Well, Google has finally begun to implement changes that will enable advertisers to reach potential customers across all their devices in retargeting campaigns. It might have seemed like a trivial change, but the fact is, until now, the ways in which Google allowed user data to be used in remarketing (Google’s term for retargeting) campaigns were limited.
To understand exactly what cross-device retargeting means, we need to look at what currently happens within this type of advertising activity. Imagine a potential customer visiting your website or blog from their mobile phone on their way to work. When they arrive at their office, they continue browsing on their computer. As an advertiser, you can’t reconnect with that consumer unless they come back to your website from the second device. And this is just the first limitation of retargeting as we currently know it. If the person does decide to return to your website from their computer, they will be listed twice. This affects the frequency capping set by an advertiser on a retargeting campaign, since it applies to each device independently. This result in products being displayed more frequently than desired per person and impeding other potential customers from seeing the brand. Ultimately, this restricts your marketing campaign in two ways: one, by not being able to retarget users browsing on different devices; and two, impacting your marketing campaign budget if that person returns to your store or blog from another device. They can’t ever be counted as the same user and will instead be listed as a new user. This reduces the effectiveness of retargeting campaigns.
Why can’t we retarget across multiple devices?
We can’t retarget across multiple devices at the same time because of the way the advertising system works. Basically, it relies on cookies that are stored on the device each time we browse the internet. These files are downloaded to our browser whenever we visit a website, so they are only useful for retargeting if we visit the website from the same browser. This means cookies from our mobile, computer or tablet are not available on our other devices. Until now, Google has relied on cookies and mobile IDs to identify users, without taking into account that they could be coming to our website from, for example, Google Chrome, logged into their account across all devices. This is something that Facebook had already taken into account. With a retargeting system that relies on cookies, the campaign does not work across our potential customer’s different devices, and we can only display our products or brand on the one device they used to visit our website.
What changes does Google’s cross-device remarketing bring?
With this change, announced at #GoogleAW2016, advertisers will be able to reach the same user across all their devices. Brad Bender, VP of display and video advertising at Google, announced the changes to Google’s retargeting system for 2016: “We’re introducing cross-device remarketing for Google Display Network and DoubleClick Bid Manager to help you reach the same user across devices, apps and sites. You can now tell a single story to your audience and decide how frequently they see your ad across devices.” The shift, which follows Facebook’s lead, means the advertiser can retarget users taking into account access from different devices. This will be limited to users signed into their account. This means being able to display ads for products on multiple devices, provided they are accessed from the same account. Until now, all steps forward by Google in cross-device retargeting have focused on resolving the problem of conversion metrics where the user has browsed from multiple devices. According to a study conducted in the United States, 60% of conversions start on one device and end on another. If most online conversions involve multiple devices, it is no surprise that Google has begun to move in this direction. But there’s more to it than conversion improvements. Until now, control over frequency capping was per device, but with cross-device retargeting merchants will be able to think about marketing strategies attuned to the user, rather than the device used. All these changes have a direct consequence: improved control of one’s advertising budget, visibility and ROI from retargeting, with much cleaner and clearer segmentation. Why? Because these improvements not only report cookie-based search interests, but focus on targeting actual individuals. With these changes, a marketing strategy based on retargeting is much more effective, not only for conversion, but also in terms of investment.
Why has Google made these changes to retargeting now?
Google has always been fairly restrictive with advertisers regarding leveraging user data. It provided plenty of data, but leveraging it has always been somewhat rudimentary, particularly compared with other platforms, like Facebook. The social network has been one of the companies leading the way in this area (one of its great advantages when selling is retargeting between advertisers) and it seems that Google has decided to follow suit and offer its advertisers a much more practical way of leveraging user data. With e-commerce and m-commerce on the rise, our potential customers are everywhere at once, and this must also be reflected in retargeting and other marketing strategies. Our customers start on their mobile, but complete their purchase three hours later on their tablet, or they discover our shop on their office computer and then buy on their mobile on their way home. With this change in how new technologies are used, it was clear that the traditional approach of cookie-based retargeting had become obsolete.