“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
“Come gather round people, wherever you roam.” – Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are a-Changin'”
And so goes the business of digital marketing.
Websites have been dropping cookies since late 1994 when they were invented by a programmer at Netscape. Since then, trillions of cookies have been dropped on desktop Web browser users visiting every manner of websites.
First-party cookies aren’t going away anytime soon, nor should they. Many of the cookies that are dropped are useful. They help sites guide you through a purchase process and they can help identify you when you return.
Third-party cookies are another thing entirely. Set most often by third-party ad servers with a Web bug placed on a first-party site, third-party cookies allow user tracking across multiple sites wherever they have a pixel set for the purpose of placing and matching these cookies. While this is very effective when the user is utilizing a single browser (Firefox) on a single device (desktop or laptop computer), it becomes much less effective when the user owns and uses multiple browsers and devices (such as another computer or a mobile device). The days are long past when a user relied solely on Internet Explorer on their Dell desktop.
When a user changes browsers or uses a different device than where a cookie was set, it is as if the user never saw the original ad.
With users increasingly employing multiple browsers, and swapping unpredictably between the use of desktops, tablets, and mobile phones, the ability to follow a user around the Web like you could in 2004 has basically disappeared.
The times they are a-changin’.
If you are a technology company who sells cookie targeting solutions, the good times aren’t over, but they are a-changin’. The mobile, multi-device-using consumer is making the business of cookie-based targeting harder and harder. However, if you are a marketer who is reliant on a cookie-first marketing strategy, you have a choice.
You can choose people over pixels.
Email addresses are people. Cookies are pixels. And according to recent research, more than 60 percent of all site visits now are not even made by people – they’re made by bots.
Most email addresses are not owned by bots. Sure, there are some seed addresses that are used to monitor “honey pots.” But most email addresses are owned by people, and unlike perishable third-party cookies, these email addresses are used for years and represent a person’s verifiable, digital identity. Email addresses are unique and persistent.
Do you want to engage someone wherever they are, no matter the device? With their permission? Then ask them for their email address. Then you have permission to reach them wherever they are paying attention.
“Wherever you roam” – no matter the device.
If you are interested in learning more about how the email address is the most powerful cross-device, cross-channel targeting technology ever invented, come to ClickZ Live NYC on April 3. More here. I’ll be joined by John Barnes, managing director of Incisive Media.