Similar to Facebook Custom Audiences, Customer Match allows advertisers to upload a list of customer email addresses, which Google then matches against the logged in users on these properties for the purpose of delivering highly-targeted ads.

For example, a company with a customer loyalty program can create and target Google ads specifically for members of the program. Or a company could create targeted ads for customers it has identified as being at risk of churning.

Taking another page from Facebook’s playbook, Google is also giving advertisers the ability to target ads to audiences similar to their own. 

As Google’s SVP of Ads and Commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, explained,

Using Customer Match, you can also generate Similar Audiences to reach new customers on YouTube and Gmail who are likely to be interested in your products and services. For example, you can drive awareness on YouTube for new non-stop flights by showing TrueView ads to prospective customers who have similar interests and characteristics to your rewards members.

First-party data: the rich will become richer

Google’s announcement is a significant one. For many Facebook advertisers, Custom and Lookalike Audiences have become crucial to being able to execute effective, profitable Facebook ad campaigns and now that the world’s search giant is offering similar functionality, expect many AdWords advertisers to take advantage of it.

Of course, to take advantage of Customer Match and Similar Audiences, advertisers need to have email addresses and, to take advantage of Customer Match and Similar Audiences to their fullest potential, enough data associated with their customers to segment their targeted campaigns in meaningful ways.

Despite the fact that the value of first-party data has been talked about for years, many companies still rely heavily on third-party data.

The good news is that this is changing. The promise of first-party data is now widely recognized and 82% of the marketers who responded to a recent Econsultancy’s survey indicated that they would be increasing their use of first-party data over the next year. 

For most organizations, this is process that will take some time. It can take a concerted effort to identify the first-party data that’s needed, acquire it and make sure it’s usable and analyzable once acquired.

In some cases, first-party data strategies also require third-party vendor relationships. Specifically, some organizations are opting to use data management platforms because managing all their data in-house is not feasible or cost-effective. 

All of this requires investment but as Google’s announcement demonstrates, the opportunities to use first-party data are only going to grow. The advertisers who make the necessary investments in first-party data collection will be in a position to see their investments compound while those that don’t invest will increasingly find themselves left behind.