As a consumer, how often do you use search engines for finding the right product?

Imagine you are looking to buy a new smartphone. You enter “smartphone” in the search box. Next, you see all the latest smartphone ads on top mobile websites and you start to compare and perhaps end up making your decision in just a few clicks.
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Image by pichado photography, Flickr CC
If nothing else, your purchasing decision is mainly governed by what you click and what you read on search results and that’s basically how search engine marketing dominates a consumer’s decision making.
Worst still, search engine marketing and online advertising are so closely connected and what you see on your search is exactly what the seller/advertiser is paying for “to rank high on search results.” I don’t want to get into a messy discussion on what all the online marketers do to rank high on search engines (say, Google). But the fact is in this digital age, “search” gets too much credit, and “displayed results” on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) plays an important role in brand recognition and sales.
In a recent research published by GroupM Search, titled “The Virtuous Circle – The Role of Search and Social Media in the Purchase Pathway,” more than 86% of consumers agreed that “search” was an integral part of their purchase pathway. In another research study, it was found that online reviews – user reviews and product reviews are second only to personal advice from a friend as the driver of purchase decisions of most consumers today.
While I wonder how fair it is to follow social media and read search engine results to make up my mind on a particular product, I somehow feel my purchasing decision is largely standing on the shoulders of search engine giants who are playing with the popular mentality of consumers and striving to appear in front of our faces!
We all know the drill – put the right ad in front of the right user at the right time but the question is – is it really the right way?
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It is no surprise that the current online marketplace is greatly suffering with a supply-and-demand imbalance. The demand for quality content, specifically videos that are entertaining yet informative, far outweighs the supply.

And while there are many reputable brands producing quality content and videos for their advertising, there are a host of “less-than-savory” options as well. You’ll find everything from no-name websites to forced pop-ups, auto-plays, and bogus micro-sites being used by millions of online marketers, possibly with lower budgets,striving to keep the clock ticking (i.e. generating leads and increasing their sales revenues).
video ads
Image by ajstarks, Flickr CC
Brand marketers use a number of incentives for their consumers – FREE subscriptions, giveaways, downloads, ad walls, graphics, etc. But among them, one that is particularly intriguing to me is Incentivized Video Ads – a strategy through which brands “pay” their consumers for viewing their videos.
“Facebook users can now earn Facebook credits in exchange for watching video ads in games.” No doubt, this is Facebook’s way of enabling brand advertising for its users but what I really wonder is – how can incentivized views lead to more effective digital advertising today?
Engagement advertising giant, SocialVibe, raised $20 million in March.
“What we’ve learned from millions of interactions is people like free stuff and now Facebook users can earn credits simply by participating with the advertiser to get that free stuff,” said Jay Samit, CEO of Social Vibe. “This kind of advertising satisfies what brands have been looking for – an opt-in experience with a reach greater than TV and highly targeted.”
Apart from being an obvious “idle money-making avenue,” I have come to realize that Incentivized Video Ads help in transforming the way the brands can connect with consumers on the most influential space, the Internet, and they are doing it on the consumer’s terms.
However, I fail to agree that incentivized viewership is necessarily always a winning option:
  • What happens to the quality of the views?
  • Are these views just as valuable?
  • Are these viewers really consumers?
  • Is it the audience that the marketers really want?
In my quest to finding the right answers, I continue learning. Do you think Incentivized Video Ads will compromise the quality of video content?
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In today’s interconnected world, the competitive advantage of any business is largely determined by the degree of technology adoption, utilization and connection with the target audience. Researchers often argue that without a critical mass of local content, Arab countries cannot reap the benefits of the global information revolution.

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Rising need of Arabic content online

The size of local markets is always critical to measuring the benefits of using localized content for online communication. According to InternetWorldStats.com, Arabs make up about 3.1% of the world’s population and 3.3% of Internet users around the world understand and speak Arabic.
With 230 million people speaking Arabic in the Arab World, of which over 60% are under the age of 25, Internet usage in the Middle East is rapidly increasing. In fact, Internet penetration in the Middle East is increasing at the rate of 28.3%, about 3% more than the global average. We can say with certainty that there exists a large pool of local Internet users who are looking to read Arabic content online and the need of creating good quality Arabic content is increasing.
However, many of these Arabic users either do not find any good Arabic content or face a rather disconnected online experience when they are sent to an English web page through an Arabic ad or link. In turn, the local audience loses interest and gets carried away by the global competition, which is exactly why a lack of online Arabic content has led local businesses down a bottleneck.
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People who stay away from social media are ignoring a powerful way to connect with women buyers. The number of female users on top social media sites is increasing at a very rapid rate and more and more women are getting active on social media networks.

In a recent study conducted by ShesConnected, of the women who use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, 59% say they check these sites multiple times per day. In fact, this is the reason why many big cosmetic brands are integrating social media with their offline campaigns.
“Conversations between companies and female consumers are moving beyond ‘what do you want?’ types of questions,” said Rashmi Sinha, CEO and co-founder of SlideShare. “Companies are starting to use social media to secure real-time feedback from women on products, services, and marketing campaigns—sometimes before they go to market.”

On a local level, according to anaZahra.com, 71% of the women participating in the study belonged to a social networking site; 66% connect with friends online on a daily basis; 83% access the internet from home; 34% spend at least 10 hours a week online, and 45% read articles and magazines online.
As the number of female social media users increases, we are likely to see more interest-based online marketing. However, the interest itself is greatly influenced by some key decision-making characteristics that include:
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E-commerce has translated the retail shopping experience into power shopping – quick, easy and fun. So, now users can save time and money by shopping online. But what propels e-commerce to be the way of the future?

With the increasing number of Internet users (there are over 2 billion Internet users in the world), it only makes sense that retailers venture online to improve their sales by engaging customers from across international borders. As the number of Internet users is growing so are the number of e-commerce websites and e-shopping merchandise.
Today, there are more than 10,000 e-commerce business websites around the world and in US alone B2B product sales totaled $142.5 billion in 2010. According to a research conducted by Forrester, the United States online retail industry will be worth $279 billion in 2015.

An insight into global e-commerce industry

E-commerce is growing rapidly around the globe. Merchants are now looking for big spenders and power shoppers across borders. Big shoppers place bigger orders and they shop frequently. Reports have shown that the country that produces the largest number of power shoppers is Canada which accounts for 36% of total worldwide consumers. While Europe accounts for 26%, Australia and New Zealand account for 19% of power shoppers. The Middle East accounts for 35%, which is a huge number even though it contributes only a small overall percentage of cross-border shoppers.
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