Way back in 1998 when AdTech wasn’t even a term, DoubleClick rolled out Boomerang and their first remarketing campaign for Victoria’s Secret, generating a 1000% uplift in CTR’s. In 1998, little was understood about retargeting. Since then, DoubleClick has never looked back and neither did the advertisers. Fast forward to 2019, one in every 5 marketers now has a dedicated budget for retargeting.
Google Trends for the term ‘Retargeting’ since 2004
98% of users do not make a purchase on their first visit. Which leaves you with just 2%. To win back the 98%, marketers need a retargeting strategy.
Retargeting helps you keep your brand in front of the users who dropped off from your website’s conversion funnel. When a user visits your store but does not take the desired action and bounces off your website, they are targeted, based on their previous actions. This is typically done using display banner ads and email.
Here is what SaleCycle found out when they analyzed 100 global retailers-
It has been observed that retargeted ads attract better click-through rates as compared to standard display advertising. But in this age of digital boom, there are many other ways to bring back the user to your website and encourage them to convert. New channels have made their way, widening the opportunity to bring back lost sales.
Amidst all of this, the fundamentals of the industry haven’t changed. Revisiting the first principles of the adtech -
The first level of sophistication in the AdTech Ecosystem starts with the user identity and tracking users as they browse the internet. This identity can be anonymous in the form of cookie or deterministic is the form of an email or push notification subscription or device id. It is basis the identifier, it’s longevity and the tracking of the identifier (think cross-device), that determines a platform’s ability to retarget a user. There are various types of identities that can be used for retargeting.
PII such as Email or Mobile Number - Users often subscribe via Email for newsletters, coupons or just sign-in while making a new purchase.
Cookie - Online retailers use third party services such as Criteo, AdRoll to for display retargeting and they do so by dropping a cookie.
Device ID - This is specifically used for retargeting in mobile apps.
Push Notification Subscription - Every time a user subscribers to notification, a unique browser token is generated which is used for communication. This is more lasting than cookies and also maintains anonymity around the user.
Given that that buyer journey is now spread across multiple devices - desktop, mobile and tablet and at times even offline retail as well, user identification is no more a straightforward problem.
Better profiling, helps advertisers curate contextual, retargeting ads. This is the reason why Google Adwords and Facebook Ads are more efficient than the run of the mill ad-networks. Smaller stores rely on their first party data to execute their retargeting campaigns. Though as online retailers grow, so does the need of sophisticated decision making and questions such as
Which users are actually worth retargeting?
Which products should get a priority lane while retargeting?
In a situation where first party data is non existent, how can they enrich user profile for better decision making?
Such problems surface with scale and require a far more sophisticated adtech stack including a exhaustive customer data platform.
Retargeting campaigns kick in when the user abandons a specific conversion funnel. In e-commerce, conversion might not necessarily imply purchase. Each online store depending upon the scale has a range of goals that they are pursuing. And each goal helps marketers gauge the buying intent of the user. Goals can be and not just limited to
Adding To Wishlist
Reading Reviews ( and responding to reviews )
Adding Products to Cart
Checkout / Completing a purchase
Engaging with product recommendations
Depending upon the micro-funnel that the user is a part off, a very specific targeted retargeting campaign can be kickstarted.
Now, this user need not necessarily revisit your store. You need to make sure that they are reminded about your store or the product that they have abandoned. Here, one way to retarget users is with Display Ads. These display ads follow the user everywhere on the web with the help of cookies and show them the ad of the product they saw or liked.
Another way to reach out to them is to add them to your marketing list. How do you do that? These are permission-based channels, where user subscribes to push notifications or email newsletters when on your website.
It is important that the subscription experience (for both email and push notifications) should be designed keeping the user in mind and not the marketer’s short term goals. We will cover this part in detail further on in the article. Either way, getting this right will help you to build a solid marketing list and retarget them without having to invest in paid media.
Retargeting and remarketing are often used interchangeably, but in fact, they are not the same. While their end goals are similar, the strategy is what differentiates them. While retargeting relies on web traffic, remarketing is limited to email as the communication channel. Retargeting is the subset of remarketing, where the former targets the same traffic multiple times and remarketing target the same prospect multiple times.
Retargeting majorly is paid media, where as Remarketing is done via owned media, which includes Email and Web Push Notifications, Remarketing is where a marketing list is built first, to reach out to the users.
With retargeting, when a user visits your site, a cookie is set and this follows the websites that they visit. Retargeting is done through a third party network like Google Display network. Retargeting is frequently used by online retailers, travel portals, service-based businesses to attract users back to their conversion funnel. Leading platforms providing retargeting include Google, Facebook, AdRoll, and Criteo.
Retargeting helps your brand remain fresh in the user's mind. With retargeting, you are reaching out to them with something that they are already interested in. It’s not a new product that is introduced to, it’s something they have previously shown interest. This is the very reason why the response rate is always on the higher side. Now every time that customer sees your brand, they are reminded of the product that they were keen to buy and encourages them to revisit and convert.
You are not a stranger knocking at their door. You are someone they know, trying to sell something they have showed interest in.
89% of customers feel no emotion towards a brand they buy from. Which also means that they might not buy from that store again. The idea is to nurture a bond because most of the purchases that happen are due to being emotionally connected with the brand.
The more the users see your brand on their screen, the more the recall value. The emotionally connect builds when you reach out to them with the product they have shown interest in. And then suddenly you are not an intrusion, you are a good-wisher, trying to remind them what they need to buy.
Brand affinity increases CTR by 3X. When users search for a product you sell, they would click on a brand they have personal emotions for or heard of before.
With contextual retargeting, users grow a fondness towards you helping you boost their trust. Users are more likely to visit your store, convert and won’t think twice before they make their next purchase.
Retargeting keeps users engaged and encourages them to interact with you. Once users are engaged, they show up at your website at least to browse the products. And they might just convert if they see something that matches their interest.
Users visit the store and even though they are interested in buying a product, they leave. Retargeting helps in bringing back the users with the product they liked and ignite the desire yet again.
As the users are already interested in the product you are selling, when retargeted, the chances of them converting are higher. Retargeting ads are 76% more likely to get clicks than regular display ads.
Before delving into the nitty-gritty of setting up effective retargeting campaigns, it’s very important to understand the stages leading to conversion. A user typically goes through a five-stage journey before he makes a transaction as mentioned below -
Retargeting addresses the middle funnel i.e. user’s journey from information search to purchase decision stage, helping marketers move users down the funnel.
Typical conversion funnel on an e-commerce store resembles the following journey-
Retargeting ensures that users move from search to repeat purchase stage quickly and the time to conversion is reduced with perfectly timed interactions.
Get the timing of your messages right in order to generate positive reactions & responses from your users.
Don’t bombard users with repetitive, messages. Send just the right number of messages in every campaign, be clear about when do you want to remove users from a campaign. Personalize the buying experience and make it evolve like a story. Shoelace has captured this exclusively-
They also go on to explaining the kind of ads that can be shown to users in the consideration stage-
Dynamic product ad to renew interest
Show a lot of people are buying it, for social influence
Review the product they like, for social proof
Reward programme ads to evoke loyalty
Imagine a store asking you to buy a product you just brought. Sounds ridiculous? You bet. But that what happens most of the time. While retargeting you need to make sure that that the users who have brought the product are excluded. For this, you need to add a burn pixel in your post-transaction page, which would remove users who have made a purchase, and stop serving them ads for that product.
88% of consumers report of seeing an ad of the product they have recently purchased. While they should be receiving a ‘Thank You’, they are shoved with ads that provide them no value. And not respecting the fact that they have made a purchase from your store decreases the chances of them becoming your regular customer.
This is from 1998. This can’t be stressed enough. Personalized messages grab maximum attention as they strike the right emotions with users.
Find out the average time taken by an user to make up their mind to make a purchase and set the duration of the retargeting campaign accordingly. For instance, there is no point in running a retargeting campaign that lasts 15 days for snacks, online magazines. On the other hand, retargeting campaigns for products such as high-end designer clothes can last more than 30 days.
People switch 2-3 devices on a regular day. This is exactly why retargeting needs to be cross-device so that you reach out to the user no matter what device they are using and get optimal results. Here is what the comScore report states-
Go multi-channel: Just reaching out to users on different devices is not enough. You need to be present everywhere they go. You need to leverage the most effective channels to make the most out of your retargeting campaigns. Browser? Check, Inbox? Check. Facebook? Check. Websites? Check. You get where I am heading.
The creatives used in the ads become annoying once they become redundant. The users get tired of seeing the same ad and start ignoring it. Keep other creatives handy and run it on a rotation basis. Also, make sure that they are not bombarded with the same ad every single time. Put a frequency cap so as to they don't get fed up looking at it.
You need to test different versions to see what works better and what doesn’t. With ad copy, there is no formula. You need to test CTA’s, try different text copy, different images an so on. But again, don’t over test it. Stick to 2x new ad copies a month.
Personalization for e-commerce stores is something you can afford to miss out on. Showing users what they like, what they have brought before makes the experience delightful. Add the user's name, location, the address the products will be sent to, show them products according to their interest and so on. Amazon has nailed landing pages with their personalized approach.
That is why ad fatigue has become a thing. Minute changes give it a new look - make changes to the background color, change the copy and change the font.
Retargeting campaigns kick starts when a user
Browses a category page and then leaves
Views a similar product and leaves
Adds to cart and abandons the cart
Here are the campaigns according to the points mentioned above-
Users browse your store and then leave. While some visit the category page, some visit the product page and then leave. Because they have shown interest to an extent, they need to be retargeted to lure them into visiting your store again and making a purchase. Read more about browse abandonment here.
Target users who have visited a-
Category page and dropped off
Product page and left
A misconception that most people live by is that people who have brought a product would not buy a fancier version of the same product. The best time to nudge people for an upsell is when they are on the add to cart page or the check out page.But if the user does not buy, you need to further nudge them once they leave your site. Show them how the better version can add more value than the one they currently have. For example, when a new iPhone is launched, one can reach out to user who have brought an iPhone before and encourage them to convert.
Almost every product can be complemented with another product. Most users do not realize that they need a product that would go along with the product they just bought. You need to bring that to light. For example, If a user buys a Bluetooth mouse, they might very well need to buy a Bluetooth adapter. By showing them options, you are increasing the chances of bagging more sales.
When users show interest to buy a product that is out of stock, chances are that they are really disappointed. Firstly you need to assure them that it would be back in stock soon. And secondly, you need to inform them when fresh stock arrives. Because they have already shown a purchase intent, they would likely buy the product when you reach out to them.
Are users visiting a product page and then dropping off? Price is one of the reasons why users leave the website. This would not only inform the users the price of the product they liked, but also encourages them to return back to the store and make a purchase.
Note: Back in stock and Price drop are not been leveraged by display campiangs yet. These campaings are majotly used in email and web push.
Adding to cart shows purchase intent. While a lot of carts go abandoned, with the right retargeting campaign urges users go ahead and make a purchase. Users sometimes forget that they have added a product to cart and sometimes they forget on which store! It also happens that a user is considering other options on your competitors store. You need to reach out to them at the right time before they make a choice that does not resonate with our sales graph.You can understand more about cart abandonment here.
Every user is unique and every user responds differently to different communication channels. When communication across channels is well planned and executed, the impact can be exponential just like a bunch of stacked up tennis balls.
While it might seem that these channels are competing against one another for attribution, in reality, there are complementary channels. The channels can be stacked one on top of the other to generate a compounding effect. You can leverage a particular channel where you think the other channel might not perform well due to its nature.
The idea being to provide a good user experience, each channel needs to be intelligently used.
Before we get down to which retargeting channel should be used and how it should be used, let’s take a shot at understanding how to craft a retargeting plan.
In 2005, Simon Wardley created a Wardley map, breaking down components to get an exact idea of the component required to serve the users better. It is basically a value chain mapping. The components are drawn on a graph, where the value to the users, which is the need you are trying to satisfy and the components fall on the Y axis and the X axis respectively. You can check out this video to know more about Wardley Maps. Taking the Wardley maps into consideration, I created a map which each step that needs to be taken into consideration while retargeting -
While some channels like Web push notifications, Email, App Push and SMS are all ‘Owned’ media, Ads are ‘Built’ media. Build media are the ones that require a pixel of a particular platform that needs to be added to your website so that when the user lands on your website, the pixels start tracking that particular user and display your ad on that platform. For example, if you have added a Facebook pixel to your website, then when the user visits Facebook, your ads will start reflecting there.
Though adding a pixel is not cumbersome, allocating an exorbitant amount of money on a platform that your users hardly visit does not make sense. While you can add the pixels of platforms you have a hitch on, keeping in mind your target audience. Then you can gradually make a decision once you know your audience persona and where users usually hang out.
Here is how Owned media can help remarket-
Web push notifications are crisp updates that are sent to the users on mobile and desktop, even when they are not on your website. Their succinct nature makes it easier to consume the information, and actionable CTAs encourage users to revisit your site.
Web push notifications can be personalized and triggered so as to retarget your audience at the right time. The image of the product the user has shown interest can also be included within the notification making it irresistible for a user with a purchase intent to click on.
While ads work with cookie following the user everywhere on the internet and showing banner ads wherever they can, retargeting with web push notification works in a completely different way.
3 key points that will excite every marketer:
Web push notifications is a permission-based marketing channel. When a user visits your website, they are prompted to subscribe to notifications. And because web push notifications do not require users to give out any personal information, you get to build your marketing list quicker.
Since this channel works at the browser level, your notifications do not run the risk of getting selectively ignored. The notifications flash right on the screen, making it impossible to ignore.
Unlike other channels, web push notifications do not occupy any space, be it on the phone or the desktop. Nor does it take up real estate on a website. Push notifications contribute significantly as a direct conversion channel but also act as a conversion catalyst in the overall funnel.
Some updates are best said in a few words. You don't want to end up opening up an email, just to know that a product is now sold for 10% less, or the product is back in stock or to notify that the product in your cart is selling out. For example, if you have liked a sunglass that is currently sold out and you get a notification saying the sunglasses are back in stock, you would be more than happy to click the notification, which would take you directly to the product page. It is quicker and there are no multiple steps involved.
Best performing retargeting campaign-
Bajaao.com, a Shopify plus, store improved conversions on their store by 5x with one campaign. Here is the triggered drip notification that they send to their users-
They sent a series of personalized notifications to users who had abandoned their cart. The notification included the exact product they have abandoned, reminding them and luring them to make a purchase.
This kind of notifications not only act as reminders but also helps in keeping your brand on top of their mind. Here is a series of notification that Bajaao.com sent the users who abandoned their cart-
Emails have been here since forever. A channel that has given hope to marketers to bring back users when there was no way to get in touch. While there have been rumors like email does not work anymore, that email is dead and what not, it STILL thrives. Email to start with, helps you send a lot of information along with visuals. This gives marketers an opportunity to give detailed product information like price, material, color and so on.
The initial hiccup that emails face is that the users are usually hesitant to share their email address. When users visit a website, they can be approached to share their email address to get exciting offers, know about a sale in advance or even when a product is back in stock. This helps in giving users a context of what they can expect from your emails.
Emails that provide value to the user, tend to end up not going in the trash. Which means the emails need to be contextual and once the users start seeing value out for your emails, they would look forward to opening your email when it arrives. For example, you get an email saying there is new stock added to the winter collection you were browsing yesterday, you might be more than willing to check out what’s trending. Email gives the advantage to tease the users by showing them a few of your best products and lure them to your website.
Email moreover supports video formats and gifs, making it easier to entice users and familiarize the users with the product.
This example of a retargeting mail sent by Dollar Shave Club shows how they have played with text and visuals to make you want to ‘Join The Club’.
Now, let's hop onto Build media to know how they can help retarget-
Has it happened that while browsing the web, you saw the exact same product that you almost bought yesterday; as if the universe was speaking to you? Well, that’s display retargeting in action, trying to lure you back to the site to convert. If not make a purchase right then and there, the brand has made its presence felt. It might even subconsciously nudge you to visit the exact same store when you actually are ready to buy the product.
This image will give better clarity of how ads are displayed on a publisher’s website-
More than 650 million websites are part of Google’s Display Network, giving you an opportunity to reach out to a huge database. Once you browse for a product, the same product starts appearing on other websites to encourage purchase.
Everyone who visits your site gets added to the retargeting pool. With Dynamic retargeting, users who don't perform the desired action, they can be retargeted on other websites that they visit, with personalized and contextual ads. They are unique to each individual, making it stand out from the crowd of generic ads.
These ads are based on the pages they visit and the actions they perform on your website. Once an audience is created according to the activity performed on the website, relevant ads start appearing on the websites users visit. One drawback here is that someone who has enabled ad blockers does not get to see your ads.
With the advent of Programmatic Marketing, placing ads on different websites have seen a drastic change. Now you can purchase digital ad space through real-time bidding in contrast to manual ad space buying. After placing your target audience preference into a DSP, programmatic marketing is placed using AI. The action starts when the website starts loading and the one with the highest bid makes it to the page the user is on. What’s interesting is that all of this happens in milliseconds.
With Programmatic ads, you can also buy guaranteed impressions beforehand from different websites as well, known as programmatic direct. This video made by the Interactive Advertising Bureau beautifully illustrates the basics of Programmatic Digital Advertising.
Here is how you can build an audience on Google Adwords
Retargeting using social media helps you reach out to users who are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Quora. In the 21st century, almost everyone is on social media, making it the place to be on. Imagine the number of users who you are letting go off if you are not retargeting on social!
While LinkedIn is the number 1 channel for lead generation for a B2B business, e-commerce merchants have seen good results, not specifically with ads, but with generic posts. Bikini Luxe, a bikini brand went viral on LinkedIn and saw a 30% increase in business.
Building an audience on Quora
Quora campaign structure example -
Quora is the largest questions and answers website. No matter what question you type, quora will have an answer for you. It shows personal answers from people, building a sense of trust. Taking your ads live on Quora captures users attention and nudges them to return to your website. Quora pixels work similar to Facebook pixels, so it is easy to add them. Here is how you can build an audience on Quora-
Video Ad as a format has seen mass adoption. From text to image to videos, ads have seen a drastic change. With fading attention spans, videos come across a relief, as moving objects tend to grab human attention quicker. A breakthrough to make users really check out what the ad is all about. It gives you more ground to play on, more information to give out. It helps you bring products to life and lure them into making a purchase right away. Dynamic video ads leave a stronger impression and are more likely to turn into a conversion.
It has been observed that video generates 9 times as many post-click website visits as compared to standard banner ads.
Video ads are turning out to be a dominant force when it comes to retargeting. It easily catches eyeballs, as it stands out from the standard display ads. Tools like InVideo and Rocketium help create dynamic video ads in real time.
You can also make use of YouTube to serve your retargeting ads, based on the users purchase intent and their consideration stage. Read this to know more about YouTube video ads.
The growth of Facebook users is undeniable. More than 2 Billion people are actively using Facebook. Out of which, more than 1.4 billion users use Facebook on a daily basis, and spend an average of 41 minutes per day! To be present in one of the fastest growing social media platforms is not just an option but has turned out to be a necessity.
How does it work?
Adding the Facebook pixel to your website helps you retarget specific user with ads that are displayed to them when they browse Facebook. In 2015, Facebook made it easier to track users by replacing the older ones with a single tracking pixel. Now, you can track better with page metadata and track CTA clicks.
This illustration would help you understand better-
Building an audience on Facebook-
A lot of marketers have grabbed this opportunity to reach out to this wide range of audience by leveraging Facebook ads. There are different kinds of ads that have been adopted to make the most of the Facebook campaigns, like the carousel ads, video ads, collection ads, sponsored mentions and so on.
Facebook Messenger currently has over 1.3 billion people who are using Messenger every month. Also, there are over 60 million businesses on Messenger communicating with their customers efficiently and directly.
You can create bots that interact with users and nudge them to finish their purchase. You store can be synced with Facebook comments, helping to keep everything in one place.
Sync your store with Facebook Comments & Inbox making your business conversational and turn social chats into sales with Messenger Checkout.
Facebook Messenger can be used to encourage the user to make a purchase, by showing them the image they left in the cart, prompting them with showing them a collection of products they have their interest in and so on.
Coding messenger bots from scratch can be cumbersome. There are a lot of tools out in the market to take care of every Facebook messenger conversation. FlashChat is one tool you can check out.
Search retargeting unlike other forms of retargeting, that require users to be part of the marketing list or at least visit your website, search ads reach out to those users who have searched for keywords that are relevant to your business. For instance, if you are selling t-shirts, and someone searches for ‘White t-shirts’, your ad could start appearing for the users.
Search retargeting is highly effective, as the user is literally searching for a product, which shows their purchase intent.
You can identify, bid and optimize for keywords searched and make changes accordingly. You can make a keyword-level bidding, keyword-level recency, keyword-level reporting, and dynamic keyword management. Here is an example Search Engine Land gives -
These are the channels that will help you retarget and get those sales numbers to skyrocket. Again, the trick is to identify the right channels and the right platforms to make it all work. Combine different channels, see if the combination gives you better results and accordingly invest more on them. Go on, make that cash register go Cha-Ching!
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