Button hosted the second annual TAP Conference two weeks ago in New York City with over 500 attendees. The event served as a forum for leaders from mobile platform, commerce and content companies to connect, share and learn from one another. The executives on stage ranged from technology platforms like Google, Facebook, and Pinterest to leading publishers like Condé Nast, Huffington Post and Time to commerce companies such as Uber, Jet, OpenTable and Ticketmaster.
In its 2nd year, TAP matured into world-class “counterprogramming” for digital leaders seeking an alternative to the “ads only” content of Advertising Week. Coupled with the themes at the conference, Button also announced the launch of the first user-centric monetization solution for digital media publishers on the mobile web. Now, Button is bringing the same great experiences we pioneered in apps to some of the most innovative and iconic publishing brands, including Condé Nast, The Huffington Post, PureWow, and Refinery29.
Button’s expansion to the mobile web comes a year after our launch and was driven by hearing the problems being faced by mobile publishers and their requests for our support. The infrastructure we built to serve the app economy just happened to be perfectly positioned to unlock a performance-based revenue stream for publishers that were craving for a “better way”. The model we were positioned to offer had been proven on desktop — but mobile hadn’t caught up — for a variety of reasons I’ll explain below. Recognizing the gap, understanding the market trends, and listening to input from partners were the ingredients in what we developed. And, as always, we wanted to build solutions for where we think the world is heading — not where it was or has been — and we hope the efforts we’ve made bring us to that future state faster.
To provide some insight, here is how we see the evolving mobile landscape…
Today, mobile is posing tremendous challenges to publishers seeking to generate revenue — desktop dollars have turned into digital dimes and now mobile pennies. The quality of ads on mobile generally disappoints, and this has led to an erosion of user trust and patience. These monetization challenges are exacerbated by the fact that mobile accounts for the majority of user attention in 2016:
While mobile time spent exceeds that of desktop, the amount of advertising revenue on mobile isn’t even close to keeping pace. The monetization gap is expanding and the pain publishers are feeling is increasing as time continues to pour from desktop to mobile:
We believe the primary reasons for the “mobile gap” in monetization stems from two core breakdowns (although you can still learn a lot about the issues addressed in Bill Gurley’s prophetic post from 2013):
1) 80–90 percent of the incremental dollars that are being generated on mobile are being captured by two companies: Google and Facebook. These companies have built powerful, reliable, scaled advertising systems that allow them to capture an outsized share of dollars spent due to time spent (Facebook) and understanding of intent (Google) on mobile.
2) The right solutions haven’t been built to solve mobile monetization with a user-first and publisher-first approach…enter Button!
We’ve recognized, like Fred Wilson, that mobile web is “top-of-funnel” and mobile apps are “bottom-of-funnel.” The mobile web dominates apps in terms of unique users and sessions; this is where people “browse” for ideas and information, a key reason why it is called the web “browser.”
Tapping into top-of-funnel mobile web browsing and the high traffic audience pools hasn’t been simple for publishers. This is primarily because the publisher tools and user flows that allow for durable revenue streams to be built haven’t been designed for mobile. As we all know, the industry has unfortunately been laden with uninspiring adaptations of desktop form factors as well as attention-grabbing pop-up/over disruptions. These experiences give users anxiety in their sleep (see below) — how many times have you sworn at your phone when the new window pops up showing you the shoes you bought two weeks ago or the pre-roll for the car you haven’t contemplated buying since you discovered Uber?
The easiest way to recognize how frustrated users are with the ads and experiences they’re being fed is to look at the adoption of ad blocking technology — 83 percent of consumers prefer to have the option to block ads!
Seeing this data and recognizing the annoyances we were experiencing as users — we felt confident we were in a position to provide a refreshing alternative or at least a complementary option to what was out there.
When we talk about our platform or discuss Button’s mission — I think it’s essential for people to understand how we view the evolution of behavior in the digital world…
First off, intent on mobile is different than it was/is on the desktop. Almost every “journey” of intent in the desktop age — whether it was trying to find a deal, book a trip, or choose a restaurant — would begin with a search:
Ok, it would really just look like this:
But in mobile, we think habits have changed (so does this guy and he’s pretty damn smart). Rather than starting every purchase flow or discovery path with a query, now a user starts with a specific app or web service that solves their problem (or intent) best. For deals, a user opens Ibotta; for travel, TripAdvisor; and for an evening out, Foursquare or Yelp. The intent paradigm has changed; it’s now distributed, and it looks a lot like this:
We’ve been passionate about the opportunities this new paradigm presents — it was the catalyst for us to found the company and we’ve been singing nearly the exact same tune throughout our journey as a company. In fact, it’s fun to look back to see that our view of the world at TAP 2016 (above) looked fairly similar to our view of the world at TAP 2015:
Understanding that intent was changing — toward vertical-specific solutions and instant gratification in the form of purchases or bookings — we built tools to help connect the places people spend time with the places where they spend money. We built a connection layer and commerce infrastructure to help solve the challenges being posed by the new habits that were being introduced and formed in mobile. While mobile apps lag behind the mobile web in terms of sessions and unique visitors, they are unequivocally winning the battle for mobile time and dollars spent. The relative growth of app commerce is the easiest way to recognize what’s happening:
At Button, we spent our first year building a mobile app-to-app marketplace where companies could link app experiences predicated on our belief that monetizing actions was going to evolve into the most powerful model in mobile. This was a critical step to our introducing the first native mobile monetization experience driven through commerce. We’ve now recognized big companies taking similar strides and trying to do so often on their own (oftentimes recognizing halfway through how hard these integrations are to build and maintain). The seamless flows we built drove revenue by tapping into the explosive power of the app economy and created a monetization experience publishers could rely on and that users told us they love.
With the lessons we learned from launching with Uber, OpenTable, Ticketmaster and more — we thought long and hard about how to bring this same functionality to the mobile web. To maintain the caliber of the experiences we offered — we needed to build a number of cool, complex features to make this happen reliably at scale: harmonization of location and other data into actions, parsing of metadata from pages to match against inventory sets that Button has across its array of marketplace partners, deep linking support to map to these inventory items through the app stores…and much more. Most importantly, we had to maintain the experiences users had told us they loved in the web, which was really hard to do.
After a year of dedication and hard work from the amazing team at Button, we were thrilled to showcase the results of those efforts.
At TAP, we were proud to announce our mobile web launch partners: Condé Nast, The Huffington Post, PureWow, and Refinery29 — some of the most innovative digital media brands in the world. Their rationale for jumping onboard with us was simple — they wanted to give their users what they wanted. They also wanted to replicate the model they’d had so much success with in the desktop environment — tapping into commerce through affiliate — and we’ve given them that opportunity in mobile.
Building on top of the Button platform, these brands are now making their content more actionable and at the same time tapping into the fastest growing segment of the digital economy.
The partnerships Button powers for commerce companies are driving conversion rates that are higher than search, social, and display — and Publishers like those announced at TAP are beginning to recognize the value transactional revenue streams can provide them in mobile.
We feel the trends we’re seeing in mobile — whether they’ve been prompted by ad blockers, smaller screens, or increasing expectations of consumers — are making the case for why more time and effort needs to be put into the revenue strategies being employed by publishers. Complicating the cry for more time and attention to building “the right type of monetization strategy” is the fact that mobile engineers are the most overburdened resource pool companies have had to rely on since the beginning of the digital era.
These are many of the reasons why we started Button. We wanted to provide a better option for businesses building for mobile and offer a more durable and user-friendly way to drive revenue. We knew if we could do that — and give users access to what they wanted at the “touch of a button” — our partners would win.
Now, they’re starting to.
Tapping into the distributed intent across the mobile landscape — we hope Button can create an entirely new mobile channel for marketers to rely on.
We knew mobile commerce would explode, and this is why we are here every day serving mobile developers.
Our plan is to continue to create high-fidelity experiences between services that turn multi-service experiences into seamless, complementary mobile journeys. This has given the many global, mobile businesses we partner with an opportunity to scale a more thoughtful, enduring and effective monetization and acquisition strategy.
Every lesson we’ve learned along the way has furthered our commitment and conviction that we’re on the right path in serving users, publishers and mobile commerce companies. The brands that help users find what they want, when they want it — at the touch of a Button — will win on mobile.
Let us help you win!