Online store merchants have some fancy digital marketing tools at their disposal. Retargeting ads is one of them. The concept isn’t new. This quote from a 2010 New York Times article, Retargeting Ads Follows Surfers to Other Sites tells us how retargeting ads work:
Julie Matlin was tempted by a pair of shoes on Zappos.com. Then the shoes started showing up in ads on other sites she visited. Then the shoes started to follow her everywhere she went online. An ad for those very shoes showed up on the blog TechCrunch. It popped up again on several other blogs and on Twitpic. It was as if Zappos had unleashed a persistent salesman who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Of course, the article goes on to show just how creepy these ads can be and how privacy advocates are up in arms ads following people around like stalkers. Retailers, like Zappos, have responded to concerns by explaining to shoppers how their “personalized” advertising works and giving them a way out. One might think internet users would be a bit desensitized to personalized ads targeting them on Facebook and Gmail, but because retargeting ads follow users even after they’ve closed and reopened their browsers, it takes the “creepiness” factor to another level. Of course, in most cases users can simply clean their “cookies” to remove annoying ads.
At FastPivot team meetings, we often run into the scenario in which we are discussing a client website, only to have ads for that brand follow meeting presenters to articles in the local or national newspapers, etc. In fact, we all got a big laugh out of this very thing happening just the other day, which is what, in fact, inspired this blog.
But the point of this post isn’t to criticize it as being creepy or unethical, but to explain why ecommerce merchants are using it so regularly. These ads aren’t meant to shadow and hassle people until they cave and buy, but to serve as an easy reentry point back to a brand that may have been abandoned because of various reasons. The whole idea behind retargeting is to recapture attention from users who left a webstore without buying. These ads say, Hey, we know you like what we offer, won’t you come back and see if you can find something you’d like to buy. The residual brand awareness value doesn’t hurt either.
What sort of agencies sell retargeting ads? There are a number of them including YSB’s parent, Yahoo! And, do retargeting ads work? That’s a question we would like to put out to you, the ecommerce merchant…tell us in a comment what your experience has been.