Most Advertisers Struggle with Retargeting, whether they know it or not

Apr 24, 2020 | Facebook

What is retargeting?

Retargeting allows you to remind your customers of the products or services they were looking at on your site after they leave without making a purchase. Retargeting enables you to show these visitors relevant ads on Facebook, Instagram, display, search or in app etc. 

Most marketers use retargeting to continuously connect with consumers and to drive increased sales.

Sounds pretty simple right? Someone comes to your site, you cookie them, show them ads of the products they saw..and they come back and buy. Unfortunately it’s not really that easy. Retargeting requires its own strategy and needs to be monitored like all other campaigns. In fact, we’ve audited hundreds of client, prospect, and other advertisers’ paid Facebook accounts and one thing really stood out, retargeting is really hard to get right

We found that most of our audits could be bucketed into two groups – those who aren’t doing enough to be successful AND those who are doing too much and it’s negatively affecting performance.

What does it look like when you’re not doing enough retargeting?

It usually looks like your retargeting campaign is only running to a single mega-audience: all site visitors within some arbitrary lookback window. This campaign treats all website visitors the same regardless of when they last visited and what they did on the site.

Accounts that don’t appear to be doing enough typically allocate a smaller amount of budget to retargeting, typically what is left over, because these advertisers put a premium on prospecting to drive new people to their site. Additionally, the performance of the retargeting mega-audience may not look particularly impressive because it is being weighed down by low-intent users, and without segmentation, spend can’t be forced on better subsets of the audience.

The creative strategy is also weaker in these campaigns. These advertisers invest less time into creating ad creative specific to the retargeting campaign and objectives, in most cases showing creative built for retention or prospecting campaigns. This creative is likely to underperform in retargeting, because retargeting audiences don’t behave the same as audiences in other campaigns. 

By not segmenting the pool of potential retargeting customers, spending too little budget on too much audience, and recycling creative not intended for retargeting, many advertisers leave opportunity on the table. 

What does it look like when the account is doing too much retargeting?

On the other hand, accounts that are doing too much retargeting tend to have several overlapping audiences creating competition against each other, which drives up the costs of serving ads to their target customers. These accounts might be targeting visitors from the last 7 days, the last 30 days, and the last 90 days but not suppressing each smaller audience from the larger ones, therefore allowing the same visitors to fall in all buckets.

With a multiple audience strategy in place, we typically see that advertisers’ retargeting budgets are indeed large enough to span multiple audiences and campaigns, but the audience budgets are usually set and left as is. These budgets are not being optimized to invest in the most successful bucket or consider which stage of the funnel should see more support. “Set it and forget it” doesn’t work because audience behavior changes over time.

Lastly, we notice accounts missing best practices with their creative. In many cases the advertiser adds new creative to their retargeting campaign but fails to turn off the old creative leaving everything on. This impacts the success of the new ad as well as the learnings from the performance of the new creative and the campaign as a whole. If you’re updating the creative it’s likely because you are replacing the existing, not complimenting it.

What we recommend doing for retargeting success:

1. Don’t undervalue retargeting, track and treat retargeting as you would retention and prospecting because when done right, it will drive sales

Retargeting can be a very powerful strategy to drive sales. Your retargeting strategy shouldn’t be treated any different than your planning for prospecting or retention and is certainly not a one size fits all. Retargeting campaigns should be continuously monitored and budgets should be shifted based on what seems to be driving the most business outcomes.

2. Multiple audiences based on depth in funnel and recency

People who added a product to their cart but did not make a purchase in the last 7 days will shop differently than people who last visited the homepage 90 days ago, so they need to be treated differently. We recommend creating multiple audiences based on when and how users were browsing your site and advertising to them intentionally, taking into account that each of these audiences will perform at different levels of spend and respond to different creative and messaging.

3. No overlap between audiences

Retargeting audiences tend to be smaller than prospecting audiences simply because you have fewer website visitors than the total population available to target. This results in higher CPMs that will only increase when overlapping audiences create extra competition by targeting the same small audience several times. We recommend making sure your lists don’t overlap by adding exclusions to each audience. 

4. Dynamic creative if you have products (less relevant for service providers)

If a website visitor looks at a specific product, the best ad to show them is a picture of that specific product. You already know it is relevant to them: it’s what they were already looking for and it’s what they are most likely to purchase if they are still in consideration.

5. Unique creative for each audience if you’re not using dynamic 

If you’re not going to show products or do not have products to show, it’s important to craft copy and creative for each audience based on their depth in the funnel and recency of action. For example, recent site visitors should see creative assuming more intent and encourage a purchase, while visitors who haven’t visited the site in 90+ days should be targeted with ads to bring them back to the site in hopes for another browsing session and ideally a purchase.

Retargeting can be a great source of sales when done properly but most advertisers miss the best practices. For questions or help implementing a strong retargeting strategy contact us here.