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Keeping Up With Google: What Is Customer Match and Why Is It Critical for the Privacy Era?

Google announced in 2020 that it would phase out support for third-party cookies on Chrome, and in 2021 announced that it would no longer support cookie-based targeting in any of its products. The goal, said Google, is to respect users’ privacy and adapt to new expectations and regulations on the internet. As part of this privacy effort, the advertising platform has shifted its focus toward a greater use of automation and first-party data.

Customer Match is part of Google’s privacy-centered marketing efforts because it combines the power of retailers’ first-party data and Google’s own automation technology. That is why Google opened up access to this feature during the 2021 Google Marketing Live. It eliminated the $50,000 lifetime spend threshold, which previously prevented some advertisers from using this feature.

In this article we discuss what Customer Match is and how retail marketers can make use of this feature within their Google Ads campaigns. For more information on Google advertising updates, check out our full Keeping Up With Google series.

Release Date:

Google launched Customer Match in 2015 as a way for marketers to include or exclude customers from campaigns. It revamped the tool in 2017 so that marketers could also use these lists to retarget customers on these lists or engage similar audiences.

What It Does:

Customer Match allows retail marketers to target advertising to their customers or similar audiences on Google. By uploading a customer list, retail marketers can market to those customers when they log onto their Gmail or YouTube accounts, for example. Often, marketers will try to engage these shoppers in loyalty programs or offer similar products in order to encourage repeat purchases.

Alternatively, retail marketers can target new shoppers using Similar Audiences, which leverages Customer Match data. Google matches what it knows about a retailers’ customer list to similar Google users. This matching functionality allows retail marketers to extend their reach to new audiences and personalize marketing based on users’ interests.

Which Channels:

Customer Match is available for retailers advertising across Google paid search, Google Shopping, YouTube, Gmail, and Display.

What This Means for Your Business:

As Google phases out cookie-based retargeting, features like Customer Match and Similar Audiences are gaining prominence because they incorporate first-party data. Google is leveraging retailers’ first-party data to help them scale targeting efforts and help advertisers better manage their audiences in a privacy-focused future.

That may be why Google made the Customer Match feature more readily available to retail marketers, by eliminating the lifetime spend threshold in 2021.

To make the most of this feature, consider using Customer Match lists to further segment your audiences based on their position in the customer acquisition funnel.

For example, you can develop Customer Match lists that target shoppers who have purchased more than 2 times in the last 3 months. These are high lifetime value purchasers. You can also develop a list to target one-time purchasers or shoppers who added items to their cart but did not purchase. In this way, you can engage shoppers at every stage of the funnel.

Another valuable use of Customer Match is to combine these lists with Similar Audiences. This combination allows retailers to exclude all past purchasers or shoppers who have added items to their cart and focus solely on new customer acquisition.

For more advice, check out our Customer Match strategy guide.

As Google supports retail marketers through new privacy requirements and regulations, expect greater functionality for audience targeting tools like Customer Match.