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Search marketing has historically been based upon consumers seeking something, finding it, then (hopefully, from a marketer’s standpoint) making a purchase.  What about the times when consumers find a service or product but have their experiences interrupted or even abandon their shopping carts just when they’re about to buy?

This is when remarketing comes into play: love it or not, remarketing has gotten serious legs of late with major brands, their agencies and now even small and medium businesses.  By quick way of background, remarketing on Google and other places like MSN and Facebook uses cookies to determine specific consumer behavior or intent, then offers a variety of ways for advertisers to get right back in front of those consumers who’ve shown highly specific areas of interest but for whatever reason haven’t converted.  And now, remarketing has progressed to a point where marketers can assign specific dates and times to reach users based on recent behaviors or interests.

For example, let’s say I am searching online to buy a pair of jeans and my session is interrupted by something more urgent that crosses my plate at that time. I probably wouldn’t give it much thought.  The next day, I am online and a Google display network (GDN) ad shows me the very jeans I was intending to buy:  I probably would have gotten around to buying those jeans anyway, but this ad is specific, un-intrusive and it leads me to finish the purchase.  This is remarketing done right, but we as marketers must take care to ensure we don’t misuse remarking to alienate potential customers or suffocate those who’ve already bought our product or service.

Here are three factors driving the growth of remarketing:

Appeal to visitors who didn’t convert. This is the most basic, whether consumers have abandoned their shopping cart or they’ve spent a lot of time on a product- or service-focused site without getting to the purchase phase.  Marketers can deploy what are called dynamic product feeds to get specific products or services directly in front of the very users who’ve previously shown interest but haven’t purchased.  This is what happened in the jeans scenario.

TIP: Create custom lists. Rather than blindly remarket, with Google and others you can easily create highly qualified lists of consumers who’ve shown interest in your product or service.  You can base lists on which pages consumers visit, then show them an ad based on pages or product SKUs  they’ve checked ouit.  You can include or exclude people based on how far they’ve gotten in the shopping cycle.

Up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers.  Existing customers can be among your most loyal customers, and remarketing can help to ensure you’re staying in front of them when they’re doing relevant searches online.  For example, technology or software companies can promote complementary products or upgrades that could come in handy or even be operationally critical for the consumer down the road.  This is a bit trickier, as you don’t want to push too hard or alienate those who’ve bought from you before.  As with all forms of online marketing, timing and relevance are key.

TIP: Take advantage of timing and user segmentation.  For example, on Google and elsewhere you can also create timing scenarios for remarketing ads to deploy 10, 20, or even 30 days later.  Your product might have a consideration cycle ranging from minutes to months to make a follow-up purchase, so adjust your planning accordingly.

Reach consumers within a given time before or after making a purchase:  Depending upon the product or service involved, remarketing can be effective in providing time-sensitive coupon codes or discounts before or after a purchase.  With improved granularity, it’s easier than before to customize a campaign to reach consumers at a specific time in the buy cycle, or make specific arrangements to ensure that consumers are not targeted with your ads for the very thing they’d just purchased.

TIPS: Be willing to test before you dive in: Along with custom lists and segmentation, you can do testing to see what type of timing makes sense, depending on the product and service.  Be sure to define your remarketing lists so you can take out users who have already performed the intended action. Use custom combination lists to filter these audience segments.

Review the results from your member duration lists to see which segments convert the best and tune up or down your daily impression caps on those users to optimize results. This analysis will also help you fine-tune and understand your user purchase consideration cycle.

At its best, remarketing enables companies to get back in front of consumers who’ve already demonstrated a specific interest or intent around a product or service.  However, remarketing done wrong can be too intrusive, flipping the traditional model of search away from what a consumer wants to what a marketer wants the consumer to do.  As with other forms of digital marketing, success lies in finding the right balance.

-Written by Brian Rauschenbach

Article originally published in MediaPost’s Search Insider for Tuesday, July 30, 2013:
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/205630/taking-search-marketing-further-a-look-at-remarke.html

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