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Remembering the Lawnmower: How to Remarket to Site Visitors and Avoid a Restraining Order

April 30, 2012 By Andrew Majewski
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A couple weeks ago, Denny Hatch shared his experience being remarketed to by Zappos.com (as well as his shoe size). I agree that the ads Zappos is running on the Google display network are annoying ... but not for the same privacy issues to which Mr. Hatch alluded.

Remarketing is the practice of adding tracking code to e-commerce sites to follow the actions of visitors who leave without purchasing and show online display ads (on your site or others) specifically to these visitors. In other words, it's a way to re-pitch your best prospects. Much like sending a second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth renewal notice in the mail to magazine subscribers. (For younger readers, "mail" is defined by Wikipedia as an antiquated physical distribution system involving deliverymen clad in pith helmets and, in summer months, Bermuda shorts.)

Remarketing ads are meant to persuade prior visitors to complete the action they've already shown an interest in. And this is why Zappos' ads irritate me.

The screen captures on the slide show at right reflect no urgency, no special offer and no replay of the promise or solution that have been shown—in A/B tests conducted for over the past hundred years—to lift response. In addition to this, as Denny Hatch notes, the ads were chasing him "all over the Internet." 

But why throw the digital baby out with the bath water? We should instead translate the best of direct mail, radio, telemarketing and television direct response advertising to this additive, digital tool.

First step? Don't scare your audience. No one wants to feel like they are being stalked online or off. Especially when the endgame involves requesting sensitive credit card information. 

A great case comes from Target department stores (whose Marketing department more than lives up to its name). Target knows that if it can build loyalty in expectant mothers, that will increase lifetime value of one—or more—customers. With that in mind, their expert team has developed a "pregnancy score." 

Under this test, Target applies data points to those who, for example, shop for pink or blue rags, a larger-than-normal amount of cotton balls, and scent free moisturizer. Once Target has profiled an online customer as an expectant parent, its website serves up everything from car seat suggestions to sippy cup offers.

 
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