Developing a Remarketing Strategy

By Linda Bustos

Director of Ecommerce Research, Elastic Path Software


This post is the second in a 2-part series on getting started with remarketing (also known as retargeting). In my previous post I discussed how remarketing works. Today we examine ways to nail down your strategy before picking a remarketing tool and setting up your first campaign, along with ideas for what to retarget.


Why You Should Never Design in the Box

So you’re ready for remarketing, so why not dive right into Google Remarketing to walk through the steps of setting up your maiden campaign? Self-managed remarketing tools have step-by-step set-up processes, but without a mapped-out plan, some steps can stump you. The options you choose such as negative audiences and membership duration can’t be decided on the fly.

Planning scenarios in advance allows you to brainstorm, then hone in on the ideas that are most feasible or rewarding. Think about your creative – how you might want to A/B test it, and if you need ads to be dynamically populated (not all tools can do the fancy stuff).

Before launching a campaign, you need to populate your “audiences,” or groups of visitors that take certain actions on your site. Knowing how you want to target visitors (based on your conversion goals) is the first step in deciding which pages to “tag” with tracking pixels, and what to name them so you can build your member lists.


Determine Your Retargeting Goals

Your conversion goals don’t need to be completed sales – they could be blog subscriptions, white paper downloads, email or webinar sign ups, trial downloads or site memberships. Remarketing can also be used as a branding tactic to stay top-of-mind, in which case the conversion goal is a visit back to your site to see what’s new.

Select a few goals to build scenarios for. Your most important goal may not be feasible (e.g. if you don’t receive enough traffic to build an audience of 500 members within one week in order to launch a cart recovery campaign) so it’s good to have alternatives to try. You can also run several remarketing campaigns at the same time as long as they’re all using the same retargeting service.


Know Thy Customer

Don’t forget to use your web analytics to inform your strategy. What is your average days to purchase, or visits to purchase? (This can differ between product categories you may carry). Which areas of your site are most frequently visited (and can quickly fill an audience if you want to retarget specific products)? Which products have the highest margin and can absorb the additional expense of experimenting with remarketing? Do visitors from certain countries poorly convert that you can exclude from your campaign?

What other information do you have about your visitors’ behavior? Use any quantitative or qualitative data that may help you understand what motivates their conversion.


Be Exclusive

Like negative keywords in a paid search campaign, negative audiences are just as important as the “positive” ones. Think through what actions on your site might indicate a visitor should be excluded from a particular campaign. For instance, you don’t want to keep targeting visitors who have completed your conversion goal. Which page(s) should you tag with a “burn pixel” that removes these visitors from the pool?

Another example, if you have a membership site, a log in is a good indicator that you don’t need to follow this visitor around with pleas to join your community.


Create a Scenario

Your scenario is based on the trusty 5 Ws of journalism, but it helps to swap “Who” with “Why”

WHY – conversion goal

WHAT – user actions that show intent to this conversion goal

WHERE – pages which correspond with these actions

WHEN – how long you can realistically retarget users for this conversion goal before your ad becomes irrelevant

WHO – segment of visitors that perform the WHAT, minus anyone in a negative audience


Here are a couple examples in a sample scenario format:


SCENARIO A (General Campaign)

Objective: Keep brand top-of-mind for visitors who abandon the site and communicate our value proposition
Site pages (to tag): All
Audience (Positive List): General site visitors
Exclude (Negative List): Visitors who viewed Affiliates or Careers pages
Cookie duration: 365 days
Maximum exposures: 11
Creative: TBD, A/B test
Notes: (If any)


SCENARIO B (Flagship Product Campaign)

Objective: Retarget visitors who view our flagship product
Site pages: Amazing Product 1.0 product page, “amazing product 1.0” search results
Audience: Visitors to these pages
Exclude: Completed purchasers
Cookie duration: 14 days
Maximum exposures: 11
Creative: TBD
Notes: (If any)


Once you have a few scenarios and have settled on a tool that meets your requirements, you’re ready to get started tagging your pages, designing creative, building out your campaigns and launching your ads. Interested in learning more? Join me at Conversion Conference West 2012 for my session: Many Happy Returns: Remarketing Strategies for Converting Site Abandoners, where we’ll discuss the best and worst practices in this brave new world, along with plenty of creative strategies to get started in remarketing right away.


About the Author


Linda Bustos is the director of ecommerce research for Elastic Path Software and the author of the Get Elastic Ecommerce blog. As an ecommerce consultant, Linda has helped some of the world’s largest online retailers and technology brands improve their conversion rates and user experience. An online retailer herself, Linda moonlights as a jewelry designer for Robin Hood Couture, her line of handmade accessories.

Meet Linda in Person!

Linda will be presenting a session on “Many Happy Returns: Remarketing Strategies for Converting Site Abandoners” at Conversion Conference West 2012 in San Francisco, California. See the full agenda and read more about this session.

Want to save on your Conversion Conference Registration? Follow Linda on Twitter @roxyyo and @getelastic to touch base and request for a discount code!



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