Retargeted ads are often seen in a negative light by those looking for a scapegoat within the digital advertising industry. But do they really deserve such a bad reputation?

In truth, retargeting is one of the most effective advertising methods marketers can use, especially in the retail sector. After all, research has shown the majority (92%) of first-time site visitors don’t plan to purchase: with 45% searching for products or services and one quarter comparing prices. Therefore, tailored ads that allow retailers to recover potentially lost purchase opportunities, while also providing special offers on products that consumers are genuinely interested in should be seen as a positive.

The main issue here is that thoughtless retargeting — such as serving irrelevant and repetitive ads — has tarnished the concept in the eyes of consumers, and taken the shine off a powerful advertising tool. Clearly, retargeting is in urgent need of a rebrand.

So, is it possible to restore the reputation of retargeting? Let’s take a look at the top three benefits, and the best way to leverage them.

1. Overcoming buying hurdles   

Consumers typically visit e-commerce sites for the same reason; they have been intrigued enough by a certain product or service and want to find out more. But when it comes to buying, an average of 69% opt out — and they do so for varied reasons. The item they’re interested in might be out of stock, not available in the right size, too expensive after shipping costs are added or, the consumer may feel they could get a better deal on a different site.

Whatever the cause, retargeting can reignite interest and carry it through to purchase; as long as retailers utilise deep insight. More specifically, they must gain a closer view of individuals. The most efficient way to achieve this is deploying smart platforms that can collate, unify, and assess many data sources. In doing so, retailers can blend data about consumer activity on their site with other insight — such as social media interactions and store visits — and produce detailed consumer profiles.

Using these profiles, they can establish why individuals have abandoned purchases and how messages should be adapted to resolve their issues. For example, if data shows an individual left their cart because the item they wanted was sold out in a certain colour, the retailer could send messages highlighting availability in similar shades. Or, should analysis show they have shopped around for cheaper prices, a retailer could serve ads with exclusive discount codes and free shipping for a limited time period.

2. Finding the perfect moment

Understanding why a purchase doesn’t complete can go a long way towards reclaiming sales, but retailers must also time messages carefully. Studies have found 87% of consumers think online ad frequency has increased and 79% feel they are being tracked. So to avoid generating the sensation of overexposure and uncomfortably close monitoring, retailers need to ensure messages are only served when they are likely to be positively received.

Once more, this requires a data-based approach. By mining information contained within consumer profiles to map their journeys, retailers can achieve a strong understanding of their habits and current position in the sales cycle. Armed with this granular insight, they can then pinpoint the best time to deliver targeted ads. For example, a consumer might have browsed certain items but wishes to conduct further research before buying. By waiting to serve ads until they have read different product reviews, retailers can increase the likelihood messages will fuel conversions and minimise wastage on ineffective ads.

3. Continually enhancing results

Retail is a fast-moving industry, where emerging trends or situations can quickly alter consumer needs, and preferences. As a result, it’s vital for advertising mechanisms to be capable of rapidly adjusting messages for the best result, in real time. And this is precisely what retargeting can deliver when combined with dynamic creative optimisation (DCO).

In brief, DCO platforms allow retailers to instantly match appropriate ads with individuals by collating and evaluating behavioural data using machine learning. As insight builds over time, such platforms develop a clear picture of who consumers are, what might engage them, and which ad formats they favour; as well as detecting shifts in interest. Thus, in addition to targeting ads according to a consumer’s age, demographic or gender, messages can reflect their current location or recent activity — such as items they have liked on social media, or discounts at stores they are browsing. Plus, DCO can also enable retailers to update ads in line with supply fulfilment; substituting different yet relevant products, models or colours so consumers can receive orders faster.

In the last few years, retargeting has faced criticism, but there’s no reason why poor strategic application by a few should deny others the chance to reap its rewards. For retailers, in particular, the opportunity it offers to reconnect with those whose shopping journeys have been interrupted or abandoned is huge. All that’s needed for it to flourish is considered execution. With a firm basis of the right data, tailored ads, and well-timed delivery, retargeting can do significant good for both consumers and the bottom line.