I Love Remarketing

I was checking back in at the Scottevest blog to see if there were any interesting updates on the fight with Delta and noticed a line in a product review they had reposted from Gary at Everything Everywhere.

Like many of you, I have heard about Scottevest for a while. They are very active on Twitter, they are worn by many internet celebrities, they get cameos on TV shows, and their ads can be found all over the internet. I’ve wanted a Scottevest for sometime now and that certainly effected my review of this product.

While it’s true that Scottevest does a lot of online advertising, I don’t think that’s what Gary is seeing is what he is casually referring to as ads being all over the internet. It used to be that when someone wanted to have a heavy presence with online advertising, they literally had to advertise all over the internet, through content networks, news sites, social networks and search terms. To do really intense coverage this way is quite expensive and as a result, you don’t see too many organizations or companies doing it unless they have a ton of money to spend on online advertising.

But I don’t think that’s what Gary was witnessing, because I know it’s not what I witness. Instead, Scottevest is using a type of advertising called remarketing (or retargeting). The way it works is that when someone visits a web page owned by the person running the ads – say, Scottevest.com – a snippet of code on the site drops a cookie onto the visitor’s browser which basically tells the Google Display Network  “This person was on this page of Scottevest.com.” Then, as the visitor navigates away from Scottevest.com, they will see ads by Scottevest as they move around the Google Display Network.

There are two net effects of this. First, as Gary and I have experienced, it gives the impression that Scottevest is advertising all over the internet. This makes a customer or a competitor think the company has gone all-in with online ads. It can likely be intimidating to competitors and persuasive for customers. It can even fool journalists into thinking someone is doing an online ad campaign that is orders of magnitude larger than what is really being spent.

Second, because I’ve been to their site, a company know that their ads are almost certainly relevant to me. Zappos goes so far as to show someone remarketing ads which includes the specific products that they were looking at when they visited their store. (They do this with Criteo retargeting, not Google remarketing). I’ve seen Scottevest remarketing ads that specifically include a discount code for people who visited the site that day, but hadn’t bought anything. As someone who does a majority of my shopping online, ad campaigns like this are really appreciated. They show the company running them is interested in my business and isn’t going to give up on me just because I clicked off their site without purchasing. While this can be annoying if the ad creative isn’t on a frequently changed, Zappos and Scottevest both do a great job of rotating their ad creative. The potential to get annoying is certainly there, but it hasn’t happened to me with companies that put real attention into their remarketing campaigns. By way of contrast, FedEx’s anti-union “Brown Bailout” campaign is repetitive and poorly made and a true nuisance to me as I travel the web.

Here are two examples of remarketing ads from Zappos and Scottevest.

Scottevest Remarketing Ad

Scottevest remarketing ad

This Scottevest ad isn’t targeted to a product that I recently viewed  on a recent visit to their site as far as I know. Though I did buy a Performance T-Shirt a couple weeks ago, I’ve been to the site more recently and looked at other items.

Zappos Remarketing Ad

A product-specific Zappos remarketing ad

Here’s a remarketing ad from Zappos. I had been looking at some Keen shoes earlier today (albeit in an effort to game the remarketing system) and as a result, I now am seeing a dynamic content Zappos ad which includes similar shoes from the same brand. I don’t know of any web vendor who’s doing cooler things with remarketing ads than Zappos, though clearly there ability to lots of customized, page-specific, rich media creative is a possible because of their size.

As you can probably tell, I love remarketing ads. I think they’re cool and useful and the companies that use them are pretty smart. The only big problem with remarketing ads is that most people don’t know what they are, how they work or why they are seeing them. It can be scary if a consumer gets the feeling that a product is “following” them around the internet. That said, it is easy to explain how the ads work and why people are seeing them – note that the bottom of the Zappos ad include a link to a Criteo page which answers the question “Why am I seeing these ads?

More companies are going to have to start running robust remarketing campaigns. Failing to do so leaves business on the table, while simultaneously displaying a lack of understanding of how the internet allows you to reach the people you want to reach.

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