Using Retargeting to Increase Online Sales

… advertisement is engraved on the memory by the expensive process of mere repetition. It may be a crude and an expensive method, but it seems to be effective.

Over 100 years ago, Dr. Walter Dill Scott, pioneer in applied psychology, wrote that in his book, Psychology of Advertising in Theory and Practice. In today’s advertising vernacular, this is known as frequency, the number of times a person must be exposed to an advertising message before a response is made.

In his 1885 publication, Successful Advertising, Thomas Smith described how frequency works, based on 20 exposures to an advertising message:

  1. They don’t even see it.
  2. They don’t notice it.
  3. They are aware that it is there.
  4. They have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
  5. They actually read the ad.
  6. They thumb their nose at it.
  7. They start to get a little irritated with it.
  8. They start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
  9. They start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
  10. They ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
  11. They wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
  12. They start to think that it must be a good product.
  13. They start to feel the product has value.
  14. They start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
  15. They start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
  16. They accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
  17. They make a note to buy the product.
  18. They curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
  19. They count their money very carefully.
  20. They buy what is offered.

The problem today compared to 1885 is that we are exposed to a thousand times more marketing messages than our great-great-grandparents were back then. And our minds are wonderfully effective at filtering out all of that irrelevant data.

You see, what’s irrelevant to you and me from an advertising standpoint is anything we’re not in the market to buy. In 1999, I wouldn’t have recognized a Chevy Astro van if I’d been run over by one. But in 2000, my family grew by one and the word “mini van” entered my vocabulary. Once I narrowed my choice down to that particular model, I became amazed at how many Astro vans were suddenly drving past me every day.

Advertising in general only reaches a small percentage of people who are ready to buy at that exact moment. It only becomes relevant when we reach the point in the buying cycle when we’re ready to take action. That’s why Yellow Pages and search marketing is so effective. Consumers have indicated their intention to buy through the action of looking up a company in the phone book, or conducting a product search online. Yellow Pages is more targeted—it’s users are have already decided what to buy; they’re just looking for someone to buy from.

Someone looking for a product or brand online is more likely to be in research mode. But, given the right offer, that person can easily be converted to buying mode, through retargeting.

Enter Retargeting

Retargeting is a way to bring back a visitor who’s left your site by continuing to advertise to them in other places. I was searching for an inkjet printers online and later, a YouTube video served up an inkjet printer ad. Coincidence? I think not.

It works like this. Someone visits your site, looks at some products, maybe adds some to the shopping cart (and has a cookie placed on his computer) but then decides not to buy. As he visits other sites, your ad appears in front of them, as a banner or other type of display ad, on the page itself.

Does it work? Ask Value City Furniture. They decreased their cost per acquisition from $168 to $29; and increased their conversion rate by more than 700 percent … in just one month’s time. I love it when hard facts back up a marketing method’s effectiveness.

Here’s more on retargeting, from fellow SitePoint writer, Brandon Eley: Can Retargeting Boost your Bottom Line?

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