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The remarketing opportunity

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

In the first of a two part series entitled 'Unlocking the remarketing opportunity', our founder Nick Ellsom explores the opportunity presented by this area. The second instalment focuses on how to improve your remarketing performance and can be found here Unlocking remarketing with FAST thinking.



Remarketing is an extremely targeted and efficient activity, that is amongst the highest performers on any marketing plan. And it’s not hard to see why, given it involves showing ads to people who have recently visited your website and told you what they are interested in! Target audiences don’t get any warmer than this. Remarketing also ensures all that effort you made to drive people to your website in the first place isn’t wasted when people leave. Small improvements here can have big upsides for business performance. In fact, studies have shown that conversions can be improved by more than 30% if remarketing is done well. So why then are so few companies maximising the opportunity available to them in this area?

What is the opportunity?

Remarketing provides a unique opportunity to reach someone who is aware of your brand and has recently visited your website. It can therefore be seen like a piece of CRM. It allows you to deliver highly relevant, tailored and timely creatives, which in turn lead to happier customers and better business performance. Using remarketing, brands are able to fulfil many valuable use cases, some of which are outlined in the accompanying graphic.

According to Microsoft, 97% of first time website visitors will leave without taking any action, which leaves a lot of people you can encourage to come back to complete an action. So realistically, how many of them can you bring back by using remarketing? Well, more than you might imagine is the answer.

Using remarketing leads to 26% of site visitors returning according to a survey by SeeWhy, which compares to 8% if you don’t. That’s an uplift of a whopping 225% and gives you an additional 18% of your site visitors back. This gives you a great opportunity to increase your sales. But wait, before you run off to tell your boss the good news, there’s more. According to Wishpond, seeing a remarketing creative makes customers 70% more likely to convert!

Not only will more people be visiting your site, but they will also be far more likely to act.

Adding it all up, the opportunity equates to a 30+% uplift in conversions that is available for those who can do it and do it well. That’s well worth investing a significant amount of time and energy into for any business.

So why aren’t businesses grasping this opportunity?

Remarketing suffers from some common misconceptions which hold back its performance. Some of the common ones we hear are outlined below.

“I already do it and my results look good”

You’ve got remarketing running and your numbers look amazing. However, have you checked how many of those sales being reported are incremental? Many of them would have happened with or without remarketing. Your results may not actually be as good as they appear on the surface then and that may in turn prevent a focus on making them as good as they can be. Remarketing does drive incremental performance, but it’s more in line with the stats above, which suggest you will see 18% more first time visitors returning and conversion rates improving by 70%. If your conversion rate is being reported as 500% higher, then that might be a sign it’s not all incremental! If you've not previously used remarketing these type of numbers might sound crazy, but they are the levels we've seen often when activity is not looked at incrementally.

“I wish my creatives looked more on brand, but I can’t control them”

There’s no getting away from the importance of relevance in the remarketing space. If someone tells you what they are interested in, showing them a relevant message will of course work really well. However, that doesn’t mean the creative wouldn’t work even better if it wasn’t on brand and a recognisable part of your overall marketing.

Instinctively as a marketer you know the importance of making your creatives consistent and remarketing creatives are no different. Creatives can and should be brought in line with the rest of your marketing, but some remarketing companies use such rigid creative templates that following through on this is extremely difficult. Instead everything is made to look like shopping search and you are assured that relevance is the only thing that matters to gain performance. It doesn’t have to be this way and by accepting it you will be missing out on performance, as well as damaging your brand. When you've invested so much in your brand don’t accept off brand creatives, regardless of their primary focus being relevance.

"A Euro invested in a highly creative ad campaign had, on average, nearly double the sales impact of a Euro spent on a non-creative campaign" Harvard Business Review

“I already have personalised creatives so they are completely relevant”

Personalised ads can be great. Consumers love them when they are done well. Great news then if you are already using them and your creatives are on brand (see the point above!). But, before you pop open the champagne though read on!

Are your creatives ‘intelligent’ and are they therefore as effective as they could be? Do your creatives continually show people the same products they viewed on your website and decided not to buy? Is that what they should see or would it be better to offer them something different? Perhaps recommending products, based on what people who viewed the same product went on to buy, might be a better way to maximise conversions. These type of intelligent rules are what set the big online players apart from the rest, with Amazon being a great example through their ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’ feature (see below). Creatives that incorporate this level of intelligence move the experience from being about nudging and reminding, to being genuinely useful, and they will take your performance to another level.

“I get complaints about my creatives chasing people around the internet, but I can’t stop it happening without switching off my remarketing”

Nothing damages your brand quite as much as hounding people as they move around the internet. This is easily solved though and it doesn’t require you to switch off your activity. Remarketing campaigns should have frequency caps to prevent the same person seeing them too many times. The number of times your creatives need to be seen to truly be effective may be higher than you think, but fortunately the level of tolerance among consumers is also higher, so be careful not to straight jacket your campaign. You want to be aiming for something like 5-6 views per day, for no more than 30 days.

“I wish my creatives didn’t show people products they already bought, but there’s no way to control it”

Showing people creatives promoting products they have already bought damages your brand. You never want to do this if you can help it and luckily it’s actually something that is very easy to fix if the sale happened online. You can request this from whoever manages your remarketing and you shouldn’t take no for an answer. However, it is also worth considering an alternative approach before deciding this. For example, would it be better to show accessories for the product they bought or maybe even care guides to provide reassurance post purchase. Whatever happens though, protect your brand!

“I only need one target audience; website visitors”

The unique opportunity of remarketing is to be able to show someone a creative that is tailored specifically to what they have previously shown an interest in. Targeting a single audience prevents you from being able to do this as everyone will see the same creative, greatly limiting your performance. Even if you believe simply being present delivers performance via the power of nudge marketing, it’s hard to get away from the fact you are likely to be limiting what you can achieve. Another factor is that by targeting all site visitors you will be wasting budget, as you will be paying to reach people who visit parts of your site with little commercial value. Do you want to target people who visit your careers page for example?

“Remarketing doesn’t need planning”

To maximise your remarketing performance requires highly relevant creatives that play to people’s interests and the requirements of your specific business. In order to tailor the creatives to ensure maximum relevancy, a lot of planning is required to identify target audiences, customer journeys and customer motivations at each stage of their journey. Deciding the appropriate creative approach and how to adapt this for each distribution channel also requires considerable expertise. This is an area where you get out what you put in!

“Remarketing is only in display advertising”

Remarketing is certainly not only display advertising. Remarketing can be done through all major digital marketing channels, with the main areas shown in the graphic below. What you want to achieve in remarketing is maximum reach, as you already know you are targeting the right person at what is at least close to the right time. So you should try to use as many of the distribution channels as possible and also to target the same audiences in each.

In conclusion

Remarketing is an incredibly valuable area that can make a step change to your business performance by driving up to 30% more conversions. However, it is an area that is all too often under utilised by businesses. There are opportunities for performance growth for nearly all businesses provided focus is put on the right areas. To find out more about how you can access these opportunities, read our follow up article Unlocking remarketing with FAST thinking.

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