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The 4 Stages of Retargeting Emotion for Consumers

Written by: Shane O'Neill, Director of Content

With US digital advertising set to reach $107 billion in 2018, consumers are accustomed to seeing a steady flow of online ads. But that frequency has become an issue for consumers who feel inundated with retargeting ads from brands they have no interest in — or from which they’ve recently bought products.

In fact, in a recent Nanigans survey 77% of consumers said they feel like they see too many retargeting ads from the same retailer.

Related post: U.S. Retailers Are Leaving $5B on the Table [Infographic]

Brands that cast a wide net with retargeting are not only alienating potential customers, they’re putting them through a cycle of aggravation — sometimes resulting in the brand’s ads being blocked. Retailers that wish to break this cycle should pay attention to these four stages of emotion that consumers go through when seeing repeated retargeting ads.

Stage 1: Recognition

Today’s open web frequently serves a variety of ads to consumers — from banners to display ads to interstitial video ads. Consumers have come to expect this and recognize when they’re being served a retargeting ad based on previous purchases or browsing behavior.

The consequences: Users spend the most time in this stage, viewing ads all over the open web. There’s no risk for brands showing retargeting ads, but if it’s done with a broad brush and little regard for frequency and relevance, consumers will smell a rat.

To focus on consumers who simply click on ads is a waste because they may already be familiar with your brand and don’t need a reminder you exist.

Stage 2: Confusion

Poor retargeting can mean advertising a product a consumer has no intention of buying. An example could be showing women’s gloves to a man because he bought his wife gloves for Christmas. Or, perhaps worse, showing a product the user recently bought. As in, “I’m confused. I just purchased an expensive electric guitar — are they really suggesting I buy ANOTHER one??”

The consequences: This is a crucial juncture in the retargeting cycle where brands should work to better identify relevant audiences for their ads before consumers start to feel alienated and the brand loses credibility. Not to mention it’s a waste of valuable media spend for the brand to target the wrong people with irrelevant ads.

Retargeting emotion

Stage 3: Frustration

If a consumer is shown an irrelevant ad too many times, they’ll move quickly through Stage 2 and on to the frustration stage. Consumer sentiment begins to drop sharply with every subsequent ad the consumer encounters. Without real-time adjustments by a brand’s marketing team, consumers will take matters into their own hands.

The consequences: This is dangerous territory for brand marketers who continue to target the wrong consumers. This is the point where brands can turn off potential buyers … possibly for good.

Stage 4: Action

Consumers who reach this stage are aggravated enough to enable ad blockers in their browsers, or manually blacklist certain brands. In the UK, ad blocking is considered the new normal. With a recent surge in US e-commerce sales, American advertisers may soon face a similar reality — leaving publishers and advertisers to deal with the fallout.

The consequences: If a user resorts to an ad blocker, advertisers have failed. It becomes much harder to attract new customers through traditional methods, and they have wasted ad spend — sometimes millions — on users who not only didn’t convert but have shut the advertiser out.

So what’s the cure?

Most brand marketers need to revamp the way they target audiences online. To focus on consumers who simply click on ads is a waste because they may already be familiar with your brand and don’t need a reminder that you exist.

Related post: CMO’s Guide to Retargeting on a Fragmented Internet [Ebook]

Instead, brands should focus on the only metric that truly matters — incremental revenue — and work backwards to create an audience of consumers whose purchase decision has been proven through lift testing and machine learning to be positively influenced by an ad.

These consumers are known as “persuadables.” They may not regularly buy your products, but they’re visiting your site and they’re open to being persuaded to click the “buy” button.

By retargeting more strategically, advertisers can avoid putting consumers through retargeting’s emotional grind and ensure the same users aren’t stalked with irrelevant ads.

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