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We’re heading full-steam into 2018 with a series that looks ahead to our next 12 months and features insights from our top partners. Today’s expert: Head of SMB Media Sales at Taboola, Mike Gifis*. 

* Please note that all answers are the personal opinions of the interviewee, not of their employer.

What is the most exciting thing that happened to your company in 2017?

Two things took place at Taboola this year that I think have changed our perspective. First, we’ve amassed enough scale to harness audience insights and develop product capabilities completely unique to our platform. By tapping into our own data, we’re able to to better personalize the digital experience for users on the open web, and elsewhere, which benefits both brands and publishers. Second, we’ve acted upon the discovery that in-feed video is a proven vehicle to help brands drive high-impact moments of engagement with their audiences. This year, we launched Taboola Feed across many of our premium publishers, enabling a scrolling experience on the open web, powering an uplift in engagement for brands and publishers alike.

What do brands need to have mastered in 2017 to be ready to compete in 2018?

It’s no longer an emerging trend that users have migrated to mobile. In fact, for many, a mobile device will represent the majority of content consumption, communication, and productivity (even purchase or investment decisions). From our experience, brands who’ve optimized mobile product pages have shown conversion rates consistent with their desktop experience, but typically with greater subtotals on purchase. This can result in overall better returns on their media investment because mobile is less competitive when it comes to media buying.

Another thing often overlooked by brands is minimizing the page-loads on checkout. Integrating a common 3rd party like Amazon or PayPal can streamline the payment process and increase conversion rates on mobile.

What do you see as the major trends in your industry in 2018?

Advertisers and media platforms are reacting to user concerns and ad blocking trends and adjusting toward formats driving better end-user engagement. As a result we see a consolidation of “native” and “display” advertising. Traditional platforms are modifying their creative studios to allow marketers to buy native through consolidated channels, much like what happened in display. This will enable substantial, incremental demand, and larger digital platforms will enter the space, but there is a lot of room for independent media platforms to keep growing next year as well.

In terms of advertiser trends, some categories became very competitive throughout the year, such as food and drink (meal kit subscriptions, grocery delivery, and reviews/delivery apps), home and garden (mattresses in particular, both those shipped in boxes and otherwise), and fitness (particularly mobile apps in this category). Heading into next year, we are seeing travel and other wellness-related apps take off already.

Finally, transparency has always been a must in our industry, and we must constantly innovate to help brands accomplish their goals confidently and with diverse options.

If you could invest $50 million in the most promising upcoming technology in your industry, what would you invest in?

I’d invest in data management, user identity, and attribution solutions outside the proprietary solutions that Google and Facebook provide.  There are some gaps in this space right now, and many of the small-to-midsize advertisers need help in this area the most.

What big change in your product or service will be a game-changer in 2018?

The world’s largest media platforms have reinvented some of the basic requirements in ad tech, and created expectations from advertisers that are actually quite valid given the proliferation of data and lower data-storage costs. Brands large and small have benefited greatly from an ability to share their own data and model incremental, target audiences based on this information. I expect user data capabilities will be something leveraged extensively in the coming year.

What’s a reach-for-the-stars innovation you’d like to see in the next five years?

It’s been a challenge for brands to measure the success of their online and offline efforts together, both in terms of marketing strategy and actual results. Some media platforms have been offering solutions based on user identity, or based on things like geo-fencing and in-store beacons, for example. The best solution for any of this, however, is CRM on the advertiser side. The ability to match third-party (e.g. media platform) attribution on a transactional basis, with first-party data (i.e. CRM) on a long-term basis, would give the marketer universal insight which is much needed.  This need is likely going to fuel more acquisitions (large brands looking to buy incremental, direct-to-consumer relationships) and will be a central theme in determining who wins (i.e. market share, profitability) in most major verticals.

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Mike Gifis leads middle-market new business development at Taboola, the world’s largest and most innovative content recommendation network, which powers native advertising on thousands of premium publishers, including Bloomberg, Insider, CBSi and many others. As an expert in digital marketing, brand equity development, customer acquisition and ecommerce, Mike works with brands, agencies, and publishers to help identify and execute strategic partnerships. Mike previously led enterprise sales in New England and at CareerBuilder, and attended Skidmore College.

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Read more 2018 predictions from 3Q Partners and Experts by clicking here.

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