If you feel like your phone or internet browser is reading your mind, that’s because it is. Sometimes it even feels like magic. But how do they do it? How did American Airlines know you were looking for plane tickets after you texted your friends about a beach trip, and how did Zappos know you were looking for new sneakers when you searched “Nike” the day before? The short answer is cookies.

What are “cookies?”

Put simply, cookies give websites an idea about who you are by collecting knowledge from your broader internet browser. They can share and swap your personal information with other websites to understand where you like to shop, what you like to buy, and when you like to buy it—so that they can show you targeted and effective ads.

Recently, this has begun to backfire. Many people have started to see this less as magic and more as an invasion of privacy; while they might enjoy seeing personalized ads for their favorite beauty products or clothing brands, knowing websites have their personal information has begun to feel icky and intrusive. This has led to a mini-revolution against consumer data collection, which prompted Google’s announcement that third-party cookies would disappear from Chrome in 2022, and Apple’s announcement that users now must opt-in to share their data in IOS.

While this doesn’t bode well for advertisers that rely on cookies, it does make way for a new, less intrusive, and more effective advertising avenue: contextual targeting.

What is “contextual targeting?”

Instead of pulling from personal data to create targeted ads, contextual targeting pulls data from the web page or mobile app that you’re browsing. For example, if you’re browsing in the “Books” section of the New York Times website, you might see an on-page ad for reading glasses. If you’re shopping for golf gear, you might see a pop-up ad for a nearby golf resort. This method puts privacy first while still allowing companies to produce the personalized and relevant ads that customers desire.

If your website or mobile app is currently using cookies, Swiftly can help you revolutionize. Swiftly-powered digital retail media networks know how to effectively leverage contextual targeting—and protect personal user privacy. It doesn’t share or swap a users’ data with other browsers to produce targeted ads; instead, all of its shopper knowledge is collected directly from what they do on your platform, from online browsing to in-store shopping. Therefore, your shoppers will be able to trust your brand while still enjoying a personalized shopping experience—thus building brand loyalty.

In fact, as cookies become obsolete, 87% of marketers say that they plan to increase their scale of contextual targeting. In order for brick-and-mortar retailers to remain competitive, they’re going to have to keep up. In addition to the privacy and personalization benefits, here are five more reasons why contextual targeting is a road you’re going to want to embark on:

  1. More affordable. Behavioral data and third-party cookie collection aren’t cheap. You have to collect, analyze, and optimize the data to understand the consumer’s intimate personal details, and the tools and strategies needed to do this can run up your budget. With contextual targeting, not only can you forgo the expensive tools necessary for behavioral targeting, but the ads themselves are also more cost-effective. You’re only charged for ads that are clicked, not for the mere display of your ads on the site. Contextual targeting helps you provide a personalized ad experience without breaking the bank.
  2. Less keyword exclusion. This might not sound like much to the Average Joe, but for website publishers, it’s a huge advantage. A sophisticated contextual advertising framework can go beyond keywords to understand the sentiment of a page and determine its relevance and safety. This way, you don’t have to put entire content categories off-limits (for example, you don’t have to eliminate every site with the word “dairy-free” if you’re advertising chocolate chip ice cream). Instead, you can evaluate a singular website to determine whether it’s a relevant ad host. To do this, a Swiftly-powered digital retail media network leverages the power of AI. AI can understand how each website fits into your advertising goals by analyzing text and scanning images, videos, and audio.
  3. Improved brand safety. You want to make sure your ads end up on the right websites so that your brand maintains its reputation. In the past, brands (to their dismay) have found their advertisements on adult or extremist sites—not sites with which you typically want your brand associated. With contextual targeting, that risk is diminished, as you have built-in brand safety: you’ll always know which websites your ads are being displayed on. Not only does this ensure that your ads are relevant, but you can also enjoy some peace of mind knowing you won’t be linked to any inappropriate content.
  4. Reach wider audiences. By increasing contextual targeting efforts, you’ll be able to better understand the content interests of your customer base. Gaining a deeper understanding of your ​audience can help you reach audiences similar to your own, capitalizing on a concept known as lookalike audiences. By applying the approach you use on your current customer base to audiences with similar interests, transaction, and search histories, you can reach more consumers—and engage more shoppers. You’ll also be positioned to take advantage of a similar strategy: media lookalikes. This follows the inverse approach, placing content on pages and applications similar to your own to reach new groups of consumers who, based on their browsing interests, are also likely to buy from you.
  5. Drive sales in real-time. If a shopper is looking up pasta recipes and an ad for two-for-one spaghetti pops up on the web page, it’s likely that your shopper is going to click. In other words, contextual ads work to drive sales, because your content is capitalizing on what your customer is looking at in real time—delivering what they want, right when they want it.

If you’re looking to build a contextual advertising marketing campaign, Swiftly is here to help. We can help you give your shoppers a customized ad experience that builds brand loyalty and doesn’t invade their privacy, while saving you money and driving sales. To learn more, contact us today.