Is Remarketing Dead?

  • 10/06/2019
  • PPC
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Remarketing Cookie Tips

Photos of the shoes I am thinking of buying are following me around the web.  It seems that every website I visit some images of those shiny shoes will pop up sooner or later.  They are clearly stalking me and trying their best to lure me into buying them.

Cookie based remarketing has been a very useful tool in the online marketers toolbox for many years now.  Cookies (through remarketing) allow companies to close a sale that never happened. But the problem is that its effectiveness is waning. So what does the future hold for the once tried and tested ‘second chance saloon’ of online marketplace selling?

What Is A Cookie?

Computer cookies come in many shapes and sizes… just like the ones we eat!   There are session cookies, first-party cookies, third-party cookies, secure cookies, HTTP only cookies, flash cookies, super cookies and even zombie cookies!  All are designed to collect different pieces of information about us and some are harder to delete than others!

All have one thing in common however… they are designed to collect and remember arbitrary pieces of information about the visitor. This might include the pages the user has looked at, items in a shopping cart, information entered into form fields such as names, addresses etc.

Wikipedia defines an HTTP cookie as:

“A small piece of data sent from a website and stored on the user’s computer by the user’s web browser while the user is browsing. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember stateful information (such as items added to a shopping cart) or to record the user’s browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited in the past).”

Mobile Phones Don’t Accept Cookies

Cookie based re-marketing is only effective if the devices people are using are able to accept and store cookies.  A 2017 study by Campaign Live found that two thirds (64%) of phones cannot or will not accept certain forms of cookies.

The real world figure will be lower than 64%, principally because many web browsers on mobiles phones can accept first-party cookies.  Despite this, many organisations will still have no way of remarketing to a significant amount of their mobile based audience.

This wasn’t a huge issue for marketers when mobile device usage for web browsing was relatively low.  However, more people are now using their mobile phones to surf the web than ever before. Since the end of 2016, more people are now using their mobile phones for web browsing than their desktops / laptops as the research from Statcounter indicates.

Should there be an incompatibility issue, a company may have no way of knowing how many times certain mobile users had visited their website or added products to their shopping carts. Furthermore, when those same mobile users switched to their desktop or laptop, the company would have no way of knowing that these people had already looked at the site. Consequently, they could be bombarded with adverts which bear no resemblance to the content that they looked at on their mobiles.

The picture is further complicated by the use of different browsers. A user might use Safari on their phone and Firefox at home on their desktop. And lastly, there is GDPR which brought into being a whole raft of other considerations for cookies in the UK market. Cookies do not live forever and most only have a 30 to 60 day lifespan as well.  In conclusion, cookie based marketing is becoming a minefield…

What About Mobile Apps?

Many people also use ‘apps’ to shop or to browse content online.  However, when looking at mobile apps, the goal posts move again!  A mobile app uses technology called ‘webview’ to display online content. Cookies are stored within a webview in a similar way to how they are stored in a browser environment.  However, there is one major difference.  Although Webview is similar to mobile browsers in that it is ‘unique per application’, it cannot share cookie information between apps or the device’s web browser(s).

People Based Advertising

People based marketing, also known as ‘identity based marketing’ is the new buzz word in the world of digital marketing.  In short, this new technique is able to target and track each individual across all devices, apps and browsers, thereby overcoming the main short-comings of its cookie based sibling.

As such, the whole ‘customer experience’ will change and become much more similar to the type of interaction you might have with a store assistant in a high-street shop.  Because everyone’s needs are slightly different, the marketing message can be tailored to suit the specific situation by creating ‘individual profiles’ for each visitor.

With people-based marketing, each user would receive a specific tracking ID number or reference to track their progress across multiple devices and applications.  But to do this you need a personal identifier – something like an email address!  If you take a step back for a moment, you realise that pretty much every programme or app you use today requires some sort of registration. AND for that you need an email address…

How Do You Sell This As Being A Good Thing?

How many times have you arrived at a website for the first time and been presented with a 10% off voucher code?  Did you need to register to obtain the information that you wanted?  And the key piece of information sought would have been your email address!  The key in getting people to part with their ‘unique identifier’ is to offer some sort of perceived value in return.  It’s hardly rocket science is it!?!?

Conclusion

Instead of targeting specific devices, the future of online marketing will focus on targeting individual people.  The current focus on cookies and individual devices will shift towards a focus on reaching the same person across all platforms and devices.

Online advertising will become much more sophisticated so that organisations will be able to deliver the right adverts to the right people at the right time. The level of customisation will increase markedly.

Cookie based marketing is still useful in helping marketers to close a sale after a visitor has left a website.  However, its usefulness is waning given that people are increasingly using many different devices to perform their online research and purchases.  GDPR legislation has also reduced the power and influence of cookies as long-term holders of data so the lifespan of cookies has shortened as a result.  Furthermore, more and more people are searching online using their phones and over 60% of mobiles phones will not accept certain forms of cookies.

According to Forbes, people-based marketing will be a major shift in the marketing industry. To start preparing your organisation for the advent of identity based marketing, make every effort to collect and store (within GDPR rules) every email address that you possible can.  People based marketing will signal a fundamental change in how we market to people online.  To be forewarned is to be forewarned!

The proof though will be in the pudding.  You will notice that I used my words carefully here.  A pudding is very different to a cookie!  Having greater success and assurance that your marketing messages are reaching real people and driving real results will make the process of remarketing so much sweeter!

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