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As Privacy Concern Rises, Cookies Crumble
How retargeting can survive in a cookie-less world.
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 by Adrienne Erin

Adrienne ErinCookies have been around for a while, but in the last few years they have become the internet marketer’s most valuable tool.

Online vendors use cookies to retarget, or follow, past visitors to their websites by placing ads on other websites they visit. This helps to deter losing potential customers, who may otherwise visit once and never come back.

However, web users haven’t been so enamored of cookies; in fact, many big-name developers are considering doing away with them. When something fades away, it tends to cause some collateral damage. Some are wondering whether the dying cookie will take retargeting strategies with it. For the time being, those concerns are unfounded. Here’s why.

New Technologies Are Emerging

Many companies are touting their ability to offer cookieless tracking, but they’re not creating a bad perception of cookies – rather, they’re responding to it. The FTC has convinced browsers to allow users to block tracking cookies because of consumer concerns about privacy. This has forced advertisers to think of other ways to target potential audiences. Time will tell who wins that war, but plenty of players are competing – including the browsers themselves.

These Technologies Might Be Better

If you think the end of cookies is the end of retargeting, think again. According to the Wall Street Journal, giants like Microsoft and Apple have talked about assigning unique IDs that follow users across all devices and collect data that marketers can use for retargeting. These IDs could follow consumers wherever they go, even to mobile devices; however, opt-in features would allow them to decline to participate.

Retargeting Is Nothing New

While retargeting feels like a major invasion of privacy, or even stalking, it’s actually a new version of an old marketing tactic. In the days of snail mail, list brokers could earn thousands of dollars selling lists of magazine subscribers, recent college graduates or new homeowners. Pursuing prospects based on past behavior has long been a staple of marketing. There’s no reason to think it’ll end just because it happens online.

Ultimately, Retargeting Works

Of course, the debate over retargeting would be moot if it didn’t work. One survey showed that among consumers who abandoned their shopping carts, retargeting had a 45% success rate and the second-highest return on investment of all tactics — only targeted cart abandonment email campaigns performed better. And this number comes despite concerns about privacy. With this kind of success rate, it’s hard to believe marketers will stop retargeting simply because its most commonly-used identification tool is on the decline.

Cookies assist in frequent retargeting, but don’t think one can’t exist without the other. Retargeting is good for business, and new technologies are emerging that will make retargeting even easier. Expect it to stick around in one form or another.

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and online PR specialist for
WebpageFX. You can see more of her work by following her on
Twitter at @adrienneerin, or reading her personal blog, Pongra.

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