When Retargeting Goes Wrong

January 11, 2014

Ever search or shop online for an item or just browse only to find after you’ve completed your search, or exited the site, that the very items or sites you were shopping start to pop-up in advertising elsewhere, say your Facebook page? If you haven’t noticed, than my profession hasn’t done their job right 🙂

What you experience is remarketing or retargeting and is designed to serve up advertising content based on a user’s behavior, or pattern of browsing. Digital advertising is the most cost effective when a banner or display ad is presented to a “likely intending” user. Advertising that is properly programmed through retargeting can generate ROAS (return on ad spend) of tens or hundreds of dollars, depending on the product/service you’re marketing.

Remarketing can include many other methods, such as cart-abandonment follow-ups via email or call reps. Yep, they can track you down and ring your cell phone depending on how you started your browsing session.

But what happens when retargeting goes wrong? By that I mean, what if you as a marketer or paid advertiser aren’t properly reviewing, monitoring or managing your campaigns?

I recently clicked on a link to an Amazon product that was posted to my Facebook feed. This is not uncommon; both the post or me clicking through. To be clear, this was a friend-generated post and NOT a “sponsored” or “suggested” post by Amazon. The friend had said the reviews for the product were crazy funny which is why I clicked.

The product is an 85” Samsung television currently selling for $35,000. Feel free to check it out, but be forewarned to the following marketing tactics.

First, let me state that I’m currently an Amazon Prime customer and have never purchased a television from Amazon, so perhaps this is why some of the retargeting I experienced came about. If I’ve shopped for a TV on Amazon, it’s been more than a year since.

Within a day of reading the product reviews, and nothing more. I didn’t add to cart, share the product, save to a wish list, or any other engagement, I started to receive remarketing from Amazon. Initially it started as Facebook ads in the right column of my feed. After about a week of continuously receiving this ad, I finally closed/blocked as it was more of a nuisance and wasn’t serving me with any relevant product information. Again, I had visited the product simply to chuckle at the fake reviews. I wish I’d taken a screenshot of ad, but hadn’t realized I’d be marketed even more.

Overpriced Samsung Television

About a day later, I received an email from Amazon with the TV in the subject line, the product as the first item of content, and several suggested TV’s related to it. Why? Because I visited the page once!

This got me thinking … is anyone at Amazon monitoring their remarketing efforts, not just to me, but also for this product? The email probably cost them little to nothing to send, given Amazon’s resources. However, the cost of the Facebook Ad, while free if they’re only paying per click-through, would have cost them money if I activated.

Regardless of the tactics, which I agree with from a marketer if I was truly an intending purchaser, I don’t think this is a product that should have ANY retargeting behind it. It’s clearly a super-luxury product based on price-point and the nature of the product (how many people do you know who have an 85 inch television?).

Plus, given the witty reviews and sarcasm posted for the product, why would you want to market this to any loyal customer? It’s a joke on the same level as the banana slicer which circulated the interweb several years back.

It’s also showing up in my “Related Items You’ve Viewed.” Until writing this post, I had only viewed this page and TV’s ONCE. What the frick?

So what are the lessons here?

1. Don’t leave any of your digital marketing efforts completely on autopilot. While it’s possible this product is performing very well, it’s not a strong presentation of the Amazon brand, esp. to a consumer like me who is a Prime subscriber.

2. Don’t just monitor your digital marketing, but keep an eye on your products, how consumers are engaging/sharing, and what they’re saying about your products, esp. on your own site/channel. If you see a spike in Facebook shares/leads for a specific page/product, spend a few minutes and dig into whyyou might see a spike in views or reviews.

3. Protect your brand. This product might make the company a lot of money, but why spend your advertising dollars promoting a product that’s a joke, unless that’s your success story?

Overall, stay engaged. As soon as someone stops checking or monitoring any marketing program or effort is when things can start to unravel. This is especially true with any digital online marketing effort as changes by one social or ad network can have a huge impact almost immediately; think changes in Facebook privacy policies or Google updating features in Gmail.

Post Tags:

Ad Tracking, Advertising, Digital Display, Retargeting,