Looking Ahead To Life After COVID-19 🔮

Thanks for subscribing to The Cache - a weekly summary of the most important stories, trends, & commentary in eCommerce marketing, curated by Rob Bettis.

Wishing you a blessed & healthy Easter weekend!

🔎 Search

Google Delays Launch of New Partners Program to 2021

What does this mean for you or your Google Partner today?

These new rules will no longer be enforced, and Partners will retain their current status and specialization badges.

If current agencies have not yet earned their Partner status in 2020, they are still eligible to do so as before.

They will not need to meet these new requirements.

The old requirements and spend thresholds will still be in place until the change in 2021.

If agencies lost their specialization as of January 1, 2020, they will be re-granted their former status until 2021.

This honestly feels like Google using COVID-19 as cover. The rollout of this new program has been disastrous. This honestly feels like an opportunistic excuse to backtrack.

Why you shouldn’t use Google Ads’ seasonality adjustments for COVID-19 fluctuations

Short-term solution. Seasonality adjustments are available for Search, Shopping and Display campaigns. They are meant to be used to inform Google’s bidding systems about expected short-term conversion rate changes — during special promotions, product launches or more nuanced short interval bumps and lulls specific to your business.

The tool is ideal for periods between one and seven days. For example, if you’re planning a two-day sale and expect conversion rates to go up 40% during that set period of time, you can set the seasonality adjustment to cover those days.

Machine learning systems like smart bidding use historical data and signals to predict future outcomes. When performance data changes quickly, the modeling adjustments can lag. Seasonality adjustments give advertisers a way to manual tell the system to adjust the prediction modeling for a short period. After the seasonality adjustment period ends, smart bidding reverts back immediately without having to slowly readjust.

Coronavirus not a short-term event. Seasonality adjustments are not meant for longer periods of conversion rate fluctuation. You wouldn’t use it for back to school or holiday shopping seasons, for example.

In this context, the coronavirus outbreak, unfortunately, is not a short-term event. You should not use seasonality adjustments to try to account for fluctuating conversion rates during this time.

Google May Be Forced to Reveal its Search Algorithm to an SEO

Google is involved in a lawsuit that has the potential to result in the company revealing its long-guarded algorithm secrets.

As part of the lawsuit, Google has been given an ultimatum by UK courts to either withdraw evidence to its defence or disclose the details of its search algorithm.

Not only would Google have to hand over the details of its algorithm, it would have to hand them over to a working SEO consultant.

🗣 Social

Instagram Adds DM Access to Desktop Version

It’ll also have benefits for social media managers - now, you’ll be able to conduct all of your Instagram activities via desktop, including posting (through Creator Studio) and managing DMs. I mean, you probably still want to create Stories via the mobile app (though there are workarounds for that too), and DMs have technically been available via your connected Facebook Page inbox for some time. But it could make your day-to-day Instagram management requirements a little easier, with a dedicated inbox and tools aligned specifically to IG.

This is a helpful step forward. However, agencies and brand managers really just want API access to DM’s, so they can manage replies through third party tools like Buffer, SproutSocial, etc.

How to Use LinkedIn Conversation Ads for Better Conversions

The conversation ad format builds on the message ad format (previously known as sponsored InMail), which is delivered through LinkedIn Messenger. Designed for real-time engagement, conversation ads will only be sent when a prospect is active on LinkedIn, which means the likelihood of engagement is greatly increased.

A nice guide for LinkedIn’s newest ad type.

Pinterest boosts ability to ‘Shop’ for in-stock home decor and fashion products

A new “Shop” tab will appear on Search and on boards to help users find in-stock products from retailers. The new feature is rolling out starting today and includes price and brand filters. The Shop tab on boards will show products from or inspired by the Pins users have saved to their home decor or fashion boards.

This is one of several new updates from Pinterest this week - and one of several nice, new updates from them over the last few months. Pinterest has had a low-key presence in the last few editions of this newsletter. If your brand has an inspiration angle, perhaps it is time you gave your Pinterest strategy a second look.

Twitter notifies users that it’s now sharing more data with advertisers

Twitter has removed a privacy feature that allowed all users to stop sharing some private information with advertisers. The setting prevented Twitter from sharing information like the ads you saw or interacted with and the tracking identifier for your phone. For most users, that information will now be shared by default and can’t be turned off.

The shared data is used to show the efficacy of advertising on Twitter, the company says. It helps Twitter prove that people are actually watching, interacting with, and otherwise seeing the ads that advertisers are paying for, which helps the company “continue operating as a free service.”

Hopefully this at least means Twitter will soon become a more viable advertising network.

📦 Distribution

Amazon to Suspend Delivery Service That Competes With UPS, FedEx

Amazon.com Inc. will halt a delivery service for non- Amazon packages, according to people familiar with the matter, as it re-evaluates the nascent offering that competes directly with FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc.

Amazon told shippers the service, known as Amazon Shipping, will be paused starting in June. It was available in just a handful of U.S. cities.

Amazon is suspending the service because it needs its people and capacity to handle a surge in its own customers’ orders, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company has said it wants to hire 100,000 warehouse workers and is focusing on shipping essential items during the coronavirus outbreak.

Amazon in the past had sought to woo shippers to the new service by offering simpler rates, including the elimination of many fees and surcharges that other carriers add on to pad their revenues. It tested the program in London and Los Angeles, but didn’t make it widely available in the U.S.

🦠 Coronavirus

Brands recalibrate to community-building during quarantine

So far, consumers — not brands — are spearheading the shift toward community-building, according to Sean Pedeflous, creative director at GDX Studios.

“We’re seeing it organically already, through happy hours and videoconferencing and the like. We’re human beings, and as social creatures, people are still searching out those connections and looking for shared experiences,” he told Marketing Dive. “Just as people need to be connected, it’s important for brands to as well by encouraging group experiences and providing additional value in some way.”

The consumer after COVID-19

“It would seem that the coronavirus is accelerating the structural changes we’ve been seeing across retail and society for the last decade — toward online interaction, toward e-commerce and away from brick and mortar, toward direct-to-consumer away from department stores,” he said. “On the one hand, social media has essentially been prepping the world for ‘social distancing.’ On the other, humans aren’t built to not interact.”

This is a great thought piece on the last impact of the pandemic. Personally, I believe strongly most sectors will bounce back much more quickly than the experts in this article predict. But the nuances of their arguments will still be helpful data for guiding your company.

Brand Marketing Through the Coronavirus Crisis

With social distancing keeping many people at home, we’re also seeing major shifts in behavioral trends. Consumers have returned to broadcast and cable television and other premium media sources for credible information. They are also seeking more in the way of escapism and entertainment — downloading gaming apps, spending even more time on social media, and streaming more movies and scripted programming. And between remote working arrangements and live-streamed workout classes, college lectures, and social engagements, we are testing the bandwidth of our homes in a largely pre-5G world.

Meanwhile, the need for physical goods is placing pressure on new channels, with demand for e-commerce rising to new levels. For those who do venture out, grocery and convenience stores are the source for essentials, but supply is inconsistent. Health and safety concerns are driving more customers toward frictionless payment systems, such as using mobile phones to pay at check-out without touching a surface or stylus.

Some of these behavior changes may be temporary, but many may be more permanent. As people move beyond the current mode of survival, the momentum behind digital-experience adoption is unlikely to reverse as people are forced by circumstances to try new things. With so much changing so fast during this difficult time, what actions can brands take to serve and grow their customer base, mitigate risk, and take care of their people ?

What about you? Do you think adoption will stick? People are so determined to resist change. It will be intriguing to follow along.

The nudge factor: Parts of ecommerce industry will be likely winners of Covid-19 pandemic

Segments across e-commerce are helping ease peoples’ anxieties by helping bring solutions both virtually as well as to your doorstep. These testing times are bringing to fore the accelerated adoption of online services and possibly creating a long term behavioural change in the way people shop, consume media, health, get educated, or generally get things done. A quick look at how the segments have responded…

The Coronavirus Will Cause a Lasting Step Change in Grocery Ecommerce

According to our most recent ecommerce forecast (prior to COVID-19), we expected US food and beverage ecommerce sales to rise 23.4% to $32.22 billion this year, with the segment accounting for just 3.2% of total retail sales. It is both the fastest-growing and least penetrated ecommerce category—and expect that these figures will be revised upward in the coming months.

Again, it’s hard for me to think Nana will continue to get her groceries online.

Lysol Maker’s Boss on Condom Sales and Living With Mom During the Pandemic

WSJ: What trends has the pandemic triggered that could stick around?

Mr. Narasimhan: E-commerce and digital will be even bigger. Supply can’t keep up with demand right now, but we’re seeing more older people using e-commerce.

There will also be a new depth to planning supply-chain resilience. And in some industries you’ll see a shakeout where the companies that win are ones that understand consumers.

The idea that the supply-chain will add additional depth is far more intriguing to me than whether Nana will continue to purchase her groceries online. This is the first supply crisis since the rise of eCommerce. I suspect the importance of fail-safes and redundancy will have a renewed value, especially in an industry that has historically valued scale over all else.

The Virus Changed the Way We Internet

But a New York Times analysis of internet usage in the United States from SimilarWeb and AppTopia, two online data providers, reveals that our behaviors shifted, sometimes starkly, as the virus spread and pushed us to our devices for work, play and connecting.

Increases in entertainment, video chat, and e-learning are largely predictable. I was, however surprised by the move to local newspapers, video games replacing live sports, and a return to desktop browsing.

For many brands that have build their strategy around mobile-first advertising, now would be a good time to revisit (at least temporarily) that strategy.

🛠 Tips & Tools

The Microsoft Edge browser is now being used by more people than Mozilla Firefox making it the 2nd most popular desktop browser.

While Google Chrome is still far greater than all the other browsers combined at 68.5% market share, for the first time the desktop version of Microsoft Edge has surpassed Mozilla Firefox in market share.

🤷🏻‍♂️ Just For Fun

The Humble Phone Call Has Made a Comeback

Verizon said it was now handling an average of 800 million wireless calls a day during the week, more than double the number made on Mother’s Day, historically one of the busiest call days of the year. Verizon added that the length of voice calls was up 33 percent from an average day before the outbreak. AT&T said that the number of cellular calls had risen 35 percent and that Wi-Fi-based calls had nearly doubled from averages in normal times.

In contrast, internet traffic is up around 20 percent to 25 percent from typical daily patterns, AT&T and Verizon said.

No one’s getting new emoji in 2021 because of the pandemic

The pandemic is even affecting emoji. The Unicode Consortium, the group behind emoji releases, announced today that it’s delaying its version planned for 2021, meaning that devices won’t receive new emoji next year and instead will get a release in 2022. The good news is that the emoji that were announced earlier this year, like the olive, beaver, and plunger, will still be available this fall. Unicode says the delay is happening because it relies on volunteers who are currently overwhelmed dealing with the pandemic.

I’m just glad to know the plunger emoji won’t be impacted. 🙃

👋 Holla!

Questions, comments, inquiries? I’d love to hear from you! Email newsletter@robbettis.com.