Retargeting marketing in ecommerce: basics + 13 Retargeting Methods & Bonus Case Studies to Boost your Conversion
In the first part, we describe the basics of retargeting, we explain what this tool is, how you should use it, which will be very helpful for your Facebook retargeting and Google retargeting efforts. In the second part we show you case studies and successful ecommerce retargeting marketing campaigns.
Retargeting and remarketing have been the buzzwords of the last couple of years in marketing.
Everybody talks about these techniques, but few people can apply them properly – and most people don’t even know what the difference is between retargeting and remarketing.
For this very reason, we are trying to clarify the concepts, we are giving hints for the planning of efficient retargeting and remarketing campaigns, and we are introducing specific examples of how you can use all this to increase your online store’s turnover.
You can read about the following in the 1st part of this article:
- What is retargeting? What is retargeting marketing?
- Retargeting or remarketing?
- How should you use retargeting?
- Cross-sell and up-sell
- What is a good retargeting message like?
- Do segmentation (smartly)
- Don’t rely on a single channel
- Your proper retargeting techniques
- How NOT to do it
- Retargeting is a powerful tool, however…
What is retargeting? What is retargeting marketing?
Retargeting, or retargeting marketing, means repeated targeting: with its help you can mark your potential customers who visit your pages, thus gaining information on them, so that you’ll know where they are exactly, when they load a page that can be linked to the given advertisement network.
And this will allow you to display more relevant retargeting ads to them.
In order to be able to realize this, you have to incorporate a tracking pixel or a list of codes into your sites, that marks the users who download the given page.
It stores a cookie in their browsers, which will notify the advertisement system when they are, for example, on a page belonging to Google Display Network.
Consequently, retargeting gives you a chance to
- persuade those to purchase who have just been looking around in your store,
- offer relevant products to those who have already purchased from you,
- display special offers to the returning customers.
We are talking about an extremely valuable tool here: before technology made it possible, there was no way to approach subsequently the potential customers who have visited our page, viewed our products, having their first experience with us, because they did not give us any of their data.
You can give them a relevant experience with retargeting, in a way that they don’t feel it being pushy – provided that you use retargeting smartly. But we will talk about this in more detail below.
Retargeting or remarketing?
The two concepts sound very similar and they actually refer to similar things, but they are not identical at all:
remarketing typically means repeatedly targeting your previous customers or even cart abandoners with email campaigns.
This may be for example when somebody adds three or four products to the cart and then they exit the page without purchase, without conversion – and the system sends them a letter after a day in which it offers them the possibility of buying the products with some discount or with free delivery for a day.
So remarketing is not about displaying AdWords advertisements to the marked users: you target those with it, who you already know more about because they have already purchased from you or they have provided you with their addresses in exchange for a “bait” or hook product.
We will primarily deal with retargeting in this article, since we discussed in detail ecommerce email marketing in a separate writing.
How should you use retargeting?
The goal is to reach the audience again that previously bounced off your product pages – but you need to do that with relevant offers, otherwise your retargeting marketing campaign will not only be ineffective but it will have an especially negative outcome as well.
Cart abandonment is one of the biggest challenges for the operator of an online shop.
There is a good chance that those who add a given product to the cart will not buy it – at the moment the average rate is approximately 75%, but according to some estimations, in a couple of years it may even reach 90% in ecommerce.
There may be a lot of reasons for cart abandonment:
- the potential buyer did not have enough money for the purchase at the time,
- he just listed and saved for later what he would have to buy,
- or he might have found a better offer in the meantime.
The aim of retargeting is to be able to reach out and grab the customers in such cases even if they have not yet added the product to the cart, they have only showed their interest by viewing the product page.
Simply by reminding them that they viewed the product you can raise their attention again – an efficient headline, some immediate discount may convince them to change their interest into conversion.
Cross-sell and up-sell
You may even guide those who have already purchased a product from you into a completely new funnel.
Let’s assume that you sell mattresses, pillows, covers and similar products – if someone buys a set of pillows from you, and you cannot convince them to buy more from you neither on the product page nor at the checkout, you can easily do that with a retargeting up-sell offer.
How? By customizing the retargeting ads. Of course your capacity is limited, so it’s worth doing this in case of the especially popular and higher value offers – in particular those where you have the greatest chance for up-sell.
So there’s your customer buying pillows – with retargeting you can show him matching pillow covers through the network, thus encouraging him for further purchase.
Bear in mind that it’s much easier to convince those who have already purchased from you earlier, as you have already done the convincing once – at this point the only thing you need to invest energy into is bringing them back to your page.
What is a good retargeting message like?
It’s not enough to simply show an image of your product, but sometimes it’s not enough even if you offer some kind of a discount or other special deals to your potential customer.
You have to use techniques like scarcity and urging. You have to create the desire in the users of wanting to buy the product from you.
You may use the power of social proof and testimonials as well, thus convincing those who did not purchase from you at first just because they haven’t yet known you.
If you have a limited stock of something and you are running out of it quickly, you shouldn’t miss out on letting those hesitating know of this.
You don’t have to be too harsh, in case they have not purchased earlier just because they wanted to consider the decision better, scarcity will convince them and in that case it’s usually enough just to raise their attention.
Do segmentation (smartly)
We have been describing so far how to guide the customer back to your product, however, this is not the only option you have when you use retargeting.
You can guide the leads to your bait items so that you can build a list, or even to your relevant pieces of content in order to have them committed by that at least since they don’t want to purchase from you.
But if you want to choose from the options, the only way of doing that right is with segmentation.
You have to do segmentation based on the relationship between you and the users: it does make a difference whether they’ve
- visited you once
- or they are returning leads,
- whether they are already on your email list
- or they are old customers who are just looking at a given product for some reason.
You have to find proper software solutions for being able to do segmentation based on this relationship, since this is what makes retargeting cost-effective.
Otherwise you can expect an enormous waste coverage: the same message never convinces everyone.
How can you find those, who are really worth retargeting?
For example, Mazda and the retargeting company Merchenta realized 53% higher conversion and 20% higher reach by their promotions by geographically narrowing down their retargeting advertising, and then by directing the customers within those segments specifically to the salesmen.
Don’t rely on a single channel
Google Display Network is the best-known example of how you can use retargeting, but it’s not at all the only one.
It’s a good start of course, but you can really take advantage of the technique only if you actively apply it in the social media as well.
Retargeting ads placed in the news feed may be exceptionally effective, because they appear natively: there is a much greater chance that the users will click, since they are browsing the news feed to find something worth clicking anyway.
You shouldn’t monitor only those who have been on your product pages: if they have visited your YouTube channel, if they’ve got to some sort of content of yours arriving from a social site, there is a good opportunity for you to make them subscribers by offering them some similar content.
How NOT to do it
No matter which technique you apply from the two (hopefully both of them), there’s something you have to avoid in any case:
Driving your potential customers crazy.
A good approach in this case if the e-merchant offers you discounts once or twice, to see whether you are just hesitating for some reason, or if they show you relevant products hoping you will like those better.
On the other hand, it’s a bad idea to show you the same red T-shirt on all the pages that you load.
This creates frustration in the customer, negative feelings towards the brand, and it will almost definitely not result in a purchase.
If you walk out of a shop without buying anything, the shop assistants will not run after you either and ask you to buy what you previously held in your hands in the shop.
And it’s not good for you either, because you spend your advertisement budget completely pointlessly.
Yet, inexplicably, a lot of people do that – this means there’s a field where you can be smarter than your competitors.
Retargeting is a powerful tool, however…
…only if you have somebody to retarget, and if you have something to offer them.
So it’s you who has to drive visitors to your pages (or at least to make a strategy in order to know where they can be monitored), and you will also need powerful product pages, good content and landing pages as well.
Retargeting is not a strategy: it’s part of one.
On the other hand, if you use it wisely, you can amazingly effectively increase reach, conversion rates and also the turnover of your ecommerce store as a whole.
In the following you can learn about the professional tricks so that you can use retargeting for your online shop to generate more profit.
And you can also avoid the mistakes you wouldn’t even think of making in the first place…
This is what we’re going to talk about in the 2nd part of this article:
- 13 retargeting methods:
- Show something they’ve already seen earlier
- Retarget the funnel as a whole
- Sequential retargeting
- Use up-sell, but smartly
- Delayed retargeting
- Offer something else (even less)
- Use retargeting on YouTube
- Is it really worthwhile for you to target everybody?
- Target those who have only seen less recent products
- Monitor your FAQ page
- Show faces, familiar names
- Be present on multiple platforms
- Pay attention to topicalities
- Case studies:
- Kelley Blue Book: a good idea, realized imperfectly
- Retargeting can also be too much of a good thing: Handy
- Understand your visitors: Inbound Ascension
- Even if you don’t follow anything else, you should follow at least this one…
Show something they’ve already seen earlier
When you do retargeting, you should stick to matching messages not only during the campaign. To be precise, you should also pay attention to the starting point, to the first visit as well.
If you want to raise the attention of the users, the most effective way of doing that is by showing them something they’ve already seen or read earlier.
If they booked a room on your page for a holiday, show them something about the given location that they have definitely seen first-hand.
You immediately create a connection like that, and from then on, it depends only on your offer whether you can persuade them to come back to your page.
Retarget the funnel as a whole
It doesn’t matter where exactly the given consumers are in your sales funnel, you can always reach them with retargeting messages. First of all, you should read our article on segmentation, then you should examine your own funnel.
You can formulate personalized messages for everybody, including those who just know about you, have been on your page but have not yet converted, and the returning customers as well.
- you can make those interested return to your page by using some kind of a bait,
- you can turn customers into returning customers with a well-targeted offer,
- you can educate your returning customers to become evangelists or brand ambassadors.
The key is to know them well enough and thus be able to sell your own funnel, to formulate the messages that address your audiences with different intentions.
We already mentioned something similar to a push-along tactic in the previous article, but if you’re really smart, you don’t target only those who are stuck, but you always try to capture those as well, who are already “in your net”, even if they are regularly returning active customers.
On the other hand, if your funnel is specifically long and complicated, you can do better than that.
If your customers go through a complicated process, if there are a lot of possibilities and branches, you’ll benefit most from sequencing.
The “creme de la creme” of personalization is showing retargeted ads to people based on what they were doing on your page earlier, based on their previous behaviour.
You can achieve a much better user experience by that, as you don’t show unnecessary retargeting ads to whom you don’t need to do so: those who purchased a product from you will not see the same thing in the next few days, those who regularly return to purchase will not come across price discounts, and so on.
The point is to leave out of or include the users in the different groups based on their actions. For this you will need to create more visual elements and more texts, but you can be sure that it’s worth addressing the customers with truly personal examples.
They keep record of and follow their customers even for decades: if somebody buys from them a mattress that comes with a 10 year warranty, they send him a letter addressed to him personally, after that time has passed.
They inquire how the given mattress that you purchased from them 10 years ago has worked out, and they offer you the possibility of buying the most recent piece of the series with a small discount.
That’s a perfect retargeting marketing campaign that is very much appreciated by the clients, because it addresses them again and again in the most personalized way possible.
By the way, up-sell…
Use up-sell, but smartly
With the help of retargeting advertising campaigns you can make your current customers purchase even more from you, but you shouldn’t do it in a way like most of the ecommerce stores are trying to.
In most of the cases the advertisements pop-up immediately after you buy something – but what for?
Since you’ve just paid for a service, you’ve just been convinced it’s worthwhile for you to spend money on it.
If they start convincing you right away that you’d rather need something more expensive, you won’t convert.
On the other hand, it’s likely that you’ll become unsure even about the quality of the already purchased product or service.
Wait until your product has been used for a while, and then try to offer something different, something better, something more.
You should try to help, not to sell!
- Is it for sure that they are not pushing the limits of the present service?
- Don’t they need more of the given product just to be on the safe side?
- Don’t they need a bigger one after a year by any chance?
Be patient and retarget your active customers when they most likely need the change, and they also trust you enough already (as they have been using your quality product for a while) to believe you.
Of course, for this you will need to monitor who bought what exactly on your page, and make an offer to them relevant to that.
That’s the basic principle of up-sell, so make sure to use a retargeting service which you can achieve that with.
If you mark those who visit your page, the “shelf life” of your audience will expire after a while – that’s not a problem though.
That’s because if you show them different retargeting ads from time to time, you can efficiently build a complete campaign like that even without having a need for any other reinforcement, for landing pages or for similar solutions.
Your messages can build the need, the offer, slowly convincing the potential customers.
Built on one another (and not displayed several dozens of times a day) they will reinforce each other, just like a well-created newsletter campaign.
You can gradually present them your offer with the help of the different messages, you can create authenticity, you can create desire, you can apply the limited offers (scarcity) towards the end of the marketing campaign, and so on.
If you make sure that the messages are consistent, that they refer to each other, that they are actually built on each other, you can indeed achieve quite high conversion rates among those who might have never found their way back to your page otherwise.
Offer something else (even less)
If somebody visits your landing page or product page but they don’t purchase, it may be that they are simply not ready to accept your offer just yet.
Perhaps they don’t want to purchase any of your products yet, but you can persuade them to read the pieces of content in your blog which are related to the products they viewed earlier.
This is practically down-sell, even if you don’t sell anything: if they don’t want to accept your offer immediately, you can still reach out to them, and offer something that they can accept much more easily.
By doing that, you can maintain the relationship in the long run as well, and you’ll have a better chance of convincing them.
You can also target the audience of your competitors: AdWords and other major platforms don’t only monitor the visitors of your own page, you can create a segment of the leads of your competitors’ pages and you can target them with a good (better) offer.
Use retargeting on YouTube
Hopefully, you’ve already read our article on how amazingly you can use video marketing in ecommerce.
If yes, then you may know that how-to videos, educational pieces of content and such things are incredibly popular and also perform well in the searches.
And if somebody watches one of your videos, you shouldn’t let them go.
If they found useful information in them (and why wouldn’t they, as you made the video to achieve that), you can target them with advertisements that direct their attention towards other similar pieces of content.
If they watched a product test, you can advertise even that product to them, just make sure to refer to the previous content.
Is it really worthwhile for you to target everybody?
When you do segmentation, you should also take into consideration that it’s not worth spending money on everybody.
Monitor the behaviour of your visitors, and also the path they follow.
You can work with those who visit several sub-pages, those who view multiple products within a category, or who regularly consume your pieces of content.
On the other hand, those who visited your main page once and then bounced off, are probably not valuable leads for you.
It’s likely that they found you organically or they just clicked on an advertisement (provided that you had advertised your main page, which you should never do, if possible), they saw your main offers and decided almost straight away that they didn’t want to purchase anything from you.
Target those who have only seen less recent products
It may well be that multiple pieces of a product line can be found at the same time in your online shop.
It is also possible that somebody found a less recent product organically – coming from a less recent piece of content, or even organically, from the search engine.
If they don’t convert, it may be a logical assumption that it’s because they have not seen the best offer.
You can target them with advertisements drawing their attention to the fact that the nicer/better/higher performance model is also available.
Monitor your FAQ page
Those who browsed the frequently asked questions (and ideally did not just bounce off this page), probably have a question they did not find an answer to on your page. (Provided of course that they didn’t convert later.)
In this case you can recommend them your customer service, your educational pieces of content, possibility for consultation, or anything else that could provide answers to their questions.
It’s even better if you set filters that monitor what kind of products they might have viewed earlier.
For instance, if somebody browsed through the products of a given category and the frequently asked questions as well, there’s a good chance of them having some kind of questions in connection with the given product category.
Therefore, you can set the main categories to personalized advertisements: “you have questions about product X?”
This will more likely attract their attention and thus be able to push those towards conversion, who had no other problem than a couple of unanswered questions.
Show faces, familiar names
Hopefully you are building your personal brand as well.
You are building an “expert brand” for your ecommerce store with professional pieces of content so that you are renowned by the largest possible audience as an authentic expert.
If that’s the case, and if you have several people in your team, segment your advertisements also based on whose content the visitors read.
You don’t necessarily have to immediately sell a product: the goal is to tie them to yourself, to build an audience, to have the highest possible visibility.
Consequently, luring the readers who have already read a couple of articles, have seen a couple of videos back to you, may represent a great opportunity for lead generation.
In order to achieve this, you should use the faces familiar to them in your retargeting ads: show them who they saw in the video, or whose photo they saw next to the articles, display the name as well, in order to make the message even more personal.
Thus you will efficiently capture the attention: it’s quite certain that everyone will notice a familiar face and will also read your message.
And you have already achieved your first goal with that.
Be present on multiple platforms
But only if you can do that smartly!
You can target the same target audience with retargeting marketing on a dozen platforms simultaneously, you can send emails, you can be present on Facebook timeline, on Twitter, and so on.
But if they see too much of you, they’ll be blind for you.
As a consequence: set the frequency in a way so that they don’t see you too many times.
You can also avoid advertisement blindness (and can more efficiently attract attention) if you create platform specific advertisements smartly.
Examine what kind of pieces of content your visitors arriving from each platform, and those who follow you on them, like the most.
Whether they are gifs, images, quotations, professional articles or how-to videos – it doesn’t matter.
What’s essential is that you offer at each place something with which there’s the greatest chance of achieving the target conversion.
It may be tempting to simply paste in the same solution, but by doing that, you’re definitely working against yourself.
Pay attention to topicalities
You shouldn’t monitor only what they purchased from you, but also when they did that.
Some products and services are always more popular at special occasions – which may be Christmas, or the time of the end-of-the-year high workload at the companies, you need to know your target audience to be able to determine these occasions.
The main thing is to be able to formulate a personalized message.
- To be able to ask the customers whether at this Christmas they need what they purchased from you last year.
- Or something similar, better or bigger.
- Or whether their company will need help this October with this or that issue.
There’s a great chance of having yes as an answer, ideally they already started looking, or at least they have it in their minds that they need your product or service.
By doing this, you can efficiently make them think of you first when they actually want to make a purchase.
Retargeting marketing case studies: examples you can learn from
Kelley Blue Book: a good idea, realized imperfectly
Let’s see an example (1st case study in the article) that is quite far from being perfect.
The blogger of Wishpond had been looking for a car for a couple of months, then he came across the advertisement of Kelley Blue Book, a car salesman on Twitter.
He had visited their page before and he was addressed with a quite good message as well.
What was good in the advertisement: they applied an image that’s capable of attracting attention (there was no CTA on it, though).
The text was OK as well: it praised very shortly the performance of the advertised Honda car, and it didn’t want to shove purchasing down your throat right away.
It invited you to read the expert opinions on the car – it’s smart that they tried to persuade you to visit their site by using the power of social proof.
That’s fine so far. (The blogger also highlights that they could have customized the link shortened by bitly, which is actually a good idea.)
However, it becomes clear after the click that the campaign has not been thought out carefully.
That’s because the visitor doesn’t arrive at the promised opinions, not even at the page of the car seen in the advertisement.
Those who had been reached by retargeting, were simply taken to the main page of the merchant.
They’ve already been on your page, they know what you have to offer.
If you can reach them with a retargeting ad so that they find their ways back to you, you probably gave them a well targeted offer, and taking them somewhere else after that would mean deceiving and misleading them.
Message match is damaged, and thus the trust towards you, because you make them frustrated.
You give them work, as they have to find the offer. And believe me, not too many people will do that after all this.
An excellent example of how this can be done well: a retargeting marketing campaign of FIAT from a couple of years ago, which Google also praises in its professional materials presenting micro-moments.
The users targeted with FIAT’s responsive advertisements ended up on very precisely specified sub-pages:
- Those who clicked on the advertisement on desktop were directed to an interactive page where they could “put together” themselves the car suitable for them (By the way, applying such interactive solutions is incredibly efficient regarding the increase of commitment: if the potential customers already invested energy in the modification, in the building of the product, they will feel it to be their own much more.)
- And those who clicked on the very same advertisement on the mobile phone, immediately arrived at a page where the nearest car salesmen were shown to them, where they could personally take a look at the car right away.
This campaign was not only targeted well, they also paid attention to what happens after the click, to what ideas should be planted in the user’s head by making them follow a given path.
It’s not by chance that it was a huge success.
Retargeting can also be too much of a good thing: Handy
We are taking a look at another example from here (3rd case study), because it demonstrates perfectly one of the most common mistakes.
The blogger was looking for cleaning services and one of those whose page he had visited earlier, targeted him with a simple banner advertisement.
I would formulate creatively in a few words how clean your home will be.
I would even adjust it to an event: if somebody is looking for a cleaner, you can press that point of pain.
You can write it on the banner that they have never hosted their family in such a clean apartment for the celebratory dinner.
I would even put a short testimonial on it as well, or would just put the headline between inverted commas. Simply because inverted commas raise attention, people usually pay more attention to quoted texts, there’s a greater chance that they are read.
They could have made the CTA more creative as well, the “book now” text is completely average. You could write something like this instead: “I’d like a clean home”. However, these are not real mistakes, they’re rather elements that can be improved.
Nowadays the biggest problem with advertisements is exactly that they fall victim to banner blindness.
You can counterbalance that with creative images and text, but if people see the same advertisement several dozens of times every day, they’ll be blind to those as well.
Recall the most creative TV commercial you saw last year.
Imagine that it’s played in each and every commercial break: after how many times do you get bored of it or have no effect on you anymore?
You should pay very close attention to how frequently the advertisement is shown: the targeted audience should never see the same thing everywhere, because by letting that happen you’re simply working against yourself.
Understand your visitors: Inbound Ascension
The biggest trick in retargeting is nothing new: you have to understand your visitors.
You need to know their intentions, their problems, their needs.
Of course the problem is that they don’t tell you those, only indirectly. You can draw conclusions, and mainly based on how they act on your page.
Professionals at Inbound Ascension did exactly that, moreover, they were not working with an ecommerce webpage but with a service-based page, which represents a greater difficulty in this respect.
Their solution was very simple: they divided those in the sales funnel into several segments, and they advertised different bait products, pieces of content and services to them based on that.
They basically combined segmentation by intention with professional retargeting.
They noticed, that those for example who have already read our articles of educational type, but have not yet bought anything, have not yet found the appropriate solution for their problems.
On the other hand, it’s quite clear that they are having some kind of a problem in connection with online marketing.
Therefore, they addressed them with “Still need some help with marketing?” type advertisements using text and images that would definitely remind them where and when they had met the brand (during content consumption) earlier.
By using this simple technique they achieved a return (ROI) of 7,425% during their campaign.
You can even more easily accomplish that if you follow the earlier described segmentation methods, and are willing to invest the necessary time and energy into creating retargetig ads with different messages for the different customer groups, in order to have the greatest chance of reaching them.
When you want to launch a retargeting marketing campaign, you should always start with examining your audience.
If you’ve never done segmentation before, you should dig into the topic, use analytical software applications, tools that will help you divide your visitors into groups that can be interpreted from marketing point of view.
You shouldn’t do this because this is the best practice or because I say so.
You have to do this because if you start retargeting advertising without any kind of filters, criteria or settings, you’ll just simply throw your money down the drain.
There’s no way of sugarcoating this.
You’ll have to invest energy and time into making well-identifiable groups at the beginning, and then into inventing the message for each group that would most probably capture them, that would best serve their needs, and represent the best answer to their problems.
And you don’t have too much space for that: should you advertise on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or in Google’s network, you’ll only have a couple of phrases and an image at maximum to work with.
You can make the maximum of this, if you take the pieces of advice detailed in this article – and you can also learn the tricks of the professionals from the case studies.
Avoid common mistakes, don’t torture but serve your audience, and I guarantee that much more people will purchase from you and also have positive experience while doing that.
That is because you pay attention to their needs and offer personalized solutions, all that without being pushy.
Sales and marketing manager
István is an eCommerce Solution Specialist with a deep understanding of the project management side of development. By putting a great emphasis on optimizing business and ecommerce, he helps web stores align business goals with functionality and recommends the most effective options to meet objectives, while avoiding unnecessary customization and costs. István loves canoeing on the River Tisza and practising judo.