Written by John McElborough on 26 January, 2014
One of the smartest features to come to Facebook’s ad platform recently is the ability to target custom audiences using email address uploads.
For anyone not familiar with how it works, here’s a summary:
- You want to target say, past customers, when they’re browsing Facebook.
- Take a CSV dump from your customer CRM or ecommerce system of all past customer email addresses.
- Setup your Facebook ad campaign.
- Choose to target by custom audiences and upload your list of emails.
- Your ads will only show to Facebook users who login with the same email they used when buying from your website in the past.
This has a few powerful applications. You can use it to encourage your customers to like your Facebook company page, promote a customer referral scheme or just try and drum up repeat business.
The only draw back- these are Facebook ads, so no matter how attractive your proposition, engagement is unlikely to be that high. And you’re competing for retargeting space with with so many other advertisers now.
However imagine the same feature on the Google search network, or even across the display network. If we could retarget audiences by their Gmail or Google Plus addresses as well as using tracking pixels, the lookback window would be far bigger and it would be possible to integrate offline sales data into Adwords. After all established companies often have thousands of past customers and although they may have email addresses for many of those customers, those people are unlikely to regularly visit the company website.
Email addresses of logged in users are a far more reliable retargeting method than cookies. It works cross device and is less likely to be skewed by multiple users on the same machine. It would also mean we could retarget for products with a much longer customer life cycle, for example an insurance product or a car MOT where you wouldn’t want to retarget that customer until a year after their initial purchase.
What about privacy
Although I don’t recall Facebook experiencing any great backlash when they launched custom audiences (I would assume most users don’t know about it), their would undoubtedly be privacy concerns around google launching a similar feature. Actually Google have the highest threshold of audience size for their current retargeting in search ads feature (an audience has to include at least 1000 visitors, making it harder to “personalise” adverts). With email retargeting in Google Adwords I’d expect a similar barrier to entry- so you wouldn’t be able to upload a single email address for one big customer and serve an ad that says “Hi Dave, long time no see. Looking for a new car?!”
Privacy issues aside, as Google push for more signed in users across their products, I’d be extremely surprised if we don’t see a custom audiences equivalent feature coming to Adwords and YouTube ads in the next 12 months. Watch this space…
Author: John McElborough
+John McElborough is co-founder and MD of Inbound360, a London based PPC agency. John has been building and marketing websites for over a decade and has consulted for some of the UK’s largest brands on PPC and digital strategy. His work has been published on leading industry sites including SearchEngineJournal, Social Media Today and Moz.com as well as his own Marketing For Growth” blog