Ever been on a website and seen an advert for an unrelated product that you looked at online previously? That’s Ad Retargeting and as a smart digital marketing method, it forms an effective way to target potential customers who have already shown an interest in a brand, project or service. 

As a marketing tool, Ad Retargeting can be hugely beneficial to those selling online or looking to draw consumers onto their website; after all, it’s believed that up to 97% of website users leave without completing a purchase or converting to a desired action. But Ad Retargeting needs to be managed well and balanced with more traditional ‘cold’ ad campaigns in order to reach its full potential. How? Let Skein explain…

What is Ad Retargeting and How Does It Work?

Ad Retargeting is an automated paid-for ad campaign tool that specifically targets users who have visited a website but not completed a specified action – usually those who have browsed online items or added them to their ‘basket’ but not completed checkout to finalise the purchase. After visiting specific pages on a website, the user can be retargeted with relevant visual or text adverts after they leave the site, essentially following them elsewhere on their internet journey to remind them of the site they visited previously. 

Retargeting ads are placed on banner and display adverts through Google Display Network Ads, Facebook Retargeting, LinkedIn Ads or other specific retargeting platforms. It works through sourcing information on users to then present them with an appropriate advert elsewhere in an automated process.

The primary source of user information is gleaned from the user’s digital footprint on the specified website. This constructs a user profile to calculate their interest in potential relevant ads; for example, which product pages they spend time browsing or what price point they’re looking at. Further data can be input from the referring site (the site or page the user was visiting before this one), their overall journey through the website (UX, user experience), search queries made, contextual and thematic preferences to specific topics and pages, content interactions, demographic information, device details, interaction with other ads and transitions off of the site.

Once the data has been collated by the ad system, it can then assign a relevant ad format to display next time the user visits somewhere with display or banner space available to populate. The most common example of this is where a consumer adds an item in an online shop to their basket but then doesn’t complete the purchase – and find the product is then presented to them on banner ads later on.

To increase the effectiveness of the retargeted ads being displayed, cooking syncing is used. This assigns a cookie (where an internet user has agreed to their use) to identify a user through their point of entry and exit on a website and then through subsequent visits to other domains online. The cookie is stored in the retargeting service domain and an ad request is made when they present at another site with display or banner ad space available.

Although the use of cookies is less prevalent and more prominent than it was previously thanks to new data regulations, the more data and browsing behaviour a targeting service is able to obtain, the better the relevance of the ads – and so the more likely the ad is to convert the user to the desired action. User browsing and personal data does not just inform what products, services or brands are displayed through Ad Retargeting, but can also influence where they are displayed, how they are displayed and what they look like. 

Another cookie-type targeting tool is the Burn Pixel. A type of tracking pixel, a Burn Pixel continues to flag when a user visits another site with available ad space but also tracks how often they are being presented with retargeted ads – and if they convert as a result of them. This allows for a user to be ‘un-tagged’ and tracked if they either see the ads a set amount of times or if they convert and so no longer require such ads displayed.

The Stats: Higher Conversions, Lower Spend, Increased Awareness

The statistics around Ad Retargeting prove that it can be a hugely beneficial marketing tool to those implementing it properly. Email marketing service provider MailChimp found that 97% of website users click away from a site never to return; so it’s clear that marketers have their work cut out. Ad Retargeting directly targets those users and so this approach is what reaps benefits.

The conversion rates achieved through comprehensive and proper Ad Retargeting are impressive. MotoCMS found that cart abandonment rates for online retailers could be reduced by 6.5% and online sales value increased by 20% as a result of retargeting previously ‘lost’ customers. Furthermore, ReadyCloud report increased web traffic of a staggering 700% through Ad Retargeting and SocialMediaToday found that 17.5% of apps running retargeted campaigns see a 25% increase in conversion rates.

Research carried out by SmartyAds found that marketers frequently use Ad Retargeting as a brand awareness tool as well as an opportunity for lead conversion. 70% of their clients choose retargeted ads as a brand awareness method and 60% for increased audience engagements. 68% of marketers surveyed believed Ad Retargeting was such an important tool that they had a specific budget ringfenced for it.

It is a well-acknowledged fact in marketing that it costs some five times more to recruit new customers than to retain existing ones; highlighting the importance in financial terms of targeting those who already have an interest in the product, service or brand rather than those who have never heard of it before. 

Targeting ‘Warm’ Customers

Ad Retargeting is considered so successful because of its data-driven approach. The customers being presented with such ads have already expressed an interest in the product, service or brand being marketed to them. 

Known as ‘warm’ customers, the targets of the ads can be considered leads for conversion – and so are much more likely to convert than if they were approached ‘cold’. Cold users are those who haven’t heard of a product, service or brand before and so are likely to require significant further nurturing before they make a purchase or complete a conversion. Warm users can be converted through to ‘hot’ users once they have made a purchase to become a repeat, and hopefully long-term loyal, customer.

Audience Profiling

The data used by automated retargeting services provides audience information in order to correctly present relevant adverts but ideally, audiences should be segmented and profiled as heavily as possible in order to assert pertinence. This avoids applying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ retargeting approach to all users that may not achieve maximum success.

Exactly how audiences can be profiled and segmented depends on the retargeting service being used, but there are plenty of ways to do this both manually and through automated means. 

Audiences can be retargeted with ads across various channels but the focus should always be on their behaviour rather than their channels; businesses are looking to sell to people, not channels. Varying demographics are likely to behave in varying ways but where demographic data is not forthcoming, user behaviour is better and easier to monitor and adapt to. This may include specific targeting for users who browse a website and then go on to competitors’ domains or to make search queries in regards to competitors; the targeting of specific life events with relevant content; or even the creation of storytelling in a series of Ad Retargeting campaigns for those who are more likely to require further nurturing before conversion. 

Relevancy and Frequency

The internet is full of adverts and for the most part, they really need to stand out in order to receive an experienced web user’s attention. With Ad Retargeting, a careful balance must be drawn between both the relevancy and frequency of the displayed adverts in order not to draw negative attention from the user.

Adequate relevancy can only be achieved when user data segmentation works within clearly defined parameters and is assigned accurately. Assuming that all users will interact with ads in the same way is a common mistake amongst advertisers and rarely yields much further than declining interest. Audience profiling and the automated use of behavioural data correctly is critical – and so the usage of such information should always be monitored and tracked in its processing by an expert in order to ensure its accuracy and efficiency. It is not enough to simply ‘leave it to the algorithm’! 

The frequency of adverts can also have a large impact on consumers’ behaviour toward them and this too can present a challenge. A cleverly created advert should stick out amongst other content to draw user attention but if it is too frequent, it may annoy and distract; effecting negative associations with its repeated presence. Similarly, if an ad is not presented frequently enough, the product, service or brand may be forgotten and so its aims entirely undermined. Advertisers must, therefore, ensure that their Ad Retargeting is presented often enough to be well-remembered (and in a positive manner) but not enough to be considered annoying. The sweet spot between the two is not always easily identified but finding it is required for an Ad Retargeting campaign’s success.

A/B Creative Testing

Retargeted ads are often very simple in their aesthetics but this isn’t to say the minimalist approach always works best – or that it achieves any more than something more eye-catching. Marketers can use A/B testing to find consumer preference in creative styles and designs, branding, and even placement.

A/B creative testing should vary at each stage of a user’s ‘warmth’ and awareness of the brand but also based on channel, behaviour and demographic. It is not recommended that A/B testing is carried out without the input of a specialist who will be able to best ensure trials still result in conversion and do not derail the initial marketing effort.

Where to lead Ad Retargeting traffic to

If a user is to click on a retargeted advert, there are three options for which they can be sent. The first is back, to the page on which they spent time before but didn’t convert. This works well for where a user has been distracted or just requires a further gentle reminder in order for them to convert. The second option is to send the traffic forward, which leads the user to the next step in the marketing funnel in order to help promote conversion. For example, if a user had previously visited a sales page but had failed to engage as desired (hence the need for retargeting), clicking through on a retargeted ad can instead take them to an order page; hastening their user journey and removing a required step for them to take. Leading traffic forward can be hugely beneficial but is not common. The final option is to send traffic across; presenting users with a relevant equivalent offer, product or service in which they may find interest if it was not significant enough in the first.

There are several common strategies toward using all three traffic tactics in a full Ad Retargeting campaigns, but the most popular is known as the 7-7-7 rule. This sees businesses send prospects back for 7 days, followed by forward for 7 days and then across for 7 days. If no action has been taken, it is usually then accepted that the potential for successful Ad Retargeting has passed and the user should instead be referred back to an initial nurture sequence as required for a ‘cold’ audience.

Ad Retargeting is an art and when executed correctly, can be brilliant – but as with art, it can be complex. Skein have a team of on-hand experts in Ad Retargeting who can work with businesses of all shapes, sizes and types to excel at these clever campaigns… just get in touch to lean more about how it could work for you!