Have you ever been curious how much it would cost to buy a new couch, take a vacation, or maybe get your carpets cleaned? You were too busy or weren’t ready to make a purchase at that time, so you leave your search results and go about your day.
Later, as you sit on your phone, scrolling Facebook or Instagram, -BAM- there’s that couch you saw earlier (or flight, or carpet cleaner, and so on)! Creepy, right?
These sites are seemingly unrelated, so how did Facebook or Instagram know what car you wanted or what city you were interested in visiting? The answer is totally obvious, of course: all your social media accounts can read your mind!
As humorous as that may sound, most people don’t really know how it works, and can even be a little caught off guard by the mystery and the apparent invasion of privacy. Theories range from crazy coincidence to an idea that your phone is always listening to what you say and can show ads based on the moment you told your spouse that the coffee pot broke.
The real answer behind this widely misunderstood occurrence is actually closer to the latter theory. Now, don’t go smashing your phone or computer. It’s not as “creepy” or invasive as that theory would suggest. This outstandingly personal advertisement you see is due to a digital marketing technique called “Re-targeting”. Re-targeting is a service in which businesses usually pay a digital marketing company in order to convert the online customers who browse but don’t make a purchase right away.
For most businesses, only 2% of web traffic converts to a sale the first time someone visits the website. Retargeting is a tool designed to help companies reach 98% of users who don’t make that purchase right away. In my opinion, there is no more effective or valuable digital marketing technique used that directly impacts conversion. Unlike referrals or typical advertisement (which are people or businesses trying to get you interested in a product or service), re-targeting shows you ads based on something you’ve already expressed an interest in. So, how does it work?
Re-targeting uses these cookies by placing a small, unnoticeable piece of code (sometimes called a pixel) on a business’s page. This code doesn’t affect the function of the site in any way, or the browsing experience for you while you shop. Whenever you visit a website with this particular type of code, the code places an anonymous browser cookie. Later, when you browse the web or social media, this cookie will let the digital marketing company know when to show you ads. This ensures that not only will these ads be customized to your previous interest, but that the company isn’t wasting money on ads trying to appeal to individuals less likely to make a purchase.
In addition, to be an extraordinarily effective marketing technique, re-targeting is the most consumer-beneficial form of advertising. Like symbiosis existing in the natural world, where two organisms coexist, each benefitting the other, so can re-targeting be helpful to both businesses and to consumers.
Initially, you might not find it very beneficial to have these ads thrown about, constantly asking you to spend more money. On the other hand, however, what if this product or service is one you actually need, but simply forgot to finalize the purchase? Maybe you were too busy. Maybe you didn’t have your payment method in front of you at the time. Maybe you simply needed more time to think about the investment.
All these scenarios are very likely to happen to just about any person who uses the web to shop. Re-targeting can help remind you to book that flight before prices go up or show you extra discounts on an item you need. In my case, it reminded me to get our furniture and carpets cleaned before the birth of our baby girl. Being a person with a tendency to forget things, I don’t mind retargeting as a consumer. I can speak from experience that it is an extremely effective marketing tool to boost sales.
Now, if you are an individual who dislikes re-targeted ads, there are a few things you can do to limit them. The most effective way to limit cookies is to disable permission and delete any current cookies in your browser. This is done manually and usually varies between browsers. If you want to delete or disable your cookies, you can google step-by-step instructions that will show you how to accomplish this. I give this information not because I feel that it is the best course of action, but in the understanding that some people hold a much stricter view of privacy than others.
In conclusion, it is very clear that today’s world is becoming more and more digitized. Consumers, like myself, are depending more on internet shopping than brick and mortar stores. What used to be a tool for finding more obscure or specific items, the internet is now being used to buy groceries, cars, deliver flowers on Mothers’ Day, and even order prescription medication. Now more than ever, businesses need to create and maintain a strong digital presence in order to succeed in this world of eCommerce.
It is my opinion that one of the most valuable tools available to businesses in the toolbelt of digital marketing is re-targeting. This simple form of advertisement is an effective tool, beneficial for both business and consumer. I believe that this marketing technique is not only valuable and effective now but will continue to be in the future, for as long as eCommerce is a major way humanity conducts business.
Written By: Jenna Harkins