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What is Retargeting—and Why Should You Use It?

What is Retargeting—and Why Should You Use It?

Written by enCOMPASS Agency

In a perfect world, the consumer journey would be simple and straightforward. It might look something like this: An interested customer conducts an online search, and comes across your company website. After visiting the site and reading up on your products and services, the customer decides to make a purchase. That customer either buys the item directly from your ecommerce store, picks up the phone to call you, or drives to your brick-and-mortar location to complete the transaction.

In reality, the process is seldom so neat and tidy. Often, it looks more like this: A consumer will spend some time researching not just your product, but also several competitor products. Then, he’ll forget all about it, and move on to something else. A couple of months later, the itch will hit him again, and he’ll pick up his online research, maybe—maybe—buying a product from you somewhere down the road.

Because the consumer journey is multi-faceted, it’s important for your marketing efforts to address each phase and stage—for you to be present at various touchpoints throughout the buying process. For instance, you should have a branded presence at the top of the funnel (educating potential consumers about your product and its benefits) and at the bottom (persuading them to make that final purchasing decision).

One way in which marketers can stay in touch with customers throughout this journey—to have a branded presence at those multiple touchpoints—is through retargeting. But what does retargeting mean, exactly, and why does it work so well?

How Retargeting Works

You have probably encountered retargeting before, even if you don’t know it by that name. That’s because some of the largest online retailers in the world practice retargeting. Here’s an example: Have you ever been looking at a product on Amazon.com, and then navigated away from the page without making a purchase—only to see Amazon ads for that very product show up on Facebook or in a Google search?

That, basically, is retargeting—a way for marketers to “follow” a lead all over the Web, keeping their branded presence visible at various points of the buyer’s journey.

Now, to be fair, this is a simplistic view: There are many different ways in which retargeting can be employed. It’s a common practice for marketers to retarget leads who have already visited their website, for example, but also for marketers to target existing customers, based on a contact database or an email subscription list. Marketers can even retarget search engine users based on their search terms.

Pixel-Based Retargeting

The first version of retargeting is called pixel-based retargeting; a pixel is a small piece of script that you add to your website to tag, or “cookie,” visitors—thereby allowing you to serve specific ads to them once they leave your website.

There are a number of benefits to the pixel-based approach. For one thing, it can be more or less immediate. It also allows you to be highly specific in your targeting: If someone was looking at a specific product on your website, you can use ads to display that very product—essentially keeping it in their minds, encouraging them to go back and complete the transaction.

The only major downside is that the volume here will likely be low—as it’s restricted to people who’ve already visited your site. But while it’s not really useful for expanding your audience, that’s not really what retargeting is meant to do anyway. Remember, this is more about being visible at different touchpoints along the consumer journey.

List-Based Retargeting

A second option is for list-based retargeting. This involves uploading a contact list and then serving ads to people who match the information in your contact list—for example, Facebook ads targeting users whose accounts sync up with the email addresses you have on file.

As you might imagine, the utility here is a little different. This type of retargeting allows you to engage your established customers and to keep your brand at the forefront of their minds.

Search Retargeting

A final form of retargeting for us to mention here is search retargeting, which allows you to serve ads to different users based on the keywords they’ve put in to Google, Yahoo, or Bing. This can function as kind of an aid to SEO—though it won’t help you with organic search results, it does allow you to display your ads and potentially get traffic to your site among those who are looking for what you’re selling.

In other words, this differs from the other two kinds of retargeting inasmuch as it can actually be useful for expanding your current audience, not merely honing in on it.

Retargeting: A Powerful Complement to PPC

No matter which kind of retargeting you use to boost brand awareness, the important thing is understanding it as a complement to PPC. Retargeting allows for some really unique targeting options that empower you to appeal to customers at different stages of their journey; for example, a PPC ad might be used to reach buyers at the point of discovery, but then retargeting allows you to stay with them throughout their ongoing research process.

All of this requires not only an overall strategy, of course, but also a certain finesse. You’ve got to know when to use these powerful tools, and how to make sure they’re functioning harmoniously.

That’s something our team can assist you with. We’d love to have a conversation with you about online advertising options today, including retargeting. Reach out to enCOMPASS to start the discussion.