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Re-targeting – deal breaker or surprise taker? How the ‘human factor’ can swing it either way.

Fairmont Resort - Thanks for ruining my 40th birthday surprise!

This August, I will hit the big 4 0! After lengthy discussion with my wife about how to appropriately commemorate this milestone, I eventually relented and accepted that a ‘surprise’ of sorts would be unavoidable.

Those that know me well know I have an extreme displeasure to ‘surprise’ anything. Whilst others experience great delight from surprises, in my world, they’re a polite way of describing an ambush! U uh, not my cup of tea – not one single iota. As the cubs and scouts say: “Be prepared” is my preferred method of experiencing life… for the most part at least.

Recently, with my 4 0 milestone looming, I bravely cast off my phobia of surprises… in fact, I kind of embraced the idea. I started to hope there was a pleasant surprise waiting. My daydreams took me to all sorts of clever ideas my wife was brainstorming. Had she thrown caution to the wind and got me that Rolex GMT I wanted? Had she booked us a week in Fiji?

No… it’s neither of these. It’s a weekend at the Fairmont resort in the Blue Mountains! Whoop! Great gift but I’m realising it ain’t as fun as it could have been with that surprise element. How do I know about my ‘surprise’ pre birthday? Well, for a period of two weeks, both my work and home computers have been showing me ads for the bloody place!!

If it were just a couple of ads, I might not have noticed, but, when I am on the IGN website drooling at the upcoming Star Wars Game the Fairmont Resort is advertised on the page. I head to the Macrumors website and there it is again – another Fairmont banner. Before this day I hadn’t even heard of the hotel so someone must have been looking... hold on a moment!...

This is the third time re-targeting has wrecked an intended ‘surprise’ gift for me. Christmas gifts for the kids have been showing up in their apps well before December and my flirtation with purchasing an obscenely expensive road bike was swiftly quashed by my wife who noticed the consistency of the re-targeting campaign on our shared household devices. Seems I can’t get away with a little innocent research and she can’t get away with testing my surprise issue thing.   

So the question is – does re-targeting actually work if it’s doing all this surprise spoiling? Yes, if you add the human factor in to your strategy.

5 WAYS to add the human factor to your re-targeting strategy

1. Think context

This seems like an obvious one but it’s an important point and one not every marketer follows. By placing adds on contextually relevant websites the customer is more likely to understand why your brand is popping up – there’s an understanding and possibly even appreciation for the consideration – ‘oh, yes, I do need a new pair of boots to go with my skis’. But be aware: “ads served next to irrelevant content may have a negative impact on consumer purchase intent,” says Hugo Drayton, InSkin Media’s CEO[1].

2. Timing is key

As re-targeting is such a great blanket targeting tool it’s easy to abuse. Take care not to over use it. A consumer might be all for ads for beach wear in the warmer months but they’re unlikely to be impressed with a deluge of bikini ads when the thermometer is below 0!

You also don’t want to send an ad to a customer displaying the same product they just brought. It’s annoying for them and pointless for you. To avoid sending messages to people out of the prospect pool marketers can integrate a code into a post-order page. This enables you to untag the consumer after they have converted.  

3. Be respectful with frequency and privacy

‘Surfing behaviour is seen as almost as personal as home address.’ [2]

One study found that 69% of consumers are uncomfortable with advertisers knowing which websites they’ve visited, only marginally lower than knowing their home address (72%) and current location (71%).[3]

"Retargeting is like post-it notes; it's that reminder… what we don't want to do is create wallpaper." Glenn Fishback, head of global display at Ebay Enterprise told Ad Age.[4]

With this in mind take care on where and how often you advertise. If don’t want your brand to be known as a digital stalker keep a cap on frequency so that users don’t feel uncomfortable with your re-appearing ads.

If we aren’t considerate of consumer perspective they will get fed up and find ways around re-targeting ads and remain anonymous for searches by using the private browse function. One way we can help the customer to avoid surprise spoilers is by flagging items as gifts.

4. Be creative with your creative

According to ReTargeter click-through rates decrease 50% after five months of running the same creative. So keep your creative fresh, rotate it if possible and make it memorable. Trying to fit too much copy or a very detailed image in is less likely to grab your prospects attention than a one-liner that is compelling and sparks curiosity.

5. Ask why not?

Take the time to analyse why a consumer dropped off. Even better – if you can ask them direct do so. These kind of insights are invaluable and worth their weight in gold.

For example you could use the re-targeting to ask:

  • What is it that stopped you from purchasing today?
  • Was it the shipping fee?
  • Was it our range?
  • Did we not have your size?
  • Did you find our mobile app easy to use? Etc.

This deeper querying gives you great insight into the challenges of converting your visitor into a customer. It also gives you the opportunity to change something about your marketing approach or website.

Whilst re-targeting is a great blanket solution we need to ask if the drop-offs indicate a more complex transaction issue? Ask yourself - what else is going on for the consumer that we may not be thinking about?

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