Is Remarketing Self-Defeating?


Jim Sterne

When we spend time and money to remarket, are we really just trying to convince consumers to buy something they never wanted in the first place?

Let’s get one thing clear: retargeting works. If a product is interesting enough that a person puts it in his shopping cart, it is worthwhile advertising it to them again. Remind them that they were interested and they will succumb to their initial desires and buy. It works.

Retargeting done badly is not the issue. See my previous rant, “Frequency Capping for the Love of God.”

But the question that Vicky Brock of Clear Returns asked at the most recent eMetrics Summit in London was, “What if we’re simply convincing people against their first mind?”

Brock contemplates returned purchases for a living. Clear Returns uses analytics to review sales from the endpoint to determine which items are sent back and why. The reasons are more correctable than you might imagine:

  • Low-quality products (stop selling them)
  • Inaccurately described products (fix your marketing)
  • Faulty delivery process (fix your logistics)
  • Fraud (reserve the right to refuse service)

Clear Returns reviews all of the above and more to find the worst offenders and help you cut your losses. It’s a profoundly straightforward use of analytics that we, as marketers, have failed to take into account: product lifetime value.

Brock has not yet calculated whether we are spending good time and money on retargeting to convince people to buy things they actually do not want. That may be costing us dearly.

When people return items, they cite reasons they hope will be the least offensive or least self-incriminating. “Does not fit” or “Wrong color” are so much easier to indicate than, “I changed my mind after all…. I don’t know what possessed me to buy it in the first place.” Call it buyer’s remorse.

But how much of that remorse are we generating ourselves? How much of our intent to make one more sale through repetitious promotion is done without regard to the total cost of goods sold?

Mining data about what gets sent back can reveal how to spend on our marketing. Without closing this loop, we may be doing ourselves more harm than good.

Have you been measuring the correlation between remarketing and the number of returns? If so, please let us know.