Old-School Retargeting Just Doesn’t Cut It

Consumers face a staggering number of online choices. This reality comes as a burden to e-commerce companies that watch more than 95 percent of visitors leave before making a purchase, despite all the money spent on SEO, search and other customer acquisition tactics.

While once a niche tactic, retargeting has moved into the mainstream. The technique has become a key part of advertisers’ vocabularies as they tap the technology to recapture that critical 95 percent who abandoned a purchase by directing visitors back to a retailer’s site through highly personalized targeted ads.

Retargeting has proved to be an indispensible complement to existing marketing tactics, but the technology is rapidly maturing, and its advancements are profoundly impacting the e-commerce space.

The Evolution of Retargeting

Before delving into the future of retargeting, let’s understand how the technology has evolved. In the early days, the mechanics of retargeting were fairly basic.

  • A retargeted visitor who had left a retailer’s site would be exposed to a simple branded ad from the retailer elsewhere on the Web.
  • Advertisers demanded greater ROI, encouraging retargeting providers to implement a new concept: segmentation. Rather than simple branded ads for the retailer, segmented retargeting enabled retailers to present ads for the genre of product viewed by each consumer. For example, if a visitor viewed the children’s section of a retailer’s site, the retargeted banner ad might show various children’s items.
  • Today, personalized retargeting allows for even greater relevance as consumers are exposed to banner ads displaying the very products they previously viewed. Modern retargeting allows for relevant recommendations, culled from consumers who viewed similar products.

Retargeting technology continues to evolve, bringing increased transparency, ROI, automation and control — making it even easier (and more profitable) for advertisers that employ the technique.

The Power of Personalization

Retargeting technology has evolved beyond simple banners ads that display the product a visitor browsed on an advertiser’s site. Today, sophisticated retargeting vendors provide dynamic ads, produced in real-time, that personalize the creative elements of every ad for each individual viewer. These ads are less formulaic and incorporate new highly creative components that consider other design elements on the page.

Example: Ads with pastel colors perform better in the spring, or a white ad may perform best on a certain publisher’s black background. Based on individual click-through behavior, text, picture arrangement, banner size and shape, background color and other design elements for each ad can automatically be optimized on the back-end for every consumer, driving performance.

Results: Consumers see relevant, personalized ads for products they’ve previously expressed interest in. Meanwhile, advertisers benefit from increased click-through and conversion rates, ensuring better returns on marketing spend.

Going Beyond What Visitors Say They Want

Product recommendations increase consumer engagement and increase both the likelihood of purchasing and the total basket size/price. Online consumers first seek insight from trusted friends or family — a 90 percent trust rate — and then recommendations from strangers — a 70 percent trust rate — according to research from Nielsen.

These opinions have serious monetary ramifications in the virtual marketplace, and it’s up to sophisticated retargeting vendors to provide advertisers with recommendation tools built directly into each banner ad.

These “mini boutique” ads not only show products each shopper browsed, but those of peers with similar browse-to-purchase histories. Incorporated product recommendations provide visitors with greater product accuracy and value, driving more sales through highly intelligent recommendations.

Right Ad, Right Consumer, Right Time

Real-time audience buying, another advancement in retargeting technology, allows advertisers to target specific segments of consumers, while paying the most cost-effective price to reach each segment.

Essentially, real-time audience buying equips advertisers with the insight to ensure they’re targeting the correct consumer with the correct ad, and paying the optimized price for each impression.

Today, retargeting vendors are capable of using consumer data to reach the most valuable prospects when and where they’re most likely to purchase. Retargeting algorithms automatically bid the optimal price for each consumer based on that consumer’s propensity to click — an important development for advertisers looking to convert site visitors into paying customers and scale cost.

Retargeting Vendors: At Your Service

Advertisers find true value in the ability to vet reporting and tracking options, a major differentiator between online and offline solutions. Greater ad campaign reporting provides visibility and removes the guesswork inherent in offline advertising.

These optimization tools allow advertisers to adjust their campaigns in real-time to ensure all campaign goals are met. But the greater transparency also benefits the vendor, which drives even greater value to advertisers.

Technological advances allow retargeting vendors to automate and optimize campaigns, adjusting impression models (CPC, CPA, CPM) based on product categories. If this sounds complicated, it’s simply providing greater flexibility and control to make sure every component of an advertiser’s campaign is tailored to set goals and metrics. The bottom line? Technological advances boost campaign performance, equaling happier advertisers.

Next in the Innovation Line

Retargeting has come a long way since its beginnings as merely an extension of a retailer’s branding efforts. The ever-increasing sophistication of retargeting technology now allows advertisers to deploy more personalized, targeted and relevant ads than ever before.

This brings profound changes for all stakeholders involved — from advertisers to publishers to consumers. New retargeting technology automates and optimizes campaigns, saving advertisers both time and money, while also providing advertisers deep insights into the performance of their ad campaigns.

These technological advancements allow retargeting vendors to create more compelling, more targeted and more personalized creative ads for each individual consumer across the Web — a win-win for brands that have turned to retargeting to capture visitors who’ve waved goodbye because of innumerable online distractions.

JB Rudelle is CEO and cofounder of Criteo.

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