Author: My Office News

Week after week, there is always a petrol price hike threat to consumers in South Africa. Over a period of 10 years, the petrol price has fluctuated, increasing by a whopping 66% from R9,66 to R16,08. In the last 8 months of 2018, the price has increased from R14,42 to R16,08 inland.

The price hikes in 2018 alone placed a strain on the consumers and prompted the public outcry that led to the subsequent intervention by the government. The Department of Energy intervened after the Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa anticipated a drastic 23c to 25c per litre fuel price increase for the 5th of September 2018. The intervention led to the fuel price only increasing by 4.5c per litre.

According to Central Energy Fund calculations, local consumers could be hit by another bombshell as early indicators are that the fuel price could rise by R1.14 a litre in October. Making matters worse is the shock of the recession and the threat of downgrades by rating agencies.

OLX believes this directly affect more than three thirds of their users. “While OLX prides itself for making it super easy to buy and sell almost anything, our main source of traffic is price-conscious car buyers,” says Diana Mjojo, Communications Manager at OLX South Africa. “With the fuel prices going up again, this is a trend we don’t see coming to an end any time soon and we’re concerned about how it affects our users.”

9 out of the top 10 search terms for 2018 on the OLX platform are for the Cars & Bakkies category. According to the company, the OLX car buyer is financially savvy. They are willing to accept higher mileage vehicles if it means the price of the vehicle is lower.

Mjojo says OLX users are willing to save as much money as possible during these economically hard times. “Users will often pick the practical option over luxury, which may include older models, if it means the vehicles are cheaper. Not only are they conscious about the price of the vehicle but about the petrol consumption as well,” says Mjojo.

OLX advises consumers who aren’t already buying their cars on the platform to consider doing so as that is a smart way to save and set yourself economically free. “Whether you are looking for your first car, need a car to match your muscles or upgrading, OLX is a central place for you. We work with car dealerships that list their approved cars on the platform,” adds Mjojo.

Job cuts loom at DStv

By Chris Forrester for Advanced Television

According to a report in South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper, pay-TV operator DStv is laying off up to 200 staffers in a move to save cash amidst increased competition.

A DStv spokesperson said the move was in order to create a leaner and more agile business. Existing staff are being asked to reapply for their jobs, says the newspaper.

DStv’s parent, MultiChoice has lost some 41,000 Premium top-tier subscribers in the year to March 31st.

MultiChoice has made no secret of its annoyance that rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are eating away at its core subscribers and yet operate without having to fulfil the licensing obligations faced by MultiChoice.

MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela has called for a change in regulations to cover the new OTT entrants.

By C.R. for The Economist 

It is not a message any frequent flyer looks forward to receiving. On 7 September, British Airways (BA) said it had emailed over 380 000 customers who had booked flights with the carrier between 21 August and 5 September admitting that their credit-card details had been stolen by hackers.

BA’s embattled chief executive, Alex Cruz, attributed the breach to a “malicious, fairly sophisticated attack” on its website. The airline thinks the hackers obtained names, street and e-mail addresses, and credit-card numbers, expiry dates and security codes—more than enough information to steal money from bank and credit-card accounts.

Mr Cruz has promised compensation for any customers financially affected by the hack.

The airline has not released the full details of what happened, and is still investigating the breach. But it has admitted that it was only data used in transactions in that 15-day period, not saved credit-card data on customer accounts, that was stolen.

Cyber-security experts say that hack sounds like it breached the system that managed customer payments, unlike previous attacks on other big companies where saved data was stolen.

Whatever the cause of the attack, aviation analysts think BA is likely to be hit hard by fines from regulators. Under the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May, BA could face a fine of up to 4% of its revenues if it is determined that it did not do enough to protect customer information.

That would be around £500m ($650m). If regulators decide that the penalty should be levied on the entire revenues of IAG, BA’s parent, that number could swell to as much as €1bn ($1.16bn). After adding the cost of compensating customers affected by the breach, it is no wonder that the group’s shares dropped in value by 2% on the morning the news became public.

But analysts are wary about saying that the hack will affect BA or IAG’s longer term performance.

BA has been hit by a serious of complaints about falling standards of service on its flight and by a computer crash that stranded 75,000 of its passengers last May. Mr Cruz has been crucified in the media for both public-relations meltdowns. Yet neither issue has really affected demand for BA flights.

So why do BA passengers keep coming back to the airline, in spite of it losing their credit-card data, checked-in baggage and taking away free nosh onboard? The answer is that they have little choice.

New airlines simply cannot take market share away from BA at Heathrow. As long as it uses each take-off and landing slot it is allocated 80% of the time, it can keep it for the next season. As a result, the share of slots at Heathrow owned by BA’s parent has risen from 36% in 1999 to 54%. It has also been gobbling up slots at Gatwick from defunct airlines such as Monarch, to make sure Norwegian, a disruptive long-haul low-cost competitor, cannot get their hands on them.

However much the airline’s computer systems go wrong or it cuts back its level of service onboard, new competitors cannot push it off the runway. Another IT disaster will not change that.

By Kaunda Selisho for The Citizen 

The nation will have to pull those belts a whole lot tighter with a projected increase of about R1.14 a litre of petrol.

There seems to be no end in sight for South Africa’s perpetual rise in fuel prices as the Central Energy Fund (CEF) has predicted yet another increase for the month of October.

The CEF report, released earlier this week, attributes the projected increase to a weaker rand and a higher international oil price.

The most recent hike was capped at 5c after government intervention but was dubbed a “once off” to provide citizens a short reprieve after sustained increases over five months in the lead-up to September.

According to the CEF’s calculations, early indicators estimate that the fuel price could rise by R1.14 a litre in October.

Fin24 calculated that the inland price of 95 octane petrol would rise to a possible record high of above R17 a litre, thus affecting food prices and transport costs.

By Luke Daniel for The South African

The Sunday Times has dropped a bombshell, exposing a secret plot to overthrow President Cyril Ramaphosa, spearheaded by Jacob Zuma and his cohorts.

According to the report, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is doing everything in its power to downplay the allegations, as some party members deny their involvement and others do damage control.

It’s alleged that Zuma has held a number of covert conferences with his ANC allies. According to sources within the party, battle plans are being drawn for a presidential overthrow.

Who is team Zuma?
Former president Zuma has some staunch allies within the part – most of them high-ranking officials, with the power to seriously disrupt the status-quo. The report alleges that two meetings took place in Durban last week. Below is a list of those who are said to have been in attendance.

Former President Jacob Zuma
The man with the plan, Msholozi himself – sources within the ANC claim that Zuma is the mastermind behind the fight back and that his political supporters have been brought together to enact a presidential coup. A top ANC executive, who wished to remain anonymous, said:

“Zuma has a grudge… because of his removal. That is why he is always in the public eye. He’s not campaigning for the ANC, but against the ANC. He’s campaigning to the extent of not sleeping. He attends every function, funeral and church service – to make sure he’s in the public eye.”

ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule
Ace Magashule was elected Secretary General at the ANC’s 2017 National Conference. Magashule has always been a part of team Zuma – his leadership position seen as a trade-off for Ramaphosa’s presidency.

No stranger to controversy, the former Free State premiere has been embroiled in the dubious Vrede dairy project. This connects him directly to the infamous Gupta family, and to the broader issue of state-capture.

Supra Mahumapelo
President Jacob Zuma with North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo at the National Day of Reconciliation celebrations under the theme “Bridging the Divide towards a non-racial society” at Gopane in the North West Province.
The former premier of the North West province, Supra Mahumapelo, almost singlehandedly, managed to collapse local government under his tenure. The province was hit by a wave of service delivery protests, state coffers were looted, and the province was eventually placed under national administration.

Mahumapelo, like Magashule, is a fierce Zuma loyalist and is said to play an integral role in Zuma’s political resurgence.

Meokgo Matuba
The presence of the Women’s League (ANCWL) secretary-general, Meokgo Matuba, is unsurprising. The ANCWL has always been a firm supporter of former president Zuma. Under the tenure of Bathabile Dlamini, the Women’s League has defended Zuma through his presidential ousting and court appearances.

Thanduxolo Sabelo
The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) KwaZulu-Natal secretary, Thanduxolo Sabelo, is expected to take charge of the organisation’s national administration at the next elective conference.

Sabelo, who has overwhelming support in KwaZulu-Natal will likely replace Collen Maine as the league’s president.

Dudu Myeni
South African Airways (SAA), is in a shambles, largely thanks to former board chairperson Dudu Myeni. The National Treasury has accused her of botching a multimillion-rand funding deal. The disgraced former chairperson is also implicated in the Gupta saga and is under fire for her role in state capture.

Myeni is a close friend of Zuma, with many political adversaries citing her appointment to SAA’s board as a direct influence of the former president.

Zuma meetings exposed
According to the Sunday Times, two meetings took place last week in Durban.

The first meeting, on Wednesday, was attended by Magashule, Mahumapelo and Myeni; it was held at the Beverley Hills Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks.

On Thursday, all players involved, including Zuma, convened at the Maharani hotel in Durban.

Deny, deny, deny
While all parties accused of attending these clandestine meetings have denied their involvement, several ANC executives confirmed the allegations.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Senzo Mchunu, said he was aware of the meetings but directed any further questions to Magashule.

ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson, Sihle Zikalala, argued that no formal meeting between Zuma and Magashule had been scheduled.

ANC NEC member, Enoch Godongwana, maintained that while he wasn’t aware of any secret meetings, a clandestine conference involving Magashule would be cause for concern, saying:

“I don’t know about the meeting. I don’t know about its purpose. Maybe they were meeting for a birthday party. But if [it was a secret meeting] then it’s a problem because the office of the Secretary General is supposed to be respected. It’s supposed to unite us. If it becomes involved [in such meetings] then it’s worrying.”

ANCYL executive, Sabelo, confirmed that he met Magashule, but argued that it was a chance encounter with no erroneous undertones.

Yet, denial falls flat before evidence held by the Sunday Times. A photograph showing Magashule, Mahumapelo, Matuba and Zuma gathered at the Maharani hotel has been published for all the world to see.

Team Zuma: Battleplan
While clandestine meetings are, by nature, designed to conceal plans, part insiders report that the group supporting Zuma are aiming to challenge the results of last year’s ANC National Conference. The outcome of which led to Ramaphosa becoming the country’s president.

It’s reported that the pro-Zuma faction is taking the legal route; arguing that the Nasrec conference was marred by voting irregularities relating to branch meetings and illegitimate delegates.

An ANC insider confirmed that Zuma’s battle plan is due to emanate from the North West, saying:

“We have been told about this serious fightback… the one way they are considering is the alternative political party that was formed. Then there is a fight to go to court and take that route. But the real purpose is to disrupt the momentum we are getting before election.”

The official response
The ANC Women’s League issued a statement saying it was “not surprised by the false story in Sunday Times by Qaanitah Hunter and Jeff Wicks”, adding: “We support freedom of media and believes that journalists must be independent voices, however we will not be silent when Qaanitah and Jeff peddles lies that there are plans to outs President Ramaphosa and portrays former President Jacob Zuma as an enemy that should be alienated by members of the organization.

“It might not be far from the truth that Qaanitah and Jeff are advancing interests of local or international forces that seeks to projects the ANC as unstable organization and by extension the government being unstable.”

Later, the party issued an official statement calling the story “shameless gossip”.

This years crime stats show alarming trends

By Andile Sicetsha for The South African

The nation is abuzz on Tuesday after the South African Police Service announced, on Twitter, that it would be publishing the country’s crime stats for the period of 2017/2018.

This year has already seen a marked increased in violent crimes like cash-in-transit heists and child murders and abductions.

Police Minister, Bheki Cele, addressed the media at the Imbizo Room in Parliament, Cape Town, and as much as there is quite enough to be worried about, the stats also saw a decrease in marked areas of concern.

Crimes that have increased
South Africa has seen a 1 320 increase in murders, from 19 016 in 2016/2017 to 20 336 in 2017/2018. An average of 57 people are killed a day in the country, 46 of which are men, eight women and two children. This shows an increase from the average of 52 murder deaths a day in 206/2017.
The murder rate is up by 6.9% in 2017/2018.
Attempted murder also saw a slight 0.2% increase from 18 205 in 2016/2017 to 18 205 in 2017/2018.
Cash-in-transit heists are up to 238 in 2017/2018, from 152 last year and 137 in 2015.
Western Cape still sits highest on the list of crimes reported at police stations. Nyanga remains the most notorious area in the country, infamous for its gang violence, while Gauteng has seen a marked increase in taxi violence.
The murders of women and children have also seen a notable increase, up by 146 reported cases.
291 more women have been murdered in this period, 291 more than last year, with 117 boys and 29 girls.
Crimes committed on farms have been released but there is no indication whether or not this shows an increase or a decrease.
62 farm murders have been reported for this year; 33 house robberies, six attempted murders, two reported rape cases, two cases of stock theft, two robberies with a firearm, one carjacking incident and one reported kidnapping.

Crimes that have decreased
Robbery with aggravating circumstances dropped by 1.8% to 138 364 this year from 140 956 in 2016/2017.
Common robbery also saw a notable decrease of 5% from 53 418 in 2016/2017 to 50 730 in 2017/2018.
Assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm went down by 1.9%, from 170 616 in 2016/2017 to 167 352 in 2017/2018.
Common assault cases also dropped by 0.1% in 2017/2018 to 156 243, from 156 450.
The most notable crime numbers
The most notable changes that we have seen so far are the marked increases in crimes related to cash-in-transit heists, murders, The Western Cape’s persisting problem with gang violence, the increase in crimes against women and children, and of course, farm murders.

Cash-in-transit heists
It was revealed that CIT heists are up by 0.7% this year. Meaning that 76 more incidents have occurred this year alone. Cele has made this one of his primary concerns this year.

Although very recently, the SAPS appeared to be winning the battle against CIT syndicates, the numbers are not looking good.

Western Cape’s ongoing battle with gang violence
In the murder category, Nyanga police station came up on top of the list where most murder cases were reported in 2017/2018.

Compared to the period of April 2016 and March 2017, where 281 cases were reported, the period of 2017/2018 saw an increase of 9.6%.

27 more murder cases were reported at this station and most of them have been attributed to the growing problem of gang violence in the province.

Crimes against women and children
This stat will probably affect South Africans the most. As much as many organisations tried to bring this problem to the forefront with protests and ongoing discussions of violence against women and children in the public forum, the numbers were up by 146 reported cases in 2017/2018.

Farm murders
Much of the controversy that surrounds this stat is based on the reported number of farm killings that have been perpetuated by organisations like AfriForum.

According to the crime stats, 62 reported farm killings have occurred in 2017/2018.

By Maria Dermentzi for Mashable

Plastic Whale is a professional plastic fishing company that offers boat trips during which tourists — while sightseeing — will pick up plastic from Amsterdam’s canals. The plastic bottles that are being collected get turned into office furniture, in collaboration with Vepa.

The ideal office has seven distinct zones

Despite sleek computers standing on desks, offices are a place where time seems to have stood still. Many are fundamentally the same as they were a century ago.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says things like desks, chairs, filing cabinets, telephones are still the building blocks of most offices. But now “must have” design concepts are emerging, illustrating what good offices should look like.

“We spend six to 10 hours a day at work so increasingly there is more thought being put into how we work. It’s now widely accepted that the atmosphere and architecture of our workspaces influences our productivity.”

The ideal office consists of seven different zones, each providing for one aspect of our working environment.

Home base or quiet area
The home base, or quiet area, is closest to the classic “chair and desk” concept, just without the background noise. “This is a place where you can fully concentrate on your work, write that important email, develop concepts and ideas, take planning for that crucial process one step further. When you sit here, you can be sure that you won’t be interrupted,” says Trim.

Open plan
Focused on supporting communication, the open plan area is a cousin of the home base area. Sitting down here says, “Yes, I’m working, but feel free to talk to me.” With an open and inviting design, this area is ideal for productive teamwork for groups of two or three. If more team members are involved, a meeting room featuring a long, central table provides the best solution.

Break out
“An open break-out area is invaluable for every office,” Trim notes. It’s the perfect place for some informal chat and informal work with a coffee or a snack. This area is also ideal for colleagues who don’t come in to the office often and just want to catch up on their emails or prepare for a meeting.

Confidential talk
The best place for a confidential phone call or an important one-on-one meeting is the so-called “refuge” area. These places are often equipped with mobile and flexible furniture, a white board that’s integrated into the wall and a computer screen.

They can also be enclosed by glass walls that give the impression of a generously proportioned telephone cubicle, emphasising the intimate and confidential character of this area.

“It’s the place to go for important business meetings or a discrete conversation with your bank manager about your overdraft.”

Meeting room: conferencing, workshops and training sessions
Despite the trend of people working in different ways in different spaces, there is still a need for the good olde, traditional meeting room. “When decisions need to be made, presentations attended and training carried out, a dedicated meeting room is a must have,” says Trim.

Space to stretch legs
It’s well known how sitting all day is hard on the body and mind. “If budget allows, it’s very healthy to have some space in the office that is just that, space. It’s not serving any other purpose other than an area to give people somewhere to simply move around in.”
In the office world, where tasks tend to be static, there’s nothing better than a bit of movement now and again to stretch one’s legs.

But what if your office space is too small? “Try walking down the corridors or up and down the stairs a few times,” Trim advises.

Resource room for equipment, stores
There are few things as testing in an office as being stuck near a photocopier or the stationery cupboard.
“Businesses often the make the mistake of storing equipment and supplies in break rooms or confidential chat rooms which is naturally very disruptive to staff trying to use them. It seems obvious, but make a room for stuff and only stuff,Trim concludes.

Amazon reaches $1trn value

By Bryan Rich for Forbes 

Today, Amazon became the second company (following Apple) to cross the one trillion-dollar valuation threshold.

This stock is up 72% year-to-date. It has doubled in the past year and has nearly tripled since Trump’s election. That’s what happens when you have a pour gasoline (economic growth) on a fire (a monopoly). No one should love Trump more than Jeff Bezos.

But at 161 times earnings, the market seems to be betting on the Amazon monopoly being left to corner all of the world’s industries. That’s a bad bet.

Much like China undercut the competition on price and cornered the world’s export market, Amazon has undercut the retail industry on price, and cornered the world’s retail business. That tipping point (on retail) has well passed. And as sales growth accelerates for Amazon, so does the speed at which competition is being destroyed. But Amazon is now moving aggressively into almost every industry. This company has to be/will be broken up.

The question is, how will the market value an e-commerce business that would no longer be subsidised by the high margin Amazon cloud business (AWS)? A separation of the businesses would put Amazon’s e-commerce margins under the Wall Street microscope (as every other retailer is subjected to) and materially impact a key sales growth driver for Amazon, which is investment in innovation (R&D).

By Mark Bergen and Jennifer Surane for Bloomberg / Fin24 

For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the US. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for.

But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking. That’s because the companies never told the public about the arrangement.

Google and Mastercard brokered a business partnership during about four years of negotiations, according to four people with knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly.

The alliance gave Google an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending, part of the search giant’s strategy to fortify its primary business against onslaughts from Amazon.com and others.

But the deal, which has not been previously reported, could raise broader privacy concerns about how much consumer data technology companies like Google quietly absorb.

“People don’t expect what they buy physically in a store to be linked to what they are buying online,” said Christine Bannan, counsel with the advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

“There’s just far too much burden that companies place on consumers and not enough responsibility being taken by companies to inform users what they’re doing and what rights they have.”

Google paid Mastercard millions of dollars for the data, according to two people who worked on the deal, and the companies discussed sharing a portion of the ad revenue, according to one of the people. The people asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

A spokesperson for Google said there was no revenue sharing agreement with its partners.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment on the partnership with Mastercard but addressed the ads tool. “Before we launched this beta product last year, we built a new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information,” the company said in a statement.

“We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.” The company said people can opt out of ad tracking using Google’s “Web and App Activity” online console.

Inside Google, multiple people raised objections that the service did not have a more obvious way for cardholders to opt out of the tracking, one of the people said.

Seth Eisen, a Mastercard spokesperson, also declined to comment specifically on Google. But he said Mastercard shares transaction trends with merchants and their service providers to help them measure “the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.” The information, which includes sales volumes and average size of the purchase, is shared only with permission of the merchants, Eisen added. “No individual transaction or personal data is provided,” he said in a statement.

“We do not provide insights that track, serve up ads to, or even measure ad effectiveness relating to, individual consumers.”

Last year, when Google announced the service, called “Store Sales Measurement,” the company just said it had access to “approximately 70%” of US credit and debit cards through partners, without naming them.

More possible deals

That 70% could mean that the company has deals with other credit card companies, totalling 70% of the people who use credit and debit cards. Or it could mean that the company has deals with companies that include all card users, and 70% of those are logged into Google accounts like Gmail when they click on a Google search ad.

Google has approached other payment companies about the program, according to two people familiar with the conversations, but it is not clear if they finalised similar deals. The people asked to not be identified because they were not authorised to speak about the matter.

Google confirmed that the service only applies to people who are logged in to one of its accounts and have not opted out of ad tracking. Purchases made on Mastercard-branded cards accounted for around a quarter of US volumes last year, according to the Nilson Report, a financial research firm.

Through this test programme, Google can anonymously match these existing user profiles to purchases made in physical stores. The result is powerful: Google knows that people clicked on ads and can now tell advertisers that this activity led to actual store sales.

Google is testing the data service with a “small group” of advertisers in the US, according to a spokesperson. With it, marketers see aggregate sales figures and estimates of how many they can attribute to Google ads – but they don’t see a shoppers’ personal information, how much they spend or what exactly they buy.

The tests are only available for retailers, not the companies that make the items sold inside stores, the spokesperson said. The service only applies to its search and shopping ads, she said.

For Google, the Mastercard deal fits into a broad effort to net more retail spending. Advertisers spend lavishly on Google to glean valuable insight into the link between digital ads a website visit or an online purchase.

It’s harder to tell how ads influence offline behaviour. That’s a particular frustration for companies marketing items like apparel or home goods, which people will often research online but walk into actual stores to buy.

That gap created a demand for Google to find ways for its biggest customers to gauge offline sales, and then connect them to the promotions they run on Google.

“Google needs to tie that activity back to a click,” said Joseph McConellogue, head of online retail for the ad agency Reprise Digital. “Most advertisers are champing at the bit for this kind of integration.”

Initially, Google devised its own solution, a mobile payments service first called Google Wallet. Part of the original goal was to tie clicks on ads to purchases in physical stores, according to someone who worked on the product.

But adoption never took off, so Google began looking for allies. A spokesperson said its payments service was never used for ads measurement.

So Google added more …

Since 2014, Google has flagged for advertisers when someone who clicked an ad visits a physical store, using the Location History feature in Google Maps. Still, the advertiser didn’t know if the shopper made a purchase. So, Google added more. A tool, introduced the following year, let advertisers upload email addresses of customers they’ve collected into Google’s ad-buying system, which then encrypted them.

Additionally, Google layered on inputs from third-party data brokers, such as Experian and Acxiom, which draw in demographic and financial information for marketers.

But those tactics didn’t always translate to more ad spending. Retail outlets weren’t able to connect the emails easily to their ads. And the information they received from data brokers about sales was imprecise or too late.

Marketing executives didn’t adopt these location tools en masse, said Christina Malcolm, director at the digital ad agency iProspect. “It didn’t give them what they needed to go back to their bosses and tell them, ‘We’re hitting our numbers,’” she said.

Then Google brought in card data. In May 2017, the company introduced “Store Sales Measurement.” It had two components. The first lets companies with personal information on consumers, like encrypted email addresses, upload those into Google’s system and synchronise ad buys with offline sales. The second injects card data.

It works like this: a person searches for “red lipstick” on Google, clicks on an ad, surfs the web but doesn’t buy anything. Later, she walks into a store and buys red lipstick with her Mastercard.

The advertiser who ran the ad is fed a report from Google, listing the sale along with other transactions in a column that reads “Offline Revenue” – only if the web surfer is logged into a Google account online and made the purchase within 30 days of clicking the ad. The advertisers are given a bulk report with the percentage of shoppers who clicked or viewed an ad then made a relevant purchase.

Most powerful tool

It’s not an exact match, but it’s the most powerful tool Google, the world’s largest ad seller, has offered for shopping in the real world. Marketers once had a patchwork of consumer data in their hands to triangulate who saw their ads and who was prompted to spend. Now they had far more clarity.

Google’s ad chief, Sridhar Ramaswamy, introduced the product in a blog post, writing that advertisers using it would have “no time-consuming setup or costly integrations.” Missing from the blog post was the arrangement with Mastercard.

Early signs indicate that the deal has been a boon for Google. The new feature also plugs transaction data into advertiser systems as soon as they occur, fixing the lag that existed previously and letting Google slot in better-performing ads.

Malcolm said her agency has tested the card measurement tool with a major advertiser, which she declined to name. Beforehand, the company received $5.70 in revenue for every dollar spent on marketing in the ad campaign with Google, according to an iProspect analysis. With the new transaction feature, the return nearly doubled to $10.60.

“That’s really powerful,” Malcolm said. “And it was a really good way to invest more in Google, frankly.”

But some privacy critics derided the tool as opaque. EPIC submitted a complaint about the sales measuring tack to the US Federal Trade Commission last year. A report in August that Facebook Inc. was talking with banks about accessing information for consumer service products sparked similar criticism. For years, Facebook and Google have worked to link their massive troves of user behaviour with consumer financial data.

And financial companies have plotted ways to tap into the bounty of digital advertising. The Google tie-up isn’t Mastercard’s only stab at minting the data it collects from customers. The company has built out its data and analytics capabilities in recent years through its consulting arm, Mastercard Advisors, and gives advertisers and merchants the ability to forecast consumer behaviour based on cardholder data.

Ad buyers that work with Google insist that the company is careful to maintain the walls between transaction information and web behaviour, keeping any info flowing to retailers and marketers anonymous. “Google is really strict about that,” said Malcolm.

Before launching the product, Google developed a novel encryption method, according to Jules Polonetsky, head of the Future Privacy Forum, who was briefed by Google on the product. He explained that the system ensures that neither Google nor its payments partners have access to the data that each collect.

“They’re sharing data that has been so transformed that, if put in the public, no party could do anything with it,” Polonetsky said. “It doesn’t create a privacy risk.”

Future Privacy Forum, a non-profit, receives funding from 160 companies including Google.

Google’s ad business, which hit $95.4bn in 2017 sales, has maintained an astounding growth rate of about 20% a year. But investors have worried how long that can last. Many major advertisers are starting to funnel more spending to rival Amazon, the company that hosts far more, and more granular, data on online shopping.

In response, Google has continued to push deeper into offline measurements. The company, like Facebook and Twitter, has explored the use of “beacons,” Bluetooth devices that track when shoppers enter stores.

Some ad agencies have actively talked to Google about even more ways to better size up offline behaviours. They have discussed adding features into the ads system such as what time of day people buy items and how much they spend, said John Malysiak, who runs search marketing for the Omnicom agency OMD USA.

“We’re trying to go deeper with Google,” he said. “We’d like to understand more.” Google declined to comment on the discussions.

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