By Santhosh Nair
Chief Technology Officer, SearchForce, Inc.
Search advertisers are discovering that retargeting can be a highly successful way to re-engage with potential customers even after they’ve visited a website. Yet, as consumers access information across a wider range of devices, retargeting isn’t so straightforward anymore.
For example, if a user interacts with a site on a desktop system, retargeting that prospect is a fairly basic process, but it’s not so easy to retarget that same user on their tablet or smartphone. That’s because almost all retargeting methods use information collected in third-party cookies.
And with new regulations and concerns around privacy, it’s no surprise that users often turn off tracking based on third-party cookies (IE10, for example, has third-party cookies disabled by default). This means that the effective audience you can address through retarget is rapidly shrinking.
Yet as I see it, Facebook Exchange has the potential to give advertisers a brand new tool set for delivering on the promise of a more seamless approach to retargeting prospects across all their devices. That will make it far easier to re-engage users on their tablets when they may have initially interacted with your site on their desktop.
More multiple devices than ever
According to a research study from Google, more users are turning to multiple devices, used either sequentially or simultaneously, to shop or get information online. So if your strategy for remarketing calls for using intent data to serve ads, you’re going to face some tactical challenges in reconciling that intent across multiple devices.
This is, of course, possible within a specific device and browser, but notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to do across devices because there is no mechanism to uniquely identify a visitor across multiple devices.
Based on the same research, Google concluded that people tend to use search to transfer context from one device to another while performing multi-device tasks. So I recall how excited I was when Google announced cross-device sync for its Chrome browser – a feature that makes your browser history and search keywords easily accessible across devices.
I personally found this quite useful because my activities often begin on a smart phone. Then I might move to a tablet or laptop. Google can easily identify a user based on an account ID and then use that for cross-device retargeting. So I wonder? Are Google’s retargeting (they call it “remarketing”) campaigns successful at bridging across multiple devices?
Facebook Exchange: Enormous marketing potential
But it’s Facebook that truly has the potential to become a leading platform for retargeting. As the most ubiquitous site in the world, Facebook accounts for one in every five US-based page views. And at Facebook, they can uniquely identify nearly one billion active web users regardless of the device they are using. That represents significant potential considering that Facebook visitors spend 20 minutes per visit on the site.
Facebook’s latest revenue generation initiative, Facebook Exchange (FBX), now encompasses an exceedingly robust pool of inventory available to remarketers. This is a huge opportunity for advertisers that use high levels of intent data and are looking for ways to add more volume and inventory. I expect we’ll see new tools available to accomplish these goals.
Right now, however, most FBX partners only support retargeting of users on a single device, where the user intent is originally expressed. Though initial results look promising, I believe we are only scratching the surface of the potential here.
In general, we see low CPAs today, but that’s most attributable to excess inventory. Demand will certainly grow as more advertisers start exploring Facebook Exchange, so CPAs will reach an equilibrium. But the true power of FBX would be unleashed when remarketers and Facebook begin to work together to serve cross-device retargeting ads.
Remember, Facebook, like Google, can use the unique account ID to connect a user across multiple platforms. Remarketers can then effectively reconcile intent across devices. They could even serve FBX ads on devices with no prior intent expressed at all! Imagine the possibilities.
In-App mobile opportunities: A game changer
Mobile, the fastest growing platform of all, would reap the biggest rewards from cross-device retargeting ads. This would also solve a major problem that’s been hindering the growth of RTB-based ads on mobile – especially with in-app advertising.
Currently, advertisers aren’t able to match user intent for in-app ads because apps are prevented from reading cookies. So FBX could become a game changer in delivering RTB- based retargeting ads in mobile applications because users can be uniquely identified through their unique Facebook ID.
If this becomes the norm, advertisers using retargeting strategies could analyze user intent data collected from all devices (assuming data is stored in the server, not the browser) and use it to serve the most relevant ads.
This is a huge opportunity, since more than half of the 1 billion+ Facebook users are accessing the site through the mobile app. FBX could become the first platform that enables data-driven advertising on mobile platform by solving these key user identity issues.