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I already bought that, leave me alone (Or how to avoid wasting money retargeting post-buy)

Susan Esparza   
February 27, 2018  
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I was on FB the other day when a friend of mine made that post.

(In case your images didn’t load, it says “Ads should have a button on them that says ‘I already bought this'”)

Which is absolutely genius and a feature I want immediately as a customer. It’s pretty easy to ignore an ad for something I’m not interested in. It’s harder to ignore ads for something I am, but not right now.  I don’t want to block the ad, but I also don’t need it in my face at the moment. As a marketer, this sentiment just makes me shake my head. I get ads all the time for products I’ve already bought and they’re almost always the result of retargeting gone bad.

I buy a pair of shoes and later see them advertised to me everywhere I go. I subscribe to a service and see it pitched to me ad nauseum. 

If you’re paying per click, maybe you don’t care because I’m not costing you anything. There’s no measurable impact on your ROAS. But if that’s the thinking behind letting retargeting ads run for customers who have already converted, that attitude is damaging your brand.  You ARE paying. You’re paying in my increased annoyance that you don’t know what you’re doing. The opportunity cost of turning off a customer is invisible, but very real.

Folks, I don’t need the shoes after I bought them or the service after I subscribed. Yes, I agree those boots are cute. That’s why I’m wearing them right now. Showing them to me over and over isn’t going to make me buy another pair.

Cute Boots, but I only need one pair at a time.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Instead of poisoning your relationship with me, there is a solution. Once I have converted to a sale, move me to an exclusion list. Or, if you want to keep the relationship fresh (I bought from you! I have concretely displayed my interest!) add me to a “next steps” list while you’re at it.  Tell me if my favorite brand goes on sale, or if styles update. That way, you can position ads that are actually relevant to me, potentially securing yourself another sale, not wasting space on trying to sell me something I already own.

If you’re using Google or Doubleclick for this, here’s how that works:

  1. Google Analytics: If you’re tracking transactions in GA, create a “customers” audience and add all users who have already bought from the website to it. This is a best practice but unfortunately, one that many people obviously skip (or we wouldn’t be here.)
  2. Sync this audience with DBM, where “past buyers” is set to be excluded from retargeting and prospecting campaigns (except for Next Steps).
  3. DoubleClick: If you’re tracking conversions in DoubleClick, the process is the same. The GA audience is natively replaced by DCLK floodlights.
  4. Add me to your Next Steps list.  These campaigns usually include a cross-sell or up-sell, driven by a ML-powered feed, or the delivering New Offers message to the old customers, who may be interesting in buying again during an event or sale. Create a new campaign with this audience being included with the proper recency (to compare or run separately versus the 2 yrs ago, 1 yr ago, 6 mo ago buyers.)  

Bonus Round: Propagate across devices. Sometimes, the problem comes from the fact that you haven’t tied my customer profile across my devices. So while I converted on desktop, I did scope out those boots on my tablet first. Now they follow me endlessly because even though you did exclude my desktop cookie, you failed to recognize me when I was on my tablet and adjust accordingly. As a customer, I expect better.

If you’re using Google, they are a bit of a black box in this area. But they do say that on the backend, they expand the GA360-originated audiences across devices, using their cross-device user graph by default.

Retargeting is awesome when I’m still in decision-making mode. But after I’ve given you my hard-earned money, respect me by taking these simple steps to keep our relationship strong. I promise, I’ll eventually want more cute boots.


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