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Why the Travel Industry Could be Key to Unlock VR’s Potential

Long touted as the next big thing, virtual reality may be approaching an inflection point.

Venture capital funds for VR technology in 2018 were half of what they were in 2016, and IDC reported sluggish headset sales throughout last year.

But there are promising signs on the horizon. As wide and sustained consumer interest has failed to take off, manufacturers are putting more weight behind standalone devices, like the Oculus Quest.

These offer premium experiences at a more affordable price, without the need for a high-end PC or smartphone. It was these untethered headsets that caused VR headset sales to rebound in the last quarter of 2018, per IDC’s statistics.

With those price barriers in place, VR technology has so far been the preserve of the early adopter archetype: typically young, male, affluent, and tech-savvy. Perhaps encouraged by the interests of said demographic, a bespoke survey we recently carried out found gaming dominates how VR is used.

In the UK in particular, gaming far outstrips any other use of VR, with even other forms of entertainment like films or documentaries trailing behind. The data bears out what we see in the retail world; on most retail sites, VR devices are filed under the “gaming” category.

Travel can take VR beyond early adopters.

While Gen Z primarily want to see more VR games, millennials and older internet users see different possibilities in the technology. Understanding this may be the way to attract them to it and grow the market.

51% of Gen Xers and 45% of VR-aware Baby Boomers want to see more travel applications in VR technology.

If we think of VR as a gaming technology, it’s worth remembering how games consoles have expanded their audience in the last few years, moving from purely gaming devices into all-in-one entertainment hubs.

But when it comes to VR, there’s scope to expand beyond more than just entertainment. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are more excited by the idea of traveling with VR than attending virtual gigs or sports fixtures, for example.

But for current users of VR, travel experiences are considerably behind games, even for older internet users.

32% of Gen X VR users have engaged with travel experiences – less than half as many as those who have played games.

To help change perceptions of VR, more has to be done to draw attention to its capabilities in virtual travel. At the moment, it takes a lot of scrolling through games on the browser version of the Oculus store to find travel experiences.

But this requires content creators to be confident their work will reach the right audience. It’s a bind that mirrors the chicken-and-egg problem VR technology currently faces as a whole.

Hardware makers need killer apps to draw users to their devices, but software makers need users to justify building those apps. This impasse is one of the reasons VR has failed to explode.

Through travel experiences, multiple parties can potentially benefit.

Manufacturers can unlock more sales from consumer groups that have so far resisted the call of the technology. Travel brands that can deploy VR in their marketing strategies will know they’re using the tech in a way that resonates with consumers.

VR’s promise in travel marketing.

VR is already showing promise in travel marketing campaigns.

Thomas Cook’s “Try Before You Fly” campaign let customers fly in a helicopter over the Manhattan skyline, go scuba diving in the Red Sea, and visit the Egyptian pyramids from one of their stores.

These virtual experiences brought tangible rewards; the company saw a 190% uplift in bookings as a result of the campaign. Tourism Australia cited its VR campaign as one of the reasons behind its record-breaking 2018.

Previewing destinations is perhaps the most obvious application of VR in travel marketing, but it has the potential to stand in for entire trips as well.

While it’s unlikely virtual tourism will ever completely replace the real thing – headsets are unlikely to ever provide all the sensations and experiences that make trips memorable – it may dovetail with another industry trend: sustainability.

VR can be a tool for sustainable travel.

With consumers increasingly conscious of their environmental impact, VR may be the best way to experience destinations that would otherwise struggle to cope with the demand.

Think of the buzz generated by the Palau Pledge, where a collaboration between marketers and Palauans made visitors to the island – with a population of just 20,000 – watch videos, sign agreements, and have their passports printed with a pledge, all to remind visitors of the island’s fragility and urge them to travel conscientiously.

Looking longer term, this conscientiousness could spark more virtual travel to remote and under-threat destinations – a type of trip guaranteed not to leave an impact on the destination.

There are some more concrete examples of how these trends might converge. One is the Open Heritage Project, a collaboration between Google and CyArk, which lets users roam around some of the world’s most under-threat heritage sites. Another is Virry Safari, an app that uses an immersive virtual safari to educate users about conservation.

Facebook’s $2.3 billion dollar deal for Oculus in 2014 was the flashpoint that sparked VR’s peak years of hype.

But Oculus’ origins in the gaming community have defined VR’s trajectory up until now. Pokémon Go’s use of augmented reality proved gaming can an effective bridgehead to generate wider interest and adoption for new ways of engaging with the world.

But for VR to draw in more consumers, it needs to take them on a journey.

5 CPG Brands Successfully Marketing to Moms

Mothers are an absolutely crucial target audience for CPG brands in 2019. Despite this, 56% of American moms feel marketers don’t understand them.

Our latest research into U.S. and Chinese moms reveals an overarching need for a more humanized brand-consumer relationship, based on a craving for trust, credibility and authenticity from brands.

Here are five brands that tapped into deep consumer research to create messages that truly resonate.

1. Hubbub and Mothercare

The message: Don’t keep your old baby clothes, use them to help others.

In 2017, environmental charity, Hubbub, partnered with UK baby and toddler retailer, Mothercare, to encourage people to declutter their homes and donate their outgrown baby clothes to local families.

Based on a survey of 2,000 parents, the brands found:

  • UK homes were crammed with 183 million items of outgrown baby clothing.
  • If all these items were redistributed, each baby born in the UK every year would get 250 items.
  • 7 in 10 parents still have baby clothes their children have outgrown.
  • A third of parents had thrown baby clothes in the garbage as they didn’t know what else to do with them.

In its first year, the campaign boasted more than 20,000 items of clothing being allocated to around 2,000 families. This success led to the campaign being extended in 2018, based on a scalable model aiming to redistribute 65,000 items to 6,500 families.

As our research shows, the importance of community among mothers is clear. It impacts everything from how they research and purchase to how they engage with technology.

An essential quality U.S. and Chinese mothers look for is openness and honesty, making authentic messaging an essential part of their favorite brands.

With this initiative, Mothercare shows mothers that not only do they have the products they need to care for their children – they care enough about the local community to try to improve it, and prove themselves as an authentic brand throughout.

2. Huggies

The message: All babies need and have a right to physical contact.

Huggies, a leading brand competing with CPG giants like Pampers, found that emotive marketing was the way to resonate with new parents.

Having uncovered the insight that hugs “help stabilize babies’ vital signs, build immune systems, ward off illness, and improve brain development,” the brand rolled out a campaign aimed at educating new mothers on the importance of skin-to-skin contact. It also ensured collaborating hospitals had volunteer ‘huggers’ available for babies in need of them.

And it rendered great results: Huggies’ sales soared 30% in the year of the campaign, and had an engagement rate 300% higher than industry benchmarks.

It proves the power of finding a social cause your target audience truly cares about, and cleverly inserting your brand in the right place.

3. Target

The message: Children have different needs that must be met.

Retail giant, Target, hit a home run when it looked to its partners and customers for insight into new product developments it wanted to see.

Mari Anderson, Technical Designer at Target, says, “Our team met with real kids to understand what their needs are in different types of apparel, then put our expertise to the test to create the products.”

The result: its line of sensory-friendly and flexible clothing, aimed at ensuring every child is comfortable in what they wear and parents are able to dress them easily.

“We learned that sensory-friendly apparel can mean different things for different people,” says Stacey Monsen, Design Director at Target.

“For these pieces, we decided to start with our core tees and leggings, and address guests’ most common requests—like removing tags and embellishments that can irritate the skin. We also added more ease through the hip and a higher rise in our leggings to fit with diapers, if needed, for older kids.”

It’s a great example of a brand focusing on an often-overlooked consumer base to ensure it’s catering to all its potential customers in a way that has both impact and usability.

Source: Target

4. Ella’s Kitchen

The message: Here’s how to give your children the best possible start in life.

Leading kids’ food brand, Ella’s Kitchen, has an important mission: “to improve childrens’ lives through developing healthy relationships with food.”

To do this, it launched its ongoing “Veg for Victory” campaign in 2016, aimed at encouraging parents to introduce a multitude of vegetables when weaning their little ones on to solid food.

The campaign was based on an independent literature review which revealed that “introducing a variety of vegetables during the early stages of weaning is associated with increased acceptance of these foods during the weaning period and into later childhood.”

With this knowledge at hand, the brand took inspiration from the WWII campaign “Dig for Victory” and used a character called Wean-ston Churchill to impart its message.

Along with an informative website aimed at teaching parents how to wean effectively, this multi-channel campaign cleverly blends research, humor and education to strike a chord with parents at a crucial stage of their child’s development.

5. Pampers

The message: Thank those who helped bring your child into the world.

Baby and toddler brand, Pampers, is keen on highlighting the crucial work midwives do every day, and give something back.

Having uncovered that while 80% of new mothers believe it’s important to thank their midwife, only 58% end up doing so, perhaps leading 1 in 3 midwives to feel undervalued, Pampers decided to raise awareness of the importance of gratitude.

The Pampers #ThankYouMidwife campaign aimed to thank the UK’s 40,000 midwives by pledging to donate £1 to the Royal College of Midwives Benevolent Fund for every thank you shared on social media.

By successfully identifying and getting involved with a social cause that truly matters to its core audience, the campaign was an instant success, delivering over 777m impressions and nearly 14k ‘thank yous’ in its first week alone.

For Christmas 2018, Pampers took the campaign one step further, collaborating with singer Paloma Faith and a newly-formed Pampers #ThankYouMidwife choir to produce a cover of the traditional song Silent Night.

Between 30th November 2018 and 18th January 2019, the brand pledged to donate £1 to the Royal College of Midwives Benevolent Fund for each download of the single. It also ran a simultaneous campaign across its social media channels, encouraging users to share the #ThankYouMidwife for a chance to win a staff room refurbishment for their nominated maternity ward.

With this campaign, Pampers saw an opportunity to let it evolve over time, creating a strong relationship with midwives and proving itself as a socially-aware brand that truly cares about its core consumers: babies and the mothers that birthed them.

Marketing to Mothers in 2019

As with many other consumer groups, moms’ purchase journeys have become more fragmented across devices, platforms and channels, making them harder to reach.

Creating meaningful connections with mothers is crucial to reach them, and these brands have found relevant, impactful ways of creating these relationships.

The key to doing so lies in understanding their preferences and purchase motivations, and especially how factors like trust and social causes are playing a more essential role than ever.

For example, our research found that:

  • Quality is the number one purchase driver for U.S. and Chinese mothers, and should form a focal point of a marketing strategy aimed at these consumers.
  • They’re much more likely to opt in for personalized loyalty rewards from brands than women without children (at 59%), proving the importance of a personal, authentic brand experience.
  • 29% of U.S. moms browse social media more after becoming a parent, showing social is an important part of mothers’ (and primarily new mothers’) purchase journey.
  • More than half are easily swayed by other people’s opinion, making it crucial for brands to have a proactive and loyal online and offline community.

These campaigns and insights prove the power of going beyond your product or service to identify what really matters to your target consumers, then finding a natural space for your brand to get involved in an authentic way.

Why is Vaping on the Rise?

Vape shop written in neon

Vaping has gained major traction in recent years, especially in the U.S. and UK. A large number of vaping stores and brands are popping up, and you only have to walk down the street to get a sniff of sweet-smelling vapor from a passerby’s device.

When e-cigarettes first came on the scene around 10 years ago, they were seen as the perfect remedy to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. The devices don’t contain tobacco or the multiple carcinogenic chemicals that plague tobacco cigarettes, so many people see them as a safer alternative.

However, they’re not entirely free from toxins, and because the devices are relatively new there are many questions surrounding the long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes.

In a recent survey, we explored the perceptions of e-cigarettes among 2,910 internet users in the U.S and UK, and dug deeper into the behaviors and attitudes of e-cigarette users.

E-cigarettes are more popular among younger audiences.

E-cigarettes were originally marketed as tobacco-replacement products. Despite this, we’ve seen a rise in not only ex-smokers using the devices, but also people who dual-smoke; smoking tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes simultaneously.

Our data shows 11% of users only smoke e-cigarettes and around 1 in 5 are dual smokers. Dual smoking is also twice as common in the U.S. than the UK.

When we break this down by age, it’s clear more younger audiences are vaping.

The U.S. has a higher concentration of young vapers, with around 16% of 18-24 year olds using e-cigarettes compared to 10% in the UK.

Graphic: E-cigarette usage is more prevalent among younger audiences.

Worryingly, the National Youth Tobacco Survey 2018 identified a surge in youth e-cigarette usage – 1.5 million more students used e-cigarettes in 2018 compared to 2017.

In a bid to curb this rise among children and teenagers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforced new regulations on e-cigarettes in 2018. This involved restricting the sale of fruit or candy flavored e-cigarettes in gas stations and convenience stores, and introducing stricter online age-verification rules.

E-cigarettes can be a helpful way to quit smoking tobacco, but not the habit.

We already know e-cigarettes are marketed heavily as a tool to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. And from our data, we can see this is true to some degree.

Over 80% of e-cigarette users say e-cigarettes helped them quit tobacco cigarettes. This also applies to younger consumers.

Around 30% of non-smokers also said they don’t mind their significant others smoking e-cigarettes because it helped them quit tobacco cigarettes.

But is it a case of the better of two evils? Many people believe e-cigarettes may be safer than tobacco cigarettes, but it doesn’t mean they’re good for you.

E-cigarettes contain varying levels of nicotine and are highly addictive. For this reason, around 3 in 5 of all internet users don’t think e-cigarettes are necessarily better than tobacco cigarettes.

On top of this, it doesn’t appear to curb the habit of smoking. Almost 1 in 4 consumers who say vaping helped them quit tobacco say they smoke e-cigarettes more often than they did tobacco, and around 2 in 5 smoke the same amount.

What are the main reasons for using e-cigarettes?

The belief that vaping is a safer alternative (44%) is the most popular reason for using them.

However, further research into the effects of e-cigarette chemicals is needed before any concrete conclusion can be made. Close to 70% of internet users say they have concerns about the lack of research into the effects of e-cigarette chemicals on themselves and others.

Another top reason for using e-cigarettes is the appealing flavors and tastes available (42%).

It’s widely believed the sweet flavors, like mango and cherry, add to the allure of e-cigarettes, especially among teenagers. Surprisingly, flavors are actually more enticing to 45-55-year-olds (67%) than 18-24-year-olds (43%).

Graphic: Top 5 reasons for using e-cigarettes

The biggest e-cigarette brand in the U.S., JUUL, has come under intense scrutiny for minors using their products.

The company has previously claimed to fully support the FDA’s efforts to curb underage use of e-cigarettes but say “flavors play an important role in helping adult smokers switch to vapor technology.”

Our data shows the main reasons why 18-24 year olds use e-cigarettes is because it’s cool and trendy (61%) and because their friends do it (52%). This suggests this age group is more susceptible to pressure and easily influenced, which is troubling as it could lead them to see vaping as harmless fun.

Why does it matter?

The controversy around vaping, especially among younger people, hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Just over 3 in 4 internet users agree there is an issue of e-cigarette usage among teenagers.

Often alluring advertisements of e-cigarette brands may be adding to the problem, with nearly 60% of internet users feeling adverts for e-cigarettes can sometimes be misleading. JUUL has come under fire in the past for their youth marketing and including models in their campaigns.

Brands and policymakers need to work together to change the system.

Regulations around advertising, distribution, safety and naming of flavors will create tighter control and increased transparency of e-cigarettes, which should reduce vaping among teenagers. Brands who make an effort to be part of the solution, will help create valuable change.

Data Storytelling: Using Consumer Insight to Strike a Chord

Data storytelling bridges two worlds: the creative and the formulaic; emotive communication and hard data.

While nothing new, storytelling is fast becoming the most effective way to reach today’s consumers.

More and more brands are looking to deep consumer insight to shape meaningful stories that resonate with their audience. Here’s why.

What is Data Storytelling?

Data storytelling is about making connections, using data as the guiding source.

Whether to shape a unique brand identity or an impactful marketing campaign, it gives brands an opportunity to capture attention in a way that’s focused squarely on their target audience.

Transformative consumer data that goes far beyond demographics – quantifying interests, attitudes, perceptions and motivations is changing the way this is done.

Stories shaped in this way are what bring brands to life. So what makes it work?

Why is Data Storytelling so Effective?

1. Storytelling cuts through the noise.

Media platforms and search engines are overwhelmed by the volume of content being published everyday – and so are consumers – with large quantities being recycled or cloned from publishers and competitor sites.  

For example, there are over 70 million blogs published per month on WordPress alone. On top of this, consumers are using more devices and platforms than ever, meaning they’re constantly faced with more and more content to consume.

This is why users are craving more original content, grounded in insights that make it relevant to them.

People read information, but they feel stories.

But saying something fresh and unique is a challenge for brands, given competition for consumer attention is growing by the day..

Brands that utilize data storytelling can cut through the noise to reach their audience on a more intimate, long-term scale.

2. Stories resonate on a human level.

Telling meaningful stories is at the core of modern marketing.

Our latest research shows a third of global internet users would promote a brand they love.

Storytelling is part of the human experience – it’s how we learn as children and it forms part of how we make sense of complex phenomena as adults.

This is why, over the last half-century, we’ve seen a shift away from explanatory marketing and advertising, and feature-led messaging, towards content which builds stories that connect with consumers on an emotional level.

Let’s take Lloyds Bank as an example of how advertising messaging has evolved from product-led to story-led.

This TV ad by Lloyds, aired in the 1980s, overtly lays out the practical benefits of becoming their customer:

One of their more recent ads, released in 2018, is notably more emotion-driven, with its slow music and beautiful scenery designed to evoke feelings of familiarity, security and longevity.

In this case, Lloyds expresses the relationship between brand and customer, transcending commercial exchange and creating feelings of familial relationships, friendship and security to increase long-term brand affinity.  

Using Data to Tell a Story

The richness of the data easily available to marketers today has enabled them to take storytelling to the next level.

With a greater understanding of their audiences’ interests, behaviors and motivations, they’re able to create messages that speak to them as individuals – on a personal level.

Businesses that adopt personalized marketing see an average 19% increase in sales, according to Marketingprofs.

A significant portion of consumer purchases are emotion-driven which is why brands are placing greater focus on understanding the stories that resonate with their audience.

And brands are no longer seen as just suppliers of products and services – they’re playing a more central role in our daily lives:

Our latest wave of research states that 27% of users want their favorite brands to improve their knowledge and skills.

Consumers have high expectations of the content they’re exposed to. They respond best when it’s personalized to them, which is something brands can capitalize on.

Creating a Brand Story using Data

Data should underpin your whole brand story. Gathering as much information about your audience and the market as possible will provide the insights needed to craft your message.

Gathering as much information about your audience and the market as possible will provide the insights needed to craft your message.

Here are some key considerations when building an effective and meaningful brand story.

1. Know your audience.

Most new companies have a sense of how they want their brand to be perceived when they start out.

But even for well-established brands, basing this important foundation on a hunch is risky.

The great thing about modern marketing is brands now have access to a wealth of consumer data that tells you everything you need to know.

Leveraging this to create a brand based on information you know to be true of your consumers is the right place to start.

2. Shape a strong  personality.

The more personable the brand is, the more relatable it becomes to consumers.

Humans enjoy building relationships with other humans, so brands that have a definitive personality will nurture a stronger connection with their customers.

Data that’s gathered on your consumers’ interests and motivations should inform the creative aspects of your brand’s personality such as tone of voice and messaging.

This will enable you to speak to them in a language they understand.  

3. Keep it simple and interesting.

The message should be accessible and easy to explain to form a deep connection with consumers.

Brands have a short window to engage their audience with their content, so being concise, impactful and engaging is essential.

Use your audience data to decipher which content they’re expecting to see on what channel and ensure you’re producing what they’re expecting to see.

4. Tell a story that others want to share.

Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and in the world of social media, brand stories are shared millions of times each day.

To ensure yours is one of them, gather insights from the other brands your audience follows to understand what stories are being retold and how these can inform your brand’s message.

5. Make your message consistent.

When a customer buys your product or service, they should feel as though they’re buying into the brand story.

It will encourage them to form a long-term affinity with your business, making them an ambassador, and increasing repeat purchases.

Products and services should be marketed via instantly recognisable content.

This creates greater cohesion between all the facets of the brand, helping to build up a holistic brand story.  

Examples of Storytelling that Sticks

Many brands are using data storytelling to inform their marketing campaigns, creating appealing and original stories that their audience can connect with, but which reinforce their overall brand story.

Here are some of our favorites.

Hinge: The Dating Apocalypse

Hinge positioned itself as the dating app for singles who are tired of swiping.

81% of Hinge users have never found a long-term relationship on any swiping app.

Using the consumer data at their disposal, they shaped a story around the knowledge that existing dating apps don’t often lead to meaningful relationships.

By encouraging people to “find something real”, their campaign titled The Dating Apocalypse, explores the damaging effects of “swipe culture” and how it’s an unnatural way for us to create relationships.

In their campaign, Hinge confidently presents its new approach to dating as the refreshing antidote to a toxic industry.

Proof that consumer data provides the foundation for meaningful messaging.

Patagonia: Don’t Buy this Jacket

Outdoor clothing company, Patagonia have perhaps one of the most memorable brand stories of any high street retailer.

Their reputation for producing high-quality clothing feeds into their strong environmental message.

This message was taken to the extreme in their Black Friday campaign, which told consumers not to buy their products unless they truly require them because of the cost to the environment.

The ‘don’t buy what you don’t need’ sentiment of this campaign offers a refreshing and unique alternative to the bombardment of brands shouting at consumers to buy their products.

Although a risky campaign, it certainly reinforces their reputation for producing quality, ethically-minded products, building a strong community who align with the company values and share in the story.

And our latest research shows this is growing in importance today:

60% of millennials would pay extra for eco-friendly or sustainable products.

Refinery29: #SeeThe67

Refinery29 is a leading women’s lifestyle publication which revealed a staggering fact.

While 67% of American women are plus-sized, they make up less than 2% of the images we see.

In response to this, the brand partnered with visual media company, Getty Images, to create a selection of free stock images which included plus-size women.

Users were also encouraged to share their campaign hashtag, #SeeThe67, to increase awareness.

The brand uses these images widely across their site which has contributed to the depth of their message.

By highlighting the significant proportion of women in America have been misrepresented,  Refinery29 established itself as a brand that stands up for its users with this authentic and impactful message.

Why it Matters

Data storytelling is one of the most progressive techniques for both building a strong brand identity and driving campaigns that work today.

Storytelling itself has been central to branding and marketing for decades, but with access to vast amounts of more in-depth consumer data, marketers have a greater understanding of which stories will reach their target audiences on a deeper level.

It’s easier than ever to craft meaningful narratives led by insight, and smart brands are taking advantage.

The State of Broadcast TV in 2019

Graphic showing man sitting in front of television

Any serious discussion about the future of television in the media landscape needs to address the fact that broadcast TV is not dead.

While in most cases this is widely understood, dismissing this common misconception appears to be a prerequisite before tackling the matter at hand.

In reality, broadcast TV now faces a media landscape which in many ways is challenging or toppling its once prime position. But it cannot, and will not, be squeezed out of the picture that easily.

Among the many interesting developments of 2018, were the mergers and acquisitions in the media sector between the likes of Disney, Comcast and AT&T. These moves have made it clear that streaming companies like Amazon and Netflix will face a resilient linear TV sector.

Let’s take a look at the challenges the industry is currently facing.

Challenge 1: Staying relevant.

In every industry from FMCG, to banking and entertainment, through to telecommunications, Generation Z and millennials are a key target audience.

That poses a problem for traditional TV. Whether you’re looking at daily time spent on TV, or at the effectiveness of TV ads, scores rise directly in proportion to age.

Graphic: Time spent on linear tv

In order to keep up with the latest consumer expectations and stay relevant, brands are constantly struggling to understand what these younger age groups are doing, and where they’re doing it.

Our data confirms that Gen Z and millennials are devoting significantly longer periods of their day watching online forms of TV.

They’re also much more likely to be watching television across an array of devices at times, often outside of the usual peak TV hours. Their choice in content genres also sets them apart – they have a pronounced interest in other cultures which can translate into the kind of shows they choose to watch.

They even watch TV differently, preferring to “binge watch” episodes rather than watch them in isolation.

When these changing consumer expectations and behaviors are taken into consideration, it’s not difficult to see why the linear format of traditional TV may struggle to serve those needs. Online TV, with its anytime/anywhere access and its vast content library offering every genre from an increasing list of non-U.S. or UK production companies, has a distinct advantage here.

This has forced the hand of traditional broadcasters and content creators, leading them to introduce their own on-demand or catch-up services to maintain relevance.

While this may look like a blow for linear TV distribution, it’s worth bearing in mind these services are often exactly that – places to catch up on content or consume it at a more convenient time.

Live “linear” viewing still represents the mainstay for many of the major Western powerhouses in original programming and broadcasting, and this will be the case for some time.

Challenge 2: Knowing what consumers want.

Content has become the main differentiating factor in the video market, and as we’ve just covered, there’s certainly a lot of it to choose from.

This “long tail” of television offerings has proved a real asset for streaming services like Netflix, but it can also be a frustration for the consumer, making it difficult for them to find what to watch.

Is too much choice a good thing? For some consumers, the answer is no.

63% of internet users say there is too much choice online.

It’s younger age groups who are most likely to say this too. While personalization will increasingly render this issue redundant, it still highlights the advantages of linear programming, especially when considered with linear TV’s ability to facilitate a communal experience for high value time-sensitive content.

Streamers of film or TV content aren’t just drowning in content either – they’re also drowning in streaming services.

Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and Amazon Video are now having to contend with services from other major media players with impressive content offerings like Disney, WarnerMedia and Apple, as well as a growing array of niche options focusing on specific genres.

As a result, content creators launching these services are removing their shows from the likes of Netflix to give consumers a reason to go to their own streaming platforms. In other cases, the high budget productions of the top streaming services have also lured popular original programming away from national broadcasters, like with the case of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror migrating from Channel 4 in the UK to Netflix.

This means they’re having to fork out more money to watch the content they really want.

Nowhere else is this more evident than in the UK sports broadcasting market, where the average sports fan is having to pay for a multitude of services or broadcast subscriptions to watch every game in the Premier League.

Graphic: Paying for the movie/tv streaming service

Our data clearly shows that in the last few years there has a been an increase in the rate of those paying for film or TV subscription services, but there’s only so many subscriptions consumers will be willing to pay out for.

The recent partnership between Sky and Netflix offering a single subscription for both services is a clear reaction to this, and could be a sign of future collaborations aimed at avoiding a growing consumer discontent.

Bringing the focus back to linear TV here, this rising tide of subscriptions positions linear TV and especially national broadcasters with locally-relevant content as a welcome break from the paralysing choice and growing costs of OTT subscription services.

Challenge 3: Competing for consumer attention.

The pressure on linear TV isn’t just coming from streaming services. Both are part of a wider competition for the consumer’s free time with other media formats.

Graphic: The competition for free time

Consumers are now clocking up an average of around 2:20 hours per day on social media, rising to around 3 hours among 16-24s. Online and print press, games consoles, music streaming and broadcast radio collectively constitute around 5 hours of a consumer’s day. That’s not including the hour and a quarter spent watching online TV, and the 6 ¾ hours spent online more broadly on a daily basis.

Consumer attention in this crowded environment has become harder to maintain.

Linear TV, does however, have a lot to boast about here. With the exception of social media, linear TV captures the largest share of daily media time among consumers, standing at 18%, significantly above online TV’s 12%. And considering social media engagement happens frequently throughout the day whereas TV engagement is mostly in long durations, that’s an impressive feat.

Challenge 4: Retaining its title in advertising.

The fight for ad spend is another one in which linear TV remains a true heavyweight.

Regardless of age, TV ads consistently appear in the top three sources of brand discovery among consumers. This is one of the most powerful examples why linear TV will continue to be a central pillar in the media landscape.

Graphic: Top 3 brand discovery channels by age

Despite having been overtaken by digital ad spend, TV ad spend is still larger than print, outdoor, radio and directories combined.

Commentators often cite TV’s unrivalled reach and the quality of its advertising as proof of its continued relevance, especially considering the rising consumer disillusionment with the state of online advertising manifested in ad-blocking.

Plenty of innovation is on the horizon too, with the adoption of connected TVs ushering in addressable advertising solutions to improve the delivery of ads in the linear TV space.

There’s still a long way to go before addressable advertising saturates the linear TV market, but it’s an important reminder of why we shouldn’t take our eyes off linear TV’s future growth potential.

Against the backdrop of ad-blocking and consumer trust issues with data collection online, addressable advertising and targeting of households instead of individuals without having to deal with personally identifiable information (PII) could prove a real asset.

Click graphic to open trends 2019 report

How Direct-to-Consumer Brands are Making Ecommerce Work

Direct-to-consumer marketing was seemingly everywhere in 2018 – and this year appears to take the trend even further.

More and more brands are looking to escape margin pressure, take control of the rich customer experience and build new value, offering a more authentic brand experience based in intricate knowledge of their consumers.

And it’s not reserved for new, agile startups. Legacy giants like Nike have picked up on the trend and put significant emphasis on becoming more direct-to-consumer in 2019.

But to succeed, brands need clear purpose and a realistic path to scale.

The KPIs and metrics are different, as are some key skills. Most of all, brands need really deep consumer insight to create a truly differentiated value proposition – and then have the ability to drive the right kind of high lifetime-value consumers through digital channels.

Here, we’ll delve into the DTC trend, exploring not only how brands can grab a piece of the pie, but why it can be  such a successful strategy to reach today’s consumers and exactly what they expect.

What is Direct-to-Consumer Marketing and Why are Brands Doing it?

With DTC marketing, brands promote a product or service straight to their target consumers, forgoing traditional intermediary channels such as third-party retailers, whether that’s the bricks-and-mortar or ecommerce kind.

It allows businesses to own their entire purchase journey, rather than just the product, and to behave more like a tech operator, testing and learning with valuable new first-party data.

While DTC is nothing new – in fact, it traces back to catalogues distributed in the 15th century – it’s picking up new speed in 2019, and many brands are joining the fray.

Traditional retailers are struggling to adapt to provide a unique and valuable experience.

According to Digital Commerce 360, 2018 saw “nearly 5,000 store closures from well-established brands including Sears, Kmart, Victoria’s Secret” and, as a result, businesses are looking elsewhere to market and distribute their products.

But that doesn’t mean it’s an emergency solution.

DTC marketing truly puts the consumer at the center of all strategy and activity, meeting their increased demand for authenticity and power from brand relationships and marketing.

And we know why this approach is becoming an increasingly efficient retail strategy.

Why Consumers Value the Direct Approach

From our latest wave of research, here are some key insights into how global consumers feel about DTC marketing in 2019.

1. Consumers are taking charge of their purchase journey.

Search engines are now the primary brand discovery channel at 37%, and 52% use them for brand and product research.

2. They want authentic brand experiences.

27% want their favorite brands to improve their knowledge and skills, and 22% use ad-blockers as they feel too many ads are annoying or irrelevant.

3. They love to use brands’ own sites.

55% visited a brand’s website last month, and 32% carry out research on product or brand sites before making a purchase.

4. Brands’ online reputation is crucial for driving purchases.

36% say customer reviews would increase their likelihood of buying a product, with 21% citing lots of likes and good comments on brands’ social media profiles.

5. Social commerce is on the rise.

29% say researching or finding products to buy is their main reason for using social media, and 25% follow brands they’re thinking of buying something from.

The Big Benefits of a Direct-to-Consumer Model

There’s no doubt consumers are open to a DTC model from their favorite brands. But beyond hopefully-increased sales numbers, what’s in it for retail brands and services?

Meet consumers’ expectations.

What your shoppers wish to see from you isn’t stagnant. Behaviors, attitudes and motivations continuously change and anyone looking to truly engage needs to meet consumers in the right way, at the right time, in the right place.

Collect more data.

When you remove the middleman from your sales funnel, i.e. cut out retailers, you have the opportunity to collect more granular user data. This data is a goldmine of information and can enable you to have complete confidence in your marketing strategy.

Have full control of the purchase journey and supply chain.

By taking the power of the entire sales funnel into your own hands, you know you’re getting the most out of your efforts. And by using a reliable source of behavioral and motivational data, you can ensure your purchase journey exactly matches what your target consumers want.

Build and own consumer relationships.

With more than half of consumers visiting a brand’s site last month, giving them full access to your brand story and products without having to use a third party allows you to build and nurture these relationships. And since over a third value positive customer reviews, broadcasting positive UCG is a great way to generate new fans and potential buyers.

Take charge of your customer service.

According to a CEI survey, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer service experience, proving the importance of opening the communication channels with consumers. Anyone can make a mistake, but by allowing customers to engage with you directly to solve the issue, rather than a third-party solution, you’re proving yourself as an authentic brand.

Cut down on costs.

There are no guarantees, but a DTC model may well decrease running costs for your business. By removing external middle men, you can focus more budget on your own brand communications and offerings.

Challenge new, digitally-native brands.

While legacy brands may have firm roots in a non-digital world, challenger brands are part of the online atmosphere from day one. Joining them in their own space is the perfect way to compete, by meeting consumers where they’re getting used to seeing brands, in the right way.

Brands Doing it Right

Every product category out there has a DTC offering at the moment. Here are some of the brands that are truly acing their direct-to-consumer strategy.

Dollar Shave Club

Anyone that’s heard of direct-to-consumer marketing has most likely heard of Dollar Shave Club.

Having started as a razor subscription service in 2011, it was acquired by CPG giant Unilever in 2016 and has since moved into the wider men’s skin and beauty care vertical with products like toothbrushes and towels.

The ecommerce businesses was initially unveiled by way of a fun, quirky video that soon went viral, having netted over 26 million views to date.

And while the brand still battles against legacy competitors like Gillette, its online popularity is enjoying a steady rise, with its UK Google search volume increasing 432% in 2018 alone.

HelloFresh

Proudly customer-centric brand HelloFresh has moved into the global top spot in the meal kit product category.

Matt Fitzgerald, VP of Marketing at HelloFresh, told Forbes, “We have this incredible direct-to-consumer feedback loop.”

“We listen to our customers so closely every week, and now we have six years of data on recipe preferences, culinary preferences, ingredient preferences, seasonal preferences, and we’re using that to make the product better and more customizable, to lead to stronger personalization in the future.”

This way, the brand is challenging wholesale retailers like Amazon, proving that customization and having a finger on the pulse of the market goes a long way.

Nike

Newly-formed Nike Direct is an umbrella for the ubiquitous sports brand’s direct-to-consumer efforts, having been introduced in June 2017 as part of a major restructure to become more DTC-focused.

And the brand is seeing results.

The company forecasts its DTC sales will be $16 billion by 2020 – a far cry from the $6.6 billion they netted in 2015.

Glossier

According to Marketing Week, disruptive beauty brand Glossier attracts “a legion of hardcore fans with its straight-talking approach to beauty that shuns ‘stale retail’ in favour of complete customer centricity.”

CEO Emily Weiss takes a unique approach to building the business, making each product decision a conversation between the brand and its fans on its website. This way, Glossier operates a real-time feedback loop with its customers, not only ensuring every product it releases should entice a warm welcome, but that the customers have an authentic, direct relationship with the brand.

And it’s a strategy that works. Between 2015 and 2016, Glossier grew by 600% year-on-year.

Casper

The average consumer spends just 15 minutes in a mattress showroom.

Digitally-native sleep brand Casper took insights like this and ran with them, creating a service where customers can order a mattress online that’s delivered to them rolled up ‘burrito-style’, which they can try out at home and easily return if it doesn’t suit them.

While it’s a business idea that’s worked, in a strangely revolutionary move, the brand has decided to expand into the more traditional retail space.

Casper mattresses are now available through retail outlets like West Elm and Target, and there’s a permanent New York City-based Casper store as well as 18 pop-up or temporary stores.

So with a successful direct-to-consumer strategy already in place, why did the brand decide to sell its product both online and offline?

“We discussed that we should offer the customer a full experience of both worlds, online versus offline, and I think that is something where everything needs to be flawless for the consumer,” says Constantin Eis, Co-Founder and Global Managing Director at Casper.

“If they want to pick up the product at the store, great; if they want to have it delivered to their house, great. This is helping us manage the whole market.”

The Steps to Going Direct

1. Look to the right data.

Every brand needs insight into its consumers, but it can’t be any old data.

GlobalWebIndex conducts a global survey that’s fully opt-in, and its own panel of consumers (the largest in the world), to give marketers a true representation of their target audience.

Relying on a single source of granular, great-quality data like this for your research makes it easier to join the dots and paint a harmonized picture of your target consumer.

2. Get to know your target consumers.

The DTC value proposition needs to be compellingly different, though likely complementary to existing retail channels. Modern data sources, like GlobalWebIndex, allow you to get under the skin of consumer drivers, looking beyond traditional demographic data to:

  • Behaviors and actions
  • Motivations
  • Attitudes

When you know not only what your target consumers are doing but why, you can be confident you truly know them and can communicate unique value to them without the need of a middle man.

3. Map their purchase journeys.

There’s no one ‘right way’ to create a consumer journey map. This means you have to find the approach that works for your business.

A great journey map makes use of data to determine the needs, questions and requirements of your consumers when interacting with your brand, and what marketing touchpoints are the most crucial to them.

When you’ve identified what these touchpoints are, you can maximize their impact and guide consumers straight through the sales funnel.

4. Evolve your brand message.

Having an effective message is absolutely crucial to DTC brands, who market straight to their consumers.

With consumer insight and journey maps, it’s easy.

Use them to find your niche as a brand, and identify a message that will ring true with your target audience. The likes of Dollar Shave Club found sharp humor engages their consumers – what’s the angle that will engage yours?

5. Make the user experience tailored.

Personalization is absolutely key in 2019, and especially so for DTC brands.

The beauty of direct-to-consumer marketing is its flexibility and open communication with customers, and as Glossier’s success story shows, listening to your target consumers pays off.

Look to granular data from the consumers themselves to identify how you can become completely personalized in a way that will have an impact.

6. Measure the right metrics.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking at the same metrics year after year – but when your marketing strategy is changing, you need to revisit why you track the metrics you do.

According to Big Commerce, DTC ecommerce KPIs should focus on:

  • Purchases
  • Repeat purchases
  • Average order value
  • Lifetime value of revenue

Becoming DTC in 2019

Direct-to-consumer marketing is fully set to take off to an even bigger extent this year than last, with legacy brands like Nike grabbing a piece of the pie alongside younger, perhaps more agile challengers like Glossier and Casper.

Industry leaders postulate this trend stemmed from a natural digital evolution, giving consumers the power to choose how they’re marketed to and where.

According to Oliver Hansard, VP Sales, EMEA at 4C, “The availability of data has democratised marketing for retailers. Legacy retail brands that once were the main point of contact for consumers are now competing with emerging direct-to-consumer brands that are typically digital natives who have come of age with data-driven marketing.”

It shows there are opportunities for brands of any size, as long as they look to data and insights from the consumers themselves to steer their DTC strategy and offer a truly authentic brand relationship.