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How to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Retargeting Ads

Is your retargeting advertising still working as more channels and increasing numbers of advertisements are vying for consumers' attention? 

We're already seeing advertising effectiveness decline as ad blocker usage grows and creativity is replaced with standard formats in cluttered environments. And with third-party cookies being phased out, will this mean the end of retargeting?

Yet despite these challenges, retargeting continues to be important. Today nearly 98% of website visitors leave without buying anything – a wealth of potential lost sales lost. This makes retargeting a critical strategy that, if you get it right, can increase your online sales by 20%.

At Epsilon, we understand these challenges. We’ve been helping advertisers overcome these so they can continue to deliver relevant and impactful retargeting.  

In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of retargeting available, seven actions you can take to improve your retargeting effectiveness, and how to approach your retargeting when third-party cookies die.  

So What is Retargeting?

Retargeting is advertising served to people after they have visited and then left your website. It's about building a relationship with them when they are off-site, reminding them of the product they were interested in, and encouraging them to return to your site and buy.

But when talking about 'retargeting', we must be clear. Retargeting is a catch-all term referring to a multitude of different approaches. The key ones are:

  • Site retargeting: This is the classic definition and what's been discussed above: identifying and targeting users who have visited your website. It's a mid/bottom-of-the-funnel activity where you are reaching users who know what they are looking for and have shown an interest in what you offer.  
  • Search retargeting: This targets users with display advertising based on the keywords they have put into a search engine. In this case, they may never have heard of your brand, but you can influence their thinking at the start of their buying journey. It's a top-of-the-funnel activity to build awareness and drive qualified users to your site.
  • Email retargeting: Also called remarketing, uses email to target existing customers who have added products to their basket but then left your site. The targeted email acts as a reminder, encouraging them to buy what they were viewing. This approach helps drive sales and customer retention.     
  • Mobile app retargeting: While retargeting is often for acquisition, this is about re-engaging users through in-app advertising. While 230 bn apps were downloaded in 2021 – highlighting it's a mobile-first world – churn is very high. Ecommerce shopping apps, for example, have a 24.5% day-one user retention rate, but after 30 days, this falls to 5.6%. Retargeting is a critical approach to improving retention and use. 

While there are many types, Epsilon focuses on site and email retargeting. 

So, what can you do in these competitive times to improve the effectiveness of your retargeting? Well, these tips can help. 

7 Steps to Improve the Quality of Your Retargeting Ads 

1. Understand Your Audience 

Think quality, not quantity. Each visitor to your site is not the same, so don't target everyone. Focus on people who offer the best opportunities. These could be people who have visited key product pages, viewed a product page many times, your existing customers and users who have placed items in their basket. 

What's critical is that you can differentiate between the individuals. This is particularly important for recognising a brand new prospect versus a customer who has bought from you before. 

2. Use your insights to make better decisions

Segmenting your visitors allows you to give each group a value based on their relationship with your brand. From this, you can decide whether to send them an ad or not. 

And for those you do, does it need to be for the same product they viewed? Basic retargeting focuses on promoting to a user what they've shown an interest in. But can you be more sophisticated? 

Use your customer data. Are there insights you have that can inform you what to show them? For example, if you know people who look at red shoes are often interested in red handbags, consider promoting this product to them. Make your data and retargeting work harder.

3. Don't annoy your customers and prospects

Capping how often your audience sees your advertising is essential. Seeing ads for products they've viewed too many times when online makes consumers feel they're being followed. It's annoying, and they may react negatively to your brand. This could have an impact on your future potential sales. 

And it's the same with your remarketing emails. Be aware of how many you send. Too many, and you'll come across as pushy (or desperate). This can drive people to unsubscribe from future emails, cutting off a key communication channel.

So make sure there's a limit on how many ads people see. Or send them different creatives, which may help you extend the frequency of your messaging. 

Better still, use technology that can decide what's right for each individual at the time. Remember, every message you send must deliver incremental value and have an impact. If it doesn't, there's no point in sending it. 

If you are frequency capping, ensure your technology allows this to be done at the individual level. Traditional cookie-based targeting focuses on a user's device, be that a computer, mobile or tablet, not the person using them. This means people with many devices can be exposed to more ads than if you cap around the user.  

4. Get your timings right

For any retargeting campaign, especially email, timing is critical. For example, if someone has visited your site and then leaves to check the news, immediately showing them a retargeting ad mightn't be the best move.

But don't wait too long; otherwise, you risk losing them to a competitor. 

Interrogate your data to understand how long it takes, on average, for someone to convert and buy. Is it a few days? Could it be two weeks? From this, you can develop a relevant retargeting timeframe and build your campaign timings and frequency around this.     

5. And get your measurement right

Make sure your retargeting is helping grow your business. Don't rely on a last-click model to measure success. Instead, start measuring incrementality

You don't want to leave conversions on the table. Equally, you don't want to serve ads to prospects who would convert anyway. Adopting an incremental approach allows you to deliver the same advertising efficiency but reduce your retargeting spend.     

6. Make it personal

Use data insights to guide and enhance your communications to strengthen their relevancy. Customise your advertising based on consumer interactions with your site. Adopt Dynamic creative optimisation to allow the best message and best creative combination, based on the user and device they are on, to deliver more impactful and personalised ads.     

And apply this information to personalise your emails. Use their first name and always remind them what product they have in their basket. And give them a compelling reason to buy. As 45% of abandonment emails are opened, this is an excellent opportunity to drive sales.    

7. Don't let your channels exist in isolation 

Retargeting isn't a single-channel strategy. Siloed approaches result in a disconnect, so promote a seamless cross-channel experience. Make sure email campaigns complement your display advertising and deliver a consistent message.

And don't just think digital. Skincare and beauty retailer Sephora is a good example of how combining online and offline can support a business. It uses its mobile app to identify in-store customers and provide them with relevant information. And when they leave the store, it can retarget them with offers, videos, and product announcements to keep them engaged, ensuring the brand remains front of mind.

So What's the Future of Retargeting in a Cookie-less World?

Most retargeting is cookie-driven. It relies on these tiny pieces of data stored on a user's browser to track behaviour as people navigate the web. But these will die when Google ends third-party cooking tracking during the second half of 2024.

The good news is retargeting will still be possible. But instead of cookies, it will rely on identity solutions. 

These offer a privacy-compliant approach to identifying an individual. They use various signals and elements to identify an actual individual, such as email addresses and physical ones.

What's critical is ensuring the data connecting the identifier to an individual is long-term and consistent so you can continue to market to them in the future.

To navigate this new identity world, you'll need to work with a solution provider like Epsilon. But not all identity solutions are the same so take a look at Digiday's recently published report that can help you assess what nine leading providers offer.      

Today, success in retargeting is not around how much you spend on advertising but by being clever. It's the approach Domino's adopted when we worked with them to help drive incremental growth. Here the focus was to 'outsmart rather than outspend.'  

And always use your data and targeting to create brand affinity when developing your retargeting strategy. Good retargeting benefits your brand, but bad retargeting extracts value. So while short-term sales are important, don't let this be at the expense of longer-term profitability.  

Looking for Help with Your Retargeting?

Using the tips above will help make a positive difference in your retargeting. But to take full advantage of retargeting by applying better personalisation, insights and measurement, you must work with an expert. 

Through our PeopleCloud platform, we're allowing brands globally to have meaningful conversations with their prospects and consumers to deliver results that matter.   

To find out more, get in touch and we’ll be happy to schedule a call to discuss your current challenges and how Epsilon can support you going forward.Explore more insights