Retargeting Revisited: Breathing New Life Into A Tried Tactic

Marketer’s Note” is a regular column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. This week it is written by Lizzie Komar, Associate Analyst, AdExchanger Research.  

When I recently kicked off a new research project about retargeting, many of the people I reached out to for interviews – marketers, agencies, and technology service providers – were skeptical that there’s anything new to say on the topic.

The consensus seems to be that retargeting works “well enough.” Combine that with nearly universal use and assumed mastery and you’ll find that few people think there’s any reason to revisit their strategies. In fact, one marketer told me, “Of course we spend dollars in retargeting, but our agency runs it all, we only see results, and we haven’t tweaked our retargeting playbook in about three years.”

This decided lack of innovation was palpable during some of my conversations with agencies, too. Marketing’s sexiest tactic of 2011 remains very much the same today as it was then. The proverbial pants still stalk us across the Internet (perhaps even after a purchase has been made). But whatever, it works well enough … right?

I’m not the only one running up against this attitude. In a survey of 449 brand marketers and agencies conducted by Chango, 88% of the respondents said they employ desktop site retargeting; but for more emerging strategies such as “creative retargeting” – retargeting to consumers who have interacted with your company’s creative – the percentages plummeted to 30%. Considering the premium placed on providing useful content and creative tailored to users, that only 30% of marketers are using creative retargeting is a missed opportunity.

Retargeting Revisited: Breathing New Life Into A Tried Tactic

Retargeting today can and should be so much more than the site visit + cookie drop + banner ad from days of yore. There is no excuse for marketers and their agencies to rest on their remarketing laurels.

Laugh if you must, but this is an exciting time for retargeting. Why? First, marketers have begun to claim ownership of their data and acknowledge it as the invaluable targeting resource it is. Second, marketers are increasingly adopting data-management platforms, which helps them build granular profiles on individual users and reach them across the Internet. In addition to the scores of activated data and audience profiles, automated decisioning technologies facilitate user-focused communication across multiple channels.

Third, new ad formats and innovations to ad creative (such as sponsored native content and in-ad commerce experiences) offer marketers the ability to retarget ads that are more engaging and actionable. And, most importantly, the technology providers’ arms race to master cross-device targeting has yielded more sophisticated user-centric retargeting opportunities than ever before.

It’s time to dust off our retargeting playbooks and add some blank pages. Just because a tactic works doesn’t mean it can’t work better. Innovating your retargeting practice today will help suss out the people, process and technological requirements for advertising’s manifest destiny – relevancy and utility wherever a consumer is.

Follow Lizzie Komar (@LizzieKomar) and AdExchanger Research (AdExchangerRsch) on Twitter. 

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  1. I agree that more sophistication is needed on current retargeting plans. All vendors aren’t equal, especially regarding universal profiles & measurement cross-device. However, fair warning about creative retargeting – this can be looked down upon from the publisher perspective as a pixel is firing on THEIR inventory, essentially stealing THEIR audience. Proceed with caution!

  2. Shailin Dhar

    I completely agree that the umbrella re-targeting plan needs to be scrapped and more intricate strategies should be in place to really make it worthwhile for marketers.
    One thing I’d like to see more of is have different creatives/campaigns for different stages of the cookie’s like. For example:
    If a user is looking at a specific Nike Running shoe, they should be retargeted with images of that specific shoe. Maybe after 15 days of the cookie’s life, retarget the use with a creative of the same shoe with FREE SHIPPING or 5% OFF.
    Closing the sale is the goal, and no point spending money buying users eyeballs if you’re not putting some effort into closing the sale.

  3. Connect the retargeting cookie to the advertisers first party CRM data so you know if the purchase has been made and then target cross items that go with the recent purchase.

  4. here: The fact that you can engage a web user with a tagtered display ad almost immediately after they’ve performed a search is behavioral targeting through display at its best. Couldn’t agree more when done correctly, search retargeting has awesome power. Users are literally handing you their personal thoughts, intentions, interests and more in a search box. It doesn’t get better than that. Which almost allows us to become mind readers of sorts, insert quote here: You can read minds? Thanks again!Katie