Retargeting has traditionally been about who's converted and who hasn't. But with the amount of available data, marketers now have to take a lot more consumer behaviors into consideration.

kelly-headshotGuest column by Kelly Sullivan, Nebo Agency

Who are you? What influences your emotions, actions, and decisions?

There are no simple answers to these questions. Yet marketers tragically try to pigeonhole people into them with retargeting ads.

But people are complex. Marketers and brands know this but most don't like to admit it. We prefer to believe our ads are the best in the business. We think they'll immediately get the attention of our intended audience, and will solve all their problems. The unfortunate reality is no one cares about our ads or us. Why?

  • Life is chaotic. Life is full of distractions and interactions. And brands are fighting through that noise to compete for your attention - both online and offline.
  • Attention spans are short. A study by Microsoft found that in recent years, human attention spans declined on average from 12 to eight seconds. Eight seconds is one second shorter than that of a goldfish. To be successful, advertisers must make a quick impact.
  • Buyer journeys are unique. Consumers live dynamic lives that differ from day to day, week to week, month to month. They have their own concerns, motivations, and goals that also change with time. Consumers are busy. The last thing they want is to be bombarded with irrelevant ads online.

So how do we as marketers break through the noise and actually make people care?

It starts with respect. If you respect your audience, you'll take time to get to know them and craft a retargeting strategy that doesn't distract, but instead makes a meaningful connection, enhances their lives, and helps them achieve their goals.
Retargeting (Read more...) no longer just a four-step process (visit, cookie, ad, conversion). An Adobe study found that the average consumer goes through at least five touch points before converting, so the old approach of rushing users to convert after their first interaction does not respect them or their buyer journey.

To respect your audience, you must listen to them. And, although consumer behaviors are complicated and evolving, we are lucky to have access to excessive amounts of data and tools that help us understand our audience and engage with them where, when, and how it's most appropriate.

We need to shift focus away from the old retargeting mentality. Strategy should not be confined to two audiences: those who converted and those who haven't. We must understand the people who visit our sites. What do they want? Why did they come? How did they get here? How long did they stay? Was it their first visit?

Answer these questions and you'll start to identify your users' behaviors. Then you can better understand where they are in the buyer journey - as well as the length of the buyer journey. The buyer journey will be different depending on what you're marketing.

All of the insight above is informed by quantitative data. Once you understand the quantitative, go beyond it and do some qualitative research as well. Talk to key stakeholders of the business, current clients or prospective leads, even sales and support teams. Turn to your social channels to get a glimpse into your users' lives and discover their interests and passions.

The more you know your audience and what motivates them, the better you can segment effectively. Remember, the people who visit your site are not all the same. Don't treat them the same.

It is also important to keep in mind that retargeting is not always the end of the purchase funnel. It's actually a great way to move users through the buyer journey. Understand how users interact with your brand across various channels and you can deliver retargeting that helps facilitate their decision making.

As marketers, our goal is to reach our target audience and compel them to choose us. But because of the chaos of every day life, the scarcity of attention, and the unique nature of every individual's buyer journey, this is difficult. And it's only getting harder with time. In order to really stand out to our audience, we need to listen. If we use qualitative and quantitative data to better understand our audience, we can create a retargeting strategy that respects them as an individual, and not as a "target market". As long as our intention is to have a positive impact on our audience's lives, we can stand out from the advertising noise.

As director of paid media at Nebo Agency, Kelly Sullivan is responsible for developing strategy for a variety of clients, from startups to Fortune 500 - both B2B and B2C. She enjoys being active in Atlanta's digital marketing community and is a volunteer on AMA's collegiate committee.

nebo-agency*Sponsored content in collaboration with Nebo Agency. Views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect ClickZ's opinions.

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