Remarketing; Easy, cheap and better results – but should you?

I walked into your store. My task was to look for a product to fulfill my need, to find out what that might cost, how it looks and feels.

I picked up a product, thought about it and realized I needed to think about it some more. Maybe I thought it was too expensive, too heavy or I needed it blue.

If you map me on your customer journey, I was researching.

I then walked from your store into a coffee shop, now I need coffee and a place to read for a bit – that’s my task.

I’ve put the previous task to the back of my mind as I cup my hand around a hot cappuccino and open my book to learn the latest marketing scribing  from Seth Godin.

“HELLO!” You say, your head between me and my book, you’ve followed me into the coffee shop. I frown, try to read my book.

“HELLO!” You say again, did you want to buy this product?” And you show me the same thing I just looked at in your store.

“Well no” I say, thinking that if I’d wanted to buy that just now I would have bought it and add “right now, I’m reading”.

“But, you just looked at this item and look here is the price”. You reply, perplexed by my reaction, as if looking at your product entitled you to be now talking to me in the coffee shop.

“Yes, I agree, it is exactly the same product and exactly the same price, but I’m not interested”. This intrusion has made up my mind, I definitely want it in blue, a little lighter and I am sure I can get it cheaper.

I close my book and walk out of the coffee shop, I have a different task, I’m meeting a friend.

“Hi Ian” a friend sees me as I walk into the pub, he orders the drink I like and we sit down in a spot my friend knows I like. I’m thinking about my potential purchase again, I chat to him about the problem that I am researching the product for and what he suggests as a solution.

He shares his experience, very happy with his blue one, we discussed how I thought it was a bit heavy and he shares the great price he found his for. Our conversation moves on and my friend starts showing me photos of his trip to Venice.

“HELLO!” You say, attempting to interrupt our conversation, you’ve followed me into the pub. I frown, try to focus on the pictures of Venice. “You just looked at this item and look here is the price”.

“Yes” I sigh. “That is exactly the same product and exactly the same price”. But, I wondered “Do you have it in blue?”.

But you can’t hear me, you’ve only noticed one thing about me, that I picked up a product, you haven’t considered why I put it down.

You looked at the data and that an “incredible” 1% of people that you bother in the coffee shop come back to the store and 5% of those make a purchase – and that’s 200% what you get from bothering random people for the same effort.

Clearly from your perspective, that’s hard to resist – but what about from my perspective?

If you haven’t guessed, this tongue in cheek post is based on an online experience where I looked at a product on a big box retailer, then moved on to reading a blog post and then onto Facebook and the same ad followed me across these different activities, but paid no attention to what I was doing, the context, nor did it address why I didn’t buy the product in the first place.

This is called remarketing, sometimes it’s ads you see as you browse and sometimes it refers to email marketing. 

It’s a customer experience that most people I talk to find annoying, sometimes silly, but often creepy.

It could even be the “death by a thousand cuts” of your brand. I saw Amazon do it, a service I love and was genuinely disappointed, maybe even sad for them as they tried to re-market a product I have in my basket, saved for later – not even abandoned. A cursory look at my behavior (they have all this data) would show that that’s what I do and sometime soon I’ll come back to buy it.

Yes, the results on small percentages of large scale, low effort automated marketing activities look enticing and I would be foolish to dismiss re-marketing as a valuable tool, but isn’t there a better way?

A smarter way, a way that would use the context of my current task to help me move through your sales funnel? After all I came into the store looking to solve a problem or need, it’s an opportunity to be useful. 

In this instance, when I am reading, how about a carefully crafted piece of content marketing convincing me that the heavy ones are better, when I am on Facebook leverage the advocates in your community (my friend) to share their experience and if you do pop up an ad, how about showing me an adjacent product – the blue one, or a special price or something different that’ll bring me back to your store.

The 21st century digital consumer knows they are going to see ads, they know how the economy works.

Me,  I’d prefer ads to be personalized, I’d much rather see pictures of cars, barbecues and marketing books than feminine hygiene products or college savings plans for new borns.

Marketers should think about what our digital customer experience looks like from the consumers side and how the culmination of these little cheap (dare I say lazy) marketing experiences affect the overall standing of the brand, the value of your products or the credibility of your services.

Just because you can do something, does that mean you should.


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