Embedded into the code of many websites is a “pixel” or “tracking pixel” — a catch-all term that refers to a short line of code that relays data between the website and an advertising platform. Pixels enable advertising and marketing professionals to develop optimized campaigns based on the behavior of the people engaging with their ads and websites, and ensure that the right audiences are reached. It’s also worth mentioning that a pixel won’t be visible to your website’s visitors — it’s buried in the backend, or source code, of your website.
Before we dive into how to track the customer journey via pixel, it’s important to note that there’s a distinct difference between cookies and pixels, even though both act as information gatherers. A cookie drops code on your browser through a web server, while a pixel is built into the code of a website.
So, should you set up a pixel?
The answer to the above question is (most likely), “Yes” — especially if you work in e-commerce, because you can better reach people who have expressed interest in your brand and understand where they sit in the customer journey. Notably, while some audiences (such as older generations) may not be as active online, we still recommend leveraging a pixel to better understand your ideal audience.
Broadly, the information that a pixel can gather based on user behavior includes who is visiting your site, the type of operating system or device used, the time at which they visited, IP address, location, any on-site activities during the visit, which ads they clicked on and more. However, a pixel can also be set up more narrowly, only logging consumers who take a single action — such as clicking a certain button or visiting a specific landing page.
On a social platform like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, all that you’ll need to get started is an ad account because the platform will generate the code for you. You’ll also need to set a goal to help you track your success — most commonly the goal tied to a pixel is conversions. From there, you add the generated code to the global footer of your website, and you’re good to go — now you wait for the consumer insights to roll in and your custom audiences to populate.
Leveraging the Data
Pixels give advertisers another shot at reaching potential consumers based on their interests and intent, which can be determined by their actions taken. This enables advertisers to create more robust audience segmentation for their prospects.
For example, it’s hard to get consumers to interact with a brand for the first time, simply because they’ve never heard of it before. On the flip side, if a potential consumer is seeing your ad for the second or third time, they are more likely to engage due to increased familiarity.
Retargeting is the process by which consumers purposefully receive ads from the same company more than once. Advertisers will strategically retarget potential customers based on previous actions in hopes of moving them further down the sales funnel. A real-world example would be browsing for summer sandals online, scrolling through different pairs and then clicking on a few to learn more. After leaving the webpage, those pairs of sandals you clicked on may begin popping up in your social media feeds and online ads, which keeps that product top of mind.
Another aspect of retargeting is the creation of audience segments, which can be product-based or action-based to further refine who sees your ad – which can help increase your ROI. For example, you could develop specific creatives optimized for a group of users who clicked a certain button or visited a certain landing page.
This post represents a relatively broad overview of how tracking pixels work and the general ways in which advertisers can leverage the collected information. The customer journey is complex, but advertisers should focus on leveraging as much audience data as possible to ensure a high ROI by reaching relevant consumers.