More than 18.7 million homes have smart speakers in the U.S.—those handy digital home assistants that set timers, share the news, let you buy stuff and, most importantly… set timers. Amazon, Google and Apple have all introduced their devices, and the race is on to see which device will be favored in most U.S. homes.
The year the theme around digital platforms can almost be summed up in a single word: privacy. Last week a Facebook hack exposed the data of 50 million users. This week we learned that a Google flaw had the potential to expose the personal information of 500,000 users. The year that kicked off with Cambridge Analytica, saw the rollout of GDPR and even had murmurs of regulation for tech platforms in the U.S. is also the same year that the drumbeat of consumer data keeps going strong with one data point in particular getting more attention.
Privacy and personal data are no longer niche factors considered by specialized online marketers and tech platforms. They’re now kitchen table issues. Everyone has woken up to the fact that not only is their data being collected, but it has a high degree of value as well.
Following the Cambridge Analytica story that made world headlines, it’s no surprise that 68% of US Internet users say they’d be in support of GDPR-style rules in the United States. People aren’t just yearning for regulation. They want to understand what data about them has been collected and how it’s being used.
46% of US Facebook users (on average) say they are very concerned with their privacy. That means one out of every two people are nervous about how their personal information is being handled online. Despite all of this Facebook increased revenue year-over-year by 50% in its latest earnings report. And after Cambridge Analytica misused the data of 87 million Facebook users, 64% of them still use Facebook at least once a day.
What is going on?
Facebook’s changing things up in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica controversy. The social network is under more pressure than ever to take a stand on user data and privacy, and that means its making waves—waves that are going to affect how advertisers approach the Facebook platform.
There have been a lot of changes to Facebook over the past couple of weeks, but arguably the biggest change so far for advertisers at least is the removal of “Partner Categories.” The tool allows advertisers to tap into third-party data from partners like Acxiom and Experian to target users based on factors including buying behaviors, household demographics and so on. Needless to say, it's a pretty powerful and incredibly useful tool that advertisers can use to augment their own data short comings.
Intent. Marketers are always on the lookout for signals of intent to deliver brand messages created with conversion in mind. Google paid search was built off of the model. If users search for a product or something related to the category, they might be primed to buy. Pinterest is taking that same idea and building it into their Promoted Pins. Marketers have targeted users based on browsing history with the assumption that sites they visit signal intent for what they’d like to do next.
Signals of intent that marketers can tap into are making themselves available in more and more places, and as data for targeting is constrained in some areas, such as Facebook removing third party data from its ad targeting solutions, it’s opening up in other areas.
One major area intent is getting especially exciting is when it comes to location. Snap is rolling out three new tools for brands to reach consumers at not just moments of intent but places as well.
- The first is Radius Targeting, which is essentially geofilters that place Snap Ads and sponsored filters around specific geographic locations, such as a mall, restaurant, concert venue or airport. Advertisers can see where you are and deliver relevant messaging based on proximity turning location into action.
- The second one is actually the one that I’m most excited about. It’s Location Categories. Location Categories are made up of 150 different categories, such as movie theaters, stadiums and restaurants. Advertisers can target people visiting those locations. It’s using the places people go as a signal of intent that brands can tap into—if you like this restaurant, you’ll love ours. This isn’t a targeting option that Foursquare or even Facebook can offer.
- Finally, Snap wraps everything up into an insights package that looks to turn foot traffic into insights with brands able to see demographic breakdowns of who’s been in their stores.
Location has the potential to be the ultimate signal for intent. After all, people have done more than make a search query. They’ve taken action in the real world. They’ve gotten off the sofa and made a move.
Location signals much more than intent, but as marketers we should look for intent everywhere. Understanding what steps consumers take on the path to purchase is key to understanding what moments are signals and what moments are just noise.