Today, retargeting allows you to follow your customers around the internet, whether on Google, Facebook, or elsewhere. But cookie blockers and the increasing usage of apps and ad blockers make this type of data collection harder and harder.

But are things really as dire as they might seem?

Updates in Ad Blocking

Ad on screenA couple of months ago, when Apple introduced the option to use ad blockers on iOS by default, it was seen as a portent of doom. This would kill the ad industry, revenue would go down, and business models would fail. But none of this happened.

Only recently, Facebook reported that they deployed an update that would circumvent ad blockers on desktop machines, enabling ads to be shown on desktop browsers even when a plugin is installed.

All of this is a big deal, but ultimately, you shouldn’t care (too much). Why not? Two marketing factors are important here that also translate into two technical background implications:

1) General retargeting vs. specific (re)targeting.

2) Lead acquisition vs. loyalty.

The first factor uses either the tracking mechanisms of the big players directly (such as Google or Facebook), or you choose a provider that’s doing that for you, often with strange implications.

General Retargeting vs. Specific (Re)targeting

Third Party Cookies

Technically, the implication here is that you set a third party cookie on your customer’s browser, that doesn’t identify the user but rather the machine they are currently using. Today, this mechanism works on the major browsers, but Apple, as one example, deactivated this possibility by default.

This is not as important for desktops (we’re talking 5%-8% of machines) but is important for mobile (30%-40% of used machines, depending on who you ask). Plus, if the user switches to, let’s say, a mobile device, the third party cookie method doesn’t work anymore.

Third party cookie-based tracking is messy already, but now people also opt to block ads by default. Bad, right? No! Think about it: These people don’t want to see your ads. Do you really think you can convert them just by forcing ads into their browser windows, disturbing their experience with stuff that they might not even find interesting? What does that do for your brand experience?

First Party Cookies

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the first party cookie-based methods, that only identify people on your own website. This method can be used to build your unified user profiles, because you know who this anonymous cookie is and can match it with behavior the users show across other machines, or even in other channels, like email or mobile. This respects the privacy of your users on the one hand, and on the other gives you better insights.

But you still want to retarget, right? So let’s look at our second factor.

Lead Acquisition vs. Loyalty

It’s one thing to do lead acquisition. Finding new leads is, of course, a very important task for marketers today, one for which the big networks can be very helpful; paid search on Google, matching interests on Facebook, or building look-a-like audiences are very important in order to find good leads. From the website traffic you generate there, you might convert one or two percent of the visitors, which is actually a good number. And this is where, for a lot of people, the retargeting story stops. Or even worse: starts again! But you already converted these leads and should start to treat them differently.

This is where the focus changes from third party cookies to first-party tracking. After you converted a lead, you start to build information: What was this person interested in while browsing your website? What did they actually buy? Do they have your app installed? Is it being used? Is Push enabled? Have they subscribed to your newsletter campaigns? Were they really a first-time buyer, or did you already know this buyer via a different channel or platform?

Marketers today already build automated multi-channel campaigns based on this information, but they don’t change the way people are retargeted. What do you do if you know someone is a very important client that just visited your website on their iPhone, but doesn’t react to emails anymore and doesn’t use your app? How can you retarget them?

This is the point where perspective needs to shift, and retargeting changes to loyalty. Social retargeting is more than just an instrument for finding new leads; it should also be used for 1-to-1 retargeting, based on a single user profile, that doesn’t use indirect third party cookies but rather a direct connection to the networks based on the historic and current behavior.

Social retargeting enables you to:

  • Target people, not cookies.
  • Choose how to treat your existing customers vs. potential leads.
  • Save money by being more precise in targeting the groups you really want, and not spending on all contacts equally.
  • Use social retargeting as a real channel in your campaigns by combining your knowledge into a unified profile.

In Conclusion

What does this mean for ad blockers? The most revenue potential isn’t to be found in unspecific retargeting, where you spend a lot of money on showing things to people that don’t even want to see ads. It’s in building loyal customers, understanding their behavior, and respecting their wishes. But to be able to do that, you have to make the connection between the “vague” retargeting for leads and the “specific” targeting for your existing customers. In the end, this saves you money and enables you to reach the full potential of your customer base.