By Caitlin Brennan

February 17th, 2017

You know the feeling after you notice something for the first time and it seems to follow you everywhere? Maybe you discovered a new brand of shoes you’re considering buying and now it appears on every foot you see on the street. You may be experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or frequency illusion. When you learn something new, that information stays at the forefront of your mind and therefore stands out amid everything else in your brain.

Alternatively, you may just be in the sights of a retargeting campaign. It’s not a secret that some of the actions we take online are tracked by marketers. If someone visits a website to look at a pair of shoes, that information can be logged and a list generated. A list of people interested in an imminent shoe purchase is pretty much the most valuable information a shoe brand could want. Using that list to find those users elsewhere is retargeting in a nutshell.

How it works and why you need it:
Retargeting uses cookies to track website visitors across the web after they leave a site. Your chances of reaching and converting a relevant prospect are much higher than placing an ad to a larger, more broadly targeted audience. Social networks like Facebook and advertising networks like Google AdWords allow you to plug in retargeting data, which the network matches to its own user list. You then choose ads and other messaging to go directly to the exact individuals who visited your site.

The benefits of retargeting are obvious. You can skip directly to the most motivated people without having to make guesses based on broad demographic information. You also avoid spending money advertising to people who may like products or services similar to yours but are not interested in making a purchase or switch. Retargeting campaigns are a tool in the advertiser’s arsenal to improve ROI and increase conversions.

As if that were not enough, it gets even better. Take that retargeting list and use it to generate a lookalike audience. That lookalike audience will share salient similarities with your proven interested retargeting audience, except they haven’t been on your site yet (or have cookies turned off), which makes them perhaps even more valuable as marketing targets.

Facebook:
Facebook recently enhanced the power of dynamic ads by allowing advertisers to target a larger pool of users based on their web actions. As Laura Johnson explained the development in Adweek, “Someone who has been looking for red dresses across multiple retailers and also likes Facebook posts and pages about dresses could automatically be served an ad for a red dress.”

Facebook gets this information through its Facebook pixel, which is already installed on most websites. To decide who sees your ads, Facebook analyzes a user’s online behavior; for example, a user looking at your competitor’s website. Besides retargeting users who could potentially be your customers, you can also expand that audience based on their interests and browsing behaviors – growing your impact and ROI accordingly.

Digging deeper into the powers of the pixel, you can create a custom audience of users who abandoned a product in their shopping cart. According to the Baymard Institute, 69.23% of online shopping carts are abandoned. You can also pick people who only looked at items. The permutations on your segmentations are endless. You can also upload lists from elsewhere, such as your mailing list. This too is a form of retargeting, albeit a little more manual. Think of the A/B testing possibilities!

Speaking of segmentation and testing, Facebook allows ad buyers to narrow who sees an ad by adding URL keywords. This method avoids targeting everyone who visited your site. This is great if you have a range of products that you might want to present separately. For example, users shopping for men’s shoes probably do not need to see advertisements for women’s shoes.

Twitter:
Engager Targeting is Twitter’s version of retargeting with an added dimension. This feature allows for targeting of users who have viewed or engaged with your organic or promoted tweets. Audiences of people who engaged with or saw your Tweets are automatically built for your customized targeting. The big difference between Facebook retargeting and Twitter’s service is that Twitter is not taking data from off-platform.

Engager Targeting adds an interesting twist to standard retargeting as it allows advertisers to reach audiences already interested in your brand without using first party data. That’s advantageous as first party data –such as website visits and email addresses – limits reach making it hard to scale. Engager Targeting is scalable and easy to execute and allows content tailoring.

Use Engager Targeting to market events such as conferences and webinars. Event marketing provides an opportunity to engage attendees and non-attendees before, during and after the actual event. Twitter recommends starting 30 days ahead. The 30 days following provide an equal opportunity for continuous engagement using engager tweets. These could showcase highlights, content or experiences from the day. Think of it as a hashtag with staying power.

Conclusion:
Given a better understanding of retargeting, you may start to see it everywhere. There’s no better way to put this: it can get creepy. Sure, there is no person on the other end hunched over the screen watching you move from one site to another. But it sure can feel that way sometimes. You can mitigate the “creep factor” by staying relevant and providing valuable content where appropriate. “Come on back, we miss you!” – type messages are distinctly off-putting. There is no need to get “too personal.

Retargeting is one of the most powerful tools available today to target only the most qualified sales leads with exactly the right messages. The additional motivation and information they need to go from looky-loos to satisfied customers is minimal compared to the larger market. Every major social platform offers this service. Savvy marketers are taking advantage.

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