11 Clever Retargeting Ideas You Probably Haven’t Thought Of

Since the invention of the cookie decades ago, advertisers have been leveraging retargeting to tag people who have visited their website and serve them customized ads later on in the buyer journey. It’s in nearly every advertiser’s playbook, and for good reason. Retargeting works! If someone just put a pair of tennis shoes in their shopping cart, that’s a near-perfect indicator that they’re in the market for not only tennis shoes, but for that pair of tennis shoes, and not showing ads to that person would be a miss. But there’s more to retargeting than tagging people who have been to your website and showing them an ad. Here are 11 clever tips that you probably haven’t thought of to take your campaigns to the next level:

  • Use UTM’s to Retarget Cross-Channel: On most major ad platforms, you can create an audience based on the words in the URL, including UTM’s, which means you can leverage information from one channel to improve performance on another. For example, if your business sells mattresses, you could create an audience in Facebook Ads tagging everyone with “URL Contains ‘utm_source=google&utm_term=best-firm-mattresses’”. Because you know the searcher is looking specifically for a “firm mattress,” you can use that information to customize your ad creative on Facebook Ads.
  • Use Bid Modifiers: When most people think about retargeting, they think about exploratory networks like Facebook & Instagram Ads, but retargeting can be a powerful lever on search platforms such as Google Ads as well, usually in the form of bid modifiers. As a best practice, you should aim to create an audience of people who have visited your site in the past 30, 60, and 90 days, and when someone from one of these audiences searches for one of your keywords, you should increase your bid. These people are further along in the buyer’s journey and you can likely maintain your ROI at the higher CPC.
  • Retarget Someone Else’s Website: It was never impossible to retarget someone else’s website, but it was always a very manual and difficult process, usually limited to extremely technical marketers. But thanks to a new marketplace, Repixel, it’s never been easier and cheaper to do. For example, let’s say you’re a luggage company that sells to travelers. You might have success retargeting the recent visitors of travel blogs, travel apps, and/or people booking flights. Once you’ve established a partnership through Repixel, when you to go to setup your custom audience, you’ll be able to choose your partner’s pixel rather than your own.
  • Retargeting Postcards: Most advertisers think of retargeting as a digital tactic, but there are dozens of companies that will send retargeting postcards through direct mail such as Modern Postcard. This can be particularly effective for the older demographic that’s less likely to spend their time online.
  • Retention, Upsells, and Cross-sells: Retargeting for demand gen can be magical, but it can be just as effective for retention efforts and upsells/cross-sell offers. If you have a satisfied user or customer, don’t be afraid to pitch them another one of your products or services if you have one. When doing so, it’s important to make sure you’re employing lift testing to prove out incrementally rather than raw purchase volume. This is important in all advertising campaigns, but it can’t be stressed enough when working on retention & upsells given how many of these prospects were going to make an additional purchase anyways, regardless of if they were shown one of your ads.
  • Reactivations: On the other end of the spectrum, if you have a customer that used to be lucrative and engaged but hasn’t been around for a while, it’s can be extremely effective to spin up a “reactivation” campaign to see if you can win them back. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to make this an ongoing campaign with customized ads pitching discounted prices or informational content about new ways to use your product.
  • Abandoned Carts: Perhaps this is a well-known technique, but it’s worth including given the importance. If someone put your product in their shopping cart and didn’t buy, they are clearly in the market, and it’s fair to assume that one of the most likely reasons they didn’t pull the trigger is because of the price. If your margins are high enough, consider showing them an ad for that product at a discounted rate and seeing if you can push them over the edge. And of course, make sure to really emphasize the discount in the ad in case they already wrote of your brand as too expensive.
  • Add Urgency: On a somewhat related note, add some urgency! We’ve all seen the charts — the sooner you pitch an interested lead, the more likely the deal is to close. The person who just had your product in their cart is clearly in the market now, but they might not be in the future. Let them know the discount is a “limited time offer” to help nudge them in the right direction.
  • Watch Frequencies Closely: When a retargeting campaign is going well, it’s every advertiser’s instinct to scale it up. That’s generally a good instinct, but once frequencies get too high, your business might start to come off as spammy which is not only damaging to your brand, but also to your relevancy score, and as a result, your CPM & ROI. Most major ad platforms allow you to monitor this (as seen below for Facebook Ads), and even those that don’t, will typically have the information if you reach out and ask your rep.
  • Don’t Forget About Smaller Channels: There comes a time in every advertiser’s career where they test a channel and it doesn’t work out. But just because prospecting didn’t work out on a certain channel doesn’t mean that retargeting won’t either and it would be a shame to assume that it does. There are lots of channels out there besides Facebook & Google that offer retargeting (Taboola, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Quora to name a few), and if you’ve written them off as under-performers in the past because of a failed prospecting campaign, it might be worth giving them one more shot with retargeting.
  • Serve Customized Ads: Dynamic product listings make serving up the right SKU to the right person easy in most cases. But not every business has a catalog of SKUs and that’s not an excuse to not be customized with your retargeting ads. Leverage your UTM’s, URL’s, and database to determine what ad to show each visitor for improved results.
  • Setup Your Exclusions: When setting up all of your different audiences, don’t forget to setup your exclusions correctly so you’re not bidding against yourself and accidentally serving acquisition ads to people who are already customers. As a best practice, it’s a good idea to map out all of your audiences in terms of priority and exclude all of the audiences of lower priority from the audiences of higher ones. More details on how to get this right can be found here.

Retargeting on the surface is easy and effective, but once you peel back the layers and get crafty is when the real magic happens. As always, different strategies are going to be more effective for different businesses, but don’t be intimidated and keep testing and learning until you find the approach that’s right for yours.

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