Don’t call it retargeting: Why the name gets the tactic dead wrong

Written by Dom Satur, vp of sales engineering, Flashtalking.

Let’s end the tyranny of the “RE” in retargeting. Those two letters suggest that retargeting occurs only after the real targeting strategy has played out, or that it is more or less just targeting by another name. It’s so much more than that.

Once upon a time, the term “re-targeting” did make sense: It was a practice that was primarily about following up on a coherent signal of interest in a single product. If the last thing a consumer viewed on your website was an HDMI cable, showing that very same HDMI cable in a display ad was an easy way to make the impression more relevant to the consumer.

But, today there are many more sophisticated opportunities to harness data to create relevance sooner in the purchase journey. So here are five ideas to help you ditch the “RE.”

Move past last-product-viewed
Let’s revisit the HDMI cables example. What if 15 minutes earlier the consumer was looking at a high definition TV? What if they recently searched for AV installation? What if they also visited a Best Buy store? These behaviors suggest the consumer is in market for a larger purchase than a $15 cable. A remarketing ad featuring the cable leaves a lot on the table. Last-product retargeting often misses the bigger picture and the bigger buy. Given the richness of today’s data sets, it’s outdated and simplistic.

Worst of all, the shortcomings of last-product retargeting are masked by catch-all cookie harvesting (AKA post-view conversion tracking) that many advertisers use as the primary barometer of success. Those retargeting conversions only prove that people who visit your website buy more stuff than people who don’t. You didn’t need a team of quants to figure that out.

Layer in Additional Data
Finally it feels more like 2016 and less like 2008. No longer limited to one at a time, ad servers can tap multiple data sets simultaneously. First-party DMP data segments, in-page contextual data, geo information, weather, time, sequences, A/B testing, third-party data feeds… These can and should all be available in your ad server and, when used in combination with site visit behavior, will result in much smarter creative personalization and dramatic improvements in performance.

Invest in cookieless tracking
It’s premature to claim that cookies are dead or dying. They aren’t. In fact, more cookies were set or modified in any given platform this year than last, and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. But, storing data against cookie IDs alone is getting less and less efficient, and it’s leaving databases full of unusable data. The solution is to use a platform that can key of off multiple, more persistent IDs allowing for site behavior data to be actionable in those hard to reach digital environments: such as in-app, IOS or on connected TVs.

Demand granular data outputs
Impression-level targeting should yield impression-level reporting. It’s critical to know the exact products that are moving the needle for sales. Too often, advertisers employ strategies engineered to produce one result from their campaigns: “Product retargeting works.” In this scenario, everything is lumped into one single-line tracked strategy.

However, with more in-depth knowledge of each product that is driving conversions, deeper levels of optimization are unlocked, both within the ad campaigns and on the advertiser’s own site. It opens the door to deeper knowledge of the consumer’s mindset, and ultimately creates more favorability for the brand.

This is the only way to validate conversions. Any other way and the only thing you can be sure you’re optimizing is the rate at which you harvest cookies.

The real KPI: Understanding the consumer
So regardless of the KPIs you select, make sure you understand what the data is telling you about the consumer and their decisioning. Sure, the last-product retargeting of yesteryear can generate some basic performance data and make you look like a decent marketer (and excellent “box checker”) to the higher-ups.

But you risk losing your customer when they are not your singular focus. A bad retargeting job will show the consumer something they no longer want, already have, or never wanted in the first place. And avoid that is far more crucial long-term than pumping your ROI stats.

Data-driven marketing, and retargeting for that matter, is nothing new. In many ways, it’s become an industry unto itself. Mastery becomes about operating at the next level — keeping at the forefront of application, taking a bolder approach, getting beyond last-product, single data sets, the cookie ID… You get the idea. Go bold or go home.

Let’s lose the “RE.” Data-driven marketing is only as limited as our imagination.

More from Digiday

Sliders test article

Agencies hope connected TV and digital out-of-home will play a bigger role in upcoming elections and politics — especially for smaller media agencies that are handling many of the less visible races in the crowded political space. For a number of media agencies looking to place their political ad dollars down in this major election […]

How CTV and DOOH are growing this political season for smaller agencies

Connected TV and digital out-of-home are playing a bigger role in upcoming elections and politics – especially for smaller agencies looking to place clients’ dollars.

CMO Strategies: Advertisers identify the top attributes on ad-supported streaming platforms

This is the third installment in Digiday’s multi-part series covering the top ad-supported streaming services and part of Digiday’s CMO Strategies series. In this report, we examine which ad attributes matter the most to marketers on streaming platforms.