Retargeting for Ecommerce: 4 Strategies That Drive Conversions

/ ecommerce / 7 min read
Jake Rheude

According to Forrester Research, 96% of people who visit your site don't convert to a lead or sale. That is a massive number! Remarketing targets that 96 % who have left and taunts them to come back. The question is: does it work?

We can find as many anecdotes about major failures as leading successes, which doesn’t help a marketer or business owner know how to spend their hard-earned money. So, it’s time to look at retargeting in the larger picture of your marketing efforts.

There’s no magic bullet, but maybe we can help you understand if retargeting works, what you need to do to avoid being a pain and leave you with a few things to try. Let’s dive right in now.

What Is Retargeting For Ecommerce?

The starting point is a clear definition and what you should be looking for, especially if you’re considering buying some tech to help with retargeting.

Retargeting is the use of ads on external websites and services like social media to reach people after they’ve left your store. When used properly, it can help you improve your conversion rate. What’s important in the ecommerce world, however, is a distinction that you’ll find if you dig deep enough: retargeting can hit existing customers as well as new visitors.

Why do you want to know about both, especially for platforms you choose to buy?

Existing customers have already made a purchase from you and signed in with an account, so you have some data and can retarget more directly by adding their email address or other info into your retargeting ad network. This makes it easy to show specific individuals or groups a set of specific ads.

Visitors and window-shoppers are people who haven’t bought yet. To reach them, you need to land a browser cookie (the reason you see so many notices about websites using cookies) to promote products they looked at or send them a deal to entice them back.

Different messages, coupons, and options work better for new or returning customers. The exact mix often varies, but you can quickly think of reasons why you’d want to target these groups differently.

Let’s say you’re offering new customers a free two-day shipping on any offer. If you send this out in a blanket retargeting effort that doesn’t distinguish between these two groups, existing customers could get the offer. Then, when they try to use it, you have to take the offer back. That’s going to annoy some and lead to a few abandoned carts.

Do Customers Love Or Hate Retargeting?

The big worry about retargeting ads is that they’ll become “creepy” by relying too much on our data. Marketers are concerned they’ll look like stalkers. That’s understandable because we’ve heard that concern since retargeting ads first arrived.

However, it’s time to put that to bed. Retargeting ads by themselves aren’t creepy. And, we know they work. Total Wine was able to use retargeting around abandoned carts to increase their reach by 50% year-over-year and a 6x return on ad spending just by targeting existing customers.

This group wanted the message and responded positively to it. There are likely many factors going on, but by using personal details only after the company had a relationship with customers, it wasn’t so odd that emails used first names and preferred past purchases.

5 Things Customers Hate About Any Ad Campaigns

  1. Repetitive Ads: Here’s an ad issue that’s especially relevant for retargeting. When customers see the same ads over and over, they’re no longer receptive to them. After 5 or 6 times of seeing the same ad, your targets actually become annoyed and even a little angry.
  2. Irrelevant Ads: Customers view your ads more positively when they’re relevant to the customer and the page they’re browsing. However, unrelated ads are easy to ignore because they don’t feel like they’re speaking to the viewer. Break this segmenting your audience and reaching out with relevant items.
  3. Hard Sales: Just like we don’t enjoy a pushy salesperson at the store, pushy ads get the same brushoff. Think about the last Facebook ad you clicked. It was likely something that gave you information and looked like everything else in your feed, not a big flashing banner that made you want to scroll past.
  4. Hard-to-Use Deals: Retargeting is powerful when it is useful. Customers will dislike any ad that makes a promise they can’t realize. So, your deal needs to be clear on the landing page. Ensure this always works by building specific landing pages for each campaign and linking them visually — if your ad has a green “free!” button, the page should too.
  5. Spam after a Purchase: How useful is an ad for something you just bought? Retargeting is often the culprit here, but it could also be that you send 20 emails within the first week after a purchase and your customers feel bothered. Filter out recent purchases and existing customers using your platform’s tools. One of the best ways is to remove anyone who has visited a “Thank you” page in the past few months.

Can Retargeting Work For Your Ecommerce Store?

Retargeting is powerful, and new tools make it easier to run these campaigns. However, to be successful, you've got to be useful without getting annoying. With that in mind and the list of things not to do fresh, let’s think about when ecommerce retargeting is smart.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

Here’s one of the best methods to start with because you’ve got someone generally interested in your products. When you target someone who has put things in their cart but not made a purchase, you have a list of specific items to include in your ads.

Try showing them a few reminder ads about how the products are useful or enjoyable. You can then follow-up with deals or discounts that are time sensitive. Try to make them an offer that’s hard to refuse. This can be either a discount on their purchase — like a deal on carts over $75 if they already have more than that waiting to buy — or a deal like free shipping.

If you know what your customers object to most — price, shipping times, fees, etc. — consider a deal that targets these concerns explicitly.

Specific URL Visits

Don’t run a generic retargeting campaign across your entire site, unless you’ve got a lot of money to burn on people who may or may not be interested in you. Narrow your focus so you can target a small group of people who showed interest in something concrete.

For ecommerce, we like targeting campaigns based on specific product URLs. This allows you to show the direct product someone was browsing in the ads they get next, prompting a purchase and ensuring relevance. If you build pages or containers for different product sizes, colors, or other characteristics, you can get that granular with your ads.

Deals for Existing vs. New Customers

You’re going to be getting a lot of data for these campaigns. Use it to segment new and existing customers. The Neil Patel blog found this notable example from ModCloth:

It can help encourage existing customers to come back but wouldn’t make sense for new ones. However, you could use the same image and split the campaign text, inviting new customers to experience the feeling.

Even if the deal itself is exactly the same, using the terms “new” or “existing” customers to say which select group is getting an offer can be compelling enough for many to jump right into your store.

Engagement That Does and Doesn’t Happen

A really cool thing about a lot of today’s CRMs is that you can link multiple activities, including your ad campaigns and email campaigns. One interesting thing to try if you have a newsletter or extensive distribution list is to segment people based on their email actions. It’s an excellent place to start, too, because email marketing with sophisticated platforms can generate an ROI of 37:1.

People who open your emails can get a specific ad related to whatever your latest campaign was. This might be a deal you provided at the end, a “thank you” gift, or something linked to informational content. Here, you’re staying top-of-mind and most likely encouraging an existing shopper to come back.

Don’t let the other set of email addresses go to waste, however. These users may not be opening your emails, but you do have enough of their information to do some basic retargeting. Hit them with a general information campaign as well as targeted deals to treat them like a first-time buyer. You want to regain your relationship, so use your most successful past efforts to get people to engage.

Treat them Well

Retargeting is a powerful tool that can be used for good or evil. It all comes down to how your company treats them and the customer. That’s why some readers will hate getting these ads while others bought something today because of one.

Prioritize giving your customers a positive experience, and they’ll reward you. Lean on the tips we provided to keep things engaging and enjoyable, without getting creepy.

Good luck, and happy selling.

About the author
Jake Rheude
Knoxwille, TN
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development.

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