15 Businesses Effectively Engaging Online Customers

Online advertisements have been a part of our web browsing experience for the better part of two decades now. Viewed mostly as an inconvenience by the casual web surfer, online ads are a necessary evil that helps fund the websites they’re located within. More recently though, ads have made the leap to social media and revolutionized the way businesses run their marketing campaigns, and like it or not, this lucrative business isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Casually sprinkled throughout our cyber lives, everyone has come across their fair share of ads, but have you ever felt like one ad in particular was following you around? Jumping from phone to computer to tablet?

Chances are it is.

This is a practice called remarketing; a tool online marketers have found exhibits beneficial effects on their conversion rates. There are several different types of remarketing, but simply put, it’s a clever way to follow up with the visitors to your site who may have left a bit sooner than you would’ve liked.

For example, while on the hunt for a new pair of running shoes, something else pops into your mind, stealing your attention for the moment. You leave the page you were on, abandoning those new Nike Flyknits in your cart, and continuing on with your day. Then, later that evening while leisurely exploring your Facebook feed, there they are, embedded in your sidebar, inescapable via any amount of scrolling. That’s when, in a business’ perfect world, you remember that your current running shoes are on their last leg and rush back over to their site to complete your purchase.

Finishing off that transaction and converting a page visit into a sale or inquiry is a business’ desired outcome when they choose to invest in remarketing.

Google AdWords is a Google extension that provides a handful of remarketing options:

  • Standard remarketing – Allows you to show ads to your recent visitors as they browse websites and apps.
  • Dynamic remarketing – Show ads to recent visitors that contain a product or service that they viewed on your site
  • Remarketing for mobile apps – Allows you to show ads to someone who has used your mobile app or site on other mobile apps or sites.
  • Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) – Enables you to target past visitors with custom ads while they search Google and other partner sites.

To better portray the workings of an efficient remarketing scheme, here is a list of 15 businesses efficiently using this style of advertising and what I did for them to target me.

Nike

As mentioned briefly above, Nike is extremely aggressive with their remarketing. While some businesses will delay their follow-up ads in an effort to avoid jumping down your throat as soon as you leave their page, Nike shows no shame in reminding you what you left behind. This was the first site I visited, and I wasted no time, quickly adding a pair of shoes to my cart before abruptly ending my time on the site. I went directly from Nike to Facebook and refreshed the page.

Sure enough, the exact pair of shoes l had previously shown interest in was now staring me in the face as I scrolled down my feed.

Along with the sidebar advertisement, there was also a “sponsored” post on my newsfeed with the same shoes; only this one was ready to bring me right into the shop. Clicking this ad brought me directly to a page where I could add these shoes to my cart and get on with the purchase.

Nike wasn’t about to pull any punches here; they wanted me to buy these shoes. Being the largest shoe company in the world, Nike certainly holds advantages over smaller sellers. For example, showcasing seemingly unlimited funding for online marketing allows them to be a bit more aggressive in their retargeting strategies than other businesses. For some businesses, an aggressive approach like this can be a turnoff for potential customers; for Nike, it’s an inadvertent flex of their financial muscle.

StockX

Searching for a comparison to Nike’s brash approach, the next site I visited was StockX, a smaller online bidding site where users can buy and sell shoes, watches and other accessories. After browsing “The Stock Market For Things,” and briefly showing interest in one of the pairs of shoes on their homepage, it wasn’t long before they started trailing me as well. I visited a major news website almost immediately after my time on StockX.com, and they had an ad there waiting for me. The same ad soon popped up on Facebook, but unlike Nike’s ad, it wasn’t displaying a specific pair of shoes I had viewed, but rather what seemed to be suggestions based upon the shoes I had glanced at while on their site.

This ad was nearly as persistent as Nike’s, showing up everywhere I clicked. The only difference was they called it quits after a couple of visits to other sites trying to target me while Nike’s ads are still showing up in my daily browsing.

Polo Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren is one of the most popular and easily recognized brands in the world, but you don’t see them spending a lot of money on everyday advertising. They get most of their exposure by sponsoring major events like the U.S. Open and U.S. Olympic Team. Curious to see what kind of remarketing scheme they might implement when an online customer bails on their hefty shopping cart, I filled my cart with 3 or 4 shirts that priced around the same $180 value, then moved along with my day without pulling the trigger. Following suit, I immediately started clicking around, visiting the same websites as I had earlier. However, I was not being bombarded by Polo ads everywhere I looked, in fact, I didn’t see a single one for a while. Taking a more conservative approach, Ralph Lauren did not retarget me immediately. Instead, they let me go about my business for the time being. Had I not been specifically looking for these ads, refreshing the pages I visited every 3 seconds to see what popped up, the time lapse between when I left their site and finally received one of their advertisements would’ve been more significant. They didn’t target my interests specifically but tried to address what is probably a common reason people leave their site empty-handed, the high prices.

By casually promoting this sale, and not going into details about what exactly is being discounted, they hope to draw customers back to their site in search of what is marked down, whether it be what they were looking for or not. This strategy obviously differs from Nike’s aggressive approach, but probably provides similar results.

American Eagle Outfitters

American Eagle employs a remarketing strategy that combines aspects of both Nike’s and Polo’s approaches. Similarly to Polo, AEO has a pretty serious delay set on their advertisements, not showing up until nearly an hour later; which like I stated earlier, I’m accelerating by continuously refreshing certain web pages. However, when I did start receiving their ads, they were similar to Nike in persistence.

Their ads also remembered exactly what I was shopping for and several of them were of the “Shop Now” variety, linking me directly to the page I can buy the jeans I had previously added to my cart from.

Essentially, they aren’t looking to jump down your throat as soon as you leave their page, but they certainly don’t want you to forget about that item you showed interest in.

eBay

eBay has played a large part in the evolution of online shopping since its inception in the late 90’s. With countless other platforms emerging in the world of online purchases, eBay has managed to stay ahead by acquiring key upcoming companies and a wide variety of returning clientele. eBay’s remarketing plan is basic but fit for the audience they are targeting. I viewed an item that was relatively high up on their homepage but committed no further action before leaving the page. Sure enough, a few clicks later:

This was the item I briefly viewed on their page, and it’s now following me around the web. This item-specific remarketing strategy is effective for sites like eBay with vast inventories. Clicking this ad returns you to the page you were initially targeted from in hopes that a second look is the inadvertent nudge you needed to complete the purchase.

Paypal

PayPal was acquired by eBay in the early 2000’s to act as it’s default payment method. As one of the first successful online banking companies, PayPal has evolved over the years, providing new services like PayPal Credit, and PayPal.Me. I wasn’t expecting PayPal to invest heavily in remarketing, but after one visit to their site, without signing in, I began seeing PayPal all over. Unlike most of the other companies on this list, PayPal isn’t trying to sell you anything per se. Instead, they want you to create and use a PayPal account for all of your online and money transfer needs. The first ad I encountered simply encourages the targeted user to create an account, clicking on it redirects you to their sign-up page.

The second ad I came across promoted their PayPal.Me feature, the ability to send and receive money with “friends.”

This ad is a clever marketing ploy, attempting not just to attract the targeted user to their services, but a friend or business associate the target has been searching for an easier way to exchange funds with as well. This is a good example of how remarketing can be used proactively by companies that provide a service instead as opposed to selling merchandise, PayPal’s ads did not come in abundance, but they made their impact.

Samsung

One of the world’s leading innovators, it’s not surprising Samsung invests in remarketing for their website. After a short visit to their website, I soon received a banner ad from Samsung promoting their upcoming release of the Galaxy Note 8.

It felt like a casually cast out fishing line, attempting to bait the targeted user with a deal on their exciting new device. This was the only ad I received from their website. However, it was not the only Samsung product I received an ad for in this experiment.

Best Buy

Best Buy stocks a wide variety of electronic devices on their website, most items coming with a moderately hefty price tag. Chances are if you’ve come to their cyber-shop, you’re looking for something specific, and your need for it isn’t going to diminish overnight. For this reason, they don’t feel the need to spend big on remarketing. The single ad I did receive from them was a familiar one.

This is an item Samsung, and their retailers, plan to push heavily and will be received enthusiastically by avid Samsung users.

Apple

Being an Apple customer personally, I recently looked into the upcoming iPhone X. Apple didn’t need me to visit their site to initiate their remarketing ads, targeting an audience by their keyword searches sometimes works just as well. Seeing my interest in the iPhone X, I received this ad on Facebook.

SubiSpeed

While this list mostly consists of large businesses with intensive remarketing schemes, small businesses can use similar tactics to their advantage. For example, SubiSpeed.com, a site specializing in Subaru accessories, is extremely aggressive with their remarketing. While visiting their site, I viewed one of their brand sweatshirt’s then left the page entirely. That exact sweatshirt is still haunting my cyber-life.

When clicking through advertising sites, ads were commonly bunched in fours, labeled “paid content.” SubiSpeed’s sweatshirt ad was the only constant, no matter how many times I refreshed the page, one of those four ads was for SubiSpeed.

Subaru owners are a proud community, one that if you are visiting their site, SubiSpeed expects you to be a part of. While this ad feels somewhat intrusive to me, an outsider of sorts, SubiSpeed knows who they’re targeting and how they’ll receive it. This aggressive style works for some target audiences, but not all of them, making it important to understand who you’re reaching with your remarketing ads.

NFL

When I visited the NFL’s shop on their website, I wasn’t sure they would retarget me or not because the National Football League is already such a powerful brand with an incredibly passionate following. I figured their audience doesn’t need to be pushed too much to buy their favorite team’s gear, so I was surprised when they were one of the most persistent and aggressive remarketers I encountered. After viewing a hat on the online NFL store, I haven’t been able to escape their ads since.

Once they knew what team I seemed to be interested in, The New York Giants, they pushed other Giants gear on me in hopes that something would catch my eye.

While I wasn’t expecting this type of approach from the league’s digital marketing team, it is consistent with the way they tackle other advertising fields. From television commercials to sponsored billboards, the NFL likes to go big and be seen, and their remarketing tendencies are no different.

Kohl’s

One visit to Kohls.com will get you briefly retargeted, but certainly not harassed. Kohl’s is a customer friendly store that offers great deals, and their returning customers know what to expect from them. This is a business that’s not trying to be something they aren’t through their advertising because they know who shops at their stores and why. their customers aren’t looking for a flashy experience; they want good deals and a pleasant experience. Kohl’s is another business that knows and understands their audience.

Amazon

Amazon is continuously growing and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Bringing in an incredible amount of traffic to their site daily, it would be ridiculous to retarget everyone who visits. So Amazon’s approach to remarketing, from my experience, is conservative and largely item-based. After leaving their site, I did not experience an ad from them until later on, and it was not related to any item I had come across while on their site. Instead, this ad was promoting bed comforters.

Macy

Macy’s remarketing approach is ironically similar to the way they draw traffic in your local mall: You probably didn’t come here to go to Macy’s, but you’ll have to pass through it to get where you’re going. Likewise, I didn’t plan to visit Macy’s site, but seeing the sites I had recently visited through my keywords, they decided to target me as well. Their ad was not targeting me based on a particular item I viewed, but rather by the type of shopping they assumed I was doing. However, because I wasn’t searching a specific item, their ad’s suggestion was off and probably wouldn’t have drawn a click from someone who wasn’t specifically looking a reason to.

Chevy

Chevy, and most car dealerships for that matter, are as persistent online as they are in person. On Chevrolet.com, I clicked on a brand new Chevy equinox. I left the page, and Chevy’s heavily-invested-in remarketing took over. The advertisements followed me throughout the day, not wanting me to forget about the beautiful new car I was interested in. This is a smart strategy for car dealerships because chances are, you weren’t just browsing cars for the fun of it. If you’re visiting one of these sites, you’re probably in the market for a new car, and Chevy certainly isn’t about to miss the opportunity to convert a sale.

Investing in the right kind of remarketing can be a strategic advantage for your business. It’s important to understand the audience you are targeting, what they’re looking for and what kind of experience you want them to have. These 15 businesses have found a remarketing strategy that fits their company’s character best, generating positive results for their online business.

It’s important for all businesses, big and small, to figure out which options resonate with their online clientele, stay engaged beyond the point of sale and create entirely new relationships with customers.

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