By Caroline Watts,

Every year for the last few, we’ve heard proclamations that this year will be year of mobile. To some extent it’s hyperbole, but to some extent it’s true. 43% of American cell phone users own a smart phone, and 62% of all 25-44-year-olds own smartphones. That number grows every day. Forrester predicts that by 2016, one billion people will be using smartphones. As of late 2011, there were almost 1.2 billion mobile web users globally, and 12.6% of total website traffic came from mobile browsers. That’s a 102% increase from the year before.

To communicate with an audience that increasingly uses smartphones for browsing the web, marketers will be forced to go mobile – and savvy mobile marketers will figure out how to make the best use of one of the industry’s most ROI-friendly practices.

Retargeting – the practice of serving ads to users who have previously visited your site – has become a preferred tactic for internet marketers due to its high ROI relative to traditional display advertising. The technology for mobile retargeting exists, but is still in its early stages, particularly when compared to the exciting new technologies created every day in the thriving web-based retargeting sector.

There are many unique challenges presented by mobile retargeting that don’t apply to web technologies. Here are a couple of them:

Public Sentiment

After over 15 years of banner ads, people have grown accustomed to seeing ads online. Many believe that online ads can be valuable, and that targeting can be beneficial.

Though user privacy is a major issue in the online targeting world, 52% of customers are willing to have their online behavior tracked in exchange for discounts or special offers or in order to consume online content for free.

Mobile advertising is newer, and in general tends to generate more negative sentiment. Because mobile is a more intimate space, there is a heightened sense of invasiveness. A 2011 study published in the European Journal of Economics, Finance and Administrative Sciences found that attitudes toward mobile advertising are significantly more negative than attitudes toward advertising in general. (The study also found attitudes toward mobile can be positive if users feel the advertising is informative—a point to keep in mind.)

Technical Difficulties

From a technical standpoint, mobile differs from web in that each mobile user spends his time in two distinct ecosystems: mobile browsers and apps.

Traditional web-based retargeting uses cookies to anonymously track users. Mobile web browsers operate much like traditional browsers, and it is easy to implement a retargeting campaign that works exactly like a web-based campaign. However, mobile browsing isn’t the end of the story. On average, 30% more time is spent in app than browsing the mobile web. If you only retarget users within their mobile browsers, your reach will be severely limited.

The process for retargeting in app is different than the process for retargeting in browser.  Retargeting in app identifies unique users anonymously and creates anonymized, unique user IDs that are then tracked around the app ecosystem.

The dichotomy between the two ecosystems presents a conundrum for the retargeter: Where do you tag people – in the app or in the browser? You probably have more customers visiting your app and people tend to spend more time in app, but the majority of new users may first visit via their mobile browsers. You can tag both, but this issue of frequency caps comes into play.

The important takeaway is that there is no-one-size-fits-all mobile retargeting campaign. The preferred tactics will depend on your company and your unique marketing goals.

Caroline Watts is a Marketing Associate at ReTargeter, an online ad platform specializing in retargeting.

1 Comment

  1. re targeting July 1st, 2012

    Thanks for sharing your take on retargeting, as I think this is a nice overview. Would be interesting to see how you work with segement retargeting, unpixel placements, and dynamic search results based on retargeting data.

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