Converting Casual Holiday Shoppers Into Brand Loyalists

In life and in business, the old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” fundamentally could apply to everything — except when it comes to display advertising. Remarketing has disproved that old adage time and time again by affording just that: a second chance to reinforce one’s messages and value proposition after that critical first impression.

Perhaps that’s why more and more retailers are going nuts for remarketing around the holiday season. Savvy marketers know that dollar for dollar, nothing beats the performance that remarketing delivers. And with retailers so focused on KPIs like ROAS, cost vs. revenue, and CPA, remarketing plays a critical role in driving sales and increasing revenue during the make-or-break holiday shopping season.

To borrow a phrase from the beloved Billy Mays, “This stuff really works!” Overall, retailers are experiencing higher returns on their display marketing campaigns when they use remarketing.

That’s because today’s technologies enable the ability to gauge the customer’s purchase intent by analyzing certain behaviors — a critical component of being able to serve the right ad to the right audience at the right time.

Stronger Brand Awareness

Criteria such as recency and frequency of visits, time spent on a page, clicks, product pages visited, click path behavior and other factors can be analyzed to determine where the user is in the purchasing funnel. Armed with this info, retailers can decide how many times to repeat message and deliver customized ads or offers across multiple channels based on the visitor’s propensity to buy.

An added benefit of remarketing is building stronger brand awareness and customer loyalty. Remarketing allows retailers to continue a direct dialogue with customers you already know are interested in your offerings — even when they are away from your site. The incremental cost for layering on remarketing more than pays for itself in terms of increased brand awareness and campaign effectiveness.

So, the business case for remarketing is pretty clear but, as with everything in business, there are always a few bumps on the road to progress.

The biggest obstacle isn’t performance — on the contrary, retailers love the ROAS multiples they experience. Rather, the biggest obstacle is lack of foresight when developing marketing and media plans for the year and failure to earmark enough budget for year-end remarketing efforts.

Think Beyond the Click

Generally speaking, display advertising already gets the short end of the stick, compared to print, broadcast and even other digital channels, and most remarketing spend comes from this line item. Marketers often say they wish they had more resources to dedicate toward remarketing. My answer to them: Start planning for next year now.

Another barrier is part technical and part motivational. In order for remarketing to be most effective, the best practice is to pixel each page — this way you can determine true purchase intent via click path behavior. The more data points you can collect, the better you can ascertain your customer’s true interest.

However, this typically requires a technical team to install the pixels — unless the partner has automated this process — and any delay in getting a page in stream costs them money. For this reason, some retailers only approve or allow pixels on one or a handful of pages. This obviously limits the full effectiveness of remarketing, which can cloud the perception of its value and true efficacy.

Two other issues are attribution (did remarketing really lead to that conversion, or would I have gotten the customer anyway?) and view-based conversions (if they didn’t click, how does this count?) The solution to the former is simple: Analyze marketing spend across multiple online channels and map the results to buying patterns. Backtracking the buyer’s behavior should reveal the number of times the customer saw the remarketed ad, enabling you to apply credit where credit is due.

Remarketing generated a 1,046 percent lift in searches on brand terms within four weeks of exposure, as well as a 726 percent lift for Web site visitation, according to a recent report from comScore. While a click is more definitive than a page-view, the report demonstrates that consumers don’t necessarily need to actually click on the ad at that exact moment in order for publishers to get the credit. It’s important for advertisers to remember that they think beyond the click and put as much stock into a view as possible.

The Bottom Line

Remarketing has proven itself to outperform other tactics. If a potential customer has already been to your site and performed some kind of action, remarketing can analyze those behaviors, determine purchasing intent and increase conversions. Here are a few final tips that retailers should consider before rolling out their remarketing program:

  • Don’t Sell Yourself Short: Know how much remarketing you need and budget accordingly. Analyze your traffic and tie your remarketing spend to that metric.
  • Focus On Calendar Events: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day — if you only have a limited budget for remarketing, these are the busiest online shopping days. Adjust your frequency around these days to boost awareness and purchase intent. A strong technology partner could also use this increased volume to separate “window shoppers” from the buyers on these days and leverage the additional user sets to better serve this audience for the subsequent marketing events.
  • Shop Around: Make sure your remarketing partner has the reach you need andthe technologies you want. Understanding who the players are and their respective strengths and weaknesses is key. And it’s always good to ask questions around the size of their network, dynamic audience segmenting capabilities, creative specs and ease of implementation.
  • Forego The Hard Sell: Be sophisticated and classy with your creative. Leverage multiple creative assets and continuously monitor and adjust frequency. Not only is repeatedly serving the same ad to the same customer at a high frequency “creepy,” it can quickly turn loyal customers off.

As we head into the busy holiday shopping season, it’s vitally important that advertisers understand the importance and value remarketing can play in turning casual customers into brand loyalists. Even though the recession might be officially over, the biggest challenge marketers may face in the coming months is convincing consumers that the downturn in the economy is over.

That means that advertisers have an opportunity to fill this void by getting their messages across while maximizing the most out of their ad spend through remarketing solutions. With remarketing, the only “returns” retailers hope to experience in the days following the post-holiday rush, are the ones most coveted by them — loyal customers.

Dean Vegliante is general manager of Netmining, an online ad network and optimization company.

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