Help! I’m Being Stalked by a Bathtub!

As a marketing agency, we’re always recommending different media channels to our clients depending on the product, the target audience demographics, marketing goals, etc. And, like many of you, I thought online retargeting was a clever way of “helping” to remind browsers that since they had been interested in a product/service at one point, they might still be interested in making a purchase from that site, so a little tap on the shoulder seemed like a clever way to stay top of mind. Until it happened to me.

As a marketing agency, we’re always recommending different media channels to our clients depending on the product, the target audience demographics, marketing goals, etc. And, like many of you, I thought online retargeting was a clever way of “helping” to remind browsers that since they had been interested in a product/service at one point, they might still be interested in making a purchase from that site, so a little tap on the shoulder seemed like a clever way to stay top of mind. Until it happened to me.

Retargeting, for those of you who may not know, involves having an advertiser drop a cookie into the consumer’s browser which enables the advertiser to follow that consumer around and display an ad for the advertiser after they’ve left the original site.

The logic is sound, the process is relatively simple, and it seems to make good marketing sense. Before it happened to me, I equated it to shoe shopping. I visit a store and see a pair of shoes I like. I try them on, but since I haven’t really looked in a lot of other shoe stores yet, I decide to put off the purchase until I’ve looked at all my options. But in the back of my head a little voice keeps whispering, “Those black patent kitten heels were perfect—even if they were $100 more than you wanted to spend.” I may or may not go back to that first store to get them but I do think about those shoes for quite a while—and with my luck, I return to the store only to find they are now sold out in my size.

But if I was shopping online and the shoes I liked were at Retailer A, I’m now seeing ads for those shoes no matter where I cruise on the Internet. Yep. Those black patents are now stalking me. Not whispering, but shouting out to “come back!”

However, I must confess that my recent stalking incident was not about shoes at all, but about bathtubs.

My husband and I are remodeling a bathroom, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time searching for the perfect bathtub online. Yesterday I actually placed an expensive bathtub in my shopping cart and proceeded to check out, but at the 11th hour started thinking that maybe my contractor could purchase the same tub for a better price. So I abandoned my cart. And in the process, it seems, launched obsessive tracking behavior that could only be rivaled by a professional stalker.

No matter what site I visited while researching client-related work, bathtubs kept appearing. Some were in the upper right hand corner of the page, so as I scrolled down the page they would disappear from view. Whew!

Others seemed to travel down the page with me … tumbling tub over tub with prices flashing, offers blazing and the lure of a long, hot soak compelling me to glance … nay linger … on the designer tub dangling within the reach of a mouse click.

But since I had no intention of completing the purchase transaction without the nod from my contractor, the ads seemed to get more annoying than helpful as the day went on. At one point, a colleague was looking over my shoulder while we were reviewing some online research. After looking at the page for about five minutes, she pointed to the tub ad and commented, “That tub reminds me—did you finish remodeling your bathroom yet?”

Intellectually I understand why retargeting is so valuable. Statistics show that 95 percent of users leave a site without making a transaction, and the ones retargeted are 70 percent more likely to complete a purchase, so it makes perfect sense to retarget.

However the default setting for most retargeting platforms is 30-90 days, so if you’re planning to include retargeting in your marketing mix, think carefully about cookie duration and ad fatigue. Because right now, my fatigue is only off-set by the dream of a long, hot soak in my new tub—cookie-free.