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Google to Target Shoppers Using Email Address Provided by Merchants

Online merchants have already proven they’re willing to share the most precious of proprietary data with Google, even transactions, pricing, and tracking data in the case of Google Trusted Stores. But are they willing to hand over shoppers’ email addresses?

Many people are familiar with ads that follow them around the Internet, called retargeting or remarketing. Google explains:

Remarketing lets you show ads to people who have visited your website or used your mobile app before. When people leave your website without buying anything, for example, remarketing helps you reconnect with them by showing relevant ads as they browse the web, as they use mobile apps, or as they search on Google.

Now Google is working on a new way to target shoppers, according to the Wall Street Journal, which explains it as follows:

Here’s an example of how Google’s ads would work, according to the people familiar with the matter: An office-supply retailer would give Google the email addresses of recent printer purchasers. The retailer could then bid to show ads when those people search for printer ink on google.com. The retailer could also tailor its Google ads based on other information it knows about the customer, including age, gender or prior purchases.

It isn’t clear how Google might match email addresses on its end, but one of the people familiar with the matter said it could use Gmail addresses. Many users of Google services including Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps also provide secondary email addresses to the company.

Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal said its parent company News Corp is exploring a similar model, and pointed to “a similar advertising service launched in 2012 by Facebook called “custom audiences.””

In a story about the Journal’s report, MediaPost referred to Google as “the underbelly of the Web,” pointing to the connections between a person’s Gmail email address, YouTube account, Google Maps, search queries on google.com, and other Google services that require a sign-in to personalize results.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.