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Remarketing: Online's Misunderstood Conversion Tool

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Behavioral, geographic, and demographic targeting has become a taboo concept in some media circles. One particular tool -- behavioral targeting, also called remarketing or retargeting -- has been singled out for unfair criticism, despite its phenomenal success for advertisers brave enough to engage it as a conversion tool.

Remarketing at its most basic level allows marketers to get in front of viewers who have already shown interest in a product or service by following them and showing ads for the product or service they initially eyed as they surf elsewhere on the Web.

Remarketing 101

There has been hesitation to adopt remarketing because of several concerns, including privacy, attribution methods, and effect on ROI. However, I've found these concerns to be either unfounded or exaggerated. Marketers who avoid remarketing because of fear of scaring away prospects are really losing the opportunity to turn prospects into customers.

A little education can go a long way toward quelling fears and concerns by showing that remarketing or retargeting actually works.

Remarketing delivers ads to consumers based on previous website actions that didn't result in a sale. Prospective customers who don't convert during a site visit are tagged and delivered ads for discounts and specials from the original site owner as they surf elsewhere on the Web.

Privacy Matters

A crucial point to understand is that remarketing absolutely doesn't pull any personally identifiable information from the visitor. All that is tracked is the fact that he or she viewed a particular site.

Organizations have stepped up to try to provide some necessary education to consumers and advertisers.

For example, the IAB has created the "Privacy Matters" campaign to educate consumers on targeted ads and squash the fears of privacy groups that have misunderstood the methods behind ad targeting. Some clever IAB banners proclaim "Advertising is Creepy," and when you scroll over the banner a message appears informing that advertisers don't use "personally identifiable information" in deciding where to serve their ads. Clicking on the banners drives viewers to IAB's "Privacy Matters" site with FAQs about Internet privacy.

Hopefully, this educational campaign will translate into the support that behavioral targeting needs to fend off non-targeted ads.

Attribution

Beyond privacy, the issue of attribution is putting on the defensive remarketing campaigns that are billed on CPA. Some advertisers are worried that paying a CPA on a "view through" rather than the click isn't an effective way to increase ROI or measure ROI.

A recent study from comScore showed that Americans are 49 percent more likely to visit an advertiser's site if they have previously been exposed to display ads. As the report stated, "Display advertising, despite a lack of clicks, can have a significant positive impact on consumer behavior."

Think Beyond the Click

We see display ads all the time. They may not always compel us to go to that particular site immediately. But just "viewing" that ad keeps its particular product top of mind whenever we do go back and search.

My point here is simple: we understand the value of click-through conversions. They are precise and easy to measure. However, a majority of CPC clicks will be fruitless.

It's necessary to encourage advertisers to think beyond the click and remember the power of the view.

A friend recently reminded me of this power when he told a story about how his son chose Nike shoes over other brands. "Why did you get Nikes?" my friend asked his son. "I don't know," the son replied. "I just did it."

Long View

Advertisers facing the pressure of ROI need to ask themselves: "What did that ad do for my business?" Often this question is posed with a short-term view. This desire for an instant result has given remarketing a reputation for having a positive but low ROI.

The longer-term view presents a more accurate picture in this case. When it comes to remarketing, the ROI is incremental over time. The advertiser is targeting only their past users, so it may take multiple views of an ad for it to resonate.

Additionally, the ability to segment the users based on their interests is key. A targeted message is often what captures the attention of a user and compels them to come back and convert.

Most Under-utilized Online Marketing Technology

In a survey from Advertise.com and SEMPO, remarketing was cited as the most under-utilized online marketing technology. This is the case in spite of some advertisers experiencing a 400 percent increase in ad response once they have implemented remarketing.

As we move forward into an even more technologically advanced Internet, hopefully we'll continue to question and educate each other. Open dialogue will drive online progress and enhance advertiser satisfaction.

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