“Why do ads follow me around the web?” my client asked me one day. I responded that she was being retargeted based on her internet browsing history. She replied with a hint of disbelief, “but I haven’t visited the websites for the brands that follow me.” I often field similar questions, and it has become clear to me that there is a solid amount of confusion regarding retargeting marketing efforts.
But before we dig into the specifics, let’s start with a basic definition: Retargeting is a cookie-based technology that places a piece of code on a company’s website, allowing the website to follow visitors after they leave the site. For instance, let’s say you recently visited a shoe site, but you didn’t make a purchase. The shoe store has placed a code on their website which allows them to follow you around the web reminding you of their shoes. The shoe ad will appear on the right rail as they read a New York Times article and later when they jump on to ESPN’s site to see the latest game scores. Before you know it, you’ll be thinking, “I really do like those shoes, I should purchase them.” Or at least that is the hope and the intent of retargeting. This happens through Google's Display Network or other networks that have large inventories of popular media sites where your target audience is likely to be visiting throughout the day or week.
The reason that marketers use retargeting is because roughly 2% of visitors that come to a site the first time actually convert. That means that the other 98% need a little reminder or incentive (think 10% off your new pair of shoes). Retargeting is essentially a nudge to jog your memory that you really do want some new shoes.
However, retargeting doesn’t just occur when you visit a website. It can also be applied to keyword search terms. Back to my client in the beginning that expressed that she hadn’t visited the AllModern site (the ad that was following around web). However, she had been searching for a new couch (and using the associated keywords in her internet searches) and lo and behold she was getting ads for couches.
Retargeting doesn’t just end with websites and search. You can also apply retargeting based on the context of the site and/or relevancy of the environment. This allows your ad to be shown within content that is pertinent to your audience, interests, and topics. Contextual retargeting allows you to target customers in areas that are pertinent to your business. For example, you might see ads for Hertz rental cars when searching travel sites.
There are several ways that you can retarget potential customers and coax them toward conversion. You can also retarget your email subscribers based on the actions they have taken with your email campaigns. By identifying the products that your subscribers are interested in, you can then retarget them with an incentive to purchase.
Don’t forget about Facebook, the Grand Poo-bah of retargeting via social media. The same process applies, but with Facebook, marketers can create custom audiences based on the pages visited on your website through Facebook ads. This approach provides the intelligence needed to create highly relevant ads that assist in persuading your target audience to take action. The best part is that these ads tend to perform very well.
So the next time that you’re a little freaked out by ads that seem just a little too relevant and targeted to your specific wants/needs. Remember that it is far better to receive a marketing message that is relevant to you as opposed to the shot in the dark approach of all ads to all people. Retargeting at the end of the day is really about trying to remind, and incentivize you to take action by showing you ads that reflect your interests. Now it isn’t 100% accurate, and yes, it can be annoying if the ad follows you around for too long of a duration, but the intention is spot-on.