At its core, retargeting is a simple concept. It allows brands to serve relevant display ads to people who have previously engaged with them online. But while retargeting is based on a relatively simple concept, the technology has developed in many fascinating and complex ways.
In the ad tech industry, change happens quickly. The ability to innovate, and to do so rapidly and effectively, is requisite. While innovations in retargeting have occurred in many areas, some of the most interesting and dramatic innovations have occurred in audience segmentation.
Audience segmentation is simply a technical way of describing who is being targeted and served ads. No matter how youve defined an audience segment, the process of actually serving ads is roughly equivalent across the board.
The Evolution of the Audience Segment
It all started with site retargeting. Now a staple of many brands’ digital strategies, site retargeting allows a brand to serve ads to people who have left their website without completing the desired action.
Several distinct technologies have emerged, equivalent in concept to retargeting (i.e. serve ads based on prior engagement), but with more advanced audience segmentation. Here are four of the more advanced or creative ways brands can define audiences.
1. Search Retargeting
Search retargeting allows advertisers to build an audience segment based on people’s search data. Brands can then serve that audience segment relevant display ads all around the web. Search retargeting is particularly powerful, because it doesn’t require any previous interaction with or knowledge of the advertiser’s brand. You can target ads just like you would a PPC search campaignanyone who searches for one of your keywords can be tagged. That keyword list can include anything that’s relevant to your business, including your brand name, your product or service, your industry, or even your competitors’ brand names.
2. Audience Extension
Audience Extension is a tool that allows advertisers to reach a particular publisher’s specific audience outside the publisher’s website. Think of it as site-based retargeting, where you buy access to someone else’s site. This tool is particularly powerful for publishers with very niche audiences that you might want to reach directly. One of the strongest examples of Audience Extension is the HR Blogger Network (a joint venture by ReTargeter and Starr Conspiracy), comprised of a strictly vetted group of bloggers in the HR space. Blog readers are almost exclusively HR professionals and decision-makers, and the HRBN offers on-site advertising, as well as Audience Extension so HR-focused brands can reach this specific audience all over the web.
3. Social Audience Building
Social audience building is a means of creating an online segment based on social interactions. This tool allows you to build an audience comprised of anyone who clicks on a shortened link embedded with a retargeting code. The link can be shared anywhereon Twitter or via email for example. For brands or individuals with large social media followings, social audience building can create a large audience segment comprised of anyone who engages with your social shares.
4. CRM Retargeting
CRM retargeting allows advertisers to build an online audience with nothing but an email or mailing address. For companies with large lists who are already using site-based retargeting, CRM retargeting can add a high-value audience segment to supplement an existing campaign. It is also one of the only options for companies with a large list of physical addresses to bring their data online. CRM retargeting works by leveraging relationships with a large publisher network of match partners, who securely match hashed (or anonymized) email or mailing addresses. This is one of the most technologically complex methods of audience building, and is therefore a rare offering in the online ad space.
While innovations in retargeting show no sign of slowing down, its likely that well see significant growth in the audience segmentation front, as retargeting companies continue to find new ways to help their clients reach the right people online.