Mobile marketers race to offer true smartphone retargeting
Mobile retargeting is an segment of the online advertising industry that is still in its infancy. And a lot of people seem to disagree about how it’s going to work (and when and how well it’s going to work).
But everybody who is in the game seems to agree on one thing: Mobile is an advertising goldmine waiting to be exploited.
Of course it is. A Pew Research study found that 52 percent of 18-29 year-olds have a smart phone. That’s a demographic sweet spot that will be retargeted, one way or another.
Mobile retargeted advertising targets consumers based on previous mobile Internet or app actions that did not result in a conversion. The technology to support it is there, but the methods used so far are often too subjective, limited in scale or present serious privacy implications.
One problem is that Web-based third party cookies work in mobile only when the browsers are set up to accept them. Only about 20 percent of devices in the market today are cookie-compatible. The browsers on iPhones and iPads block third-party cookies by default, for example.
Even when the cookies work, mobile users “surf” the Internet via an app more often than a browser.
A New York City startup called Tapad says it is working around these issues and bringing real retargeting to mobile devices. Tapad works on Android right now, and the company says it will launch support for Apple iOS devices any day now.
Tapad retargets ads in both mobile browsers and mobile apps, so mobile users that visit a website then open up an app might see an ad from that site in the app.
In order to make retargeting work on mobile phones and tablets, Tapad goes beyond cookies and looks at the device signature and the IP address. If an Android phone hits a website and then an app from the same network within a few minutes, chances are it’s the same user.
This is sometimes called “fingerprinting,” or “WiFi matching.” Creating a profile of a unique user in this way isn’t always reliable, though. All mobile devices have unique device IDs that have been used to track app downloads and attribution. They became privacy compliant when encrypted, or hashed, but this often results in inaccurate matching.
For the most part, Tapad tries to nail down users by the devices they use rather than personally identifiable information. So far Tapad says its advertisers are seeing early clickthrough improvements from 50 percent to 150 percent lift.
NYC-based search retargeting company Magnetic also says it’s entering the mobile retargeting arena in the near future. Magnetic says being able to associate mobile device IDs with browser cookies is the industry’s big hurdle.
“”We already see mobile browsers when we collect data a significant percentage of the time. We have the ability to turn on more data acquisition for mobile,” CEO James Green said via a press release. “The extra awesome piece would be being able to associate mobile IDs with browser cookies, so we can be smarter about targeting ads.”
Attribution remains an issue, and the problem won’t go away until post-view conversion tracking improves. Post view conversion tracking tags are the code that the ad server provides you with to add to your conversion page so that the conversion can be allocated to your paid media.
Mobile Web analytics is still in its infancy, too, and retargeters are trying to look at data such as page views, visits, visitors and countries, as well as information such as device model, manufacturer, screen resolution, device capabilities, service provider and preferred user language.
The audience response is improving, and retargeting for smart phones—one way or another—is getting smarter.
Marshall Jones writes about media, technology and marketing and lives in Austin, TX. Contact us with comments or topics for further articles at austineditor-AT-gmail-DOT-com.