May 15, 2019
For the fourth in a series of industry interviews, we spoke to Ron Pick from marketing intelligence platform SimilarWeb. As head of Marketing Solutions, Ron has specialist insight into the ways that marketers and agencies are utilising marketing intelligence to inform their strategies. Giles Peddy, SVP EMEA, LEWIS, spoke to Ron about key trends in how people use the internet, and what brands need to do to capture their attention.
Please tell us a bit your role, background and who SimilarWeb are?
I’m head of Marketing Solutions at SimilarWeb, which is an all-in-one market intelligence platform for marketers, researchers, sales teams and investors. My role is to think about all the ways that marketers and agencies can harness the SimilarWeb platform to reveal their competitor’s online strategies and benchmark themselves against their market. it’s fascinating to see how brands tap-into and integrate SimilarWeb data into their organisations and marketing programmes.
As a company that has global web stats and intelligence, what are some of the major trends you are seeing?
We are focused on analysing different aspects of user browsing behaviour and how that affects market behaviour. For example, investors use SimilarWeb data to source deals or analyse market leaders. So we look for interesting market trends and try to uncover who might have the right marketing mix to win greater market share. It’s easy to identify trends when you compare those marketing tactics between different brands – it’s like having access to someone’s Google Analytics.
We post weekly insights to help our customers and partners see what is happening. For example, we have shown how fashion brand Hypebeast flourished on the reseller market using online marketplaces like Stockx and GRAILED. It’s trends like these that enable investors to find market opportunities and allow brands and advertisers to find the best strategies to grow their market.
How is this effecting brands?
Market intelligence removes much of the guesswork for brands. If you want to enter a new market or launch a new brand, SimilarWeb enables you to build an informed strategy based on real data and insights.
How has the way people use the internet changed in the last two years and what do you foresee in the next five years?
We are seeing more maturity in areas like content consumption. A prime example is how people interact with Google. We see search click-through rates continue to decline on mobile searches when compared with desktop.
Google is becoming a publisher of answers versus just a ranking of your own results. Content discovery has also shifted for many publishers. A couple of years ago Facebook was a huge source for publisher referrals. Ever since they adjusted their algorithm, many publishers saw their traffic decrease drastically.
Predicting behaviour is in many cases futile, since many behaviours stay the same. For example, the way email is used hasn’t changed considerably, and we do not see that being displaced tomorrow. At the same time, other behavioural shifts have come right out of nowhere.
Take gamers who watch hours of live streamed video games over Twitch or YouTube. While we see Twitch traffic increase percentage-wise at an incredible rate, the growth is also massive in terms of sheer number of users.
It’s very challenging to look five years in the future and make predictions, because the rate of change and growth can be either staggering or not move at all. One of the things that we’re monitoring closely is voice interface, which will further change the rules of the game.
Even with the proliferation of voice assistants we think it will take longer for it too really go beyond basic queries and commands like asking to play a song. It will take time to mature but, that said, a couple of years ago everyone thought it was really strange when you saw people walk around with Airpods in their ears; now you see them all the time. I think Airpods and competing products will really help make voice a viable interface. Voice recognition technology is not new but it has matured to the point that it now works really well.
It will be interesting to see how voice affects commerce. We don’t foresee it moving the needle anytime soon but in the long term we are bullish.
Consumer buying behaviour is changing a lot. What are some of the most notable trends and how have some brands reacted to them?
We think a notable trend that gets talked about a lot is how much influence Instagram has on brands, product recognition and commerce.
We are not just talking about influencers but also subcultures that use Instagram to find anything from shoes, second hand watches to cannabis. Young consumers buy into an experience, not only a brand.
Brands have reacted by investing heavily in partnerships with creators that can produce content that embodies a vision and experience of their products.
You also cannot discuss consumer behaviour with mentioning Amazon. We see more and more product searches start on Amazon, and the growth of more brands now advertising on Amazon – a trend that will continue.
In your opinion, on a scale of 1-10 (1 being very poor, 10 being brilliantly) how well are brands handling the disruption seen today from a web perspective? And why?
Oh, that is a tricky question! Over time brands become smarter, but not all brands react at the same pace. Those that adapt, profit; but sometimes new marketing channels that are not as mature (like influencer marketing) may not be as efficient. You get this herd mentality or FOMO and as a result advertising spend is wasted.
We are dealing with many conflicting forces: protectionism, nationalism, tech innovation, consumer empowerment. What does SimilarWeb see happening over the next 5-10 years relating to the web?
SimilarWeb measures the web. It is at best a real-time barometer or a lagging indicator of overlaying trends. Time is often needed to understand external factors that contribute to changing trends. Anything from economic, political and even weather can affect how users engage on the web.
We think innovation is one of the most interesting forces, and from that perspective we really see how China is pushing the web completely into the mobile realm.
Over the last decade, the Chinese have built a one-way mirror where they can see what is happening in the West and incubate platforms and models that really put mobile first without the need to compete with Western corporations.
This has put them at the forefront of mobile messaging, payment and content consumption. We think we will see more Western companies try to emulate that success at home.
What are some of the common challenges clients and prospects are asking your advice on right now?
Marketers or executives come to us when they want to understand the winning strategies for penetrating new markets or growing their share of existing ones. If you’re a direct-to-consumer brand and want to understand the best strategy for customer acquisition or channel optimisation, then SimilarWeb shows you where the biggest opportunity lies.
What advice would you give to brands right now in how they use the web to reach, engage and drive action with end-users?
If marketing is not bringing actual customers or revenue, it is not being done right.
Simply chasing KPI’s is illusionary growth. That is why with market intelligence tools, marketers can better understand the difference between brands that disrupt and those that are being disrupted.
Secondly, brands should not only obsess over placing the customer first, but also understand what value they bring at every stage of the relationship.
What are the top tips you would give a CMO right now to help them be successful?
1. Channels are not silos. Your social strategy is not unique from the rest of the funnel. It needs to support marketing initiatives from the top down.
2. Setting arbitrary targets is meaningless if you are not constantly optimising towards your objectives.
3. Measure everything that you can. This will make it easier to later analyse lagging and leading indicators.
4. Brand awareness or share of voice can be quantified. Use the right tools and you can see the impact.