As our colleague previously noted, retargeting capabilities have become some of the most effective (and highly utilized) advertising options on the web. Are we always making the most of our efforts? Here’s a look at some of the latest innovations to ensure we’re connecting with potential customers at the right times, in the right places and with the right messages.

Streamlined Data Management Capabilities

There are several newer innovations in retargeting that better serve both users and advertisers. Currently, the cutting edge and biggest gaps are centralized around data management. Services called “data management platforms,” or DMPs, work to ingest and aggregate mass amounts of data. The DMPs then spit that data to a demand-side platform (DSP) which serves up advertising.

What’s happening is a lot of marketers are not connecting all the systems. We’ve probably had the experience where we’ve been to Amazon and bought a product; a box of mints, for example. What do we see immediately after when we’re on Facebook, or around the web? There’s a good chance we’ll see that same box of mints because the retargeting system doesn’t understand we’ve already made a purchase. The most sophisticated marketers are using things like DMPs that are properly connected to sales CRMs and customer management software so if a customer makes the purchase – the action we, the marketer, wants them to make – they no longer see the ads.

Customer Journey Considerations

Another retargeting innovation that is not well discussed is the cross-channel aspect. Again, if we have a solid DMP, a data warehouse and good big data practices, we should be able to manage our lists, and our audiences, synchronously across networks. If we retarget on Facebook, we should also immediately be able to retarget on Twitter (and AdWords…etc., etc.) with one message across the channels.

However, the next big thing is if marketers can understand where our customer journey mapping is in terms of how that whole customer experience unfolds from digital touchpoints. Once our DMP understands where that prospect is in the customer experience journey, we can then serve up correct advertising and messaging. For example, for some companies, display advertising is the first touchpoint for a consumer. As such, we’d want to serve up messaging that was appropriate to that, particularly for high value or high complexity transactions. As opposed to, say, a very transactional product, like that box of mints, where that first touchpoint may also be the transaction window at the same time.

Retargeting example; Google Customer Journey


The next stage is for people to take their retargeting and shepherd that user through the customer journey with retargeting that changes as they move through that journey (often referred to as “the funnel”). We’re not there yet. Most people are still serving up the same point of purchase or last touch ads in the hopes they can get people back, and not taking into account the extent of the customer journey.

Transparent Targeting

On the user side, one thing that is becoming more common is allowing customers to know what they’re being targeted by. This is particularly true in more privacy sensitive environments like Europe and Canada. If we were to go to, for example, we can see if we’ve been added to a list based retargeting. You may be surprised at who’s retargeting you. And of course, we as consumers can opt out of those retargeting advertisements.

That’s the flip side of what else is next: giving consumers more flexibility to say, “Yes, I want to hear more about the service,” or “No, I don’t want to hear any more about the service. Remove me from this retargeting list.” Then, ideally, the marketers’ DMPs will then remove those users.

For marketers, this is not always so cut and dry. If a user is saying, “Hey, I want out on Facebook,” we should consider if they want out of our audience entirely or just on Facebook. That’s where a lot of the AI of the big data advancements happening in digital marketing will come into play. If there’s a user who says, “I don’t want to talk to you on Facebook, but I’m going to visit your website over and over again,” we know that’s a channel-specific removal as opposed to a user who opts out entirely and never visits any of our digital properties.

The biggest retargeting takeaway for the new year? Without good big data analytics, our retargeting efforts will not be as optimized or effective as possible. Have an additional retargeting consideration? Comment below!

Emily Mong
Senior Marketing Analyst


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