Remarketing—the practice of targeting a consumer with a recently viewed product to drive conversion—is a mixed bag for brands and consumers. The tactic absolutely works to convert browsers into buyers, but consumers are getting savvier about how they respond and are taking steps to avoid receiving unwanted messaging.

Brands need to be smart about their remarketing campaigns or risk alienating shoppers

Roughly 40 percent of shoppers dislike the practice, but new research from The Intent Lab, a research partnership between Performicsand Northwestern University, offers a good roadmap for maximizing effectiveness and driving conversion.

Approximately 34 percent of survey respondents like remarketing to some degree, while 37 percent dislike it (31 percent were neutral). Preferences vary by product category with 37 percent and 35 percent of respondents saying they enjoyed remarketing in the apparel and electronics categories, respectively. But only 6 percent were accepting of the practice from financial institutions, where privacy and security concerns come into play.

Among respondents that approved of remarketing:

  • 38 percent said it allows them to find a better price from a different seller
  • 25 percent consider it personalized advertising
  • 19 percent like that it allows for postponing a purchase without losing research
  • 18 percent consider it a reminder to buy something

“One of the most interesting pieces of information from the study was just how many consumers actually like remarketing,” said Esteban Ribero, senior vice president of Planning and Insights at Performics, in a news release. “They are using it as a research tool and to find competitive pricing. Many even recognize the practice as a welcome form of personalization, one that can save both time and money.”

Remarketing is one of the more popular personalization tools in a brand’s toolkit

It’s also among the more controversial as brands and retailers are wary of alienating consumers with too many messages, many of which may miss the mark and in fact backfire. This is a valid concern—if done incorrectly, remarketing can have a negative impact on brand perception and consumers online experience.

“Our Intent Lab results show that brands need to practice ‘smart remarketing’ or they risk alienating customers. Companies need to be careful with how they use remarketing, particularly in terms of frequency,” said Ashlee Humphreys, Medill associate professor and principal researcher for the Intent Lab, in the release. “If they are timid, advertisers can miss opportunities. But if they’re too aggressive, they risk turning customers against the brand.”

Consumers especially don’t want to be bothered by repeated remarketing

Anything more than once a day for a week is too much:

  • More than 50 percent prefer remarketing just once a week
  • 39 percent only accept one day of remarketing
  • 24 percent are okay with 2-3 days of remarketing
  • 21 percent find up to one week of remarketing acceptable

Overall, remarketing does not have a strong impact on brand image—53 percent of respondents said that remarketing doesn’t affect their opinion of the brand. Just 14 percent of all respondents strongly disliked remarketing.

However, there is still a big portion of the population—40 percent, to be precise—that finds remarketing to be annoying or distracting. Brands need to practice smart remarketing by delivering fresh information to keep the experience from being repetitive as well as work harder to make sure it is also accurate: 34 percent are bothered by seeing products they had decided not to buy, and 22 percent would like to see new things.

“Consumers are receptive to remarketing if it adds value to their brand experience,” said Ribero. “But if not, the ads are not just being ignored, marketers run the risk of alienating consumers, prompting them to actively try to avoid being remarketed. Shoppers are savvier today and understand how this works, and many have developed coping mechanism to avoid being remarketed as if they were experiencing some kind of remarketing anxiety.”

Of those respondents that have taken action to avoid remarketing, 41 percent won’t click on an advertisement, 31 percent refuse to provide an email address, 20 percent stop visiting the website, 16 percent won’t like, pin or share an item on social media and 16 percent won’t click for more details.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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