Ready Or Not, Here Comes More Retargeting
I envision a grown-up version of retargeting to be one where it's used in a mix of media and ad types. One panelist phrased it as "a piece of a portfolio approach to online advertising." In my mind, it would involve using the finite knowledge of what a user is doing at the time in a more meaningful way to determine what he or she is served minus the "creepy" stalker-type behavior of brands. My fear is that we're still talking the talk and not walking the walk. We appear to be retargeting because we can, and not necessarily because we should or within the context of any type of strategy.
By our own admission, we recognize that there are flaws in how retargeting can be deployed. But, regardless of whom you ask, the fault for not using it better and more appropriately sounds eerily familiar. Pick the right provider, segment the audience the right way, pick the right agency to help you navigate the waters ... oh, and by the way, the messaging has to deliver on whatever your overall strategy is for the retargeting effort or the whole opportunity is blown.
So where is the consumer in all of this? Well, that's the big question, isn't it -- or is it? As marketers, we are telling ourselves that we know what is best and that consumers will accept whatever we do on this front. We do this because "we know" what the consumer really wants and how to give it to them, even if they don't. We seem to be a bit dismissive when the topics of privacy, security or what the consumer wants come up. We draw parallels (some more than fair) about what we give up with regard to personal information online and how that pales in comparison to what we do offline, with far less concern.
I've heard people reference the "media hype" surrounding this topic and that there is far more talk than actual consumer concern. While that may be true in some cases, the difference to me is that the use of that information seems to be a bit less obvious offline than it does online (or maybe we're more used to it). And, it's more immediate online for sure. That's where the "creepy" component comes in. Plus, there's this belief that if I don't share it directly as a consumer, then you don't deserve to have that information. It's about me, so it's mine. That may not matter, at least for a little while, based on what I heard and witnessed.
What happens next?
Retargeting is going to go wherever it goes and there will be good and bad examples of it. Some consumers love the idea of retargeted messages. In fact, they expect them. They ask, "Why wouldn't I want something directed toward me?" and if they don't get it, then they may be put off. However, we should be mindful of what we force on them and how transparent we are when sharing it. This could be the next great thing in marketing -- the ultimate, tailored message to me about what I want that miraculously shows up exactly when I need it, even if I didn't know I needed it. Or it could be abused and the impact on the brands that do so could be far reaching to the industry as a whole.
Through it all, though, one thing is clear -- retargeting is going to continue and in all kinds of different forms. The future of retargeting is not just about a more highly evolved message tied to a product you viewed online or a variation of scaling offers until you buy. It's going to become as much about where as it is about what.
Mobile is going to change the game for retargeting. (Wow, doesn't that sound familiar?) I think a wave of new retargeting efforts and ability will be on us quickly. I don't know if there's been much real and significant innovation with any scale in the area of retargeting lately -- but it might just be the calm before the storm. If I can hit you with a time-appropriate message, whether it be in the store or walking by, knowing that you've got some history with my brand, company, etc. (whether it be a searching, shopping, or a past purchase), I have added another piece of the puzzle to my attempt to build a relationship with you, whether you want it or not.