June 19, 2019: Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report arrives; Amazon shuts down Spark; Pinterest releases “Complete the Look;” Inside Adidas’ Localized Influencer Strategy; Facebook reveals cryptocurrency plans; and we released our annual Instagram Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Mary Meeker 2019 Internet Trends Report
It’s that time of year again – Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report has arrived. The report reveals several trends impacting influencer marketing, including factors driving e-commerce growth, the future of targeted advertising, social gaming, and the massive expansion of the on-demand economy (which includes creators). Here are some key highlights:
Recommendations (& Free Trials) Drive E-Commerce Growth: E-Commerce sales continue to rise in the U.S., now accounting for 15 percent of all retail purchases, reaching 12.4 percent year-over-year growth in Q1 of 2019 compared to brick-and-mortar sales growing just 2 percent year-over-year.
The increasing growth was attributed in part to recommendations, the top choice (23 percent) for trying a new subscription box. Consumers also love freemiums – Meeker found that “free trial/tier” is the number one reason (42 percent) for trying a new online streaming service.
Notably, this growth isn’t just coming from offline sales shifting to online – instead, this growth is being driven by the use of digital insights, recommendations, images, and relevant offers to personalize the customer experience. What’s also notable is that growth has been slow and it will be interesting to see how integrated social commerce and influencer shoppability will impact this behavior.
The Duopoly is Diversified: Amazon, Twitter and Pinterest are collectively gaining share of online ad spend faster than Facebook and Google. Which means, of course, your influencer marketing strategies should be as well.
According to the report, these ad share gains are largely driven by improvements in targeting, machine learning, commerciality, and contextual relevance – but what happens to those gains when the ability to be that targeted and relevant is compromised by a lack of third-party data access?
As the industry moves towards a cookie-less world (see: Google, Apple, Mozilla and Brave), programmatic buying practices will inevitably shift – as third-party data won’t be readily available for advertisers to activate. Instead of buying an audience, we could see a shift towards programmatic buying based on direct channels, interests, and influencers to reach that same audience (think: if your target audience is skiers in Denver, programmatically activate Denver-based skiing influencers to reach that demographic).
Gaming Goes Mainstream Social: There were 2.4 billion interactive gamers globally in 2018, which is up six percent year-over-year. Specifically, games like Fortnite, which had 250 million active users in 2018, are becoming increasingly similar to social media platforms, large in part due to events like DJ Marshmello’s concert, which attracted nearly 11 million viewers in-game.
With social media platforms fighting to keep mobile users engaged, gaming presents the next big opportunity. Not only is the global gaming market set to reach $148.1 billion this year, but 50 percent of mobile users have opened up a gaming app in the past week, highlighting the enormous engagement opportunities for platforms, brands, and marketers tapping into this space.
While Google-owned YouTube and Twitch are the primary platforms currently dominating the gaming space, several of the leading social media platforms have looked to join the space announcing key gaming features and launches over the first quarter (check out our latest Quarterly Trend Report for tips, tricks and best practices for activating gamers as part of your influencer marketing strategy.)
Instagram & YouTube Experience Greatest Growth in Time Spent: Despite that digital media use is at an all-time high with American adults spending 6.3 hours per day (+7% y/y) on average interacting with digital media, social media growth is slowing. However, among social media platforms, Instagram and YouTube have seen the biggest increases in the percentage of daily active users – each increasing 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Encrypted messaging platforms and voice-activated devices continue to grow in popularity and continue to present first-mover opportunities for influencer experiences and activations.
Amazon Blows Out Its Spark
Amazon has quietly closed down its shopping-focused Instagram rival, Amazon Spark.
Remind me, what’s Spark?
Hoping to capitalize on the social shopping trend and tap into the power of influencers, Amazon launched Spark for Prime members in 2017. One-part Pinterest for its search and discovery functions, one-part Instagram for its feed design, Amazon Spark prompted customers to pick a selection of interests, and would then show them a feed of posts from users related to those interests. Users could react to posts with a “smile” or a comment.
Why did Amazon nix it?
Simply put, Amazon Spark never took off. According to TechCrunch, the site felt “too transactional” compared to other social networks. While Spark itself is no longer, learnings from Spark and Amazon’s discovery tool “Interesting Finds” are being blended into a new social-inspired product, #FoundItOnAmazon.
What’s Amazon saying?
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said that Spark wasn’t going away entirely and has “pivoted and narrowed the experience based on what resonated with customers…We’ve changed the name to #FoundItOnAmazon to reflect the tag that influencers are using on social media to share their great finds with others. #FoundItOnAmazon is currently available to all Amazon App customers and a large portion of desktop customers as well.”
While it’s not exactly surprising this feature never hit critical mass, what’s notable was Amazon’s increased investment in Instagram advertising and influencers in the meantime, as well as the improvements in its visual commerce/product discovery efforts.
Similar to Pinterest, Amazon is more search than it is social and #FoundItOnAmazon pays that off. #FoundItOnAmazon is pulling in IGC, UGC and reviews from product pages, along with the traditional product shot. This mix is allowing Amazon to test what resonates in a feed-like experience. Additionally, #FoundItOnAmazon is an essential part of Amazon’s social and influencer strategy – driving discoverability on Instagram (where the hashtag has over 14k photos) and then on Amazon to shop.
Pinterest Will Now Complete Your Look
Pinterest has launched a new “Complete the Look” visual search tool that recommends relevant products in the home decor and fashion categories based on the context of the scene.
Tell me more.
Pinterest’s new “Complete the Look” tool essentially serves as an extension of its “Shop the Look” Pins by broadening its recommendations to visually similar or contextually related products, based on the factors such as outfit, body type, people included in the Pin, season, indoors or outdoors, furniture and the “overall aesthetics of a room.”
What’s Pinterest saying?
“In a traditional image search system, the objective is to return results that are visually similar to a query image. However, we’re working with a visual discovery engine where we need to identify and return visual components from a broader scene to recommend ideas like an outfit or living room style, and differentiate and personalize across queries. This makes the larger scene just as important as the main piece in any given Pin. Every visual object within a Pin is an opportunity to search and discover.” – Eric Kim and Eileen Li of Pinterest’s Visual Search Team
Pinterest’s role in consumers’ search and discovery process is virtually unrivaled. According to Pinterest, 83 percent of weekly fashion Pinners have made purchases based on seeing brands’ content on its network, while 78 percent of weekly Pinners engaging with home décor pins have done so, as well, and 49 percent of home weekly Pinners used Pinterest in store while shopping for home products.
In line with Pinterest continuing to broaden its e-commerce capabilities and invest in a richer e-commerce experience, it has also added a new shopping speciality to its Pinterest Partners Program. With the right parameters in place, it will now be even easier to connect creator content to shopper data on the platform, which is a win-win for brands and creators alike.
Inside Adidas’ Localized Influencer Strategy
Adidas has transformed a small network of micro-influencers from around the world who promoted Adidas on small platforms like WhatsApp in 2015 into a network of brand ambassadors at a global level.
I want the story.
Take Ehsan Abassi, one of the 70,000 people who took part in a series of street football events run by Adidas. Shortly after, he was recruited to join the brand’s network of micro-influencers and eventually became a member of its Tango Squad FC football team of influencers. Once a local influencer, Abassi now serves as a global brand ambassador, appearing next to Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba, the stars of Adidas’ football business, in a series of global ads.
Let’s talk activation.
Most recently, Adidas activated the Tango Squad FC for a TV series that details their journey as the brand’s first social media football team. So far, Adidas has aired two seasons that have racked up 41 million views across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – nearly of which has happened on YouTube, where there were 17 million unique viewers. Those views amounted to over 100 million minutes on the video site over the same period.
As a global brand, it’s imperative for Adidas to stay on top of shifts in cultures, especially around sports. Where Adidas has found success in its brand and influencer strategy from a cultural standpoint is not only in its ability to source local influencers to serve as the face of its brand or to create content relevant to distinct markets, but also to understand the cultural differences and inform internal brand direction and strategy to create universal appeal.
Like Adidas, brands can tap local influencers to serve as strategic advisors, partners and content creators, to ensure that big ideas, concepts, creative, etc. will resonate with people and experiences globally. In doing so, brands match a consistent brand voice with this newly learned, deep cultural understanding, ensuring campaigns, ideas and narratives can transcend across cultures.
Facebook’s New Cryptocurrency Has Arrived
This morning, Facebook revealed the details of its cryptocurrency, Libra, which will let users buy things or send each other money with almost zero fees.
How will Libra work?
Users will be able to buy or cash out Libra online or at local exchange points or spend it using third-party wallet apps or Facebook’s own Calibra wallet that will be built into its family of apps – excluding Instagram, interestingly.
Can I use it now?
Not quite – Facebook is currently testing the blockchain system before a full public launch at the beginning of 2020. It’s expected to function as a “stablecoin,” meaning it will be pegged to a basket of government-issued currencies in order to limit the volatility typically associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Facebook also announced that it has secured the backing of over a dozen companies for its cryptocurrency, including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Uber, Stripe, Booking.com, and more. Each will invest around $10 million to fund development of the currency, and will become part of the Libra Association, an independent consortium that will govern the digital coin independently of Facebook.
Facebook’s investment in Libra has the opportunity to make cryptocurrency mainstream, as well as a move towards a legitimate social-capital-as-currency ecosystem as it seeks to establish its own currency and new revenue stream – separate from its digital advertising revenue. While it’s easy to understand why people are skeptical of Facebook launching its own cryptocurrency (trust, data misuse, privacy issues & etc.) but it will be interesting to see which is more important to consumers: trust or convenience?
If Libra does take off, could you imagine a world where Facebook and Instagram creators are paid via Libra? What gamification tactics could Facebook employ to drive adoption – in which there is a monetary value automatically prescribed to a creator, content, or series. Recommend a product to a friend and receive a ‘surprise’ gift of Libra from the brand. Is Libra better than nothing at all? The foundation is being set where anyone, consumer to creator, would be able to transact based on some aspect of their social influence.