense, we can very clearly see how we can use science in order to support and further develop our art – or how we can use data and technology to support our advertising – in order to give a flawless experience to both our customers, and those who are interacting with our ads.

Download Tupac’s Presentation

If you missed the seminar, or you’d like to watch it again, you can check it out here.