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Retargeting May Work, but Pretargeting May Work Better

By Erika Morphy
Dec 18, 2014 6:50 PM PT

The practice of repeatedly serving up ads for products consumers previously viewed or asked about -- called "retargeting" -- not only works, but works so well that its use is spreading beyond simple marketing. So says a recent survey of marketers conducted by Adroll, which provides this type of ad technology. The company released the results this week.

Retargeting May Work, but Pretargeting May Work Better

Respondents were prompted to compare retargeting to other forms of online marketing. Without exception, retargeting vastly outperformed the other formats.

Ninety-two percent of the marketers polled said that retargeting performed equal to or better than search. Ninety-one percent said it was equal to or better than email, and 92 percent said it was equal to or better than other types of display ads.

Retargeting works well across a variety of channels and devices, based on the survey. Some 54 percent of respondents, for example, said they were retargeting on mobile devices.

Not Just for Marketing Anymore

Perhaps the most noteworthy finding was the ad technology's expansion beyond marketing. Seventy percent of marketers used retargeting for brand awareness, 60 percent used it for social engagement, and 58 percent for customer retention.

"Marketers are recognizing the value of their customer data and the power it can have in influencing their programmatic advertising campaigns," says the report. "They are now looking at how to use this data to drive performance across an array of use cases and throughout the conversion funnel."

One discouraging note from the survey: While 91 percent of marketers considered attribution important or critical to success, one in three weren't clear about how to track it.

Presumably Adroll can help with that, although the firm took pains to keep the findings scrupulously free of bias. Still, it makes sense to scrutinize the findings, given Adroll's interests. Is retargeting the wunder-tech the report makes it out to be?

Best Kept Secret?

There is something to retargeting, said Craig Palli, chief strategy officer at Fiksu.

"Retargeting is mobile's best kept secret. Our data shows that retargeting is not only cost-effective, but is key to maximizing the ROI of mobile marketing campaigns," he told CRM Buyer.

"For one mobile game company Fiksu worked with, retargeting resulted in a 112 percent increase in purchasers, returning (US)$4 for every $1 invested, Palli noted.

Plus, its use is expanding.

"Retargeting is still a great way to prevent app abandonment and re-engage lapsed users, but it's also a great way to drive incremental actions such as registrations or purchases, promote new features or products, and take advantage of seasonal events," Palli pointed out.

The Trouble with Retargeting

Everyone doesn't share the same enthusiasm for retargeting.

It is not a marketing cure-all, and in some circumstances, it could be detrimental to a brand, Fordham University marketing professor Dawn Lerman told CRM Buyer.

"Consider a person who jumps online to get some information but perhaps had no intention of buying," she said. "Or perhaps that person didn't find exactly what he was looking for and moved on. That person then keeps seeing ads for that product or service he didn't buy. This can become annoying and translate into negative associations to the brand."

Some of these issues may resolve themselves as marketers turn their attention away from retargeting and toward pretargeting. That trend is just beginning to emerge, but the payoff for brands will be worth it, suggested Ensighten CEO Josh Manion.

"Pretargeting is more difficult, as actual customer behavioral data with the brand is limited or nonexistent," he acknowledged. Also, "it can be expensive, as conversion rates tend to be very low."

Still, it may be worth the investment, according to Manion. "These programs often translate into more successful customer acquisition and long-term customers."


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.


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