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New Year. New Marketing Plan. Same Data?

It’s 2014 – a new year, and a great opportunity to reboot your paid search campaigns. But where to start? Feeling like you might have used up all of the best ideas last year? Don’t fret, as some fresh strategies might actually be closer than you realize.

As marketers, we use data all of the time. Often it’s the same data points that we rely on each day to tell us more about our customers and gauge our performance, both good and bad.  Cost per click, Cost per lead and average CPC, orders and revenue, days of the week and hours of the day, desktop, tablet and mobile – all of these key elements are relevant when it comes to understanding what’s working and what is not in a paid search campaign. 

These are the obvious choices.  But what hidden gems are nestled amongst those data points, and others?  When is the last time you really stopped to think about what data you collect, but aren’t using?  Here is where you find new bright and shiny ideas for 2014. And, since it’s your data, these concepts are already customized to your brand and your target audience.

If you haven’t yet tested remarketing, now is a great time to work it into your strategy plans for the year. Remarketing uses past funnel data to help close the loop on new or lost customers. Whether your brand is global, regional or local, remarketing can help get your message in front of searchers who showed interest in you in the past, but still have not yet converted. It’s a common problem. According to ComScore, “96% of people visiting a website leave without completing a transaction.”  But Google reports that “retargeted consumers are nearly 70% more likely to complete a purchase as compared to non-retargeted consumers.”

Remarketing can be as simple as setting up special audience lists within AdWords to cookie those site visitors who have been to your homepage – or other significant pages on your site – but not yet made a purchase, generated a lead, or completed a desired action on the site. Then later ads are served up to those same searchers across the Google Display Network. Or, if you’ve already tested this entry-level approach and have a remarketing list of actual customers, you can try one of these more intricate strategies by manipulating the same data and/or mixing it with other data sets at your disposal to further develop existing site visitors and customers, as well as work towards strengthening customer retention:

Buying Behavior — Turning One Purchase Into Repeat Buys: 

The best customers are repeat customers.  They have proven historically that they are willing to make a purchase online from your site and have done so at least once.  The question from there is, what is the next likely product that Customer X who previously bought Product Y will buy? 

Let the data guide you.  Review your internal customer data for top products – or your most profitable products – and see what those specific shoppers purchased next from your site.  More than likely, trends will pop out from the data, showing you the most popular second purchases, and potentially third and fourth ones.  These are the clues that tell you exactly how to approach these one-time purchase customers via remarketing.  Let your ad copy and landing pages reflect the most popular products that past repeat customers have purchased. Show images if possible to craft a strong visual connection with these one-time customers, suggesting exactly what they should purchase next, and appealing to their similar interests and behaviors of your best repeat customers.

Activity Timing: Staying in Front of Those Potential New Customers

Similar to analyzing what visitors are buying, learning more about when they make a purchase can also be quite telling in terms of understanding customer behavior.  By pulling data around the amount of time between pre-purchase activities and an actual purchase, you can build new strategies around activity timing.

Remarket to those customers who have completed a specific activity, but have not yet gone on to the next likely activity, including purchases.  Perhaps a visitor has come to your site three times in the past three weeks, signed up to receive your promotional emails, but for some reason has never made a purchase.

This approach parlays leveraging your site’s customer data into yet another remarketing test.  By advertising special offers and messages to this set of uncommitted visitors, you can test whether or not they are truly interested in your brand.  And, the data you generate from the test eventually produces a better understanding of the amount of time required to wait before putting a customer into the “lost customer” category for a separate push remarketing campaign.

Sequence Remarketing: One More Time, With Feeling! 

Dip into your data yet again to get a baseline for how long specific customer segments have lagged since their last conversion. Has it been a week with no new conversion? Two? Several months? Bucket these customers by duration and then set up separate brand stories for each by using sequential ads over time. In other words, segment what ads you are showing people based upon how long each has had your cookie without a conversion. 

Typically a shorter window of time between purchases means a stronger and longer lifetime relationship with a customer, so prioritize getting in front of that segment of consumers first. Give them a reason to come back by making a special offer within your ad copy (free shipping, 15% off, etc.). If your data is robust enough to provide a window into their browsed products, then show images of those specific items along with the promotional offer to encourage them to return and make a purchase.

If it’s been a few months since a customer has converted, but they have been back to your site in the meantime, look to see if their shopping cart is empty, or if it has been abandoned. Perhaps they just need a nudge to get them back to complete the purchase. Showing this consumer group a more specialized offer could prove fruitful. For example, if they were shopping for pillows and left them in their cart on the site, an image ad with a 20% discount on pillows or bedding could jog their memory enough to get them back to your brand’s site, where the cart is conveniently populated with their previous research.

Social Listening: Keep An Ear to the Ground 

If you are like the majority of global enterprise brands, you spent a portion of 2012 listening to what your customers were saying online across various social platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. This data is gold, as it comes directly from the mouths and laptops of your customers and their influential peers. 

Strategically marrying up your social media data with remarketing is yet another great way to extend the reach of your paid search campaigns. By learning more about what customers are discussing online with each other, you can craft ad copy that directly speaks to their current whims, wishes and concerns. Are they worried that next week’s snowstorm in their region will keep them inside for days? Remarket to customers who have visited your homepage, or made past purchases on the site, by creating ad copy that appeases their fears with your stock-up sale on snowboots and gear. Is your social data showing that the current buzz is all about your unfortunate shipping and delivery delays on your gift baskets? Promote a special message via remarketing channels to any searcher who has visited your homepage, guaranteeing shipping for Valentine’s Day within a certain timeframe.

Never underestimate the power of the data you already have in hand. It can be recycled and recrafted over and over again into new consumer segments, new audience lists and new strategies, all which can be applied to your paid search and display efforts this year. These streamlined and specific approaches get you much closer to your customers, are data-centric and can help build upon your existing CRM and one-to-one cross-channel marketing efforts.  All it takes is a closer look at your very own data. 

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