Allen Edmonds, an upscale manufacturer and retailer of men’s dress shoes based in Wisconsin, said that three years ago, customers were “spooked” by retargeted ads. Some even contacted its call center with the complaint that ads that were “following” them around the web.
More to the point, the brand eventually concluded retargeted ads were getting credit for conversions out of proportion to their real contribution.
“One of the lessons we learned last year was that we probably put too much emphasis on retargeting as a driver of incremental return,” said Colin Hall, the brand’s CMO. “We realized we had to put more controls in place so that if a guy came to our site and made a purchase, we weren’t inefficiently retargeting him.”
Historically, many retargeting programs haven’t reflected true consumer intent. Even if a consumer visits a site, adds an item to a shopping cart or bookmarks a page, it doesn’t always mean they’re ready to buy.
Intent will only come with more data, fueled in part by more robust methods of data capture. These may include custom microsites, product splash pages or in-app interactions, said Paul Mandeville, chief product officer at marketing technology company QuickPivot.
As was the case historically, when a consumer arrived at a website, most commonly a travel or retail site, they would be dropped into a cookie pool.
An advertiser could then trigger ads across the web, mostly in the context of banner display, for a certain volume of impressions or period of time after that initial site visit.
But because marketers’ earliest data management practices mostly relied on a single silo of web data, too often the result was an oversaturation of ads for products someone already bought.
And as more consumers started to shop on their smartphones or bounced between devices, that led to even more disruption in tracking capabilities.
Criteo, one of the earliest companies to specialize in display retargeting and performance marketing, reported that mobile ads accounted for close to 50% of its revenue ex-TAC in the month of December during last quarter’s earnings.
And, in addition to mobile, in-feed social ads are taking off. Criteo has rolled out Dynamic Product Ads on Facebook to more than 3,000 clients.
“Are there more upper-funnel opportunities for us at some point?” said Eric Eichmann, CEO of Criteo. “Probably. Very few retailers [in the US] have ecommerce apps, but when that happens I think people will pursue more [cross-channel retargeting] campaigns.”
In preparation for that shift, a number of companies like Criteo and AdRoll, which focused squarely on retargeting, have developed cross-device matching and prospecting tools to give marketers a more full-funnel view into conversions beyond the last click.
“We’ve kind of grown out of that whole mindset of, ‘They looked at something on my website. Let’s show them the product on other websites,’” said AdRoll President Adam Berke. “Now it’s, ‘We have a really valuable data set. What are all of the different ways we can use it?’”
Some examples are triggered emails or identifying win-back opportunities for lapsed customers. AdRoll also launched a prospecting initiative called IntentMap, which lets joint AdRoll customers opt into a data co-op to take advantage of the network effect of their respective data sets.
Each vendor has a different approach to dynamic retargeting. Criteo’s Universal Match, for instance, assigns a nonidentifiable key to a consumer profile, which can link shopping behaviors across that user’s browser, apps and Facebook.
But in the case of Sociomantic, data-sharing arrangements are less of a focus for the company than to other DSPs because dunnhumby gives it “tremendous” access to data that powers its buying, Reinhold noted, as well as integrations to other transactional platforms like Revenue Management Systems.
“CRM-driven retargeting is where we will see the most innovation in the years to come,” Reinhold added. He predicted vendors will segment new and existing customers based on their potential lifetime value or other CRM or offline data points, rather than website behaviors.
The technology environment seemingly supports this shift. In early-stage retargeting, the convergence of ad and marketing tech was still a pipe dream. CRM didn’t talk to data management systems, at least in the context of media execution, and deterministic identifiers were mere future speak.
But the evolution of Facebook Custom Audiences (followed by Google Customer Match) also connected marketers’ CRM systems and email lists with the big consumer platform companies by allowing marketers to serve ads to known customers and expand audiences.
“The most important thing is learning how our digital spend impacts offline consumer habits,” said Allen Edmonds’ Hall. “That, in turn, can lead to smarter digital investments for us.”