Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Remarketing - Loyalty's "Groundhog Day"


On February 2nd 2013, famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow in Pennsylvania.

This apparently meant that spring would come early this year - although i'm not sure anyone actually told spring about that as we had a long, drawn out winter - but then I guess it's asking too much of Phil to predict the weather in the UK as well.

Regardless of how accurate this phenomenon is, it was immortalised in the popular film Groundhog day whereby the main character is forced to relive the same day over and over again until he learns to become a better person.  Recently though, you'd be forgiven for thinking the same phenomenon was happening to you.  

Here's the scenario - you're busy surfing the web looking at different products/brands and then all of a sudden wherever you go you keep seeing the same brand that you visited just a little while ago.  Maybe you'd never noticed them before, but now they seem to be popping up everywhere - and days later you're still seeing them all over the web.

Wow, you think to yourself - these guys are everywhere, they must be _____ (fill in the blank accordingly with... amazing, spending a fortune, just right for me, desperate).

You could be forgiven for confusing this with with another effect you see in real-life called the Observation Selection Bias.  When you buy a new car you suddenly see your car everywhere and assume - wrongly - that the frequency has increased; that everyone is now buying that car.  This is not however the case here.

It's actually no coincidence that you now can't fail to miss the brand - they're using remarketing.

Remarketing is a process by which you see personalised advertisements across almost any website that shows ads based on your previous surfing habits.  Google describe it as:-

Remarketing is a powerful way to stay engaged with your target audience. Presenting them with highly relevant ads and offers across the Web -- and making sure your brand is top of mind when they’re ready to buy

Remarketing (or retargetting as it's also known) helps by:-

  • Targetting users who visit but don't purchase (up to 97%)
  • Helping with brand recall - especially as they're possibly visiting competitors
  • Combining branding and direct response techniques to target users across different stages of the buying funnel

Using remarketing, companies have seen a 600% lift in response rates versus standard banner display campaigns.  This is not really surprising given these ads are now targeted at "soft" targets - customers who have already expressed an interest in the brand by visiting the website initially.  It doesn't do away with the initial acquisition marketing to drive traffic, it simply ensures you make the best use of this by having a second bite of the cherry.

At it's heart though, remarketing relies on the the familiarity principle or mere-exporsure effect.  This is the psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for something merely because they are familiar with it - it's what advertising is based on!  By using remarketing you continue to remind people of your brand and provide compelling reasons to come back and consider you.  If you're trying to acquire new customers, this alone becomes very powerful.  Research has shown for example that remarketing using personalised ads is 6x more effective than standard banner ads.

While remarketing is now firmly established in online acquisition marketing, I think there is also huge opportunity here for retention marketing.

At it's heart, remarketing is a one-to-one messaging solution based on customer behaviours and it's this that really makes it powerful for loyalty marketing.  Consumers now actively interact with brands via their online websites, making purchases, researching products, writing reviews.  From a loyalty context, they are also checking points balances, reviewing reward options and making redemptions.

Every one of these activities can provide a trigger point for remarketing.  While the messages (displayed as ads) maybe be relatively fixed, the timing of them is highly personalised.

Recognising when someone has checked their balance, has enough to redeem but has not looked at a reward gives you an opportunity to highlight relevant rewards and pull them back.  Members looking at rewards, but not redeeming provides the opportunity to pull them back in to redeem.  However, the opportunity is wider than this.  

It's not just about the single next best action, it's about the journey.  

Using a well designed remarketing campaign, it's possible to track the behaviours of both prospects and members and to tailor the right messaging based on this to deliver the next best action as part of an overall journey.

It's a misnomer to think that 1-2-1 marketing means a single, personalised message for every customer.  Instead, it's about the right message to the right customer at the right time.  You may only have 7 key steps within the overall customer journey, but knowing which step a customer is at and which is the next right step is the key.  We do need to be careful however when myopically driving customers along a predetermined journey.

Knowing the customers journey, not your journey is more important

In a recent (2013) research study by Lambrecht and Tucker entitled "When Does Retargeting Work? Information Specificity in Online Advertising", it was shown that dynamically remarketing to customers based on their browsing habits only worked well if you understand where the customer is in their own journey.  

Based on an example with a travel provider, the study suggests that making the remarketing message highly personalised  - down to the product or product category level - can be less effective than more generic remarketing.   In the study they found that ads which feature hotels that a customer had previously browsed or were similar only prove more effective when the customer is known to be looking for something specific (narrowly construed preferences) and that this was best demonstrated by understanding their wider browsing behaviour with both review websites and/or competitor sites.

This isn't to say remarketing as a whole wasn't working, but that the message used within the remarketing, whether generic or highly personalised needed to be aligned to where the customer was within the buying process - something which may not be apparent from just the behaviours the customer has shown with that brand/site.

Given the wealth of data contained with a loyalty programme and the increasing requirement for loyalty programmes to bring together wider customer interactions, this provides a real and tangible opportunity to increase programme effectiveness.  Whether this is to directly target brand customers for repeat purchase or to more subtly drive up loyalty programme adoption and engagement, both approaches are like to provide compelling returns.

If Punxsutawney Phil comes out next year and sees your loyalty programme using remarketing as part of it's overall marketing strategy, I think he'll be predicting both a very early spring and a bountiful summer.