Creative Ways to Use Retargeting

By Justin Seibert| 5 Min Read | December 20, 2011

We haven’t talked a lot about retargeting on our digital marketing blog, which is kind of silly given how much we use it in our client campaigns, so allow me to right the wrong with a quick post.

What Is Retargeting?

Before we get into some of the neat ways people are using retargeting for extended reach and conversion, let’s start with the basics.  Skip to the next headline if you’re already familiar.

I like to refer to retargeting as a second bite of the apple.  Some other people call it ‘cyberstalking,’ while still others call it ‘creepy.’  Some online marketers just call it “effective.”  Here’s how traditional retargeting works:

Friendly Visitor (or FV as she will now be known) visits your site.  FV has a cookie uploaded to their browser.  FV leaves your site.  As FV goes along her merry way, she visits other Web sites who sell remnant ad space through a third party network.  Utilizing this third party network for retargeting, your ads continue to follow FV across a variety of Web sites.  You have control over a variety of factors.  Depending on who you’re using for retargeting, these include:

  • Bid
  • Bid type (CPC, CPM, CPA)
  • Ad type (image, text, video, dynamic) and variation
  • Length of time the cookie remains on the browser, assuming FV doesn’t wipe it clean.  Varies from instantly up to 30 days.
  • Different messaging based on what page was visited
  • Different messaging depending on whether the person has converted or not
  • Which sites and types of sites are eligible to show your ad (brand protection).

How Well Does Retargeting Work?

Like with all forms of internet marketing – and really, life – your mileage may vary.  But all things being equal, advertisers typically see a ton of ad impressions at a very low cost.  Often times we see that they pick up a number of conversions at a good conversion rate and low cost per conversion, though the scale often isn’t there unless the site has huge traffic volume.

Retargeting or Remarketing: What’s the Difference?

One of the platforms offering retargeting, Google AdWords refers to it as remarketing?  Why?  I have no idea – ask whoever is in charge of their branding.  There’s no difference.  It’s kind of like if Pittsburgh were a company that produced rubber bands and they called them ‘gum bands’ while the rest of the world just kept calling them rubber bands.   But, what is really nice is the ability to run retargeting campaigns directly out of your paid search account with Google.

Creative Uses of Retargeting

With the basics out of the way, let’s talk about some interesting ways retargeting is being used today:

  • Rectifying shopping cart abandonment. Lose people during the shopping cart process?  Target just the people that added items to their cart (or made it to a specific page), but didn’t complete their order.  Offer them a coupon or free shipping or however you want to entice them to finish their purchase.
  • Saving the lead. Similar to shopping cart abandonment, but for lead gen.  Encourage persons who made it to one of your offer pages, but didn’t sign up.  Just be aware that the person may have chosen to give you a call instead of filling out a form.
  • New ad offering for publishers. One of our truck dealer clients forwarded us an email from a publisher in their industry offering their own retargeting.  Randall Reilly is offering their advertisers and truck dealers whom they’d like to become clients a pretty cool deal.  They will serve up an advertiser’s ads to people who have visited their site.  I don’t know any specifics so I can’t endorse it, but love the idea.  Kudos to Randall Reilly!
  • Search retargeting. Here’s a really fun one.  As mentioned above, traditional retargeting when someone has visited your site.  How else would they get the cookie on there?  If you have a strong click through rate, maybe you’ve captured 5% of the people who have searched. The other 95% is lost forever – or are they?Well, some enterprising platforms have come up with a solution and allow you to retarget people who have searched for a particular term, but not visited your site.  I’m pretty sure it’s done with magic cookies – which one would assume are different from magic brownies – but the possibilities are endless here.  We especially love retargeting folks who have searched for your competitors.The three search retargeting industry leaders  – Chango, Magnetic, and Simpli.fi – offer key differences from one another.  Their minimums range from $5k to $30k per month.  As of right now, Simpli.fi is the only one offering a self-service platform, although Magnetic has one in beta that is supposed to launch Q1 2012.
  • (Update) Cross Channel.  Standard retargeting is not limited to just your Web site.  You can drop cookies anywhere where people are using the internet to reach you, including email and social media properties like facebook.  Hat tip to Caroline at Retargeter, a self-service retargeting platform, who mentioned these in the comments.

Update 2: Chango reached out to provide a nice graphic called the 7 Types of Retargeting. You can click on that link to download, or read more from their blog post on the same subject.

Update 3: Facebook opened up its ad exchange (FBX) to facebook retargeting in December.  Now you can site retarget to visitors when they’re on facebook.

Hope this recap is helpful.  As with most of the topics about which we blog, if you want our Pittsburgh marketing firm to handle your retargeting efforts, let us know – we’d love to help!


Written by Justin Seibert

Justin Seibert is the President of Direct Online Marketing. Justin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. He contributes a wide range of online business-oriented topics, including the subject of exporting. His contributions can be found on publications such as the Pittsburgh Business Times, AdAge, SES Magazine, and La Voz del interior. Justin and his family enjoy learning about new cultures during their travels.

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