retargeted ads, marketing online

The following is a summary of this article in Marketing Week with our additional opinions added to the mix.

In today’s society, the idea of ‘retargeting’, the strategy of showing people the same products they have been looking at previously in ads on other sites at points in the future, makes sense. In theory, having the same item you have been looking at but weren’t 100% sold on at the time pop up at future points, reminding you that you wanted it and still want it, is likely to make you think ‘Oh, go on then!’.

But despite the impressive case studies presented in the favour of retargeting, it just doesn’t seem likely that in the majority of cases it is having the desired effect, and could essentially be wasting a lot of digital marketers’ time and budgets.

To Buy Or Not To Buy

One reason for this opinion is that quite often the behaviour of the consumer is mistaken for intent to buy, when in actual fact their intent was quite different. A good example of this is when a website does not offer up the cost of shipping until half way through the checkout. Often this could be because the shipping cost depends on the size/weight of the item. So in order to discover the costs the customer must first place the item in their virtual basket and start the checkout process.

This could easily be mistake as a much stronger intention to buy the item that was abandoned when actually there was never that strong an inclination to buy in the first place.

Blurred Lines

The second problem with retargeting is that you can very easily blur the lines between persistence and just plain annoyance, which can have a cold water effect on what could have potentially been an interested customer.

Many people are turned off by pushy sales people in stores, and browsing freely on the internet was always a great way to get away from that. Now, retargeting is bringing the pushy sales aspect to the comfort of our own homes, and for many people this could have a negative impact on their intent to buy.

Waiting For Payday

The third issue revolves around our society’s ‘payday’ mentality. You will find that a lot of people wait to purchase something they want or need or wait to make bigger purchases on payday, whenever that may be. I myself have often looked at something I wanted and bookmarked the page waiting for payday when it seems justifiable to treat myself because of my healthy looking bank balance.

To a retargeted ad campaign, it may appear that I changed my mind or was unsure, as they don’t know my intent is actually to revisit the item and purchase it as a later date. And so they may spend money on retargeted ads aimed at me during the week or two between me viewing and actually purchasing the item, when my intent was always originally to buy it. This means the money spent on the retargeted ads just takes away from the profit of an already guaranteed sale.

A similar problem could occur with much larger purchases. For example, if I am viewing a sofa online, it is likely I will want to go into the shop and actually see the sofa in person before I make the purchase. And then, if I make the purchase in the store, the online retargeted ads are none the wiser. Could this mean they will continue to market to me a product that I already purchased, again eating away at the profit on the sale?

Retargeted Ads, Waste Or Worthwhile?

Now, this isn’t to say that retargeted ads are all a waste of time and money. Quite the opposite, I agree that they are the future of online marketing and many cases have shown a higher return on investment when the strategy has been tested.

What I do believe though is that we should be trying harder to create a campaign that responds to proven, reliable signals of intent, rather than just relying on uninformed behaviour indicators that could be shaving quite a chunk of your return on investment. What is needed is the marketer to consider the real life influences that impact on their own customer’s buying behaviour, and work out a more informed strategy for gauging what their intent truly is.