The practice of retargeting is commonly used in online marketing to:
- “Rescue” customers who abandoned the checkout process, bringing them back to the site
- Remind customers your company exists and has the products they’re looking for
- Strategically upsell or cross market related products
- Encourage website visitors to like/follow the company on social media, request content, etc.
While retargeting campaigns should be tested and experimented with (every site is different), it’s generally effective and profitable to implement a retargeting campaign on most parts ecommerce sites. Here’s an overview of how retargeting works, as well as some suggestions for campaigns to test.
First, How Does Retargeting Work?
Retargeting (aka remarketing) uses one of two methods to track and then serve ads to a specific group of people:
- Pixel/Cookie Based Tracking
- Customer ID Based Tracking
Mechanism number one – known as cookie or pixel based tracking – is the most common. A person visits your website, a cookie is placed on their computer, and then they are served ads as they travel around the web. The are some specific pros and cons to pixel-based tracking.
On the “pro” side, tracking pixels are easy to implement, not terribly invasive, and well supported by ad networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, etc. But the cons are substantial:
- Users who habitually clear their cookies can not be served ads for very long (web browsers can be configured to automatically delete cookies every time they close), which means your pixel-based remarketing/retargeting ads won’t have 100% coverage.
Finally, all methods of retargeting have minimum audience size requirements. This means that it’s difficult to build up audiences that are hyper-targeted, at least if you’re a smaller retailer. In order to create a remarketing/retargeting audience on Google’s ad network, for example, you need 500+ visits to a specific page to target that group specifically. If you want to use Facebook’s Custom Audience system (or Twitter’s system), you need 5,000+ unique customer IDs or website visits to create an audience.
Pixel-Based Retargeting Campaigns You Can Test
Using the Google display network, Facebook, or Twitter (to name the three easiest platforms), you can try any of the following retargeting campaigns to see how they perform:
1. Target anyone who visited a sales page and/or the shopping cart, but who didn’t actually buy.
This targets so-called “high intent” website visitors, and it’s generally effective for ecommerce retailers. You can try offering this audience a special incentive to return to the site (like a discount or freebie), but you want to be careful doing this…offering a group that didn’t buy from you a better price than the group that bought immediately is a formula for a customer service complaint. Instead, test reinforcing you’re strongest calls to action or key differentiators.
2. Promote your best content to all site visitors.
Retargeting is typically used to encourage sales, but you can also use it to drive traffic to your site and get people engaged with your brand’s best content. You can launch a campaign that promotes a high quality piece of content on your website, the hope being that you’ll build some trust with the consumer and facilitate a sale later.
3. Remarket around sales and events.
Time is always of the essence in marketing, and running retargeting campaigns around sales or notable events is a good way to drive home the urgency or the upcoming deadline. This is great for holidays, eg “Only 10 shopping days left until Mother’s Day!” as well as for sales, eg “Our semi-annual sale ends in less than 72 hours!” Just be sure your creative reflects the sale/event and urgency.
4. Remarket just to grab data about your customer base.
Curious about which websites your customers like to visit when they’re just browsing? A retargeting campaign with an aggressive CPM bid can tell you what news sites your customers prefer, what auto forums they frequent, which automotive blogs they’re most likely to read, etc. etc. While the data you gather usually isn’t revolutionary, it will occasionally alert you to an affordable advertising opportunity, as well as inform your understanding of your demographics. Speaking of demographics, Facebook custom audience insights are tremendously informative. Even if you have no plans to advertise on Facebook, take the time to setup a remarketing audience so you can view FB’s demographic reports and ‘insights.’
Campaign Ideas For List-Based Retargeting
Again, in order to retarget/remarket based on a list of specific individuals, you need their Facebook ID, their email address, or some other unique identifier. This means you’re probably going to remarket to lists of former customers, prospects, newsletter subscribers, etc.
1. Run an unannounced “loyal customer” sale.
If you have a list of previous customers, one of the easiest ways you can extract a few more dollars from them is to run a “customer loyalty” sale. Just don’t announce it to the general public, and be sure to set a short time limit on the sale (3-7 days).
2. Encourage previous customers to follow your company on social media.
Inviting your previous customers to like your Facebook page is a very smart idea, as it gives you one more channel to market to them.
3. Cross Promote.
It’s relatively easy to trade customer lists with companies in the same industry but different niches, and doing so strictly for the purposes of remarketing makes a lot of sense. It’s not invasive, and if it’s done carefully or strategically it will be a value add for consumers. The hard part is finding a company that sells products that compliment your own, and then getting them to trust you enough to let you market to their customers (and vice versa). Still, it’s smart.
Finally, if you’re thinking about scraping or buying customer data (say, for example, buying a list of email addresses or scraping Facebook user IDs using any number of available tools) to use for a remarketing campaign, understand that you’re taking a risk. If Google*, Facebook, or Twitter find out you’re using data you didn’t acquire legitimately to target your campaign, they will pull the plug on your campaigns and likely shut down your account.
*It’s likely that Google will roll out list-based remarketing very soon, so stay tuned for that announcement from AdWords when it comes.
Retargeting Best Practices
Last but not least, some suggestions for ensuring success:
Don’t target people indefinitely.
Your retargeting campaigns should target a single customer for as long as it makes sense to do so, and not one day longer. If you find, for example, that 95% of your retargeted customers buy within 7 days, than set your list to expire at 7-10 days. There’s not much point in going longer, at least not if you’re focused on increasing sales.
Don’t go crazy with frequency.
Most retargeting systems allow you to set a daily frequency limit, meaning that your ads will only be visible X number of times per person per day. We suggest you set this at 1 or 2 impressions per person per day – go any higher, and you risk getting angry emails from users who fear you’re “tracking” them…not to mention, the effectiveness drops when you keep showing your ads again and again.
Test including or excluding various types of users.
If you break out your retargeting audience by product interest, for example, you may find that retargeting people who are interested in product “X” isn’t as effective as retargeting people interested in product “Y.” You can also test breaking out your audience by browser type, device type, and time of day to see how effective retargeting is on each group.
Mix up the creative.
can’t use the same retargeting banners or text ads month after month, year after year. Test different creative all the time. Remember your ABTs…Always Be Testing!
Don’t just focus on last click attribution.
This is a separate article, but don’t judge the effectiveness of your remarketing campaign on last click attribution only. It’s a good idea to study position-based or linear attribution models when evaluating remarketing campaigns, as they often drive conversions that end up getting measured as “direct” or “brand” using last click attribution only.
Good luck! If you want some professional help setting up a retargeting campaign, be sure to contact us.