Has The Site Retargeting Industry Lost Its Way?

I’ve always been a fan of site retargeting, which is why I choose to work in the industry. I have no doubt that marketers should message consumers who’ve visited their sites. They’ve invested significantly in attracting shoppers to their online stores; retargeting protects those investments.

At the same time, I can’t help from thinking the industry has lots its way. If we’re to continue  to serve as valued partners to marketers, we need to confront the well-known challenges that give our industry a black eye.

These five issues require urgent addressing:

Targeting Clickers

Click-based models open our sector up to fraud. Per eMarketer, some 37% of web traffic stems from non-humans, translating to $6 billion in fraud perpetuated on digital advertisers. There was another article in NPR recently that talked about how there is a very large market for “Click Farms” in South Asia who’s sole business model is to drive fake clicks, facebook likes, and retweets. It’s time to ask an uncomfortable question: Given our emphasis on clicks, does the site retargeting industry contribute to this scourge?

Which leads to the next challenge.

Targeting Lower Funnel People Only

The site retargeting industry favors a CPC pricing scenarios for the simple reason it doesn’t take much to convert consumers who are actively in market for a product. It’s an easy way for a retargeter to make money.

But this strategy does little to promote incremental revenue. Marketing, at the end of the day, should focus on helping brands engage new customers and build lifelong relationships with them. Targeting in market consumers who already know the brand misses the mark.

No Transparency

There’s no excuse for the lack of transparency. Site retargeting companies have an obligation to inform its clients exactly how much they paid for inventory, where ads appeared, how they’re sequenced, and number of times users were messaged.

More importantly, transparency will go a long way in ensuring the site retargeting company’s goals are aligned with the client’s. The arbitrage model leaves too much room for the retargeter to focus on its best interests, not the client’s.

Measure on Last Touch or Last Click

I’m not the first person to rail against the evils of chasing the last click or touch before conversion, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. Vast sums of the marketer’s ad spend is wasted on attribution schemes that prioritize the retargeter, not the brand itself.

But that’s only part of the story; the bigger issue is the loss of opportunity. Let’s say a consumer visits a site, clicks on a high level category overview and then leaves. Many site retargeting companies won’t touch that user since there’s little chance of earning attribution credit from someone so high up in the funnel.

Wouldn’t the advertiser benefit by retargeting the user with a brand essence message? What if the call to action invited consumers to provide their email addresses so they can receive notices of special deals? Site retargeting, as we’ve seen with search retargeting, has a huge role to play in raising brand awareness.

Little Differentiation Between Audience Types

Site retargeting results always looks fantastic when compared to prospecting results. Why? Many companies will tell you it’s the inherent effectiveness of retargeting, but don’t be fooled by that line. It’s due to the inherent differences in audiences.

Site retargeting focuses on consumers who are familiar with a brand, have visited a site, and are actively in-market for a product. Prospecting, on the other hand, is designed to get new consumers to a site.

Lumping both audience types into the same bucket will prompt marketers to favor one tactic over the other, when the opposite strategy may be the one that truly drives incremental revenue.