Over the weekend, my son and I were looking at new car options on Edmunds.com. After about 45 minutes on the site, I decided to leave the virtual showroom only to be 'stalked' by car ads for the next two days as I visited totally unrelated locations on the
web (I am sure the retargeting won't end soon). Even my entry into the Edmonds.com site was a bit unnerving since the front page of the site was promoting the newest version of the car currently sitting in my garage.
A coincidence? . . . Not a chance. In fact, illustrating the digital geotargeting prowess of the team at Edmunds.com, the first search I did for the category of car I might be interested in highlighted a sponsored ad from the brand of the other car
in our garage . . . from a local dealer.
It comes as no surprise to today's consumer that the internet knows almost everything about us due to the tagging, tracking and monitoring that is done on an amazing amount of 'big data' flowing in the digital universe. Technology and digital tools have
the ability to process our digital footprints almost as fast as we surf the web, predicting what we might do next and what we may be interested in purchasing.
While becoming almost Orwellian in it's omniscience, and a very powerful tool for digital marketers, the process is not always perfect. For instance, because of my profession and my search habits, I am often targeted for financial services I don't need,
a new brand of smartphone I don't want and a candidate I would never vote for. Worse yet, I am sometimes targeted for something I already bought (an example of marketing without sufficient channel integration).
Despite the occasional mistargeting, the 2012 Display Advertising Study from Bizrate Insights found that the majority of consumers (60 percent) were neutral on the tactic of retargeting, 25 percent appreciate the ads because they "remind [them] of what [they
were] looking at previously, and only 15% do not like the process." Also noted was the convenience of being able to visit a web site users already were intending to visit (28 percent), and the proactive offering of more information on a desired product or
service (21 percent).
From a marketers perspective, retargeting allows an organization to customize the overall prospect or customer experience and maintain consistency across all customer touch points. In other words, the retargeting does not need to stop with online ads, but
could extend to email and even direct mail as part of an overarching cross-channel strategy.
Types of Retargeting
While most organizations are familiar and use search retargeting due to the reach and ROI of the tactic, there are additional types of retargeting that can prove valuable.
- Search Retargeting: Targets individuals who have searched using keywords or phrases relevant to our business (loans, checking, investments, mobile banking, etc.). With search retargeting, assumptions are made around intent and the consumer's stage
in the purchase funnel. Just because a person searches a term doesn't mean they are ready to buy.
- Site Retargeting: In this case, the consumer has visited your site. By 'tagging' them, you can deliver your message as they continue using the Internet (like my Edmunds.com example). Again, identification of intent is important. A customer visiting
a bank site to find out hours of a branch is a much different target than a prospect investigating credit card rates.
- SEM/SEO Retargeting: This tactic combines search terms used prior to visiting your site with where on your site the prospect or customer visits. This form of retargeting hones in on the intent of the visit and allows for more specific creative messaging.
- Email Retargeting: As the name suggests, this tactic leverages the actions taken by a customer receiving an email from you. With email retargeting, it is important to differentiate between a customer who just opens an email, a person who visits a
landing site after opening an email and a person who simply discards the email.
- Contextual Retargeting: By exchanging pixels between websites that are relevant, you can target visitors to another site. An example would be what is done between hotels, airlines and car rental companies.
- Engagement Retargeting: Consumers who visit and engage with your company's blog, Facebook page, YouTube, rich media, etc. can be retargeted using properly placed pixels on keywords.
- Social Retargeting: Targets individuals who consume social content similar to your current customers.
Benefits of Retargeting
comScore recently released a study on the effectiveness of online display advertising based on various media placement strategies. The analysis included 103 campaigns from 39 advertisers covering seven different industries. The categories included:
- Audience Targeting: Based on interaction with related products/content but no visit to site
- Contextual Targeting: Targets sites with related page-level content
- Efficiency: Based on cost-per-click engagement
- Premium Pricing: High visibility placement with premium publishers
- Retargeting: Based on previous visit to site
- RON: Ads appearing anywhere in a network, optimized by conversion
The study found that retargeting clearly outperforms all other tactics due to the reach, cost and performance lift. This obviously reflects the impact of reaching out to consumers who have already indicated a desire to search, shop of purchase. This strategy
also is effective for both brand building and immediate response. The challenge is that there is limited scaleability of this strategy.
According to Lloyd Lee, SVP, Integrated Services for direct and digital agency New Control, "The benefit of retargeting is clear - among all offline and online channels, retargeting is often the most efficient acquisition strategy on a cost-per-approved
account basis." Lee added, "For our clients, retargeting has almost become an 'insurance policy' as it ensures that we are capitalizing on all of the traffic we are driving to a client's site from all of the offline and online acquisition efforts. It is at
the core of most of our clients' digital strategies."
Tips for Retargeting
As mentioned above, while retargeting is highly effective, there are still some challenges related to scalability since the overall effectiveness of retargeting is related to the ability to have a sufficient target audience. According to Lee, "Often our
clients would do more retargeting, but the 'offering pool' is finite by definition. With a strong multichannel marketing strategy, however, a larger potential audience can be identified through direct mail, email, social media, advertising and other forms
As with any marketing strategy, there are certain guidelines that can improve results. Here are some tips provided by Lloyd Lee at New Control for success.
- Develop Relevant Audiences: Understand the needs of your customers and places they go to satisfy those needs. Remember that the power of retargeting can create challenges if poor assumptions are made (my examples above). Also, don't take unwarranted
liberties. If a customer or prospect has abandoned a loan product page, don't retarget for a checking account. In addition, be careful about retargeting a prospect that has become a customer unless it is for an ancillary, related product.
- Creative is Key: Retargeting success is dependent on good copy and design. Clarity of why the prospect should respond and how to respond is the foundation. You only have a split second to get your prospect's attention and have them take action so
make sure the viewer knows what they should do and why. With retargeting, less is usually more.
- K.I.S.S.: Make it easy for your prospect to get what they are looking for. If a prospect responds to a retargeted ad, get them to their desired destination with a single click. If they need to navigate through more than one page to apply for a loan
or open an account, they will most likely move on. In addition, if you don't have a way for the prospect to make a purchase or open their account online, you may lose a customer.
- Test, Test, Test: As with any direct marketing initiative, testing (and measuring results) is the key to success. Test ad sizes and creative (including visuals, offers, etc.). Test audience selection and networks that you will use for retargeting.
Similar to credit bureaus, not all networks are alike. Finally, test frequency and cadence of communication to understand how often you should reach out to a specific prospect and how soon. Not all products or prospects are alike due to the purchasing process
and where the prospect is in the purchase funnel.
Challenges for Banks
While later to the game than most industries, the larger and mid-sized banks are enjoying the benefits of this digital strategy. Smaller organizations are also starting to test the waters due to the potential for results at a time when budgets are tight.
But there are still some challenges.
According to Lee, the most significant challenge is usually around culture and anxiety related to privacy perceptions. "While some of our clients have some IT queue challenges, the biggest hurdle usually comes from legal, compliance and around privacy concerns.
With such a powerful tool that utilizes insight collected from so many digital sources, some organizations are wary of negative feedback from prospects and customers. Our experience, however, is that these are concerns that are eventually alleviated through
careful targeting, messaging and careful digital strategy development."
2013 Planning Strategy
If you are unsure of whether you should include retargeting in your 2013 marketing plan, simply look at the number of visitors to your site that leave before opening an account, applying for a loan, activating an online banking account or responding to an
email or web banner.
Worse yet, look at the number of potential customers that abandon their financial 'shopping cart' before completing an online account opening form or credit application. These are people who have been compelled to visit your site and begin the purchase process,
and have either gotten cold feet or decided that the number of hurdles you have placed in front of them are too severe. It's as if a person sat down at your new account desk and left midway through the account opening.
"The Future is Now" - Search retargeting white paper from Magnetic (2011)
"When Money Moves to Digital, Where Should it Go?" - Research from comScore (2010)
"Retargeting Exposed: Not Another Whitepaper About Retargeting" - 4 white papers from Chango (2012)