Retargeting gone wrong

Discussion
Oct 31, 2014
George Anderson

I’ve heard from enough companies who use retargeting to know they see a benefit from serving ads to people who left their sites without making a purchase. What I’ve always wondered, however, is how many people who are retargeted go from simply noticing that it’s happening to being unhappy about it. New research from InSkin Media and RAPP Media provides some insights.

According to the survey of 1,600 people in the UK between the ages of 20 and 60, only 10 percent are more likely to buy something after seeing the same ad served on multiple sites.

While 53 percent find initial ads "interesting and useful," increased exposure has a decidedly negative effect. After seeing the same ad five times, consumers begin to see it as "annoying." If they see the same ad 10 times, their annoyance turns to anger. Fifty-five percent of consumers say they have been put off from making a purchase because of retargeting activity.

"It’s a fine line to tread as brands potentially lose control through a perfect storm of increased automated buying and the specter of consumer cookie deletion," said Paul Phillips, RAPP’s head of media strategy, in a statement. "Marketers and planners are negligent if they don’t devote more careful planning around frequency caps and other contextual filters."

Another factor in how well retargeting goes over is where the ads are served.

"Along with understanding ‘how often’ and ‘when’, advertisers must pay more attention to ‘where’ — a big issue in programmatic buying," said Hugo Drayton, CEO of InSkin Media. "Ads perform better on premium, trusted or contextually relevant sites. As with too much repetition, ads served next to irrelevant content may have a negative impact on consumer purchase intent."

Do you see more pluses or minuses to how ad retargeting is generally done today? What do you see as the keys to being successful with retargeted ads?

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12 Comments on "Retargeting gone wrong"


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Keith Anderson
Guest
5 years 1 month ago

I am dubious of self-reported data when behavioral data is often more illuminating. If you ask people about their attitudes to being tracked and related issues like privacy, you’ll almost certainly hear that many (or most) people would prefer not to be tracked.

But then you look at the actual conversion rates and ROI on the same sorts of programs and discover that what people say and what they do—especially as it relates to data-driven personalization—diverge.

The work being done to make data-driven targeting more contextually relevant and less intrusive is important, but I would favor behavioral data over surveys to inform how to proceed.

Jason Goldberg
Guest
5 years 1 month ago
Retargeting (display and search) is one of the more effective (and higher ROI) tools available to e-commerce sites. The challenge is in the execution. Not only do you need to be careful about what sites you retarget on, you also need to be really careful about your windows (how long/frequently you display ads). Many practitioners use too long a window and generate consumer ill will (“These pants are stalking me on the web!”). You also need to be really careful about what products you retarget (you wouldn’t want anything that might embarrass a shopper), and you need to be even more careful around major gift seasons, when you run the risk of spoiling a surprise for a family member who shares the same computer/browser. Lastly, the best retargeting campaigns have multi-device capabilities. Remember that many consumers will browse on one device (a smartphone for example) and buy on another (a laptop). In this case, the blocking cookie may not get placed on the smartphone even though the product was purchased on the laptop, which results… Read more »
Jason Goldberg
Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Plus one to Keith’s point. What shoppers tell us they prefer (declared preferences) is not reliable. The behavior we actually see in the analytics (revealed preferences) is a far more reliable indicator of consumers’ (mostly-subconscious) shopping behaviors.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
5 years 1 month ago

Um, let’s see … back in the old analog days there used to be a bromide about the credibility of a message existing in direct proportion to the credibility of the messenger. Seems like some analog cliches survive even in the digital age.

Obviously retargeting isn’t as effective as retargeters hope it will be, so the real question is, why don’t they concede defeat, and develop more effective placement strategies?

The real key to effective digital communication is to know everything about a person’s search history and that is getting harder and harder to do, which means companies may have to do something radical like, for example, actually developing lots of new creative and being more careful about where they place it.

The horror! The horror!

Graeme McVie
Guest
Graeme McVie
5 years 1 month ago
The power of digital advertising can sometimes cause marketers to lose sight of their true objective. If a consumer finds that an ad has crossed the chasm from being a pushy ad that is trying to sell something to a valuable piece of information that helps consumers make a more informed decision then they will ultimately improve their success rates. When a consumer doesn’t interact with a digital communication the marketer can sometimes assume that it is because the consumer hasn’t noticed the ad and the low cost of digital delivery can lead them to continually send the same ad to the same consumer in the hope that a warm lead will turn into a conversion. With this approach marketers run the risk of making consumers feel like they are being stalked around the internet which will not only lead to low ad success but could also lead to negative consumer perception which would have longer term repercussions. Capping the number of times an individual ad can be served to an individual consumer during a… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
5 years 1 month ago

The success of retargeting depends upon the circumstances. If the consumer has not responded the first time, they may not have noticed the ad, they may not have registered the ad, or they may not have been interested. Reminding consumers or retargeting the ad enough times (whatever is appropriate) to get the consumer’s attention is a good idea. Retargeting ads to consumers who have not noticed the ad may eventually get their attention but will not annoy them because it is not registering with them. Retargeting ads to consumers who are not interested in the product will be annoying. Companies need to pay attention to who receives the retargeted ads when, with what kind of response. Just because automation makes it possible to retarget easily does not mean it should be used all the time in all circumstances.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
5 years 1 month ago

It is important to recognize the difference between what consumers claim to do in a survey and the actual business results. As remarketing is tested over and again, the results are clear—consumers are reminded and do make incremental purchases.

At the same time, it makes sense to put limits on remarketing frequency to balance needs of non-responders.

To succeed, marketers must make the remarketing interesting and vary offers as well as drive frequency.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
5 years 1 month ago

One of the reasons retargeting can become annoying to off-putting hasn’t been addressed. Chasing shoppers around the internet based on cart abandonment or site jump-offs is ridiculous because it assumes that the customer didn’t go on to complete the purchase elsewhere (the most likely reason they ditched in the first place). I can’t count how many times I’ve conducted price comparisons online, arrived at my final choice, then purchased an item, only to have it pop up as a suggestion on multiple sites thereafter. Ads that suggest similar items should be much more effective.

Ed Stevens
Guest
Ed Stevens
5 years 1 month ago

Retargeting, more often than not, seems to miss the mark when I am shopping online. Two days ago, I bought my Halloween costume (from HomeDepot.com as it turns out). The next few sites I went two had advertisements from Home Depot, trying to get me to click back to buy the products I just bought from them.

Rather than damning retargeting per se, this example shows how complex strategies are prone to error. And retargeting just is hard to get right with all of the nuances of after-the-fact shopper actions.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
5 years 1 month ago

“Intelligent” retargeting is gaining momentum. The analytics behind the retargeting can help minimize consumer annoyances. This should not be taken lightly. Consumers are definitely getting not only annoyed, but are also becoming “blind” to these promotions. So, even if you get a relevant offer in place in front of the right shopper, they are quickly getting to the point that they won’t even see it.

Bottom line, explore some of the really innovative tools available for this in the marketplace today. This can be “rocket science,” however it also can be manageable.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
5 years 1 month ago

With this story about tracking the effect of advertising (with regard to automated buying), we have the same story we’ve always had: What the consumer does vs. what they say they do and what they say they want are all different things.

At the same time, the increase in automation (that you’d think would facilitate reaching the customer in the most effective ways) has caused its own “perfect storm” of annoying, maddening, repetitive, intrusive advertising.

Take a look at the always astute Tom Fishburne’s “Marketoon” expository on the subject of Retargeting Ads.

Kai Clarke
Guest
5 years 1 month ago

This is poor data, since it comes from a small sample in the U.K. and does not involve category specifics or how price, promotion and category complements impacted the retargeting efforts.

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