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Retargeting Is The New Black

If you’re an in-house online marketer like me, no doubt your inbox also seems to be coming increasingly inundated with solicitations to try the exciting world of retargeting or remarketing or remessaging solutions. In the seemingly endless sea of provider choices, are any of these types of retargeting worth the technical effort involved and how can marketers select the best partner?

Retargeting Basics

When considering any retargeting, it is important to have a good technical understanding of how the solution works. The success of retargeting for an organization may hinge on the robustness and technical correctness of the tracking and targeting implementations. On the most basic level, retargeting is leveraging the visitor audience a site already receives to market more aggressively to that qualified audience. Additionally, most marketers either exclude or specifically target visitors that have completed transactions versus those that have not. Even more complex targeting regarding what content visitors browsed can be implemented with many retargeting solutions.

Let’s look at a specific example of how more complex retargeting could work. At Viator.com, I manage our online marketing efforts and I drive quite a bit of traffic for things to do in Paris. Some of those visitors convert and buy a product in Paris, but many do not. Of those that do not, I could be tracking more specifically what they looked at in Paris, like Eiffel Tower tours. Later, when the non-converting visitors to Viator are surfing the web, retargeting ads will display for them with ads about Paris, or even more specifically, Eiffel Tower tours or whatever the tracking intelligence determines should display given what that visitor browsed on Viator’s site.

At the most basic level, retargeting can just be showing online ads to visitors who didn’t purchase without the complicated dynamic display of specific product options.

Technical Considerations

Retargeting requires more technical work than most online marketing channels. While marketers can track the performance of retargeting ads using their preferred web analytics tool (e.g., Omniture, Google Analytics), retargeting also requires special pixel tracking to create the retargeting audiences. At minimum, there are tracking pixels to establish the visitor audience (generally in a universal header or footer) and another on the purchase confirmation page to determine the purchasers, usually to exclude them from remarketing, though it is certainly possible to target them for their own campaign.

For more complicated targeting involving specific products, more specific pixels or product feeds may also need to be implemented. A marketer’s appetite for complexity will dictate how detailed a technical implementation is required. It may pay in the long run to choose a retargeting provider that can handle more complicated targeting, but test an easier implementation to start and gauge response rates.

Shop Around: Costs, Measurement & Networks

Besides your internal analytics reports, the retargeting provider will also report on transactions generated from the retargeting campaign, and some retargeting providers are paid on a CPA basis for either direct and/or view through transactions. Issues to consider when comparing cost models include determining overlap between existing marketing and organic rates of audience recapture (some of the initial audience is going to come back and purchase anyway) against the truly additional transactions retargeting drives.

Ideally, a marketer would just be paying for the return audience they would not have gotten without retargeting. CPC terms are also prevalent in remarketing, and depending on CPC rates and an organization’s conversion rate, CPA or CPC may be a better ROI. Lastly, depending on an organization’s size, view through metrics may be a more or less accurate measure of driving true value.

Retargeting solutions often vary in their network reach and partnerships, though many providers have >90% reach and have quite a lot of network overlap. DoubleClick, adBrite, Specific Media and a host of other large display networks are leveraged by multiple retargeting solutions. As part of comparison shopping, ad networks and reach are important to investigate to make sure the retargeting will reach your audience.

Retargeting is becoming an increasingly saturated market with many players and cost models, so it pays to shop around and deeply compare options in the space in terms of network reach, client base, payment terms and technical implementations.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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