Using Retargeting for Customer Acquisition


As a digital marketer, your job is a bit different now than how we used to define “marketing.” No longer is marketing simply trying to build awareness of your company or product, but it encompasses a much larger portion of the customer experience: all the way from initial awareness to on-site/in-store experience to checkout and post-purchase follow-ups. It’s part of why you see more and more articles like this one: Should the CMO Be the Chief Experience Officer.

Marketing is more and more focusing on the entire “customer journey” – and one of these areas where the focus has particularly shifted to is from simple traffic generation to actual sales, including conversion rate optimization and new customer acquisition. Marketing now owns more and more of the sales process, and in some instances it owns the entire sales process (and I only see this continuing to move in that direction).

So as marketing owns the sales process, it also owns the task of getting all these people you’ve “marketed to” to actually convert (aka “buy”). Of course this requires a marketing strategy that drives qualified leads in the first place, but what about what happens when those leads actually get through your front door?

In web marketing, the ideal situation would be that you convert all these people instantly (the pipe vs. funnel I talked about here) but that’s not the way it works. A lot of people aren’t going to convert right away. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that if your awareness marketing efforts are on-target and you’re driving qualified leads to your site, a large portion of those visitors are potential customers. They just may not be in market yet, or might still be in the “shopping” phase. This is where remarketing can come in very handy.

With retargeting, the basic concept is this: Someone comes to your site, looks at a product, and then sees ads for that product (and your site) all over the Internet reminding them to come back. (While this was once considered “creepy” I think people have gotten fairly used to it, so I recommend not worrying about that.)

Of course there are more subtle methods of retargeting, some of which I do recommend you consider, such as general branding messaging or product feature messages. But the basic concept is the same: someone comes to your site, then you show them ads for your site elsewhere.

Specifically target the visitors who appear to be new to site, and haven’t made a purchase and adjust your success metrics accordingly.

The one method I don’t see people doing a lot though, that I have seen very good results in is this: Specifically target the visitors who appear to be new to site, and haven’t made a purchase.

As I said earlier, a large percentage of these people who abandoned came to your site for a reason – and it is very likely that that reason was they were interested in the product you were selling. Some might have come through expecting something different, and they aren’t of much interest, but the vast majority came with some intent. They may have left to go comparison shopping, they might have left because they were only researching the product for future purchase consideration, or they might even have left because they had to get to their dentist appointment – but the point is, they were there with some intent, and you should be treating each of these people as potential new customer leads.

Since the majority of these “new visitors” are anonymous to you by their very nature as “not customers yet” your best method to follow-up is through retargeting ads. You can use any approach you want as far as the creative and message go – that depends on if you can determine why they left in the first place. Maybe they were tempted, but couldn’t pull the trigger. Just dangling that carrot in front of them might be enough. Or if it’s a more considered purchase, a series of product benefit ads might work better. Either way, to let these leads go is to miss out on maximizing the return on your initial marketing spend that got them there in the first place.

Retargeting an existing customer may see higher initial returns, but retargeting a “new customer” is worth much more.

A tip: As you build out these campaigns, try to separate them from your other remarketing and retarketing efforts, not just so you can see their effectiveness, but so you can also adjust your spend accordingly based on potential ROAS. Remember, remarketing to an existing customer will generally see a higher conversion rate and immediate return on your spend, but remarketing to a new customer lead will get them into your customer set to begin with, meaning you should be looking well beyond the return on that initial sale and instead looking at a return based on your total average lifetime value for a new customer.

Treating your retargeting prospects differently based on data point segments and adjusting your bids, cadence and messaging is a key part of any retargeting strategy. Know what it is you’re trying to accomplish, and segment accordingly. As a general rule, if you’re looking for new customers, then build campaigns that target them and look at new customer acquisition as your success metric. If you’re looking at maximizing the value of an existing customer, look at direct ROAS and how you might be affecting total LTV.

There’s a lot more to retargeting, obviously – but just think of it this way: Is the person on your site someone who might need additional communication? Is what you’re offering of value to that person? If so, do whatever you can to stay in front of them until they make a decision to either buy from you, or not. Until then they’re a potential customer.