Marketers who use “remarketing” tactics — also known as behavioral retargeting — will ultimately need to change how they capture leads, because the end of remarketing and third party cookies is nigh upon us.
Google had planned on halting it in 2022 but has since pushed that date back to sometime in 2023. Other platforms such as Facebook may fall in line with the same timeline, but there’s no guarantee.
The majority of marketers have known “cookiepocalypse” was coming (read some marketers’ thoughts about retargeting here), and have been adjusting to other approaches to better understand their target audiences’ behaviors.
But no matter your level of expertise, these changes stand to affect B2B businesses in very specific ways which deserve exploration. Let’s take a look at what the end of behavioral retargeting means for the B2B space.
What is remarketing?
Put simply, remarketing is showing advertising to someone who has previously visited your website.
You could choose to remarket to anyone who has visited your site, but not purchased or made an enquiry. Or, you could show ads to someone who has taken a specific action, such as adding products to their basket — but didn’t check out.
Remarketing takes place on a third party platform like Facebook or the Google display network. It’s that “pair of shoes you stuck in basket that seem to be following you around the internet,” says Charlotte Sheridan, Managing Director at The Small Biz Expert.
In the case of ad-based remarketing, cookies and pixels (on web) and mobile device IDs (in apps) are a key part of the process: they are what provide a shared ‘name tag’ that can be used by both the advertiser (who wants to reach the customer) and the publisher (who has ad inventory to sell) to identify the desired audience.
“Advertising platforms will give you as an advertiser a piece of code to put on your website that allows tracking to take place on the site and send it back to the platform for tracking and creating audiences,” Sheridan says.
“You can be tracked in two ways: Browser side tracking (this is what relies on third party cookies), or server side tracking (first party cookies). This means that you can send data from your own server URL, and send the data to the advertising platform you wish to. This should not be as affected by changes to cookies and i0s – though there are still issues.”
Companies have come to rely on remarketing because it’s a very effective way to get a second bite at the proverbial apple with a given customer, and it has become a key tactic for many marketing teams.
“The market has greatly matured since the early days of digital advertising, and the consumer’s desire to not be followed around and treated like a number will require that marketers become more elegant in their approaches,” says Mary Drumond, CMO of Worthix.
What’s changing for retargeting?
Here are some very basic summaries of the changes to remarketing across major platforms:
Apple iOS 14 update: Apple’s change is to require user permission for cookies, and its browser Safari will be able to block all cookies if the user wishes.
Google update: Google third-party cookie blocking basically means that it won’t sell ads based on browsing habits, and Google Chrome, the most-used browser, won’t allow cookies to collect browsing data (other browsers have instituted similar restrictions).
Facebook update: The social media giant will end its use of pixels that enable/host remarketing ads.
What won’t be affected by the end of remarketing
Campaigns that rely on the data coming from the platform you are using will not be impacted by these changes.
For example, you can create audiences from those who follow your Facebook page, or you can upload your own data to be matched in Facebook.
Tracking using campaigns that don’t take users out of the platforms will also continue to be effective — lead generation campaigns which stay on platform are easier to measure, anyway, Sheridan says.
Other types of campaigns that will still be viable post-cookiepocalypse include:
- Uploaded lists for Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. (companies that have large audience lists can still upload those lists and run effective campaigns through Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Geotargeting campaigns
- Contextual advertising (mind you, it will likely become more important for B2B companies to work with media brands that already aggregate prospects based on business type and interests)
- First-party data (grow your own list largely through content marketing and using that content for lead generation such as through media partners)
- People-based targeting (companies will need to get better at tracking and analyzing their own customer data so they can reach and nurture these contacts without relying on third parties such as Facebook and Google to connect with them)
What this means for B2B marketers
Marketing is constantly evolving– the minute you think you have it all figure out, it’s guaranteed to change. But as Lee Goldberg, President at Happy Cog, says, B2B marketers simply need to adapt.
“What’s really going to be the key to the future is to get users to give you their first party information,” Goldberg says.
“Using Facebook ads as an example: rather than driving a user to a landing page and getting them to take whatever action you want on a landing page, Facebook now has an ad unit called a lead gen form.
“This is literally a lead generation form that lives on Facebook that the user can fill out, presumably in exchange for something. That data can now be sucked right into the marketer’s CRM.”
Personalization tools will also become more important, especially in the B2B space, Goldberg says.
Pardot, Marketo, and other tools have embraced first party data and allow users to craft customized experiences around it, both in terms of campaigns and on websites.
“With Pardot, for example, there’s a function which allows you to personalize content that’s displayed to a user based on the things that user already viewed or engaged with. Yes, there’s a bit of an implementation hurdle to set it up, but the conversion rate will be so much higher if you are speaking to an individual by understanding their specific needs.”
Audience development created by linking an individual’s consumer profile at home to their professional profile at work will become especially important for B2B businesses.
It’s more important now than ever to figure out where your customers are getting their information and to make sure that your own high-quality content is out there and optimized.
Drumond says marketers who apply a creative mindset and appeal to individuals with more authenticity and value will see increased success next year.
“Marketers are truly in the driver’s seat in 2022/2023, and can either decide to be catalysts for change or will be chasing a train that’s left the station. When people are provided with authentic and quality messaging, goods, services, products, and value, they will convert and be loyal.”
The bright side
By changing tactics, advertisers will be able to build more trust with their audience, and take advantage of ways to really get to know them as individuals rather than as “data sets,” says Curtis Marshall, SVP of Business Data Partnerships at AnalyticsIQ.
“Rather than relying on digital behaviors and making assumptions based on firmographic information, B2B marketers have an opportunity to understand the personal preferences, decision-drivers, and motivations of their most valuable prospects with predictive audiences. This allows marketers to truly personalize their efforts for the first time, creating a better and more relevant experience for their prospects and ultimately improving their results.”
At the end of the day, marketers in the digital age need to be nimble and able to turn on a dime, says Founder of The Go! Agency Chris Tompkins.
“The bright side here is that this acts as another reminder that as marketers we need to be on our toes at all times and looking for Plan B. No good solid strategy lasts forever and you need to not only be able to identify that, but also to be able to execute changes in real time based on late breaking changes and trends.”