Although it’s been around for going on three decades now, digital marketing is still an area of marketing many people are still struggling to understand. Part of the question of “what is digital marketing?” comes from the fact that it wasn’t until recently that digital marketing became an actual field of study at universities and tech schools. Another reason though is that digital marketing, unlike traditional marketing, is much more intangible since it exists only in digital form.
Your ad is set. It’s super cool. Engagement is off the charts. People are clicking like their lives depend on it. But people aren’t buying.
Nightmare? Far from it.
A lot of the time when I’m working with people on their marketing campaigns they are looking for immediate action – which in most cases means getting people who click the ad to make a purchase (conversion rate). They do all the work to get the ads out there or the third-party relationships in place to drive traffic, and people are engaging. They’re clicking through. But according to analytics, no one is buying after they click.
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.
As you build out your marketing campaigns and how they integrate into your customer lifecycle flow, one of the first things you’ll do is lose people along the way to achieving your preferred end goal. Face it, you’re going to have fall-off, but not all those people who fall off should be lost. Take a look at your conversion rate. Somewhere in the single digits, right? Yeah, that’s a lot of people then who aren’t converting, and while a good chunk of those people may not have intent to purchase and may actually be people who aren’t worth even trying to sell to, there are a lot who are good potential leads, but they’re getting lost along the way.
Think of it like this: All the people who come to your site go into a bucket. That bucket has a funnel at the bottom and at the end of that funnel is a conversion. Ideally your funnel wouldn’t be funnel-shaped at all, but instead a pipe just as wide as the top, and everyone would flow through quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. Along the sides of the bucket, as well as within the funnel itself, you’ll find a lot of little holes. These holes are where customers leave you. And once they’re gone, once they’re out of your bucket, they fall off into the nether. These are the leaks in your bucket and funnel.
Your job is to find out where your bucket has leaks, and how you can plug those holes. Or, at the very least, you have to redirect the flow from those holes into a whole new bucket with its own funnel, or pump the lost customers right back up into the bucket and give them another chance to convert (make it through the funnel).
This is where pathing diagrams (aka flowcharts) can come in extremely handy. Explained simply, a pathing diagram is a flowchart of how you want users to go through your experience, from any specific starting point you can define (A), through any specific “success metric” that’s important to you (B). Your goal is to figure out how the customers go from A to B, mapping out all the ways they might not make it from A to B, and then look for ways to redirect those unsuccessful paths back into a new opportunity to succeed. Each of these unsuccessful paths signifies a leak, and it’s up to you to find a way to capture and recycle as much of what’s leaking as you can.
For example, if a customer lands on your product page, your goal is probably to get them to add to cart, then to go from the cart into checkout and then complete the order.
Of course the customer doesn’t always do that. In many instances the customer is going to just bounce from your site. But you’ve identified that customer as someone potentially interested in what you’re selling, so you try to recapture some of those shopper “leaks” by introducing an email signup so you can reach out to them later with other offers, or you could set up retargeting ads to show that product to the customers as they browse other websites, trying to lure them back. Each of these presents new pathing options for you to design, such as what happens when a customer signs up for an email. Maybe you give them a discount, or maybe you explain your product/service better. Then you try again to get them to convert.
As you draw out your paths and you look at all the potential fall-off points, you’ll likely be overwhelmed with all the possibilities of what a customer could do. My recommendation is to only look at the ones that seem most likely – and you can get a good idea of people’s actual behavior by looking at your web analytics or simply watching some people use your site or app.
The point is this: Until you start really looking at and drawing out all the potential paths customers could take, you’re going to miss some opportunities. If you don’t see those opportunities, you’re never going to address them. It’s easy for us to build out a preferred path for how we want our customers to act, and even to continually optimize to make those paths easier to follow. What you can’t forget though is that not everyone is going to go down your predesigned paths, and unless you want them to wander off, you need to find other ways to help them still arrive at your preferred destination.