When it comes to Remarketing, there’s a very fine line between being annoying and being useful. One of the biggest challenges that all marketers face today is deciding at which point remarketing becomes annoying for the customer. Many are still getting this wrong.

In this post, I’m looking at some of the most common customer annoyances, specifically for retail consumers, along with best-practice tips to ensure you’re getting that second chance with your prospects to avoid burning bridges forever.

Now first, let’s face it. Remarketing is one of the most powerful, yet misused tools by marketers today.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “Remarketing”, it’s the practice of displaying customised ads to people after they have visited your website. Remarketing works by tracking visitor behaviour on your website, and enables you to display custom messages to specific audiences that have previously visited your website.

The ads can be anything from a banner ad displaying a discount code and an image of the items that you have left in your shopping cart to a subtle text ad to gently remind the users of your brand.

Some of these ads will be relevant and personalised to you. Others will be simply annoying.

In an age where web users are turning to Ad-Block software to protect them from the pointless babble, remarketing is a practice that’s really worth getting right. Otherwise, you might as well give up the day job.

If you’re prepared to get it right, however, remarketing can open a world of opportunity for useful, ethical and value-filled marketing. Sounds good to us…

After search ads, remarketing ads have the next best potential for growing online sales. By intelligently setting up remarketing campaigns, you can capitalise on the non-converting traffic to your website, offering users “impossible-to-refuse” special offers which will tempt the user back onto your site to complete their purchase.

However, there’s also a downside to remarketing. From a marketer’s point of view, remarketing can be powerful in re-engaging with potential customers and recapturing lost sales, whereas from a customer’s point of view, it can be equally as annoying. Especially when used incorrectly.

One of the biggest challenges that all marketers face today is deciding at which point remarketing becomes annoying for the customer. Ultimately, this all depends on your user base and how well your company knows them.

Here are some of the most common retail customer annoyances, along with Best Practice tips to ensure you’re getting that second chance with your potential customers:

Annoyance 1: Seeing ads from the same website over and over again.

A study by InSkin Media and RAPP Media found that seeing a remarketing ad more than 5 times is viewed as annoying and intrusive, whereas seeing an ad 10 times or more makes visitors ACTUALLY angry. Let’s face it, no one wants to see your ad 2370 times, no matter how exciting you think your special offer is.

Best Practice: Set up frequency caps

Avoid “following” or “harassing” users whilst they browse the internet, by setting up daily frequency caps to limit the number of times a user can see your advert.

I recommend no more than 3-4 times per day. More than that and you’re more than likely just wasting money and pushing potential customers away. It’s needy, pushy and a little bit desperate, so avoid this at all costs or taint your brand indefinitely.

Annoyance 2: Seeing the same message more than once

Using the same message might seem like an easy set up option, but by doing so you will rapidly exhaust your message and also come across looking boring and lazy. And the chances are if the message didn’t work the first time it’s unlikely to work the second time…

Best Practice: Ad rotation and change your messages continuously.

Create multiple ads per ad group and change your campaigns rotation settings to rotate evenly.

Not everyone is interested in the same promotions and offers. Actually… who is? The bottom line is, that people like variety so keep users interested by changing your ad copy every 3-4 days to keep your messaging fresh and original.

Annoyance 3: Seeing an ad for an item that has already been purchased

One of the most common remarketing mistakes is showing a product to a customer that has already purchased. By doing so you’re not only wasting money but you are also annoying your customer and it’s more than likely that they will not return to your website again. Nobody likes a stalker!

Best Practice: Use negative audience lists

You can setup an audience list from the shared Library tab when within the AdWords interface and choose the Audiences option.

Here, you can create several lists and define set parameters, e.g. the date-range of the list (visitors to your site in the past 60 days for example) and can specify rules for the list in terms of which visitors do you want to track.

You can get quite specific with this, only choosing to target users from certain sources who visited specific page URLs. Once you’ve chosen your setup options, AdWords will generate a script that you will need to add to all pages of your website. In a few days (depending on your level of traffic), your list should have a healthy number of users. You can only start advertising to these users when there are 1000 people on your list.

Through proper segmentation, we would advise tracking and segmenting visitors who did and didn’t land on your shop-confirmation page into separate audience lists, labelled converters and non-converters. To prevent buyers from seeing your remarketing ads, you will need to then exclude the converters list from your audience combination. This is a great way to exclude people who are no longer interested, saving money and increasing ROI.

Annoyance 4: Seeing an ad for a product that you viewed like, 6 months ago.

The maximum duration that you can show a visitor a remarketing ad on the Google Display Network is 540 days meaning that an ad could follow your visitors around for over a year. Nobody wants to see an ad for a pair of snow boots they viewed last winter in the height of summer. Don’t follow people forever!

Best Practice: Edit your lists membership duration

With Google AdWords membership duration, you can define how long you want a user to stay on a remarketing list i.e. the period of time over which a visitor will be shown your remarketing ads. Once this time expires they will be removed from the list and won’t see your ads unless they visit your website again.

There is no recommended membership duration. Ultimately, this will depend on your sales cycle and the length of time it takes for a user to convert, both of which vary widely by industry. However as a general rule of thumb, the higher the value of the item, the longer the membership duration. Considered purchases for the likes of luxury retail, for example, will mean that your user is in the Consideration/Awareness stage of the Buyer Journey for longer. Ergo, the need for a longer duration is often necessary.

It’s important to always do your research to understand your audiences buying cycle and length of time to conversion. A great way of determining membership duration for your audience is by checking your time to conversion report in analytics.

This report will give you a good idea of how long it takes your customers to convert from the first time they interacted with your website.

Some additional Remarketing pointers…

If you are in the process of setting up a remarketing campaign, or would like to in the near future, it’s important that you’ve updated your websites terms and conditions to reflect the way in which you are tracking your visitor’s behaviour, and are advertising to them based on that.

This should be added to your Privacy Policy/Terms and Conditions pages. There are several Google sources available to help you out with the wording of this. The policy must include information about how your visitors can opt out of seeing remarketing ads across the Google display network. This will also help in keeping your costs down, by removing users who are not interested.

A well thought out and executed remarketing strategy is instrumental to the success of your campaign. When implemented correctly, remarketing can re-capture those lost sales, and ultimately save money at the same time as increasing ROI.

Done right, and they’ll also stop your customers from hating you. Even as marketers, we’re all consumers and we can all smell a lazy ad from a mile off – everyday consumers are no different.

There’s a very fine line between annoying and appealing remarketing. Whilst the tips outlined in this article act as a guide to avoid annoying your customers, they are by no means exhaustive. They will help guide you in the right direction when setting up and optimising your remarketing campaigns.

Ultimately, however, it’s down to you to really get to know your customers, so your remarketing efforts provide value and a subtle reminder of your brand. For more information on our Paid Marketing approach, check out our service page. We’d also love to hear any particularly shameful remarketing examples you’ve come across recently, as part of our crusade against #PointlessMarketing. Share them with us over on Twitter!