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Marketing in the Digital Age: Retargeting

Marketers are spending big bucks on digital media thanks to the impact of Facebook and YouTube. Of course, SEO is a key component of every online effort. But there’s another strategic tool many advertisers have not woven into their campaigns: retargeting.


Retargeting works like this – advertisers, through the services of a retargeting provider, place java-script code on their websites. When a visitor comes to the advertiser’s site, the code sends one or more cookies to the visitor’s browser. When the site visitor leaves and then visits other ad-supported websites, they will see display ads with the brand’s message on them.

When a prospect with a retargeting cookie shows up on a website, the cookie identifies them as interested in the brand. Retargeting allows marketers to reach the consumer again (hence the “re” in retarget). Retargeted consumers are generally more receptive and responsive to ads than consumers who see ads at random.

Retargeting is widely used by online retailers to convert visitors, and by ad networks to improve display campaign performance. Advertisers that sell through a retail channel: companies that target consumers but have no e-commerce division, have proven slow to take advantage of this powerful tactic.

While many companies don’t sell directly to consumers online, their websites are important sources for consumer information. Numerous studies have shown that a manufacturer’s website is one of the most important resources for consumers doing their homework prior to making a purchase. Consumers visit these sites, but the brands usually do not have a retargeting program to follow up after those initial visits. As a result, these advertisers miss an important opportunity.

Retargeting, when used as an always-on campaign tactic, can be just as important as SEO. After all, search marketing goes after consumers in the midst of the research process, whether they’re looking for a brand, a product, or a competing brand. Retargeting campaigns work the same way. Manufacturers can use retargeting and send messages to consumers about products after they’ve visited the manufacturer’s website. If a brand uses search to target interested consumers, it’s only logical that they use retargeting. Search is confined to one site — the search engine — but retargeting works across all participating sites on the web.

Using an ad network to advertise adjacent to content that generates a lot of traffic is a sound strategy. But retargeting can offer greater value. Display campaigns help brands gain mind-share among consumers in general, but retargeting helps them stay top-of-mind with consumers who are already interested. Retargeting means that the advertiser reaches only interested parties. Reaching interested audiences is more valuable than buying across a network, as these consumers have already invested time in going to your website and learning about your offerings. Retargeting offers a way to continue influencing them after they move away from your site.

It’s a prime example of harvesting the “low hanging fruit” — except in this case the picking is done digitally.

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