Google may be the industry leader when it comes to ad targeting on the desktop, but the search giant knows that the future is mobile. According to a study conducted by Flurry, users of the popular Android and iOS operating systems spend up to 90% of their time on the devices within mobile apps and not the browser.
This presents a problem for Google, which relies on browser habits to target relevant ads to consumers. Mobile applications don’t have cookies or other tracking scripts, which means that user actions within an app are largely hidden from Google’s analytics software. This is very valuable information for Google, a company that still relies on advertising for a majority of its revenue. To try and fix this blind-spot, Google is testing a new method that combines data from their DoubleClick network with mobile identifiers such as Android ID and Apple’s Identifier for Advertising (IDFA).
Newer, mobile-first ad companies recognized the trend towards mobile apps years ago and use a very similar approach to the one Google is trialing now to create relevant in app advertising. Others, such as Facebook and Twitter, use a “deterministic approach” to try and track usage patterns for their growing ad networks. A deterministic approach is when a company uses your login information, email, or phone number to track your usage across your desktop, tablet, and smartphone. This allows the companies to serve customers relevant advertisements, even within mobile apps.
Using the deterministic approach has proven invaluable for these social sites, but it can present problems for Google. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Most services offered by Google can be accessed without the user signing in. According to Piyush Shah, vice president of the mobile ad network InMobi, up to 90% of Google’s mobile traffic comes from either a search box or from YouTube, both of which do not require the user to log in or enter any identifiable information.
The deterministic approach also raises privacy concerns because companies can potentially track users outside of their apps or networks. Google’s new method will circumvent these concerns by allowing users to easily opt-out of the tracking in their mobile browser or apps (or both) if they wish to, as well as respecting users established privacy preferences they already have on their device.
On the desktop, Google is the undisputed leader in user analytics, but the changing paradigm provided by mobile applications are proving to be more difficult for the search giant to adapt to than they likely originally anticipated. Companies that chose to take a mobile-first approach are discovering innovative ways to position ads to a growing mobile app user base, but none of them have Google’s historical data to correlate these new patterns to.
Once Google successfully combines this mobile information with their existing database, they’ll be able to use it to update their powerful adwords network to take advantage of app-based user data. This new information should allow ecommerce sites to make sure that relevant products are displayed to users, even within mobile apps, which will help to further improve transaction conversion rates. Google might be late to the party of mobile app advertising, but the end result should prove profitable for both their own coffers and ecommerce retailers to rely on the network for customer traffic.