Your Online Strategy Is Missing Something

One Simple Tactic That Should Be as Essential as Search

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Jay   Habegger
Jay Habegger

It seems like every day we're getting more exciting news about how advertisers are spending more money on digital; advertisers are giddily spending on social media and video thanks to the success of Facebook and YouTube, and search is still seen as the most essential piece of any online effort. But there's one strategic element that many advertisers still aren't considering as an always-on piece of their arsenal: retargeting.

Retargeting is a fairly straightforward concept, even though the technology that makes it possible is anything but. Advertisers partner with a retargeting provider, then place java-script code on their websites. When a visitor comes to the 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.

Ad exchanges and demand-side platforms help ad-supported sites sell their inventory in real time to the advertisers willing to pay the most. When a user with a retargeting cookie shows up on one of these sites, the cookie pre-qualifies them as interested in the brand. Retargeting allows marketers to reach the consumer again and cement a message; retargeted consumers are almost always more responsive to ads than consumers who saw ads at random.

Retargeting is widely used by online retailers to convert more visitors, and by ad networks to improve display campaign performance. Missing from this equation are advertisers that sell through a retail channel: the companies that target consumers but have no e-commerce division, simply because of the nature of their business. This long list of companies includes well-known CPG brands like Procter & Gamble and virtually every product manufacturer.

While most of these companies don't sell directly to consumers online, their websites are immensely important sources for consumer research, and therefore crucial early steps as consumers move through the sales funnel. In fact, studies confirm that a manufacturer's website is one of the most important information sources for consumers researching a future purchase. Consumers flow through these sites, but the brands usually do not have a retargeting program to advance the sale after those initial visits. As a result, these advertisers miss an important path-to-purchase opportunity.

Remember how we said search was still the most essential piece of online advertising? Retargeting, when used as an always-on campaign tactic, can be just as important. After all, search marketing goes after consumers in the middle of the research process, whether they're looking for a brand, a product, or a competing brand. Retargeting campaigns have the same effect. Manufacturers can use retargeting to take advantage of their role at the top of the path-to-purchase 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.

Channel advertisers should be using retargeting to keep their brand message in front of pre-qualified, interested consumers. So why aren't they?

The retargeting space right now is narrowly focused on e-commerce and ad network performance. That focus is reflected in the pricing for retargeting, where current models make very little sense for advertisers without e-commerce businesses. Retargeting firms offer services for a percentage of the lift provided or through revenue-sharing models, as well as cost-per-action or cost-per-click pricing. This pricing doesn't prevent channel brands from entering retargeting, but it does send the message that it's possibly not a good fit.

This may give channel sellers pause, but it should hardly be a deterrent. Retargeting helps brands stay in the consideration set by messaging users as they move through the final stages of an online path-to-purchase.

Using an ad network to advertise around approved content that generates a lot of traffic is a sound strategy, one that helps advertisers stay top of mind for consumers. But always-on retargeting actually provides more value. Display campaigns help brands gain mind share among consumers in general, but retargeting helps them stay top of mind for consumers who are already interested. Remember, retargeting means the advertiser reaches only pre-qualified 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 click away.

Jay Habeggeris the CEO of OwnerIQ.
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