Target Practice

Recently, in a detailed conversation with a client, they had some very specific and preconceived notions about re-targeting. Having seen what re-targeting could do for one of their sister brands, the marketing leadership of this particular effort wanted to go even more direct, more specific and most importantly, “always on.”

So it got us to thinking, how much is too much as it relates to putting a “target” on the backs of your customers? Sure, re-targeting has proved to be an effective means of retention, of reducing abandoned carts over periods of time, and it even creates more frequent return visits. However, from the other side of the screen, what does it look like to the user?

As consumers, we all love the recognition that comes from returning to a site and being greeted like a long, lost friend.

“Hello Kathleen, welcome back” is what I see as a means of recognition when I log in to my favorite airline site or my favorite shoe retailer. I get it, they missed me (… and my credit card.)

Nothing says “love” as when I make my daily pilgrimage to Starbucks on my way to the office and my favorite, cute barista is already at work making my drink before I ever say a word. Now that’s customer service.

But how would I feel if that barista followed me to work, to the drug store, to the ladies room, to Wal-Mart and everywhere else screaming, “Hey, want a Venti Earl Grey? 

Hey, you, want one? 



Are you sure? 

Okay, how about now?”

No matter where I go, there he is, popping out from the bushes and at each corner as I walk, “Hey want that Venti Earl Grey? I have a coupon; hey you! Want this?”

After a while I would no doubt be ducking behind shelves, wearing a hat or putting on big sunglasses. Aside from the annoyance of having this green apron following me everywhere, I would also consider carrying mace.

So if we don’t care for that in person, why would we subject ultra-heavy retargeting to our customers online? If having someone following you around to every place you go asking you (like a 5 year old every two minutes) a question is a huge annoyance in person, why is popping up an ad on every site going to make it better?

In our hypothesis back to the client, we advocated a very balanced and timed approach. In essence, something akin to the 40-60 rule; retarget 40% at every 12-hour interval and just branding every 60% of the other 12 hours. That percentage then swaps out over seven days. You slightly increase the re-targeting as you close in on seven days and then after seven days you stop. We feel that, if there is no repeat visit or action by the consumer after seven days of the re-targeting ad being fired, chances are they have located their mace, sprayed it and want you to stop.

Some of the percentages can be altered depending on the kind of business and method of conversion (i.e., it’s actually lead-gen and not a “purchase”) and you adjust based on the conversion lifecycle.

Customers don’t like being annoyed or tapped on the shoulder every two minutes by an over-attentive sales person or, worse, a pushy sales-person who won’t go away.

Put your retargeting to the “hiding in the bushes” test; if you are stalking your customers and popping out every moment at every click, translate that to what it would feel like in real life.

In the end, while you may be applauding your re-targeting “blanket” approach, your customer is likely in their own target practice right now … with the mace!

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