TiffTaff Where fashion and technology meet

3Mar/1227

The Business of Shopbop: Retargeted Ads

Shopbop does an awesome job of retargeting ads. Many times I return to the site for an item I previously abandoned.

Even if you haven't heard of retargeting advertising, you've probably been subject to it. I know I have.

My favorite fashion obsessions are following me.

I'd visit Shopbop and browse DVF shoes. Then, I'd be on Techcrunch, reading about the latest start-up planning an IPO and those cute DVF ballet flats would be staring me in the face. Teasing me. Taunting me. Next stop: NYT to keep tabs on the state of the economy. Oh damn, those shoes are there again! How did they know?!

This highly effective type of ad serve is called behavioral retargeting, and brand marketers are using it to capture your attention—and keep it.

Here's how it works:

  1. When you visit a website, all the data you provide allows the site to create a user profile that links back to your Web browser, e.g., the pages you visit, the amount of time you view each page, the links you click on, the searches you make and the things that you interact with, etc.
  2. Website publishers then use this data to create defined audience segments based upon visitors who have similar profiles as yours.
  3. Now, when you return to a specific site or a network of sites using the same Web browser, advertisers use those profiles to figure out which online ads are most relevant to you. The idea is you (and others like you) will have a greater level of interest and intent for the products and services being offered, and thus a higher likelihood of conversion. Because brand marketers can fine-tune and target very specific customer segments, they usually have a higher ROI from their ad campaigns and marketing spend.

And here's why marketers deploy retargeting: According to Wikipedia, nearly 98 percent of customers who visit a website leave without making a single purchase. And further, some studies suggest a company needs to have an average of seven different "touch-points" with a customer before that customer makes a purchase.

The DVF flats followed me to Business Insider. This was probably the 4th touch-point. (Don't mind the headline. ;) )

In my case, retargeting allowed Shopbop to continue the marketing conversation with me after I'd left its website. (Hello, DVF ballet flats!) And it works.

At this point I can't even remember how many times I've been prompted to make a purchase because whatever it was I was browsing followed me throughout my online experience, staying top-of-mind; Shopbop is great at reminding me of how cute something is, and eventually I'd cave.

Maybe it's because I'm just a sucker a marketer; I find retargeting fascinating! With highly targeted ads, marketing goes from mere guesswork to pure science.

But, retargeting isn't without its critics. Some argue that it's a gross violation of privacy.

This has prompted the Federal Trade Commission to propose a bill, Do Not Track, that calls for the creation of a small piece of software that you could use to prevent tracking and behaviorally-targeted advertising from taking place on your machine.

In a response to the FTC, CNN Money staff writer David Goldman argues the bill "could open a Pandora's box of unintended consequences" and cripple Web giants such as Google and Facebook, which make money by selling targeted ads aimed at their users.

Despite the debate, retargeting remains big business—and it's only going to get bigger. Just take a look at some of the retargeting agencies that have emerged in the past few years:

  • Adroll is a platform for advertising online and retargeting previous website visitors to bring them back to your site.
  • Criteo enables you to expand your search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns. By leveraging product searches on your website, Criteo claims to generate substantial new leads and transactions.
  • Fetchback puts messages in front of lost prospects who've left your website in order to attract them back and convert–finish the purchase, sign up for the newsletter, or whatever action you're looking for.
  • Tapad brings retargeting to mobile devices. "Mobile retargeting is really hard. The browsers on Apple products like the iPhone and iPad blocks third-part cookies by default, creating a huge blind spot for advertisers. Tapad has come up with a method to retarget ads in both mobile browsers and mobile apps, so that if you visit a mobile Website and then open up an app, you might see an ad from that site in the app."
  • TellApart helps bring visitors back to your website through the use of dynamic, personalized banner ads which show your products to the right visitors. The company says it "turns lost shoppers into return customers."

Whatever your stance on reatargeting, the next time you're online, pay attention to which items follow you. Do those targeted ads eventually convince you to pull out your wallet?

And now, because this is a fashion blog, after all, here's the Peter Som bamboo print blouse that's been following me around lately (thanks, Shopbop's savvy marketing team!):

Peter Som bamboo print blouse (Shopbop)

 

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Comments (27) Trackbacks (2)
  1. Thanks for the mention and your insight, Cat. The retargeting industry and its associated technology have evolved quite a bit in recent years. My company (FetchBack) was an early pioneer in the space 5 years ago and continues to innovate and develop new retargeting tools for businesses of all sizes with great results.

    Something else you may want to research are trends in display retargeting vs. search retargeting and the various aspects of how branding and impressions lead to conversions. If you’re a marketing mind (like myself), you’ll find this interesting! Technology now exists to measure branding aspects and offline conversion results related to online retargeting.

    Feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@ryancharleston) if you ever want to discuss ideas about retargeting or need any more information on the subject.

  2. Interesting-really good write up. thx

  3. Cat, this is a great intro to retargeting. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that can work with shopping cart abandoners, but the major downside to dynamic retargeting (the practice of showing users the last product they looked at on a website) is that many people find it really creepy.

    Since I abandon shopping carts like it’s my job, there is always at least one retailer retargeting me like crazy (In my case, hello, Tucker disco dress). And since I (full disclosure) work at a retargeting provider, ReTargeter, I fully understand the technology involved and sometimes recognize our work! I know what’s going on behind the scenes, that no personally identifiable info is being tracked, so dynamic retargeting doesn’t make me nervous. It’s actually pretty effective on me. See, I’m thinking about that dress right now.

    However, if I weren’t a marketing type and didn’t know anything about the practice of retargeting, I might be really creeped out by the adorable silk dress following me all over the web. At ReTargeter we’ve found that running a general branding campaign will often have the same effect of reminding users of the product they almost bought, without making them feel like they’re being watched.

    Sidenote: that Peter Som blouse is gorgeous.

  4. it does feel creepy to me too

  5. Thanks so much for commenting. I received your emails and I’m excited to explore this topic in depth.

    @Ryan,
    I’d love to learn more about “display retargeting vs. search retargeting and the various aspects of how branding and impressions lead to conversions.” Enlighten us!

    @Caroline,
    You bring up a GREAT point: “No personally identifiable info is being tracked.” I am sure you have to constantly stress this. By the way, that Tucker Disco Dress is cute! Has it been following you?! Are you going to buy it?? :)

    That Peter Som blouse is amazing but I really can’t justify ~$1,000 for a top. *sigh*

    @Jomo,
    Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope Ryan and Caroline have shed some more light on this.

    • Privacy is a really important issue for our industry, and it’s definitely important to stress that we do not track anyone personally identifiable information. All cookies are anonymous and we have no idea who is looking at what. That said, that message may not reach every web user so they are still likely to find dynamic retargeting creepy. In general, that’s why we don’t recommend using it (plus it’s more expensive) and instead recommend campaigns that just show branded ads and not the particular item users looked at.

      A quick note on traditional site retargeting and search retargeting—site retargeting is the practice of showing ads to users who visit your website. Search retargeting (a service which we also provide) is the practice of showing ads to users who search for keywords that are related to a company’s product or service.

      I haven’t bought the Tucker dress yet…..but am probably going to cave. I have a couple Tucker blouses that I absolutely love (not helping my resolve). And yeah, that is a serious price tag for a blouse no matter how gorgeous!

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