How Big Data Ups the Ante on Retargeting

April 23, 2014
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ImageCookies are the Internet version of big brother, and there’s no better place for users to notice a cookie’s effect than on Facebook. Right there in your feed, amongst your friends’ life updates, are pop up ads from sites you recently visited.

ImageCookies are the Internet version of big brother, and there’s no better place for users to notice a cookie’s effect than on Facebook. Right there in your feed, amongst your friends’ life updates, are pop up ads from sites you recently visited.

Retail in this arena is the most notorious. Shop for shoes on Gilt, Zappos or Bonobos and it is almost guaranteed you’ll see a related ad within your Facebook feed (or on the right hand rail) within the next few days.

This is the product of retargeting — a $150M business in 2013 alone. The desired outcome? Conversion — a purchase, a download, a video watched, an article shared — that affects the bottom line.

Cookies in this aspect, then, give brands a serious leg up on the Internet: follow your customers from your site to one on which they spend large amounts of time (namely social media), and entice them back to your site to complete an action they were already reasonably interested in completing. Turn near conversions into actual ones — that’s the idea.

And all of that is well and good, but retargeting isn’t without it’s issues. One of the challenges with traditional retargeting is the inability to distinguish users that are browsing versus genuinely interested in making a purchase. The obvious way around this is to retarget individuals who “add to cart,” but this is only a small fraction of users browsing a site on any given day. On the other hand, simply because a user browses a specific pair of jeans doesn’t mean said user is intent on buying them. Serving an ad to a made up mind wastes impressions — and no amount of retargeting can change that.

Umbel retargeting takes a very different approach to traditional methods, though — meaning we don’t waste your impressions. Ever.

Umbel identifies groups of people who look like those who converted the first time. Rather than solely targeting those who have been to your site, Umbel finds people with similar brand affinities and digital genomes (AKA similar digital DNA), and provides your site with increased uniques and ROI. 

See, it’s all about strategy. Most companies managing retargeting campaigns encourage clients to retarget all visitors who hit a certain page on a website. Even if a client is using a specific paid media strategy, the majority of retargeting ads are purchased based on people reaching a certain level of a conversion funnel. It rarely looks at the specific strategy used to acquire the user in the first place.

Umbel, instead, does tackle retargeting from a strategic angle — running campaigns toward lookalikes who convert. Retargeting based on the strategy used to acquire the new user offers a deeper level of optimization, thanks to Umbel data (gathered sans cookies).

Retargeting is here to stay and it is quickly becoming a core part of any advertiser’s paid media strategy. As companies choose to evaluate different vendors offering retargeting services, they should ask more questions about the level of optimization available and the ability to tie into a traditional prospecting strategy. The most sophisticated platforms will be able to do much more than general retargeting — because higher than average ROIs aren’t a pipe dream.