By now, almost everyone has been targeted by online advertising. One minute you’re browsing for a pair of pants and then for days on end, everywhere you go on the web, you’re stalked by the same banner ad offering a discount on pants. Even if you’ve already purchased the pants, the ad continues to stalk you.
For marketers, ad “retargeting” — receiving ads based on previous actions or purchases — can be an effective method to reconnect with interested shoppers even after they leave a website, thus increasing brand recall and boosting conversions. Retargeting, when done right, is useful to consumers, offering them discounts or promoting items they’re likely to be interested in. But done poorly, retargeting can have a negative effect on your brand. Many people find it creepy to be “stalked” and will grow increasingly irritated by your ads.
Unfortunately, most customers retargeting today is done by blunt force. Targeting companies simply serve ads to consumers who might be interested based on demographics, click behavior and browsing history. They hit these same consumers with the same ads for days on end as they travel around the web.
But there is another way. It involves using data modeling and predictive analytics to do real-time precision targeting. With the newest ad targeting methods, you can reach highly-specific audiences such as “middle-income people in northeast Michigan in the immediate market for designer gravestones,” or “owners of English Bulldogs whose pets have arthritis and are looking for warm dog booties.”
In the case of the pants shopper, you could serve different ads to the shopper at each moment based on real-time data analysis. Using predictive analytics, you could find out what items they might be interested in next as a complement to that purchase, what colors and styles they like, or whether they prefer your brand. Instead of being followed by one ad for pants, the shopper might see an ad for belts that match his or her style and budget, or a 15% discount in return for filling out a review of the item he or she just purchased.
If you’ve decided you’d like to take your targeting practices from blunt force to fine-tuned finesse, here are several steps to get you started.
Segment Your Retargeting Audience
Good retargeting starts with finding receptive, in-market consumers interested in your offers and messages. Start by analyzing all the audience profile data you’ve developed over the years and group your audiences into segments. Conduct real-time tests on these audiences to identify which exact micro-segments are most interested in your products.
If these sounds just like targeting, it’s because the same elements apply. Don’t stop testing. Audiences change over time as consumers learn more about your products, make purchases, read reviews, and are influenced by other products and information in the outside world.
Optimize Campaigns in Real Time
It’s not enough to optimize your campaigns once a month, or even once a week. If a consumer sees your same ad several times in one week, the feeling of “stalking” can set in quickly. Instead, you should be optimizing your ads in real time.
To target and retarget ads, you’ll need to work with a targeting company that provides real-time optimization; most campaigns only do so once a month. Make sure to ask if they can deliver.
Continue to Refine Audiences
Make sure your targeting provider offers real-time predictive analytics so you can refine your audience segments on the fly and target and retarget them with specific campaigns and messages.
Make sure to measure the effectiveness of your audience segments against the metrics that matter to you. Perhaps the most important metric for your brand is increasing the shopping basket size or increasing shopping frequency among new customers.
Manage Ad Frequency
Use campaign analytics and real-time surveys to find out what consumers think of your brand at a given moment. This will help you gauge how your ads are resonating. The goal is to determine the frequency at which your ads are shown enough to boost brand recall and increase sales without annoying consumers.
Remember, the “right” ad frequency is an individual measurement based on your customers and the needs of your company. Real-time brand surveys will help you see both the positive and negative impact of your campaigns.
The best way to not “stalk” consumers is to reach them on different channels at different points in the browsing and purchase process. Integrate media buys across display, video, mobile, and social to reach customers wherever they are in the moment and make sure your retargeting company can serve ads onto all of these platforms.
Use deep data analytics to determine which ads work on your audience on specific channels or at specific times.
Consumers can feel stalked even on a single website. If you buy inventory on a website hoping to avoid chasing someone around the web, your ad may still appear on that site every single time the person visits. The answer is to buy across a wide range of media via display, video, social, and mobile, then optimize.
Do your brand a favor and use sophisticated real-time predictive analytics to connect with consumers when they want, where they want, and how they want. One day we’ll look back at blunt-force targeted ads the same way we see other digital nuisances. Get a head start on the competition by making your retargeted ads smart, fresh and useful to consumers.