Retargeting is Here to Stay

Over the past several years, retargeting has become an essential part of the digital marketer’s tool kit. According to Chango-Digiday, 96% of marketers say retargeting is a standard practice in their programs and 50% plan to increase their retargeting budgets in the next six months1.

Retargeting has proven to be an efficient targeting option and an effective means of converting leads to sales, particularly for businesses that typically have long sales cycles spanning multiple channels, devices, and stages of the purchase funnel. After all, on average only 2% of website visitors convert within the first visit2. Retargeting allows advertisers to zero in on the other 98% of visitors who have already expressed interest in their brand, products, or services and who are therefore more likely to buy.

Marketers have historically managed retargeting campaigns as an extension of their search and display programs. The proliferation of Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) and the launch of Google Remarketing have helped fuel the growth of retargeting through website-based ad inventory bought and sold through major networks and exchanges. According to the Chango-Digiday study, marketers most commonly use site retargeting, where users are retargeted across the web in real-time based on actions they took on a website.

Social retargeting is also growing in popularity. In 2012, Facebook launched its own ad exchange, FBX, likely in hope of taking share from the growing site retargeting market. Yet according to Facebook’s quarterly earnings reports3 FBX has been slow growing relative to Facebook Ads. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has even stated that FBX accounts for a “very small part” of Facebook’s business4. Clearly, marketers were not taking full advantage of the retargeting opportunities available on Facebook, despite the channel’s unique, non-intrusive native advertising formats. In 2013, Facebook began to look at alternatives that could bring Facebook retargeting to the masses leveraging the power, transparency and flexibility of their existing Custom Audiences targeting capability.

Facebook Augments its Retargeting Capabilities with Custom Audiences for Website and Mobile

On January 28th, Facebook formally announced a simplified solution for site retargeting designed to help advertisers reach users across multiple devices and encourage them to take action. Known as “Custom Audiences from Your Website,” this solution relies on the Facebook tracking pixel, which matches website visitors to Facebook user profiles through Custom Audiences.

Targeting users through Custom Audiences has already proven to be a highly effective way of reaching, nurturing, and converting customers and prospects that have engaged with your brand5. While retargeting through Custom Audiences as a targeting option is nothing new, it previously required marketers to manually upload customer data from their CRM or database, at which point it would match users by email address or phone number. This manual requirement limited adoption to companies with access to internal customer data and enough resources necessary to manipulate their data to meet Facebook’s upload requirements. In other words, many Facebook advertisers have been unable to take advantage of Custom Audiences up to this point, missing out on the chance to retarget leads and increase conversions.

Facebook’s official launch of Custom Audiences from Your Website is a complete game-changer for advertisers who have been eager to retarget website visitors, leads and customers on Facebook’s network of 1.23 billion people, but who have been constrained by the Social Network’s customer data requirements. By simply appending Facebook’s tracking pixel, any marketer can now segment website visitors into target audiences and re-engage them with highly targeted messages across the world’s largest social network. Finally, advertisers now have a Facebook remarketing solution with the power and scale of FBX, but without the complex integration requirements, onboarding process, and monthly fees.

The First True Cross-Device Retargeting Solution

Another advantage over FBX is that Custom Audiences from Your Website actually extends beyond desktop. Due to the continued acceleration of mobile user growth on Facebook6, marketers have eagerly awaited the promise of mobile retargeting through FBX7. With this new solution, the wait is over. Marketers can now embed Facebook’s pixel on their mobile software development kit (SDK), build Custom Audiences based on the actions users take while using a brand’s mobile app, and deliver ads based on their user’s actions. And because the tracking pixel matches the mobile app visitor to a Facebook user ID, the user can be retargeted across any device – desktop, tablet, or mobile.

For years, the idea of retargeting a single user across multiple devices was a far-fetched dream in the digital marketing community. Many thought that Google, with its treasure trove of mobile analytics data through the Android OS, would be the first to offer a viable cross-device targeting solution. Last October, Google released Estimated Total Conversions reporting, which provides advertisers with an approximation of the number of conversions that were influenced by multiple channels. However, even with estimated cross-device reporting, Google offers no perfect solution for retargeting the same user across different devices. (Note: Cross-device retargeting would have been possible through RLSA, had Google not migrated their advertisers to Enhanced Campaigns.)

With the launch of Custom Audiences from Your Website, Facebook has created the digital marketing industry’s first free, easy-to-setup, scalable and measurable solution for cross-device retargeting and made the dream a reality. It is possible that, in 2014, Google will follow Facebook’s lead and develop a controlled, transparent method of audiences across multiple devices based on their device-specific behaviors.

Using Custom Audiences to Drive Sales and Boost ROI

While the benefits of Facebook’s new Custom Audiences from Your Website are clear, the potential use cases are infinite. Below are some ways that digital advertisers can take advantage of Facebook remarketing to reach, engage, nurture, and acquire customers across devices.

  1. Retarget Website Visitors – At its most basic level, Custom Audiences from Your Website can be used to re-engage Facebook users who visited your website but left without converting. The most common reasons why visitors “bounce” from a website is that they are still in the research phase of the buying journey, or they are not convinced that your product is the right fit for them. Give them a reason to reconsider your brand with a call to action that is tailored to the device they are using.
  2. Product-Level Retargeting Made Simple – It is now possible to re-engage website visitors based on the products, services, or destinations they last viewed on their website. Simply create a new Custom Audience based on a segment of website visitors who viewed a particular category of products. Then, use Facebook advertising to re-engage the product-category page visitors with tailored creative, incentives, or an offer to help stimulate action or conversion.
  3. Retarget Mobile App Users on Desktop – Marketers are making significant investments in mobile apps (the mobile app market is growing at an estimated 30% per year8) as a key part of their mobile strategy, but still struggle to justify ROI in context with their broader marketing program. Using Custom Audiences from Your Website, marketers can more easily connect the dots between customers who use their mobile app but purchase on another device. For example, a marketer in the travel vertical can retarget a customer who used their mobile app to research flights on their desktop device, where they might feel more comfortable purchasing the flight.
  4. Retarget Website Visitors on Mobile – Using the inverse of the previous example marketers can also retarget website visitors who have come to your website through a desktop device with a mobile targeted ad. For example, if you’re a retail marketer, create a Custom Audience of website visitors from desktop devices who have abandoned during the final stages of the shopping process. Then, retarget those users while they are on-the-go using their mobile devices with geo-specific mobile campaigns. Use call-to-action in your ads to drive users to a nearby retail location and purchase your products.
  5. Cross-Sell / Up-Sell Products to Existing Customers – One of the primary use cases for Custom Audiences has been the ability to engage with existing, high-value customers. Marketing to customers should be a best practice in every organization as customers – especially the most loyal ones – can be your greatest sales opportunity. Using Custom Audiences from Your Website, marketers can cross-sell and up-sell existing customers by simply creating new segments in Facebook based on converting visitors. Marketers can, then re-engage customers on Facebook with an offer for a complementary or adjacent product or bundle.
  6. Nurture Leads and Engage Current Customers – To date, email marketing has been the most popular channel for lead nurturing and customer communication. With Custom Audiences from Your Website, marketers now have another viable solution for engaging leads or customers that’s even easier to launch and optimize than a typical email campaign. To use Facebook remarketing as a substitute or complement to your email programs, create new Facebook campaigns with the specific goal of customer or lead outreach, and tailor your KPIs accordingly. For example, B2B marketers can nurture leads by providing them with useful, industry-related content that promotes thought leadership. That same marketer can build rapport with existing customers by using Facebook ads to update them on new blog posts, whitepapers, and customer marketing events with the goal of reducing churn.
  7. Retarget Users on Facebook Based on Search History – Combine the power of Custom Audiences targeting with search retargeting using a leading digital marketing platform like Marin Software. Through solutions like Audience Connect, marketers can easily retarget users on Facebook (by way of Custom Audiences) based on their Google or Bing search queries. This advanced form of Custom Audiences remarketing helps advertisers map the buying intentions (search history) of website visitors to their potential lifetime value (audience DNA), and then budget and bid more intelligently and effectively. For example, using Custom Audiences in conjunction with a platform like Marin Software, you can target female users of a certain age and income who searched for “black running shoes,” and who have made purchases from your website in the past year.

Looking Ahead: Facebook’s Simplified Version of Retargeting Could Lead to Added Complexities

Make no mistake about it, there’s a lot to be excited about with Facebook’s new and improved version of remarketing through Custom Audiences. Marketers now have a way to engage customers, leads, and website visitors across devices, based on search history and their stage in the buying cycle. Best of all, the new solution is easy to implement and is less time- and cost-intensive than using a DSP to advertise on the FBX. With Custom Audiences from Your Website, Facebook makes the dream of sophisticated retargeting a reality for businesses of all size and scale.

However, despite the clear benefits Custom Audiences from Your Website presents to digital marketers keep in mind that Facebook’s new remarketing solution may indirectly lead to added management complexities in the future. Ironically, the simplification of retargeting will create opportunities for increased targeting sophistication, which will likely introduce audience management complexities and could create issues with scale. To fully take advantage of the long list of retargeting use cases, Facebook advertisers will need to create new campaigns for each Custom Audience target. And for Facebook advertisers who believe in micro-segmenting their audiences into specific clusters, the volume of campaigns could quickly expand as they continue to see ROI.

In order to manage the complexity and drive ROI at scale, marketers will likely need to adopt a sophisticated Facebook advertising platform to manage, automate, and optimize the hundreds of new Facebook remarketing campaigns and thousands of new creatives that are likely to be created. As the adoption of Facebook’s new retargeting solution continues to increase in 2014, we should also expect reliance on management and optimization platforms to increase as marketers seek to experience the full value of what is expected to be one of the highest ROI marketing channels in 2014.

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