What is Retargeting

Retargeting, often referred to as remarketing, is an online marketing tool. In this process, Internet users who have visited a certain website or clicked on a certain product are addressed with targeted advertisements on their way through the web. Through this reminder function, advertisers aim to increase the conversions of a website. Retargeting is used primarily in the e-commerce sector and can be used both on the stationary Internet and on mobile devices.

Probably everyone who has ever searched for new shoes at Zalando, for example, is familiar with retargeting. With this form of personalized online advertising, users who have already expressed interest in a product or company through their surfing behavior are targeted with suitable advertisements on other pages. The aim is to avoid wastage in online marketing. Retargeting can take place at website or product level and is used by companies in a wide range of industries.

Retargeting offers online marketers the advantage that display advertising can be precisely targeted to the interests of the user. For example, shopping cart abandoners can be addressed with suitable ads. The aim is to get them to return to the website in question, ideally to complete the transaction there.

Behind this type of targeting is the knowledge that targeted advertising works better and leads to higher conversions. After all, users who have already been to a particular website tend to be more likely to buy. In addition to conversion-driven campaigns, retargeting is also suitable for branding, according to many advertisers.

As with behavioral targeting, accurate tracking of user activity is also essential for setting up retargeting campaigns. Technically, retargeting works by tagging users on the advertiser’s website. To do this, an ad server sets a cookie. Based on the cookie, other sites from the respective publisher network can recognize the user and present him or her with targeted ads, such as display ads.

The ad impressions for users who have already visited the advertiser’s website are usually purchased via Real Time Bidding (RTB). In this type of real-time auction, the advertising of the advertiser who places the highest bid for a particular user profile is displayed.

Several providers are available for companies and agencies that want to use retargeting as part of their marketing. Retargeting platforms such as AdRoll offer real-time bidding algorithms for appropriate placement in addition to the server for delivering the ads. This allows users to be targeted across different devices such as PC and mobile, as well as social media and mobile apps. Google AdWords customers can also create their own retargeting campaigns. Facebook also offers retargeting campaigns for large companies.

Retargeting can also be used in reverse. For example, users tagged with remarketing in GoogleAdWords can be stored in segments. These segments can be both included and excluded in campaigns. In campaigns aimed at attracting new customers or signing up for a service, it is thus possible to exclude existing customers. This saves advertisers unnecessary costs for leads or customers already acquired and reduces wastage.

Criticism of retargeting

The use of retargeting is controversial from the point of view of users and data protectionists. Users can feel persecuted when they see advertisements on all kinds of pages on the web for exactly the products they have previously viewed.

Data protectionists complain that with retargeting, the user’s activities are tracked for advertising purposes without consent, and users have no overview of exactly what their activities are.

To ensure that retargeting does not lead to user reactance, advertisers should handle the tool very sensitively. Frequency capping allows online marketers to prevent users from seeing a particular ad too often.

Retargeting is about addressing users on the web and on mobile devices with targeted ads that match their activities and are therefore relevant to them. The aim is to bring back lost users of a website and persuade them to make another transaction. By aligning the ads with the user’s interests, higher conversions should be achieved. However, advertisers should proceed carefully with retargeting and ensure, for example, that ads for a particular user are only played out with a limited frequency.


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