If you’ve been in Google Analytics lately, you may have come across the following message:
That’s a very low-profile notification for a feature that could potentially transform how we approach Search & Display retargeting within Google AdWords.
What is cross-device remarketing within Google Analytics?
Simply put, this update means that advertisers can now target users across multiple devices. Before today, you could only retarget users via browser cookies on a single device, meaning that if a prospect initially engaged with your website via a mobile device, there would be limited retargeting potential across tablet or desktop.
On May 15, 2017, that all changed.
Google has finally developed a solution to the cross-remarketing problem by broadening the targeting of audiences to include those who are logged into their Google account across multiple devices.
While this may not be as robust as Facebook cross-device targeting, this does represent a significant step change for Google, driven by the need to track users across multiple device contexts. To further highlight the potential impact of this, Arc performed a study which found that 40% of online transactions start on one device and end on another.
Therefore, the ability to optimize to these cross-device user journeys represents a significant opportunity for sophisticated Search advertisers.
How does this work?
What this change ultimately means is expanded targeted reach. How Google has achieved that is by combining data from “signed-in users together with your Google Analytics data to build and define audience lists.”
Effectively, this means that Google is using personally identifiable data, which it owns, and merging that with advertiser-owned analytics data.
The key stipulation here is that users must be logged in across devices, and have their Google account setting set to "Personalize ads," under "Advertiser settings."
What does this mean for Search advertisers?
For Search, there are a number of ramifications to consider.
Non-desktop traffic will become more competitive, with cost-per-click increasing, as advertisers place more emphasis across mobile in particular. In this sense, brands should revisit bid competitiveness across device types and place more consideration around RLSA across the entire journey, not just when the end conversion is the focus.
Secondly, and linked to the focus on RLSA, is that advertisers will need to sharpen advertising narrative across Search and Display campaigns. For example, a user visiting your website for the first time on a mobile device in the morning can be served a sequence of ads throughout the day, first on their desktop during the working hours, and subsequently on their tablet device during the evening. This type of cross-device, sequential advertising has worked well for brands across Facebook as it switches focus from a one-time ad to a multi-phase, multi-device strategy to better tell a brand story.
For example, let’s use Jellyfish Training as a guide - we specialize in digital marketing training courses. Say that we’re targeting users on their morning commute by amplifying some blog content:
Once they’ve engaged with the blog content, we can retarget them later that day via desktop, on the Google Display Network, and this time with more promotional messaging:
And in the evening, via the user’s tablet device, we can also extend our messaging to include further elements of the value proposition, this time when the user searches for ‘Adwords courses’:
A simplified example, but it illustrates the potential of extended reach on a single user journey, specifically, putting the right message in front of our audience across devices as contextually we understand more about them.
Limitations or cross-device retargeting
The key limitations of this feature is the fact that it will only use signed-in data taken from Google accounts, which does limit the targeting pool. However, when you consider the fact that there are an estimated one billion Gmail users alone globally, this caveat becomes less consequential.
Looking at the future, Google is fundamentally in a better position to challenge Facebook’s hold across the ‘logged-in’ user journey. To a certain degree, this requires a shift in mindset; cross-device retargeting will fundamentally change how advertisers approach retargeting journeys. Marketers are empowered to deliver messaging in line with a definitive user narrative in mind, and we’re likely to see more sequential-style ads being leveraged. Lazy assumptions around the value of a mobile click should be dispelled as we enter a new era of possibility for AdWords advertisers.