What is Retargeting and What can it do for You?

Image courtesy of Chris Lyn at Flickr.com

What is retargeting? We could define it as those ads that follow you when you’ve been looking for something on the Internet. It may not be the most elegant or exact way to explain it, so let’s take a look at a more detailed approach to this topic.

What is retargeting? A definition

Most of you may already have a general idea of what retargeting means, but let’s give a more complete definition than the one we just saw.

Retargeting or remarketing is a digital marketing technique that consists in displaying ads to users who have previously interacted with us. This can mean a visit to our website, opening an email message or simply clicking on one of our links somewhere in cyberspace, for instance in a forum.

The concept of retargeting is quite broad, changing and each time more complex. However, most of the definitions that you will find online refer exclusively to site retargeting. To avoid that mistake, here is a much more technical and precise definition of retargeting, according to IAB:

“The use of a pixel tag or other code to enable a third-party to recognize particular users outside of the domain from which the activity was collected.”

What’s the difference between retargeting and remarketing?

Since we’re talking about definitions, we must say that there is no difference between retargeting and remarketing. The only thing that needs to be explained is that Google calls it “remarketing” and the rest of the world uses the word “retargeting”.

What is retargeting good for?

It’s been said many times, but the most attractive thing about retargeting is that it allows to attempt to recover 98% of users who leave without a conversion or a purchase. We intentionally use the word “attempt” because the difficulty of a good retargeting resides in its capacity to extract the greatest possible percentage of all of those users. It could be 0.1% or maybe a 4%, -which would mean triplicating the sales- therefore if there’s something more important than doing retargeting is doing it right. But what else can retargeting do for us?

  • A return on investment in advertising of up to 300%
  • A very specific branding without spending lots of money
  • Reinforcement in the entire marketing funnel -brand awareness, leads, sales, loyalty…-

Let’s go deeper in this last point. Even though retargeting is always seen as a performance-oriented technique, which is obtaining a direct conversion, we cannot forget its contribution at all times.

1. Brand awareness. Let’s think that most users who look for something open lots of websites and only look at the information without caring about the brand behind it. Retargeting gives us the chance to impact the user during his purchase cycle so that when he is ready to buy he will keep us in his mind.

2. Consideration. Besides generating conversion, retargeting is a good assistant for the consideration of purchasing our product, not just of the brand. This is especially true in long purchase cycles.

3. Conversion. This is the strongest point of retargeting. Many times we get a lead, or we close a sale thanks to an offer expressly designed for this channel. A typical case is the rescue of abandoned shopping carts in eCommerce.

4. Loyalty. We can sell complementary products, encourage the return of customers or even reinforce the effect of our newsletters with email retargeting.

5. Advocacy. Retargeting and social media can be used to display relevant and viral content to our users in a medium where it’s much more likely for them to share and spread our message. It’s quite uncommon to do so, but it’s perfectly plausible and each time more common among big brands.

Image courtesy of opacity at Flickr.com

How does retargeting work?

Now that we know what retargeting is, it’s time to take a closer look at how it works. It basically works with the well-known cookies, defined by Wikipedia as follows:

“(A cookie) is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in the user’s web browser while the user is browsing.”

It’s very important for us to understand the implications of the fact that cookies are stored in the browser.

If the user browses in incognito mode or private mode, the cookies will not be saved.

  • Using several browsers means having several different cookies
  • If the cookies are erased or deactivated, we will lose that user
  • Mobile cookies won’t be present on a desktop device and vice versa
  • Retargeting cannot be done this way in apps, since they aren’t browsers
  • Mail client such as Outlook don’t save cookies, which is why email retargeting only works with web-based mail services such as Gmail or Hotmail.

In spite of all these limitations, retargeting has a much broader reach than we can possibly imagine. However, there are many companies, especially belonging to the Big Data branch, that are working to offer solutions that don’t rely so heavily on cookies. The intention is to improve Multi-Device advertisement in the short-term in computers, phones and tablets.