The Power of Retargeting

At the core of an advertising campaign is the need to get a message in front of a consumer. But telling a consumer about your product or service is very different from getting them to buy.

Over the years, I’ve encountered a challenge in getting clients to recognize that effective advertising goes far beyond the placement of ads on Web pages. Effective advertising requires several different points of engagement throughout a campaign’s life to move a consumer from learning about a product for the first time to actively thinking about becoming a customer.

Most of us are familiar with the standard AIDA sales funnel model that helps plot the points of consumer interaction with an offer starting with the advertiser driving awareness of a product or service before a consumer can become interested in that offer. Only after the interest shifts to a real desire will consumers think about taking action.

In the real world, few consumers see an ad for something they are unfamiliar with and immediately take action. Instead, most consumers need time to “try on” a new brand or offer to see how well it personally fits them.

As a result, very few consumers who arrive at a product landing page for the first time also become customers. This isn’t a time to buy for many; this is a time to learn, to test, and to satisfy curiosity.

But what does this mean for advertisers who are driving traffic to their sites and landing pages? If consumers aren’t going to buy when they have the chance, then the opportunity is lost, isn’t it? Fortunately, this is where retargeting comes in.

Retargeting is just that: reaching consumers who are already familiar with an advertiser’s brand because they previously saw an ad or purposely visited the advertiser’s site or landing pages. By using cookies and page tags, vendors offering retargeting capabilities can measure when a consumer has come in contact with a Web ad (even if she doesn’t click on it) or has visited an advertiser’s Web pages. This generally also means that this particular consumer has already entered the sales funnel (and is product aware) and is ready to be engaged in ways that will help build interest and desire for the offer.

For example, if a Web site has a retargeting plan in place, new site visitors can be added to a new segment that defines them as previous visitors (sometimes segmentation is based on the amount of time that individual visitors spend on the different pages). Then, these visitors can be searched for during the next few days and weeks across associated ad networks and served “reminder” ads designed to pick up a conversation and encourage consumers to revisit the advertiser’s site or landing pages for another look.

Retargeting campaigns take time to set up and run. Initially the advertiser and the vendor will need to tag pages and ads to identify and collect these individual visitors and add them to the retargeting segment. Depending on the number of visitors to a site, this can take a few weeks or a few months to get into place. Retargeting segments will continue to grow throughout a campaign’s life. But there must be about 20,000 members in place before advertisers can start to get significant results.

Obviously, retargeting campaign results will vary, but it’s not uncommon to see retargeting conversion rates that are up to 20 times greater than conversions from campaigns focused only on driving traffic.

If you approach the AIDA stages of the sales funnel as if they were parts of a conversation, then the introduction is out of the way and you can focus on really getting to know one another. Also, revisiting consumers have a different relationship and understanding of the brand and offer. As a result, they should be presented with a landing page that reflects this previous relationship and not revisit the same pages they visited when they were “newcomers.” In this instance, one size definitely does not fit all. Instead, a different conversation needs to take place with different consumers as they get moved through the funnel.

Happy holidays to you all and best wishes for a healthy and profitable 2010!

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