If marketers can understand enough about a customer, they can bid and target the perfect advertisement across channels to stir a purchase, according to Ryan Gibson, SEM solutions lead at Merkle, which has been testing Customer Match with a handful of clients. "We're seeing match rates much higher than they have been with Google remarketing lists for search ads," he says. The agency is working with some of the largest retail chains in the United States.
Customer Match enables brands to use offline data from customer records, which includes likes and dislikes and purchases, in online targeting. Gibson forecasts Google's tool will have the same or better results as Facebook's ad-targeting platforms, though admittedly says it's too early to quantify results.
One campaign focuses on the top 20 most loyal customers who make purchases multiple times yearly, Gibson says. The email list gets loaded into AdWords. Custom messages are created and targeted. Each might have a unique call to action. "If the consumer is searching on non-branded terms, we can bid more aggressively on the terms because the conversion rate will likely be higher," Gibson says.
It is the ability to target the same message consistently across channels that will resonate better, but one challenge has been privacy. Advertisers are commonly touching base with their legal departments to make sure to protect consumer data. Gibson says it's slowing adoption a "little out of the gate."
The data and information that a brand has about customers comes from its customer relationship management (CRM) database, which includes purchases, preferences and email address.
Marketers also know success likely comes from consumers who have bought items from a retailer or brand in the past. Knowing the consumers makes for stronger ad targeting campaign.
Knowing site visitors also makes Facebook successful when it comes to ad targeting. Facebook posted 57% revenue growth in Q3 2015, with expectations that Q4 "should be very strong, and we see limited potential negative drivers," wrote Macquarie Securities Analyst Ben Schachter in a research note. He attributes the growth in part to "engagement at all-time high" and executing "exceptionally well."
No surprise that success comes to Facebook because site visitors must sign-in to use the platform. Information ranges from birthdates and phone numbers to vacation spots, and more such as the frequency and the time the user visits the network, and with whom they communicate, which is like having inside information into a person's daily activities.
"Facebook's advertising focuses on the idea that knowing enough about a customer should enable us to uncover latent intent, but it doesn't," Gibson says. "Something Google brings out through YouTube, search and, some extent, Gmail ads is the ability to identify intent."
Semantics in Facebook posts do play a role in targeting ads to some extent, Gibson says, but search gives brands a stronger signal that consumers are raising their hand looking for specific products. Customer Match gives advertisers, for the first time, the ability to combine intent and information about the customer to target an advertisement.
Maybe so, but consumers don't typically go to research or buy a product on Facebook. They go to Google, Bing, or Yahoo first for research, and follow it up on Facebook to get opinions from friends or loved ones.