The retargeting cookie is one of the most powerful weapons in your new business arsenal. Not only does it help you build a detailed profile of the users who visit your website, it helps you serve ads to those same users as they visit other sites.
What’s a cookie?
A remarketing cookie, commonly called a tracking pixel, is a piece of code that lives on a webpage and captures user-level data about visitors to the page who have cookies enabled. It may run automatically when the page loads, or it might run if a certain action is taken on the page, or if a specific action isn’t taken. Think of it as a reverse bookmark. Instead of the user marking the page, the page marks the user, and the page’s publisher can pay advertising networks to show specific ads to users who activated the cookie on that page.
Probably the most recognizable cookie activity is retargeting ads from shopping sites. Let’s say you were thinking of buying a green jacket, and you looked at several of them on a website we’ll call fancyjackets.com.
The retailer had a cookie set to fire when you land on the fancyjackets.com homepage, then when you go to one of your search results, a different cookie fired on one of the products pages when you looked at it even though you didn’t go through the online checkout process. Now fancyjackets.com knows a couple of things about you: it knows you were looking for a jacket, and it knows you liked one of them enough to visit the product page.
But you didn’t buy it, so fancyjackets.com sets up an ad to target you. It can either place the ad on specific sites, which is time consuming, or it can use programmatic placement to place the ad on sites you might visit.
How does programmatic know which sites you visit?
It doesn't. When you go to a new site that contains ads, and the site fills those ads spaces using an ad network, when you land on the page, information from the cookies is passed through the new site to the ad network, which then displays an ad just for you. In this case the ad network displays fancyjackets.com’s ad on pages you visit.
Visitors to your site who don’t convert see your ads on other sites, which are intended to tempt them to click through to your site and complete the conversion.
The ad itself will likely be designed to take you back to the product page. You’ve probably been followed around the internet by display ads for different companies before, and this is something you recognize.
So that’s retargeting – predominantly a method for serving up ads for a specific product to potential buyers who have shown an interest in that product or a similar one.
What’s the difference between retargeting and remarketing?
Remarketing is a little different. Imagine a scenario where you’re able to identify the individual customer, using data you own – perhaps from a subscription database – which you use to reach out to those customers to prompt them into an action, based on an action they’ve already taken.
For example, let’s say fancyjackets.com required you to have an account and log in to their store to buy their products. Since fancyjackets.com already has your email address from a previous order, when you decide not to complete your check out, fancyjackets.com sends you an email, possibly with a discount coupon code included to get you to buy the jacket that’s still in your shopping cart.
You can personalize remarketing to a far greater degree, and you can use that personalization to increase the customer’s positive feelings toward your brand.
As methods for building brand affinity, returning customers to your site and creating connections around products, retargeting and remarketing should always be in your martech toolkit – neither is going away anytime soon, and as ad delivery targeting continues to evolve, there are still uses for these tools that marketers are yet to discover.
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