NMPi Makes the Cut: Econsultancy’s Top 100 Digital Agencies

It’s that time of year again, Econsultancy has just released their annual Top 100 Digital Agencies report for 2017; “the definitive listing of the UK’s largest digital agencies.”

We are thrilled to announce that for another year running, NMPi has made the list. With a 15% YoY increase in UK fee income, we swooped in and secured the fifty-third spot. This is a massive triumph as we appear next to some of the world’s leading advertising agencies.

Here’s what they have to say about us:

If you would like to see the full report visit Econsultancy: Top 100 Digital Agencies 2017.

3 Tips for Black Friday 2017: What You Need to Know

Although we’re still enjoying the final days of summer (summer doesn’t officially end until 22nd of September), it’s already time to start thinking about our Black Friday strategies. Don’t get caught off guard waiting until the last minute to plan your campaigns. Now is the time to go over last year’s metrics and see what worked and what didn’t.

There has been a gradual decline in Boxing Day sales as the popularity of this American retail holiday overtakes the Christmas period. Retailers are seeing better returns after jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon, with the increase in traffic in some instances as high as 27%. When comparing Black Friday to Boxing Day, conversions are consistently higher on Black Friday. According to The Independent, last year, UK shoppers spent an astonishing £3.3bn over the course of the Black Friday holiday season. Our client data shows that that Black Friday, and smaller surrounding retail holidays linked to it, are vastly outperforming Boxing Day. Black Friday is here to stay in the UK, and must be taken seriously by retailers and advertisers as part of the marketing mix.

Recent Trends

Black Friday is Coming Earlier and Earlier

Much like the dreaded “Back-to-School” commercials popping up at the end of July, or Christmas jingles before Halloween, Black Friday is beginning to follow that trend with many brands starting sales in the lead up to the actual holiday. In 2015, online giant Amazon started its sales 12 days before Black Friday. Other retailers have started to get in on the trend to make the most of the pre-Christmas season. With companies like Sears Canada releasing their Black Friday deals on October 6th last year, BlackFriday.com has predicted that in 2017,  the holiday prices will be leaked in early October once again, if not late September.

Sofa Shopping

Online shopping on Black Friday continues to steadily increase. In 2012, 33% of consumers preferred to shop from the comfort of their own homes, to avoid the long lines, fighting, and in-store chaos that the holiday provokes. As of 2016, the stay-at-home shopping figure has risen to 44%. This trend will continue in 2017 especially as most retail sites are mobile and tablet friendly, making shopping from home, the bank, or on the go, a pleasant experience. The top stores reaping the most digital rewards in the UK are Argos, Amazon, M&S, Curry’s and Tesco Direct.

Make it Mobile

It’s a foregone conclusion, but advertisers must make their Black Friday campaigns cross-device friendly. While many people are shifting to digital indoor shopping instead of pounding the pavement, they are predominantly shopping via mobile devices on the go. Desktop is no longer the main digital channel for Black Friday shoppers.  Mobile searches have grown 50% since 2016, with bargain hunters looking for the best brands, and then for the best deals. Mobile and tablets will continue to drive more shoppers to make online purchases. In order to assure campaign success, mobile and tablet channels must provide relevant targeting and seamless shopping experiences.

How to Crack Christmas

If you would like to learn more about spicing up your Christmas campaign you can watch the replay of our “How to Crack Christmas Webinar,” your ultimate guide to holiday success.

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Is Blockchain the Future of Digital Marketing?

Blockchain has been posed as the next big technological disruption. It has already generated shockwaves in the financial industry with its decentralised network of transactions, an alternative to the current centralised model controlled by financial institutions.

From the Google search trends below you can see the rapid growth it has had in the past year:

But what are the opportunities for blockchain in the digital marketing industry? Before we dive into its possibilities, let’s wrap our heads around what it is and how it works.

What Is Blockchain?

Currently, the term “blockchain”, is synonymous with the cryptocurrency “Bitcoin”. Although both are related, they aren’t interchangeable, as blockchain is the fundamental technology behind the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. It is this technology that marketers need understand to avoid losing ground to competitors in the years to come.

Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of Blockchain Revolution (2016) state, “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

source: blockgeeks.com

A useful analogy I use to describe blockchain is to compare it to Google Sheets. Where conventional processing involves an excel file stored on a single computer, with Google Sheets, you don’t need to wait for someone to finish editing a document, it can be maintained simultaneously across multiple people with no central data storage or no version control issues.

Unlike Google Sheets, where the data is ultimately stored at Google’s data centres, the blockchain is a decentralised and distributed database that isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. This also allows data on the blockchain to be virtually impossible to corrupt since the entire network is needed to commit changes.

Advantages of Blockchain Technology

  1. Transparency and Immutability: Any changes made on the blockchain ledger are viewable by the public, creating transparency. Altering these changes will require a huge amount of computing power to override the whole network making it immutable.
  2. No Third-party Needed: Two parties are able to make an exchange without the intermediation of a third party, strongly reducing or even eliminating counterparty risk.
  3. Data Quality: Blockchain data is complete, consistent, timely, accurate, and widely available.
  4. Built-in Robustness: Similar to the robustness of the internet, the blockchain is not controlled by a single entity and has no single point of failure, making it more durable to malicious attacks.
  5. Fast Transactions and Low Fees: In comparison to interbank transactions which can take days, transactions on the blockchain could occur within minutes. Also, in the absence of third parties, transaction costs are much lower due to the removal of overhead costs involved in facilitating transactions.

Disadvantages of Blockchain Technology

  1. Cultural Adoption: Blockchain represents a complete shift from the established financial and commerce model. It will require both user and operator to invest into the system.
  2. Teething Problems: Resolving challenges like consistent transaction speed,  the verification process, and data limits will be crucial in making blockchain widely applicable.
  3. Regulations: Regulatory entities usually lag behind technological innovation. Currently, there are no regulations on how the transactions should be written. This could create a hurdle in the widespread adoption of bitcoin and blockchain in highly regulated industries and governments where the regulation status remains unsettled.
  4. Large Energy Consumption: The blockchain’s miners are attempting 450 thousand trillion solutions per second in efforts to validate transactions, using substantial amounts of computer power, which is not sustainable in the long run.

Blockchain Use Cases in Digital Marketing

Ad Fraud

In 2016, ad fraud (or invalid traffic) lead to $12.5 billion in wasted advertising spend. This year, it is set to increase by $4 billion. The growing discrepancy between what advertisers are paying for and what they get has adversely affected trust in digital marketing. Fortunately, ad-delivery can be audited by firms like Deloitte, though this is an expensive option.

Alternatively, a blockchain network can verify whether ads are being delivered and if they’re going to the right place. Decentralising auditing is cheaper and can work. In fact, Adtech company MetaX recently launched “adChain”, a blockchain solution that tracks ads using a distributed ledger, providing advertisers and publishers with a comprehensive trail of everything related to the campaign such as, how much was spent, who saw the ad, and conversion rates. This will ultimately allow everyone in the blockchain to acknowledge the impression event and approve it.

This level of data transparency alone strengthens adChain’s value proposition because it will enable advertisers to measure and optimise ad placements with unprecedented accuracy.

Brand safety concerns will also be a thing of the past, as brands and advertisers will know exactly where ads are being shown, and all publishers on the adChain network are hand vetted before any ads will appear on them.

Viewability

Viewability may arguably be a greater issue than ad fraud. According to Google,  56.1% of impressions served across Google’s display advertising platforms aren’t viewed by a consumer. This has caused great frustration for advertisers who pay for ads that people can’t see.

To tackle this problem, a blockchain startup, The Basic Attention Project, founded by the inventor of Javascript and co-founder of Mozilla Firefox, has created a browser that monitors the activity of the user anonymously. The technology analyses the pixels being viewed, and time spent on-site, meaning advertisers only pay publishers when ads are viewed. All users on the network maintain full anonymity, creating a suitable equilibrium between privacy for the user and targeting for the advertiser.

The project is very ambitious and would require another article to be explained in its entirety. Here is a brief video that explains the company’s mission:

Basic Attention Token from Brave on Vimeo.

Privacy

Today, users don’t “own” their data. The information a consumer puts into the likes of Facebook or Google is stored and used by these advertising giants, allowing them to make profits in the billions through managing and selling user data. What if there was no need for the middle men; and advertisers could have direct connections with the consumer?

Source: Investitin.com

BitClave, a Silicon Valley-based blockchain start-up, is working on just that. The company’s goal is to enable a “decentralised” form of online search. Instead of using Google’s search engine and letting Google be the intermediary between the consumer and the advertiser, the consumer could search via BitClave’s engine and be paid for their own data. In exchange they will see targeted ads, leaving Google out of the picture. This new model not only reinvents the world of search but could also address the adblocking issue advertisers face as users would be less likely to block ads if they can profit from viewing them.


The implications of blockchain being utilised in the digital marketing industry make it seem as the panacea for some of the woes and pervasive issues in the online advertising ecology, however, the blockchain solutions discussed do have their limitations.

For instance, adChain requires humans to validate and agree on which sites should be whitelisted in order to prevent ad fraud. This may not be sustainable in the long run and will require some form of automation for the technology to be truly scalable. Additionally, The Basic Attention Project will require users to adopt a new browser, which could slow adoption rates as the majority of the internet is viewed through the likes of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. If they could somehow offer the same functionality as a plugin, that would greatly improve the project’s chances for success. Lastly, BitClave is currently a small fish in a very big pond and without serious financial backing and support, it will struggle to take down Google’s established presence, especially if Google responds with aggressive innovation.

Nonetheless, blockchain and cryptocurrency pose significant advantages for marketers in terms of transparency, improving business performance and building customer trust. These reasons could suggest that early adoption of blockchain technology could make a significant difference for digital marketing.

How to Crack Christmas 2017

At our recent webinar, “How to Crack Christmas”, Damien Bennett NMPi’s Director of Business Strategy talked to advertisers about the methods to use to ensure a smooth and successful holiday season. What are the best ways to approach the holiday sale season? What do advertisers need to be aware of when building their campign strategies? Lastly, he looked at how to collect valuable data and apply it.  NMPi has outlined a four tiered strategy for creating the best possible campaigns the upcoming Christmas season.

  1. How to Phase Activity Effectively
  2. Key Dates to be Aware of from November to January
  3. Changes in Shopping Behaviour Over the Period
  4. Effective Tactics to Take Advantage of the Holiday Season

How to Phase Activity Effectively

A great (and free!) tool available to advertisers is Google Trends. We used ths tool to examine search volumes between October 1st- December 31st. We noticed that there was a surge in interest in Christmas from the first week of November at the exact same time the first Christmas ads are released in the UK. This year, UK brands will premiere those ads on November 6th. What’s interesting about the UK is, that while the vast most searches occur in early November, the vast majority of purchases, 94%, occur in the final four weeks leading up to Christmas.

November is all about researching so plan your strategies to align with this crucial planning period where people are browsing but not yet in the position to buy anything. Another interesting point about the UK market during the holiday season is that another peak occurs just after Christmas, a surge that runs until the end of January.

Key Dates

November 6th: When Christmas ads begin on TV
November 24th: Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend
December 15th-17th: The last delivery dates.  We have noted a marked spike in volume and interest in Christmas gifts as consumers try to get their packages off before the deadline closes.
December 26th: Boxing Day, and the start of January sales.

Shopping Behaviour

Mobile

Mobile remains huge during the Christmas period, with 51% of Christmas related searches in 2016 coming from a mobile device. That 51% will be a lot closer to 60% in 2017, and continue to rise every year. Mobile must be an essential part of your Christmas campaigns.

Challenges

Of course, mobile is not without its challenges. For one, not everyone who starts on mobile ends on mobile. A shopper may start research on one device, but convert on another. Cross device shopping is definitely an issue marketers must be aware of, and incorporate into their strategies. To ensure you have the best possible outcomes for your campaigns, you need full visibility of the customer journey, and you need to correctly attribute that performance.

Another challenge is that 50% of customers researched online before purchasing in store, and 25% of ‘local’ mobile searches lead to in-store visits. How are these problems? It’s concerning because many retailers with brick-and-mortar stores tend to silo their in-store and online activities. Advertisers need to be aware of the online research activity that drives people to their stores.

Lasty, advertisers need to include Black Friday and Cyber Monday into their Christmas strategies, and they need to be aware of the key differences between these two busy shopping periods. Users who search “Black Friday” tend to buy things for themselves whilst those who search “Christmas” buy things for others. In fact, 61% of all purchases during Black Friday and Cyber Monday are for the buyer, vs 85% of Christmas shopping being gifts for other people.

Effective Tactics

We offer a three-pronged approach to the research phase in the lead up to Christmas

  • Awareness: Make people aware of your brand, propositions, and any Christmas promotions you might be running. Programmatic is good to use during this phase because it extends your reach, and enables you to employ different ad formats to really drive awareness.
  • Measurement: Collect and segment as much audience data as possible. You can capture cookie data on site and further segment it in this phase.
  • Retargeting: The next step is to phase in retargeting along those key dates. Retarget using a variety of creatives so that your audience truly engages and doesn’t feel chased or harassed.

Measurement has its own challenges, but Google and Facebook have devised ways to help advertisers better understand cross device sales, with cross device measurement statistics. Have an attribution model in place so you can see the full customer journey. Last touch doesn’t give you an accurate picture.

Lastly, we touched on challenges in store uplift. There are no ‘off the shelf solutions’ , so how can advertisers join their online to in-store experiences?

  • loyalty schemes
  • eReceipts
  • joining up customer details (i.e., asking for an email and customer address at the point of sale.
  • Geographic tiles – GPS on mobile phones to help link consumer activity.

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