A recent article in The Wall Street Journal referenced rumblings about Google potentially launching an advertising product similar to Facebook Custom Audiences. While Google has not officially commented on its plans, it’s plausible that the tech giant would follow in the steps of Facebook, which has seen impressive advertising revenue growth in recent years.
Before diving into ways that email marketers can leverage this functionality and why they should care, I should first explain how Facebook Custom Audiences work. Custom Audiences allows for a marketer to provide up to 100 email addresses or phone numbers to Facebook. Facebook will then do a match of email addresses or phone numbers to accounts on Facebook and target those accounts/individuals where there is a match. These accounts being targeted comprise a Custom Audience.
The Wall Street Journal article presumes that Google will do a match based on Gmail email addresses and secondary addresses that Google collects to allow users to access certain features. It is also assumes that Google will only launch this in paid search and not in display at launch.
There are two reasons why I think email marketers should care about Custom Audiences:
1. Email Address is the Digital Key
There has been a lot of industry chatter recently about email being the key to the digital experience and how it acts as the “connective tissue” to coordinate digital channels and play a role in attribution in cross-channel campaigns and programs. Email marketers were once relegated to working alone and in a silo, but the power that the email address brings to today’s digital marketing initiatives will make it very important for them to bring their way of thinking to other channels. This resource has long been a guardian of customer data and understands how that data can drive customer experience. Smart organizations will be asking email marketers to help make targeting decisions across channels, and to ensure that the messaging is appropriate given the context and medium.
2. Custom Audiences Extends the Reach of Email Marketing
There are several strategies that an email marketer can implement to help extend experiences from email. Here are a few to get started:
Retargeting: On campaigns where it makes sense, retarget customers who have yet to convert through email using Custom Audiences. Send the email first -- as it has the highest ROI -- but if that fails to convert a user, follow up with a retargeted ad. You don’t even have to retarget all unconverted, but a small subset of premium customers who are worth the investment.
“Lookalike” Acquisition: Email marketers can grow email lists through acquiring new customers who look like valuable existing customers. This is possible in Facebook’s Custom Audiences today and will hopefully be a feature in Google’s version. To make this effective, acquire an email address as soon as the user goes to your Web site. Keep it short and simple to keep disruption to the shopping experience at a minimum. By getting that email address, you are able to continue the conversation, even if the user bounces from the site without making a purchase.
Winback: Email unsubscribes and inactives are a fact of life for email marketers. Once a user gets to a point where you can no longer communicate via email, show the Custom Audiences ads to get re-permission and to get the user back into your database as an active user.
I’m excited about the potential for Google to launch Custom Audiences. It will deepen the reach that brands have with their customers through this convergence of email and search ads. It also further elevates the reputation of email as the workhorse of the digital marketing roster.