Transformation of Search Summit 2019: Highlight reel

On Friday we held the Transformation of Search Summit 2019 here in New York City. Huge thank you to all of our speakers, attendees, and sponsors who made the day a success!

In this article we’ve compiled some key quotes, stats, and otherwise tweetable highlights from the event.

Keynote: The transformation of search

First we heard from Carolyn Shelby, SEO Manager, Audience Development at the Walt Disney Company / ESPN.

One of the key quotes from her session was “The trick is to understand the psychology of people. Get in front of the consumer. That’s where search engines are going. What is the least amount of thinking that I can make a consumer do? How can I get them what they want the fastest?”

She also walked us through a brief SERP evolution, from collecting and organizing, to scoring / ranking relevancy, to now delivering immediate gratification.

The future of search is visual

Next up we heard from Michael Akkerman of Pinterest on the growth of visual search and its role in the future.

He talked about the evolution of consumer expectations, from physical stores, to digital convenience, to omnichannel promise, to the inspired shopping of today.

Where it once may have seemed that consumers were only focused on convenience, we’re now seeing the re-emergence of shopping and discovery in the consumer experience.

He also talked about the role of Pinterest in consumer discovery. On Pinterest, he says, they have billions of text-based searches every month. Of those, 90% are non-brand searches. “People don’t know what they want,” he says. For brands looking to focus on the discovery portion of the consumer journey, Pinterest could be a great option.

Michael was joined on stage by Dave Fall, CEO of BrandNetworks. They did a Q&A about what brands can do to get started with visual search.

For many brands, they said, it can feel like there’s a big barrier of entry or that it has to be a huge undertaking. But, they noted, remember that your brand does have visual assets already — think about what you use for your website, display ads, Amazon product listings, etc. Consider how you can re-purpose those to get started.

What DTCs and legacy brands can learn from each other 

Next we heard from Kerry Curran of Catalyst (GroupM). She talked about what brands can do to flip their performance marketing mindsets.

One particularly interesting finding she shared was that in campaigns, when brands communicate like a human, it can improve conversion by 900%.

She also noted that in the US, women over age 50 have $15 trillion in buying power. For many marketers, it might seem like younger generations have more appeal — but older generations have deeper pockets.

Embarking on a search transformation project

After this, we had a panel discussion on “embarking on a search transformation project.”

The panel included experts from Conde Nast, Microsoft, Mindshare, Volvo, and McKinsey.

John Shehata from Conde Nast shared some work they did to refresh and consolidate older content in order to boost keyword visibility by up to 1000%.

The challenge, as he pointed out, is that 90% of online content was created in the last two years, and 90% of that content gets no traffic. And, 50% of searches on Google end in no clicks. To face that, his team is working on taking past content, consolidating multiple pieces, and focusing on making each piece amazing.

Noel Reilly of Microsoft also touched on the speed at which new content is created. She encouraged marketers to think more broadly about what people want and are looking to discover. At Microsoft Ads, she said, 18% of queries each month are new queries.

When inputs are continuing to change so much, she recommended marketers really look at their search query reports to build content around those.

John Shehata of Conde Nast also spoke a bit about what they’re doing to prepare for voice search. Overall, he’s adopting a more conservative approach: investing a little, getting the foundation ready, and waiting for more clarity before diving into larger scale investment.

He likened the current discussion of voice search to the conversation about mobile a decade ago: “Remember when we said ‘mobile is here’ for ten years? But then it took ten years.”

And to wrap up from this session, we heard another great point from Noel of Microsoft: “The most successful brands I see are the ones putting people at the center of their advertising. Regardless of what the next big thing is in search, your job as a marketer is to understand your customer.”

Amazon search

Next we heard from John Denny with some interesting statistics and expert tips on Amazon search.

When it comes to how different generations search, he revealed that 52% of Gen Z named Amazon as their favorite site for shopping. The number two spot went to Nike, who claimed just 4% of votes — putting Amazon at 13 times that.

He also discussed three of the main options CPG brands have for driving purchases / traffic: a brand’s own website, a brand’s detail page on Amazon, and in-store traffic.

For the largest 100 CPG brands out there, he said, there was five times more traffic on the Amazon detail page plus in-store than there was on the brand’s own website.

His message: for brands not on Amazon, might be time to consider it.

Optimizing for voice search

Next, we heard another panel, this time specifically on voice search, from Mastercard, Synup, and Advantix Digital.

While earlier in the day we heard a more cautious perspective from Conde Nast, this panel was a bit more bullish on voice search.

Synup CEO Ashwin Ramesh gave one interesting rationale around the rapid adoption of voice search globally in countries like India, Indonesia, and parts of Southeast Asia. In India, he says, 50% of all searches are already done via voice. “They’re leapfrogging markets,” he said. He also gave the personal example that his grandmother — she doesn’t type and has never used a computer, but she sends him voice messages via her iPad.

Paradigm shifts in search

After this we heard from Stephen Kraus, Head of Digital Insights at Jumpshot. He shared many interesting statistics about the current state of the search industry and how it’s shifting.

90% of all search happens on Google, he says, and it skews branded (unlike on Pinterest). Of the top ten most used search terms on Google in the past couple months, seven are brands: Google, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Walmart, Craigslist, and BMW.

The other three, interestingly, were “you,” “weather,” and “news.”

While 90% of all search happens on Google, when it comes to product-related search, 54% happens on Amazon.

Stay tuned for part two with highlights from the afternoon sessions, as well as some deep dives into specific insights!

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Search transformation projects: Q&A with SAP’s Siddharth Taparia

At The Transformation of Search Summit next month, we’ll be hearing from a panel on “Embarking on Search Transformation Projects.” One of those panelists will be Siddharth Taparia, SVP and Head of Strategic Transformation and Partner Marketing at SAP.

Siddharth has grown his career in marketing at various companies, including spending the past 11 years at SAP.

siddharth taparia, head of marketing transformation at SAP

For many search marketers, embarking on search transformation projects can seem daunting and unclear. Siddharth’s expertise lies in leading marketing transformation efforts, and he’ll share insights on what’s he’s learned along the way.

Tell us a bit about your role at SAP?

I serve as head of SAP Global Partner Ecosystem and SME Marketing. In this role, I oversee SAP’s entire global partner ecosystem – with nearly 20,000 partners – including companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Deloitte. We also market to the invaluable small and midsize space. My team is responsible for providing excellent support and resources for existing partners and helping to grow the network with new partners.

What are your key priorities over the next twelve months?

My key priorities over the next 12 months will include supporting SAP revenue and growth aspirations through innovative partner marketing, communications, and enablement. We will continue to be laser-focused on creating great partner experiences, extending the company’s reach to more customers, and driving SAP brand value.

What is your biggest challenge in achieving those?

Our biggest challenge is to make sure that we stay focused and look at the big picture. We are a large team within a large, global company. The path to success comprises many components that must come together in a cohesive manner.

What’s your advice to others who may be facing similar challenges?

As with many areas in life, communication and collaboration is key. Everyone on the team needs to be on the same page when it comes to understanding the plan, the strategy, and the goals. More importantly, the communication has to be a two-way street. It is vital to establish a culture in which people feel comfortable asking questions and providing feedback.

What’s an interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?

It is interesting to see the growth of AI and how it is becoming more and more sophisticated. AI is providing unprecedented personalization, which makes for memorable customer experiences. When it comes to search specifically, AI is helping to make it easier to find the information you need faster and with more accuracy than ever before.

How do you expect it will change in the next 6-12 months?

The rate at which AI is evolving is truly astronomical. By its very nature, AI gets better with time. With more data and new algorithms over the next several months, accuracy will continue to improve and forecasting and anticipating customer needs will become even more precise.

Tell us a bit about your session at the Search Summit?

I am excited to be a part of the panel discussion, “Embarking on a Search Transformation Project.” It is crucial for companies to not only incorporate search into their overall martech strategy; they must continue to evolve their search strategy to include new search technology. Search needs to be a core part of every marketing strategy and tactics.

What are you looking forward to most at the Summit?

I enjoyed being a part of the Summit as the keynote speaker last year, and I am looking forward to sharing ideas around the fascinating topic of search. Search is such an important topic to all industries, and the Summit will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest developments within this field.

What’s one of your favorite search technologies and why?

I have been following the development of voice search for quite some time now. It is my favorite search technology because it has come so far in such a short amount of time. Additionally, it’s an engaging, convenient, and fun way to obtain information!

What’s something you do every day that helps you be more successful or productive?

I am a voracious reader. Every time I take a break from a meeting or a call I try to read something new or interesting that expands my horizons. I also love to learn new things — so whenever I am in a meeting I often have a lot of questions.


Thanks Siddharth for the insights, and looking forward to learning more at the event.

Hope to see you all there!

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