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Finally, an actual use case for AR

You probably weren’t expecting to read about luggage this summer. Neither was I.

Until I read about how an online retailer of bags, eBags, got 112% increase in mobile conversions AND a drop in customer returns all because of using AR (Augmented Reality).

Pokemon Go started the AR craze but the reality of it, so far, hasn’t quite lived up to the hype.

Many brands have been playing around with the tech but everyday use is still lacklustre.

In the meantime, it’s nice to see what we can expect from AR in e-commerce.

Google’s 3D ad-format is coming out of beta.

And it’ll be available to everyone.

Not to mention that the greater influence of Amazon in e-commerce isn’t leaving brands much choice other than to set up shop in the marketplace.

More Amazon, though, means smaller margins. Plus putting all your eggs in one basket isn’t strategic.

Creative solutions are how you can make your own ecommerce site attractive to customers.

And AR makes it easier for customers to experience the product in a more complete way – as they would in a physical store – which is never a bad idea.

Publishers have had it rough this year

New York Times reported that smaller publishers relying on ad revenue for survival have already gone bust.

Both The Guardian and the BBC have announced redundancies. Even BuzzFeed readjusted their expectations for 2020.

Google killing third-party cookies. COVID. BLM keyword blacklists. Reduced marketing budgets. And just last week Google made AdSense policies better but also stricter for publishers.

It’s not easy being in publishing these days.

For better or worse, many publishers still rely on ad revenue to deliver quality journalism to us.

Marketers who portray themselves as ‘purpose-driven’ saying that they want coronavirus coverage to be free while at the same time pulling their ad spend from publishers isn’t helping to keep that content free and accessible to all.

Marketing can be a power for good.

But we gotta put our money where our mouth is. We can channel our ad spend on supporting free and independent journalism.

And while we’re at it, we can demand that those publishers do better. Because they’re more likely to listen to constructive feedback once their existence isn’t teetering on the brink of destruction.


Google’s 3D ad-format now available globally

Just yesterday Google announced that Swirl – its 3D ad-format will be available to all Display & Video 360 users globally.

What is Swirl? 

In the latest announcement, they describe it as, “Swirl lets consumers engage with a product like it’s right in front of them by allowing them to rotate, zoom and expand the creative in the ad. Swirl ads allow brands to illustrate changes in behaviour, new technology performance, unique product features and more.”

Since its introduction last year, Swirl has been tested by several brands already. In Google’s own words, “Brands are seeing great success using Swirl ads for various campaign goals. This includes increasing consideration by showcasing product features, building brand awareness and delivering a great mobile experience.” 

In the press release (link above), Google shared examples of this new format in action. My favourites were Nissan and Adidas – mind you there were only 4 examples in total.

To tell you the truth, I’m really excited about this. I’m sure we’ll see more brilliant examples now that more of us have access to it.

Google has a change of heart

While many people find the news through Google, the publishers aren’t fond of not getting paid by Google for showing their content in organic search.

This lead to several skirmishes in the past.

Earlier this year, TC reported that France is the latest EU state to order Google to start paying publishers for displaying their content in organic search.

Previous attempts by Germany and Spain failed to get Google to budge.

Because Google held on to its position that it doesn’t make any money from organic search. 

But given that many publishers struggle to generate revenue, and the current environment around newsmedia, Google has had a change of heart.

Google will start paying news publishers for high-quality content. Google’s Bran Bender wrote that a vibrant news industry matters because people are searching for reliable information during the global pandemic and growing concerns about racial injustice, “But these events are happening at a time when the news industry is also being challenged financially. We care deeply about providing access to information and supporting the publishers who report on these important topics.”

Building on its commitmentto support publishers and journalism, Google also introduced two new analytics tools designed for newsrooms. 

Time will tell if this is going to work out.

Google Web Vital. It’s time to take UX seriously

Google gave advance warning before an algorithm update. That was a first!

Last week Google announced an update to their search algorithm planned for 2021 – actually giving us time to prepare.

The new signals, dubbed Core Web Vitals, will evaluate the quality of your site’s user experience when ranking it in organic search.

Google has this to say: “Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.”

Another push form Google towards making the web a better place.

Any investment in improving usability is an essential step towards increasing online conversions. And since Mobilegeddon, Google has only gotten more serious about cleaning up the deteriorating state of the web:

  • HTTPS: In 2014 Google announced that secure sites will get a slight ranking boost and by 2018 Chrome started marking non-HTTPS sites as non-secure.
  • Mobile-friendly: In 2015 Google released an update designed to give mobile-friendly sites a boost in organic ranking.
  • Google Safe Browsing: In 2016 Google introduced Safe Browsing, a service that helps browsers, ISPs and Apps protect their users from malware and other threats.
  • Intrusive Interstitials: In 2015 Google started penalising apps that displayed annoying pop-ups and by 2016 that penalty was extended towards websites as well.
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages: In 2018 Google announced AMP, an open-source project designed to help publishers deliver a faster mobile experience.
  • Mobile-first Indexing: In 2016 Google announced it will prioritise indexing mobile-versions of websites and by 2020 switched to indexing mobile-friendly versions of all websites exclusively.

How can you prepare for this update? 

Although the new Core Web Vitals measure metrics like load time, interactivity and stability of the content available on the page, usability is what it’s really about.

After being involved in several web development projects, I can assure you that there’s always a difference between how you thought people will use your site and how they actually use it. 

And the only way to improve usability is to pay attention to your users. 

That means paying extra attention to Service Design and User Experience. 

Where should you start?

In the coming months, you need to answer these questions: 

  • Is it happening? Is the site loading? How quickly?
  • Is it useful? How quickly does the content render so that the user can engage with it?
  • Is it usable? Can the user interact with the page?
  • Is it delightful? Is the user experience smooth and free of lag?

If you have a Service Designer or UI/UX expert on-hand, now’s the time to get them involved in usability testing.

If not, get yourself up-to-speed with Usability and Web Accessibility and other best practices.

Tools like Hotjar allow Session Recording and help you gather the much needed qualitative data to see how people really use your website.

For quantitative metrics, you can use Chrome’s Lighthouse Tools and brand new Web Vitals Chrome extension

A word of advice; don’t just look at speed alone to measure your website’s overall performance. Use testing and optimisation to improve the usability and usefulness of your website.

One thing you can count on is that Google will continue to prioritise pages with better content.

And when you and your competitors all deliver the same quality of content, whoever has the better user experience will be preferred by Google.