Will Apple's Safari update impact your remarketing campaign?

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iOSApple has made some big waves with the release of their new mobile operating system on September 12, with one change in particular making headlines: Apple included an update to Safari that launched Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), instantly changing how remarketers can use cookies to track users' activities across the web.

ITP uses machine learning to identify sites that are using third-party cookies, and then partitions those cookies after a day, disabling many advertisers' abilities to track users as they interact with the web.

The official release of ITP caused quite a stir among the advertising community, but what does it mean for Realtors?

First, let's talk about cookies...

Many people are already familiar with cookies—not only the delicious kind, but also the ones that allow websites to store info on your browser.

Cookies are collected by browsers as you explore the web, essentially saving bits of your history as you move along. Cookies are incredibly useful because they enable websites to make your experience easier, with functions like remembering your login information, or keeping items in a shopping cart as you explore a site.

When you visit any website, it may offer you a cookie or two. This might be a cookie for its own website, or it could be a cookie for a third-party website. Though both types of cookies are essentially the same in function and design, they serve slightly different functions.

First-party cookies store information for the website you're on, while third-party cookies provide information to any website other than the one you're on.

Third-party cookies enable advertisers to track your activity throughout the web and offer ads that are more relevant to your interests. Remarketing and highly targeted advertising campaigns rely on third-party cookies to target the right consumers, and ensure their ad spend is going to the right places.

Safari's removal of third-party cookies

Intelligent Tracking Prevention is essentially a machine learning technology developed by Apple that identifies and blocks third party cookies on Safari. Safari will no longer store these third-party cookies for more than 24 hours, and will delete first-party cookies after 30 days of inactivity.

This impacts the ad networks' ability to remarket to consumers if they are using Safari. Instead of being able to use cookies to "follow" a user around the web for weeks, advertisers will only have 1 day to make a lasting impression. ...Or will they?

Not all retargeting networks are heavily impacted

While Apple is protecting users from some advertisers, it has designed a system where a few of the major advertisers will thrive.

The two most popular advertising networks, Google and Facebook, also happen to control two of the most popular sites. Google and Facebook users tend to be loyal, returning to the sites at least once a day, which means the sites will have no problem renewing their cookies before the 1 day expiration kicks in.

Because of this, high traffic sites have been given a massive advantage over their competitors, and advertisers on these platforms are likely to see very minimal impacts to their campaigns. If you're one of the many Realtors who retarget using Google AdWords or Facebook Advertising, that's awesome news for you.

So who's actually hurt by this?

If Google and Facebook are essentially fine, who are the retargeting advertisers that are actually impacted? It's the smaller third-party platforms, like:

  • AdRoll
  • Criteo
  • Chango
  • DoubleClick
  • Retargeter

These are ad networks that use third-party cookies to deliver ads to their intended audience, and their ability to retarget mobile Safari users has been reduced. This impacts people using their services, including Realtors, because their strategies aren't as effective. If people aren't seeing the same results they previously did, they're more likely to see out alternate companies and strategies.

What it all means for real estate agents

If you're a Realtor using Google, Facebook, or other traditional ad networks, the release of Intelligent Tracking Prevention will be minimal. You don't need to worry about these changes, and can likely carry on as usual.

However, if you're using a third-party remarketing service, it's a good time to check in and ask some questions. Confirm that your ad spend is still effective and that you're getting the ROI you're hoping for. If not, you may need to switch tactics and try a different online marketing strategy.

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