To recap, I've been outspoken on how retargeting is a great strategy to drive bookings via display advertising, especially when done in a measured and systematic way (extra points if done through real-time bidding). But, I've always claimed that this is just the beginning of what we can do to turn display advertising into the huge channel it was intended to be, especially in travel. Instead of just divvying up the same low-funnel travelers that are going to convert, why not drive more opportunities higher in the funnel to get more travelers interested in the first place?
We've made progress. That's the good news. The bad news is it's nowhere near the potential of where new user acquisition is going to take us (and maybe that in itself is good news anyway). Our panel broke it down, essentially, into two main issues:
1. Buyers aren't ready to deal with so many sources of data.2. The landscape is currently too fragmented to deliver a cohesive solution to buyers, even if they were ready.
Let's deal with the first issue: say we had a way to deliver user intent data from contextual, semantic, behavioral, social, and geographic cues. Who wants to be the person responsible for reconciling those data into a real, actionable user intent of where a traveler wants to go? The beauty of retargeting is that it's simple: retarget a user, get a conversion. Done. Now the "get a user" part makes things much more nebulous, as sometimes users express interest in a particular destination through where they are, what they're reading, or who they're friends with. And where this intent signal comes from for every user could change at any time. Yikes.
Technology (the second issue) is beginning to chip away at this. I know, without doubt, that there will be a few DSPs that will comment on this article saying they do just what I described. But the issue is that one vendor may deliver a contextual signal (you're reading a page about Miami), one vendor will provide social layer data (your friends are going to Miami), and another will provide behavioral data (you searched for flights to Miami). The last thing a marketer wants is to deal with 10 different vendors (or pay 10 different vendors) just to get a new customer. The fragmentation is clearly rate limiting.
So what's the solution? Frankly, we didn't come up with one on our panel. But, we're all confident it's coming. The gradual takeover of media buying by search quants (or quant-minded people in general) means that our capacity for dealing with large amounts of disparate data is growing. And, consolidation in the space (M&A, partnerships, etc.) is beginning to integrate these disparate data sources into unified signals. It's just far from where it needs to be, and we as marketers have to demand more from this ecosystem to help move it forward.
Until then, retargeting is still pretty cool.