Introduction To The World Of Remarketing

Graphic by ReTargeter

Have you ever visited a website, only to find its results seem to follow you as you continue your exploration of the world wide web?

Have you ever browsed for shoes on Amazon, and see the same results in an ad on Facebook, CNN, or ESPN?

No, you are not being stalked--not maliciously, at least--this is a form of internet marketing called Remarketing, and it is rapidly growing in popularity as more and more businesses place emphasis on their virtual marketplace. Remarketing is a tool that allows websites like Amazon or 6PM to target a specific audience--who have previously visited their site--as they continue to surf the web.

How Remarketing Works

By placing a simple piece of JavaScript code in a website, that site can manage what specific segmentations will be targeted. Every time a site gets a new visitor, the site drops an anonymous browser cookie in the user's browser. Users are then matched with ads that fit their specific profile, based on what is called an interest graph, a representation of a user's interests.

Now, you're probably thinking: "this is stalking." Well, it's not so much stalking as it is a noninvasive marketing tactic. When you're online looking for shoes, and you see a pair that are absolutely necessary to own, there are four steps to the purchasing process:

1. A shopper researches the options that they have available to them.

2. The shopper narrows down their options.

3. The item is placed in the shopping cart by the shopper.

4. The item is purchased, and the shopper receives confirmation.

Sounds simple enough, right? What isn't taken into consideration in this process, however, is that at any point the customer can become distracted, and not make the actual purchase.

Whether it is a conscious decision not to complete the order or not, the interest in the product has been displayed. So when those customers find themselves on a different site, and they see an ad for that pair of shoes that they seriously considered purchasing, that spark of interested is reignited.

Shopify: A Remarketing Case Study

To highlight how remarketing works, let's use Shopify as an example. I was recently doing research for a client based on different types of POS systems, and came across Shopify while doing a Google search. After concluding my research, I went on to Mashable for my daily consumption of content, and there they were:


As I continued my daily social media intake, I came across Shopify several more times on Facebook and on several other industry sites. By the time it came for me to make a recommendation to my client, having seen Shopify so often over the span of a few days, it was simple to make the recommendation for Shopify as I felt most familiar with the brand. Remarketing done right can highly increase your bottom line, especially when you take into account an attribution model.

Types Of Remarketing

Remarketing offers sites options that were previously not available. There are a few types of basic remarketing to look at. Each has its strengths, but ultimately it is up to the company to utilize one that fits what they sell.

Display remarketing is the most basic form: ads are displayed after an individual leaves the site. Search remarketing targets users who make specific queries. Because these users are displaying in an interest related to a particular site's product or services, this type of remarketing is a way to impart on the user more information about the product or service.

Perhaps the most common form of remarketing--at least currently--is Social Media remarketing. The popularity of Social Media Remarketing has understandably done a great degree of growing since social media started the transformation process from a niche activity to something that many people feel they cannot live without.

Email remarketing is designed to offer ads based on the content of the user's email account, while Video remarketing targets users who have viewed a specific video. Like email remarketing, videos based on context are displayed for the visitor.

Who To Target

In association with the different forms of remarketing come different segmentations. Essentially, this refers to the targets that a particular brand of remarketing looks for.

General Visitors are, quite simply, anyone who visits the site. This is the broadest segmentation targeted for remarketing, and--like the practice of remarketing in general--works best when a website garners a healthy amount of traffic. Generally the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) related to this form of remarketing is related to branding.

If a site wants to target visitors who looked deeper into the website than a general visitor has, then that site often targets Specific Product Visitors. A site that sells blenders will get so many hits per month, but only those that browse amongst specific categories will get a cookie from the site. This is a popular form of remarketing because those people that take a look at different types of blenders are far more likely to purchase from the site than someone who didn't stray from the homepage.

Specifically addressing those that had started the purchase process--and stopped for whatever reason--is the concept of targeting Abandoned Shopping Cart Visitors. Even though the volume of ads served for this audience will be generally smaller, the conversion rate will be higher as these are highly qualified and targeted visitors; these were the closest users completing a purchase. This is a strong indicator of intent to purchase, and targeting this base can lead to the finalization of the sale at a later visit.

Going a step further, some businesses specifically aim to connect with Previous Customers. This is a safe way at targeting an audience that was satisfied enough with the product in the first place, thusly, making them more likely to patronize the company again. Targeting this group helps to build community around the brand and to foster the development of Brand Ambassadors.

What To Consider

The goals of the campaign will dictate the length of the remarketing cookie. Typically, Google offers a cookie with the lifetime of 30 days. This, however, can be extended, depending on the campaign. If a business is targeting a previous customer, one who purchased a product with a long lifetime, then the company may want to consider a longer cookie window, to stay relevant. The point becomes mute if the user is vigilant about clearing and blocking cookies.

Like all types of marketing, remarketing can potentially overwhelm the users, resulting in a negative connotation of the brand or product. Logical or not, it's a knee-jerk reaction everyone is capable of.

The ultimate goal of remarketing is to gently remind the user why they visited the website in the first place. Campaigns with a few impressions a day allow the user to keep the business in mind, but without a blaring statement of-an-advertisement following them around.

Some companies have success by "sweetening the deal," for users that have visited the site and expressed interest in purchasing a product. When that user moves on--with cookie in tow--they will see the product again, but this time with a percentage knocked off, or free shipping offered, for example. Offering the product at a slightly reduced price is a simple way for the user to justify the purchase.

How To Set-up A Remarketing Campaign

There are numerous third-party sites dedicated to helping companies set-up and manage remarketing campaigns. Google Adwords, the biggest online advertiser in the world, possesses a virtually endless ad network, and works in conjunction with Gmail. Perfect Audience is renowned for its simplicity, something that generally appeals to all, but in particular small businesses. It's compatibility with Shopify stores allows for seamless Social remarketing, saving time and money.

Final Thoughts

For the companies that have exerted the time, money, and effort to entice visitors to visit their site, remarketing functions as a sort of insurance policy, as well as incentive. The majority of those users will not buy something, nor will they sign-up for email alerts; that's a given. But by targeting those that express interest in the business, remarketing can be a vital addition to the site's marketing campaign.

Remarketing functions as a personal advertisement for visitors, designed to speak to their personal interests without the intrusion of an irrelevant advertisement. It's an noninvasive way to simply remind users that they were interested enough at one point to visit the site; what's the hurt in doing it again?

About the Author: Marcela De Vivo

Marcela De Vivo has been an search marketing consultant since 1999.  She focuses heavily on SEO, SEM and Social Media Marketing, and loves to help businesses of all sizes to improve their online visibility.  Connect with Marcela on Twitter or Google+

Marcela De Vivo

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