The term "retargeting" has become common language within the digital marketing space, but it's often misunderstood and, consequently, the potential it brings becomes lost. There are actually seven ways you should be looking at it for your media plans, outlined below.
When marketers refer to retargeting, they are typically referring to site retargeting -- the ability to show display ads to an individual who has visited your site and then left again, often without completing a desired action. We hear of retailers using this in particular, trying to get a customer who has added some items to a cart to come back and hit the checkout button instead of giving the dollars to a competitor.
There is actually so much more that retargeting can do, and if you understand the basic principles, you begin to see an almost unlimited potential. In essence, retargeting is the process of identifying an individual who has done something you have defined, in order to determine who to target with an ad. And for it be effective, you define actions that imply an intent -- an intent to buy a product, an intent to solve a problem etc.
So the seven types of retargeting should be thought of as the seven indicators of intent.
Use search retargeting
Any SEM marketer will tell you that one of the most powerful markers of intent is a search event -- the individual is actually raising their hand and telling you what it is they want, and SEM marketing works so well that we simply can't get enough. So often a program becomes maxed out, or the point of diminishing return reached before the budget is allocated.
Along came search retargeting to solve that problem and make display advertising more effective. Search retargeting finds those people who have not visited your site, but who have searched for a term on Google, Yahoo, or Bing, that matters to your campaign. Specialist companies like Chango see billions of these events each month and can build a display campaign using that data.
As search retargeting doesn't require any pixels to be placed on your site, it is often the quickest and easiest retargeting technique to push live.
The rules on tagging site visits
By placing a pixel on your site, individual visitors can be tagged and then shown ads to remind them of your products and services. Despite the relatively common use of this technique, many sites are using it in the most basic form -- tagging every page, showing a generic message, and running frequency caps so high that the individual feels like a stalker victim.
Best practice states that relevant sections of a site should be tagged -- a shopping cart, products, download pages etc. -- and the users that hit each page be categorized based on their implied interest. Each of those groups of people should then have relevant messaging shown to them -- and marketers, no one needs to see your ad 20 times a day for 30 days!
An often overlooked tactic for site retargeting is the exclusion pixel -- the pixel that tells your retargeting tools not to talk to an individual again. This might be because they have already bought from you, but it should also be considered for negative intent indicators such as visiting the careers or press sections of a retailing site -- is showing display ads to these people really going to get them to buy something, or are you wasting your budget?
Examine the SEM / SEO visitor
Whilst this is a form of site retargeting, examining inbound traffic sources is also often ignored. By looking at the search terms that brought a visitor to your site it is possible to understand much more about why they came to visit. Take this data and combine with on site searches, and you have a level of granularity in your site retargeting program that you were lacking before.
Monitor email behavior
And when you have someone invested with your brand to the point that they are receiving and opening your email messages, watch their behaviors and use them to further segment your media investment. And if they click the unsubscribe link, fire an exclusion pixel again and stop wasting your dollars.
("Email retargeting" is in itself a different technique and involves sending an email message to the targeted individuals rather than showing them a display ad)
Offer contextually relevant content
One of the powerful benefits of search retargeting is its ability to find new prospects, not just talk to the people you have already paid to bring to your site. Whilst unusual, there are often deals you can do with other sites that allow you to do the same thing. For a travel brand I negotiated with a specialist events brand for the two companies to swap retargeting pixels -- each site offered a complimentary product and targeted a similar audience, and swapping pixels allowed them both to benefit from a 'free' set of prospects to talk to.
Engage with dispersed content
And if you still need more new faces, look at tagging all of your dispersed content with retargeting pixels. Running video or rich media advertising? Giving out a flash game or tool? Add your pixel and when a user engages with that content, add them to your retargeting pool and see if their engagement is expressing a strong intent to buy your product or service.
Stay socially connected to your customers
Finally, one of my favorite techniques I adopted very early when I was on the agency side was social retargeting. Companies like Media6Degrees have made this their own, carefully evolving the data and the mechanisms over the last three years. At the start they looked at who are you socially connected to, using the principles of a study that said telemarketers had more success if they next called the friends of their existing customers, as defined by their home phone numbers dialed most often!
And as they evolved they began to focus more on micro content consumption; looking at what is being read or viewed by people, and looking for overlaps between a site's existing customer base and the other people in their database. If you share a passion for reading about Bob Marley, Italian vacations, parenting tips, and antique furniture with someone who has just bought a sofa from Pottery Barn, be ready to start seeing Pottery Barn ads in the near future.
What should I do today?
Now that you know that retargeting involves more than just throwing some pixels on your site, you can plan how to move forward appropriately. Each technique serves a different purpose and solves a different need for your business. Start by reviewing where your pixels are for site retargeting, or by asking your vendor if they are excluding wasted traffic or segmenting based on multiple data points.
Then, as you need to attract more prospects to your site, use a tactic like search retargeting to find the people who are most likely to convert, but who you haven't yet seen on your site. A set of keywords and some creative is all you need.
Use the infographic as a tick sheet, working your way through the available techniques for both on site and off site integration. Note that each technique is also indicated by the power of its intent -- the stronger the intent, the more accurate your targeting.