Mobile is killing the cookie so social data is key to the future of targeting

data word cloudMore and more people are adopting their mobiles as their main device for internet consumption everyday, whether it’s to catch up with friends on social networks, shop online or read news.  In 2013 Facebook announced that mobile made up 78% of its overall users while online shopping was meant to double with one in two people shopping with their smartphones.

It’s this growing use of mobile that’s killing that old internet tracking technology the cookie. While cookies were once the currency of online advertising they are now dying off.  The reality is that cookie was always a deficient tool for audience data, giving us individual profiles built on behavioural data without any context. They allowed companies to discover what certain customers’ had done at a specific point, but that data becomes irrelevant very quickly. That’s why you might end up being bombarded with adverts for something you already bought weeks ago for a friend’s birthday, and that you’re just not interested in buying ever again.

With mobile browsers and apps abandoning the cookie technology marketers are now asking how can else they reach their targeted audience, and they’re beginning to realise that behavioural data is one-dimensional.  In order to build a real picture of a person the data must go far beyond algorithms based on a user’s past actions, to a human like method of topic association that understands real life affinities between subjects and interests.

While there are other approaches gaining credibility, such as device fingerprinting where the connected device can transmit data about its properties, time zone and settings, and update it, or page-level behavioural tagging, modifying content according to the behaviour of groups of users on specific pages, these approaches are still hardly human-like. A far more powerful method would be to get into the mind-set of its customers in order to find out what they like and why, so they can attract new potential ones.

It’s all in the ‘why?’
When on a mobile device a customers’ time is even more precious than traditional desktop web, so targeted advertising needs to be even more effective. That’s the case even if your audience is as dedicated and as fervent as say, football supporters.

A good example of where this has worked is sports media firm, Sports Revolution’s use of real-time intelligence to bring more relevant content to Celtic fans through an app, CelticLIVE. The app brings exclusive content to fans through their mobiles to enhance their match day experience. While many loyal fans signed up, it was the intelligent technology of Intent HQ technology that offered an open gateway to audience intelligence, revealing detailed insights into the fan base’s other interests beyond just football. This in turn then allowed Celtic to offer their once anonymous fans very specific data that mattered to them.

As fans logged on to the app via their social networks it enabled Sports Revolution an aggregate view of the profiles of nearly 2,000 representative fans. Fans could then be offered content that was more compelling to them; videos, photos, stats, social commentary and competitions that fitted with the fans’ demographics and interests.

After five weeks the real time intelligence data had processed data on over 500,000 profiles to form insights allowing the company to determine the most common interest categories among the fans.

The rich data then enabled them to:

– Remove demographic guesswork, which enables better matching with brand demographics for potential advertisers, for example the ratio of female visitors was considerably higher than expected

– Drive revenue in-stadium by knowing who is present, and be able to offer them the right offers and promotions on merchandise, food and drink

– Drive additional revenues from fans not in the stadium, with data proving not all fans visited regularly but could log on from wherever else they were in the UK

– Inform content creation and editorial strategy – although clearly Celtic and football aren’t interests that will surprise anyone, alongside these were insights as specific as which band and comedian are popular

– Increase the potential of promotions – by knowing which brands their fans engage with, both the stadium and app developer can make educated decisions about who to partner with.

This kind of data personal interest data can be used to go far beyond the kind of web experiences that cookie-based data ever allowed us to create, making a faster more relevant experience on mobile.

As mobile devices continue to become a larger part of consumer behavior, generating online sales and transforming the way people shop, read news and interact, social data will supersede the cookie in allowing marketers to create more relevant experiences.