What is remarketing?

A few months ago we said on this blog that “consumers are no longer engaged in traditional media”. That might have been a bit of an exaggeration. Millions of people still watch commercial TV. Some still read specialist magazines. A few even still buy a hard copy of the newspaper.

Traditional media is definitely not dead. (But some traditional media – and the advertising that goes with it – is starting to get very cold in digital media’s ever-growing shadow.) So, in this post, we don’t want to discount or reject the marketing you might be doing on TV, print or over the phone. We do want to talk about a couple of specific types of digital marketing you may have heard about.

The aim is to leave you with a better idea of what they’re all about and how they can help you complement your traditional marketing efforts.

The digital practices we’re talking about are remarketing, custom audiences and lookalike audiences.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing, which you might have heard people describe as retargeting, is a type of targeted digital advertising.

In simple terms it works like this:

  1. You search the internet for a dinosaur and find just the one you’re after: a medium-sized herbivore from the Jurassic period. An Australian company can ship one from Far North Queensland at reasonable rates.
  2. That website drops something called a cookie – a small piece of data – on your computer’s browser.
  3. You decide not to buy just yet (most people don’t on their first visit).
  4. You visit a totally unrelated website – about lamingtons – the next day and, in a sidebar, you notice an advertisement for just the dinosaur from just the online store you visited yesterday.
  5. The lamington site has recognised you from your browser’s cookie and has ‘served’ you the dinosaur ad, knowing you may be interested.

If you’re someone who shops on the internet, this whole thing might sound vaguely familiar. That feeling that a product or service is following you around the internet, or even just on Facebook, is all down to remarketing. 

For commercial organisations, it’s a tool that jogs customers’ memories and ultimately improves conversion rates.

What are custom and lookalike audiences?

Facebook doesn’t really talk about “remarketing” or “retargeting”. Instead, they refer to “custom audiences” and “lookalike audiences”.

A custom audience is one made up of current customers (or at least highly engaged potential customers) on Facebook (or Instagram, which Facebook also owns). You’re confident an audience member likes your stuff – why would they like your page otherwise? – and can target specific ads to them based on what you know about them, for example their age or location.

A lookalike audience takes the whole thing a step further. It’s all based on Facebook’s idea that “Your next customer looks like your current customer”. It takes your existing audience’s data (age and location, but also pages they like, shopping habits, interests, etc) and replicates it to create an expanded list of potential customers. This new list looks like your current audience list, but is made up of people who don’t yet like your page or necessarily even know that your product, service or brand exists.

Customer lifetime value – getting even more sophisticated

Facebook becomes more advanced with this digital marketing stuff almost every day. Now, for instance, they let you add something called “customer lifetime value” – or CLV – into the mix.

CLV lets you see precisely the value of products or services people have purchased from you over a period of time, giving you the chance to prioritise their value as customers. Once you’ve worked out a customer’s value to you, you can better determine what percentage of your digital marketing time and resources you should be dedicating to each one.

Sound good?

It is.

Sound easy? It’s not.

It’s a complicated business and remarketing or custom audiences alone rarely if ever work as standalone tactics. They need to be part of a wider marketing strategy.

But we’ll talk more about that in a post a bit later.