Audiences allow you to target your ad groups across search, social, display, and video to reach people who are known to be interested in your business’ products or services. There are three main types of audiences: Cookie audiences, similar (or lookalike) audiences, and first-party audiences.
Cookie audiences are groups of people who are deemed by cookies to have similar browsing habits. The problem with cookie audiences is that they’re often small and inaccurate. They rely on inferred data (not everyone who visits the website of an outdoor supply company is interested in hiking boots) and completely ignore context. Furthermore, multiple people may share a browser on a family computer and many people browse on multiple devices. Piecing together a viable audience for targeting using cookies is near impossible and it’s not surprising that this type of audience is on its way out the door.
The second type of audience is a similar audience. Adwords, Facebook, and many other ad platforms can look at the characteristics of people in an existing audience and find people not on that list who have similar characteristics and thus might be worthy of targeting. Similar audiences are only as accurate as their source audience but can be a good way to automatically find potential new customers.
The final type of audience is a first-party audience. These audiences are created from your existing customer data and allow you to target the customers you already know and create similar audiences from them. Using the information you already have about your customers, you can reach high-value purchasers from past sales cycles or help your existing customers find complementary products. Furthermore, first-party audiences let you reduce CPAs by excluding existing customers altogether or only suppress recent customers so you can re-engage those who have lapsed.
Targeting existing customers with first-party data is a powerful tool. Do you want to target your past purchasers who have a high AOV? Done. Want to cross- or up-sell your customers who have purchased a particular product line? Go for it. With first party data, you know exactly who you’re targeting and you can segment the data to target whatever subset of customers your heart desires. You can’t do that with cookies.