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Why the right data can prevent stalker-tising

Why the right data can prevent stalker-tising Spencer Kollas

One of the more popular methods for online and social marketing is retargeting, the practice of targeting consumers with ads based on a previous behavior or set of behaviors. Retargeting can be a great marketing tactic, particularly for brands looking to synchronize their marketing across channels, like email and social or social with display. However, marketers need to carefully consider the potential costs of retargeting if it's not effective. At its best, retargeting can re-engage and reward a customer. At its worst, it can feel like "stalker-tising" and be eerie and obtrusive.

Many marketers talk about how knowing their customers is a priority, though as consumers and online shoppers ourselves, we often see a different story.

Here are four very common ineffective retargeting scenarios where a lack of the right data has the potential to damage an existing customer relationship:

The information seeker

An online user may accidently come across a website or may simply visit a brand's website to find a nearby location, hours of operation, or a contact number. After only a quick view, the consumer is blasted with ads from that store across the web, on social networks, and even in their email account.

The gift giver

Online retargeting can often take the form of irrelevant harassment for a product that holds no interest for the consumer. For example, a woman purchases a doll for her 7-year-old niece, and now the only ads she sees are ads of other dolls, which is something she no longer needs or has any interest in buying. Just because someone spent a lot of time browsing your website, reading reviews, and ultimately made a purchase, it doesn't mean that they are interested in seeing or hearing about that product again and again.

The online buyer

A consumer searches for a winter coat on a brand's website, purchases the coat through their e-commerce site, and then continues to see promotions across the web for the same coat they just purchased. They may even receive an email offering them a discount on all winter coats. In my experience, this is the worst form of digital marketing.

The multi-device shopper

A consumer starts browsing a brand's iPad app for a new pair of running shoes and adds a few options to his cart or wish list. He eventually decides on a pair and purchases via the brand's website or mobile phone app. For months, every time he opens this brand's iPad app, he gets suggestions for new running shoes, including the shoes he purchased. Sadly, even the largest, most digitally sophisticated brands are doing this today.

In each of these scenarios, incomplete data and ineffective retargeting tactics are damaging the brand-customer relationship and costing the brand money. While online marketing seems inexpensive, it can cost your brand much more in the long run.

It's not that consumers dislike retargeted ads. They simply dislike anything that isn't relevant for their immediate experience. Imagine these scenarios:

  • Instead of retargeting the online buyer for the winter coat they just purchased, the online buyer receives a follow-up email thanking them for their winter coat purchase and offering them a discount for matching winter accessories.
  • Instead of the multi-device shopper receiving ads for running shoes in his iPad app for the next six months, he receives suggestions for new pair of running sneakers via email, online ads and in his mobile/tablet apps a year later -- around the time he might typically be in the market for a new pair.

Even if the customers in those scenarios don't make the purchase, they probably feel pretty good about the experiences with those retailers. Those brands have shown that they understand the customer and what they need, at the right time.

Identifying the right data

Retargeting can be an extremely successful marketing tool to re-engage customers when used in conjunction with your other personalized marketing efforts. However, it will only be valuable if done properly using the right first-party and third-party data. The key is knowing your customer: If the customer is new to your store and new to the category based on your first-party data, you need to understand their preferences beyond the view that you have with third-party data. This can help you to understand the difference between a potential advocate and a gift-giver.

Cookie and browsing data isn't enough

When it comes to retargeting, cookie and website behavioral data is not enough. Look at their buyer's history to ensure you are not making the customer feel attacked by the ads, but rather that the brand understands them and is personally solving their need to help make their lives a little easier.

You can do this by going beyond website visitors to engagement and transactional data and linking those to determine what the consumer is really interested in regarding their product or service.

A single customer view can make all of the difference

It's imperative that marketers create a single view of their customer by linking your first-party data -- including purchase and web behavior data -- with accurate third-party data. A strong data foundation will allow you to deliver a consistent, personalized message based on what the customer finds valuable.

Spencer Kollas is a recognized industry leader in email deliverability and subscriber engagement. For more than a decade, Kollas has worked with the world’s foremost email marketers to help them connect with their customers and increase the...

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