According to leading retargeting company FetchBack, "retargeting means putting messages in front of lost prospects who've left your website in order to attract them back and convert - finish the purchase, sign up for the newsletter, or whatever action you're looking for."
If you've spent anytime surfing the Internet, you've probably experienced being retargeted by websites you've previously visited. For instance, you visit leading comparison shopping site PriceGrabber.com or leading retail website Amazon.com and the next thing you know you're not only seeing banner ads for PriceGrabber or Amazon, but the banner ads are dynamically displaying the actual products you browsed when you last visited.
From an advertiser's perspective, this is a very strategic way to utilize first-party behavioral data available from your website and a powerful way to advertise your products and services to a well-defined targeted audience. To the user, this form of advertising could be a little confusing and maybe a bit intimidating and uncomfortable. As a result, it's important to handle retargeting (and behavioral advertising in general) responsibly and with the understanding that there are actual human beings on the other side of the computer screen being displayed the banner ads and not just a click-through rate and conversion metric within your ad server's reporting dashboard.
Below outlines three easy ways to avoid frustrating your potential customers and to help advertisers turn these potential customers into active buyers. As an advertiser, you know that these users have already put in the effort to find, and the time to browse, your website. With that in mind, it's important to manage ongoing interactions and the relationship as a whole as carefully, respectfully, and strategically as possible.
1. Manage frequency cap. Being thoughtful of how many times you display a particular banner ad to the same user (typically within a 24-hour period) is very important for maintaining a healthy relationship with the potential customer. If a user sees the same banner ad or banner ads from the same brand too many times within too short of a period of time, the brand runs the risk of frustrating the user, generating negative feelings about their brand, and potentially making the customer feel like they're being "stalked" or followed around the Internet.
A properly set frequency cap as well as rotating in different banner ad designs can be effective in reducing banner fatigue and user annoyance while reinforcing different positive attributes of the brand's product or service throughout the duration of the retargeting campaign. Some industry opinions even suggest that a typical campaign requires seven different "contacts" with a customer (on average) before they make a purchase. However, each retargeting campaign is different and it's important to keep a close eye on various performance metrics such as click-through and conversion rates throughout the flight of the campaign to see if one particular frequency cap setting vs. another negatively or positively affects the campaign's performance.
2. Offer an easy opt-out process. When utilizing data to advertise online, be it first-party retargeting data or third-party behavioral data of any kind, it's important to allow the user to easily opt out of the campaign and the data pool altogether if the user wants to do so. By opting out, I'm talking about an easy one-click solution that either resides within the banner ad itself or on your website, typically within the privacy section of your website. It isn't technically difficult to allow a user to opt out of a particular data pool or a campaign altogether, so we shouldn't pretend that it is or make the instructions for doing so appear complicated or confusing.
In short, if a user doesn't want to be targeted in your campaign then they should be allowed to opt out by following a simple process. A user being displayed banner ads for a product or service they have no interest in will most likely never lead to a purchase no matter how many times we show them the advertisement. It could, however, lead to the user either becoming frustrated or ignoring the banner ad altogether, which is only wasting the campaign's budget.
I'm currently on a work/pleasure trip to the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii and the house we're renting has a rather odd and overly complicated set of instructions on how to refill the water tank in the back of the toilet if it doesn't happen automatically. "Flushing Instructions: Hold down lever until you hear the water in the tank running. If it doesn't fill, lift lid and push round rubber flap down to seal. Then push the flap down on the right bottom side of the red box to start the water. Sorry for the inconvenience."
All advertisers, big or small, want to avoid providing potential customers with similar instructions for opting out of your advertising campaign. Just let them flush and move on.
3. Give converted users time to rest. Have you ever really craved something specific to eat or drink? I mean, you were really craving a pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food "chocolate ice cream with gooey marshmallow, caramel swirls and fudge fish"? Then you went out and bought it and ate the ice cream until the craving went away and you felt satisfied. Now, if you saw an advertisement for a 10 percent-off coupon for Ben & Jerry's before you ate the ice cream, the chances are you would be exponentially more receptive to seeing and using the coupon compared to seeing the coupon after you already ate the ice cream. Matter of fact, if you saw the coupon after you ate the ice cream you might be a little turned off by the coupon.
The point is, when a potential consumer turns into an active buyer, give them a little bit of a break before you display additional banner ads to them for the same or similar product or service. The chances are they have momentarily exhausted their need for last-minute airline tickets, satisfied their desire to buy discounted shoes, and fulfilled their excitement about purchasing the latest season of "How I Met Your Mother."
Potential consumers who have turned into active buyers shouldn't be forgotten; active buyers should be a highly coveted group, but they should be allowed to rest for a period of time before they start seeing banner ads for your product or service again. I know it's hard to believe, but there are only so many tickets a person can buy to go see the same event on Saturday night or so many hotel rooms they can reserve for the same weekend getaway trip.
Research and test the standard usage cycle for your product and service and create a strategy for an advertisement campaign that properly targets loyal active buyers at the right amount of time following their last purchase. There's a better chance of attracting more customers with honey than vinegar. Unless they're already eating honey - then offering them more honey isn't attractive, it's just gross, annoying, and sticky.
Customers image on home page via Shutterstock.
This column was originally published on August 15, 2012.
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Tim Nichols is a founding partner at ExactDrive, a leading Self-Serve Online Advertising Platform with white label, reseller and managed service options available. ExactDrive plans, manages, and optimizes online advertising campaigns with the objective of delivering measurable value and empowering clients to find precisely targeted audiences. ExactDrive has offices in Washington, DC, Austin, TX, Phoenix, AZ, Santa Monca, CA and is headquartered in St Paul, MN.