By Jeff Kupietzky, PowerInbox
For years, browser-based cookies have been the de facto standard when it comes to tracking user behavior online. Advertisers have relied on tracking cookies to understand users’ wants and desires by following their path of clicks and searches. All this data — mountains of it, in fact — help brands to build a makeshift profile of their target audience, to piece together the online activities and behaviors that might indicate an interest in buying their product.
That’s why Google’s recent announcement that it will restrict third-party cookies in Chrome has sent advertisers into a panic. With Chrome boasting the largest share of the web browser market by a factor of four times, this decision cuts advertisers off from essentially millions of users and their extremely valuable data.
Of course, the move comes as a direct result of massive pressure being inflicted on the big tech companies to be more transparent, and well, honest, about the user data they’re collecting, sharing and selling. With GDPR now influencing privacy mandates around the world, Google is just one of the many companies — brands, advertising platforms, etc. — who are feeling intense heat to be more forthcoming about data use. Because the digital advertising ecosystem makes it extremely difficult for Google to know, much less control, how the data collected from third-party tracking cookies will be used, they’ve taken the safe route: eliminate them.
As a result, advertisers are being forced to find alternative ways to track user behavior online to help guide their marketing and outreach efforts. Much to the surprise of many, email — once considered “dead” — has emerged as one of the most effective alternatives to tracking cookies.
For companies looking to overcome their dependence on cookies, and avoid missing out on the wealth of data from Chrome (and other browser) users, here are five reasons email-based targeting is the solution.
- Email is opt-in. Unlike tracking cookies, which are often viewed as intrusive and suspicious by users, users who provide their email address to create a profile on a site do so willingly, with the understanding that their data will be used to track their behavior and influence targeting. As a result, companies can feel more confident leveraging that data, and of course, the fact that users can opt-out any time enhances the level of trust the customer has in the company.
- Email is trusted. Thanks to the prevalence of spam, users have become extremely careful with whom they share their email address. That means when they do, they’re demonstrating trust in the organizations to whom they’ve provided it. In turn, this trust is conveyed to the advertisers who partner with those organizations. Brands can take advantage of this conveyed trust by advertising with publishers and platforms whose audience mimics their own and that treat audience data with the same level of discretion.
- Email is more precise. In fact, email targeting can actually be even more precise than cookies when it comes to building an accurate user profile. Because an email address can be tied directly to a specific individual, companies can gather more complete data on user demographics and behavior. Where browser-based cookie data is often muddied by shared use (more than one person using the same device/browser), email addresses are very rarely shared, which means companies can be more confident that the behavior they’re observing is the behavior of that specific user.
- Email works on mobile. Not all cookies work on mobile devices, which means as mobile use has continued to grow, advertisers have been missing out on this extremely large chunk of user data all along. However, email-based tracking works across every platform, allowing advertisers to gather data from every session, on every device.
- Email is device ubiquitous. Unlike a session-based or browser-based cookie, a user’s email address is persistent as a unique identifier across different platforms. For example, if a user visits a specific site on three different devices that looks like three different users with cookie-based tracking. But, with email tracking, the site owner can connect those sessions together, recognize those usage patterns and offer more precise ad targeting as a result.
Advertisers are being forced to walk a very narrow line. Audiences expect precise personalization and relevant targeting and are extremely put off by online ads that make no sense for their interests (like an ad for AARP membership in a Millennial’s browser). But, at the same time, audiences are also becoming more concerned about privacy and even suspicious of big tech companies and how their data is being used, shared and sold.
In order to navigate this tricky situation, companies must become more intentional and up-front in order to maintain audience trust. By advertising with publishers and sites that use email-based targeting, brands can take advantage of the inherent trust users place in those outlets when they provide their email address. At the same time, advertisers also get more precise data and can avoid wasting limited ad dollars on educated guesses about user behavior.
About The Author
Jeff Kupietzky is CEO of PowerInbox.