This Ad Is Following Me…Re-Targeting: How Does It Work?

Re-Targeting: How Does It Work?

Did you ever have an eerie feeling that an ad was following you across the sites you were visiting on the web? Well, it probably wasn’t your imagination. You were being “followed” by that ad thanks to a marketing technique called “Re-targeting.” If performed ethically and correctly, re-targeting can be a great and effective marketing tool because it allows a marketer to display highly tailored and relevant ads and landing pages to different users. For a marketer, this can result in a more worthwhile investment in marketing dollars. For a shopper, this can be an opportunity to see ads presented to you that are highly relevant to your interests.

Re-targeting can take place when you visit a website and browse some of the products on that site without buying anything. For example, let’s say you go to an online clothing retailer and take a look at some jeans. You may notice that after you leave the clothing website, the jeans that you were browsing begin to mysteriously following you in display ads as you make your way across the Internet. Many of these websites that you visit after your initial visit to the clothing website may have have nothing to do with the original website you had visited; yet they still show you ads for those jeans. This is re-targeting in action.

The Objectives of Re-Targeting: Serve Relevant Ads and Targeted Landing Pages

There are two objectives with re-targeting campaigns. The first objective is to to serve you ads for the products that you had previously seen on a particular website. The second objective is to present you with highly relevant and targeted landing pages once you do click on an ad.

More specifically, if you were looking at a particular pair of jeans or shoes or a purse or whatever other product it may have been, those very products will follow you across many of the sites you visit across the Internet – even up to a month after you last looked at those products. The way this works is by the use of cookies. When you visit a website that uses re-targeting as a marketing tactic, you get a tracking cookie placed on your computer. This tracking cookie basically records everything you are interested in.

The Re-Targeting Business Model

Re-targeting begins when a retailer chooses to pay an online advertising agency to show re-targeted ads across the web. The online advertising agencies in turn contract with several other websites for the right to display these re-targeted ads in exchange for a cut of the advertising revenue. Some examples of websites that agree to display these kinds of ads include blogs, news sites or any other type of site. The locations where display ads are to be shown are referred to as “inventory” by the online advertising agencies.

A retargeting campaign begins when a shopper visits a website and begins to browse around looking at different products. At this point a cookie is placed on that shoppers computer. Whenever that shopper visits another website that is part of the “inventory” or network used in the re-targeting campaign, the cookie on his or her machine is recognized and a highly targeted ad is shown to the shopper. The hope is that if you see these ads enough times, you’ll eventually give in and buy the products that they are pitching.

Re-targeting can be a great and effective marketing tool. The key concept in re-targeting is the ability to really target your audience. In other words, re-targeting allows for extremely specific marketing messages about products and services as well as the landing pages that are presented if the user ever decides to click on the ad.

To explain this further, let’s assume you are an anonymous user who happens to visit a particular website’s homepage but then leave that site. While you may get a tracking cookie placed on your computer, there isn’t much information about you because the site doesn’t know who you are based on your visit to their homepage. The site doesn’t know your gender nor does it know anything about the types of products and services you may like. In this case, the type of re-targeted ads that will be presented to you after you leave that site will likely be very general in nature. Moreover, if you do click on the ad, since the website doesn’t know much about you, they will probably direct you to a very general landing page such as the home page or a category page.

Alternatively, let’s assume that you visit a website with whom you have a very rich history. In other words, they know your gender, they have a very extensive history on the types of products you have viewed, they know your purchase history and so on. In this case, the types of ads you will get served will tend to be very specific. Similarly, the landing page to which you will be directed will be similarly specific. So if you are a female who was looking at a specific pair of jeans when you originally visited that site, then you’ll probably get directed to a landing page that presents those same jeans. What’s more, the marketing options can be endless. The site may elect to offer you a promotion code or some incentive to make it that much more likely for you to purchase those jeans since they have successfully used re-targeting techniques to get you to come back to their site and view those same jeans again.

Conclusion: Re-Targeting Can Be Very Effective If Done Wisely and Ethically

The options available to a marketer with re-targeting can be endless. There are dozens of ways to really target ads to various users based on the amount of information sites have collected on a particular users preferences. Similarly, there are endless ways to present landing pages and promotions to that user once they do click on the ad and revisit that site again.

Re-targeting is great because at least the ads are presented are very relevant to a user’s preferences. However, as mentioned above, there are also ethical and privacy considerations to think about as well. If you are an online retailer, re-targeting can be an effective way to present highly targeted and relevant content to your shoppers and return visitors. Happy browsing!

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