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Understanding the what and why of retargeting

Posted by Meg Bernazzani on September 12, 2019

You visit a website to check out a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. You leave without buying them. You visit TSN to check a score, then sign into Facebook to look at your newsfeed, and so on. Suddenly, you notice there are ads for the very shoes you were looking at following you around the web.

Maybe you ignore the ads at first, but after seeing the shoe ad for the tenth time, you decide to go back to the website and buy them.

That’s retargeting at work—and we’ve probably all had this experience in today’s digital age.

Why retargeting matters in the auto industry

As today’s car-buying journey becomes increasingly scattered and full of interruptions, retargeting has emerged as a cost-effective digital marketing tactic that helps car dealers re-engage customers and stay top of mind. Think about it: only 2% of website visitors convert on the first visit, according to AdRoll. Retargeting gives you a chance to connect with the other 98% who expressed an interest in your brand but didn’t convert.

Car shoppers spend an average of 13 hours online conducting research before ever making a purchase, according to JD Power. And that’s spread over about 5 weeks, according to CarGurus research. Shoppers are gathering information online up until the very last minute—even when they’re at the dealership. That’s where retargeting comes in. This form of online advertising helps you stay in front of these shoppers, reinforcing their previous interest in your vehicles.

The basics of retargeting

Retargeting works by placing a cookie—or “tagging”—shoppers when they visit your website or view one of your vehicles on a third-party site. After they leave your site or VDP, the cookie placed in their browser notifies your retargeting platform to serve ads based on the specific pages they visited and the actions they took on your website.

Think about it: if someone has spent time looking at a specific vehicle on your website, don’t you want to keep that shopper engaged? Retargeting allows you to re-engage those low-funnel shoppers with ads, even after they leave your site. These types of campaigns are incredibly effective. According to Criteo, they have 10x higher click-through rates than generic display ads and customers who see retargeted ads are 70% more likely to convert on your website.

Tips for creating successful retargeting campaigns

First, your ads won’t mean anything if they’re not related to the shopper’s search. In other words, if you’re retargeting a shopper based on a Ford F-150 search they did on a third-party site, you’d better show them an ad for a Ford F-150, not just any pickup truck. If you’re retargeting them because they visited your dealership website, include your name and logo in the ad. If your ad isn’t relevant, they’re probably not going to re-engage. You should also use your ad to highlight information like sales events and financing offers, and tell shoppers what makes your store different.

Next, it’s important that your messaging is consistent from the ad through to your landing page. You can’t expect visitors to convert on a landing page that has no connection to your retargeting ad. For example, that F-150 ad we mentioned should take the shopper to a page showcasing F-150s, not your homepage. It’s also important to keep your landing pages simple. According to Nielsen, users read at most 28% of the words on the average web page. Focus on quality over quantity, and avoid cramming too much information onto the page or trying to sell shoppers on something new.

Finally, make sure that your retargeting campaigns are mobile-friendly, from your ads through to your landing pages. If they aren’t, then you’re missing out on the 69% who use a mobile device for auto research, according to Kantar TNS research.

Digital advertising is very effective at driving interest and purchase intent, especially in the auto industry. And retargeting is particularly valuable because it helps you stay top of mind among potential customers and re-engage low-funnel shoppers. Incorporate this tactic into your digital marketing strategy, and watch your sales roll in.

Topics: digital marketing, display advertising, retargeting