Stalking Really Works!

iStock_000006346027Medium-1  If you are a hunter and saw the headline thinking this was a great article on combing   the woods for  whitetails…you are going to be disappointed on two fronts.  About six years ago, some savvy marketers began implementing a social media advertising strategy called “Behavioral Retargeting”.

I was searching Overstock.com for a new brief case to get ready for the SHOT Show a few years back but didn’t buy.  From every site I then visited for several days, Overstock had ads following me around on their briefcase specials. If you do any browsing or shopping on the web, you have probably noticed this has happened to you.

For example, if you were visiting a popular gun manufacturer’s site like Walther and then moved on to other sites such as YouTube, Amazon or pick your favorite site, a Walther ad would appear on the page just like it was always placed there.  I nicknamed this tactic my “stalker” campaign.

Retargeting is done by displaying ads to the user as they browse the internet, via various advertising networks that an agency buys media from on behalf of their clients. Retargeting normally only serves banner or skyscraper ads to people who have shown at least some amount of engagement in the original brand, which can make it more effective than an untargeted advertising campaign. Where a company has already spent money driving a user to their site in the first place, the term “retargeting” is derived from the concept of marketing to that same user again, in a different manner in an unexpected way.

In its most basic form, retargeting sends ads to people more frequently after they have left an advertiser’s website until they take an action. Some retargeting efforts gather information from Internet behaviors and their algorithms then select ads that match the criteria and the company believes will be of interest. This is called “search retargeting”. Some companies specialize in retargeting, while other companies have added retargeting to their list of methods of purchasing advertising. Retargeting helps companies advertise to website visitors who leave without a conversion – this accounts for about 98% of all web traffic.

Personalized retargeting, a related practice, differs from behavioral retargeting as it allows an advertiser to display a banner created on-the-fly for a particular consumer based on their specific browsing behavior. For example, if a consumer visits an advertiser’s website and browses products A, B and C – they will then be retargeted with a display banner featuring the exact products A, B and C that they previously viewed.  This is what Overstock was doing with me.

Studies suggest that a company needs to have seven different ‘contacts’ with a customer (on average) before they make a purchase. Retargeting is allowing companies to continue the marketing conversation with a customer after they leave a website. This form of behavioral targeting is now a growing trend in the online marketing field.

I really took several weeks to decide whether to test this type of campaign.  Many marketers suffer a moral dilemma whether following someone around the web without agreed upon action was really kosher.  I tested it for three different national brands in different industries a couple years ago and had moderate success.  Since then, then the algorithms have become very effective. Our campaign was one of the early ones and just a couple of years ago, there was no way for a user to block these ads.  We never received complaints and got quite a few free trials and sales as a result of the limited campaign.  Now, however, advertisers are putting disclaimers at the top of the ad with an explanation of why they were seeing the ad and a way to get the ads to stop. There are several companies that provide this service such as Fetchback, Criteo and Steelhouse.

The next time you think about tracking down new customers, think about retargeting. We can help you further understand and develop the right campaign for your business.

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