Amazon’s Just Taunting Me – When Retargeting Goes Wrong

I’m generally pretty happy to be marketed to, especially when it’s well-personalized. But when retargeting is done wrong, it can go really wrong. And Amazon, with me, has gone really, really wrong. To the extent that this e-commerce scion isn’t just wasting its money, it’s actively ticking me off.

I’m generally pretty happy to be marketed to, especially when it’s personalized. Facebook ads, retargeting me across the Internet, direct mail … All of those things were on display in my Christmas post.

But when retargeting is done wrong, it can go really wrong. And Amazon, with me, has gone really, really wrong. To the extent that this e-commerce scion isn’t just wasting its money, it’s actively ticking me off.

Amazon Retargeting
And God help you if you click on one of those ads to see if the size selection changed …

Clothes are hard for me to find. I’m very tall and very big, and going to anything but big-and-tall stores is pretty much a waste of time (big-and-tall stores are basically the place to pay Brooks Brothers prices for K-mart quality and fashion sense, but that’s for another post).

So I do a lot of clothes shopping online with search terms like “3xlt” and “56 long.”

The problem is, search technology is baffled by this arcane language! Look up “men’s trenchcoat 3xlt” and you’ll see this:

Google Search for Men's TrenchcoatNone of those links takes you to trenchcoats in xxx-large tall. It doesn’t matter if I spell it “trenchcoat” or “trench coat.” It doesn’t matter if I use “3xlt” or “xxxl tall” or “long” or “XXX Tall Coat.” (Admittedly, the last one works a little better, but not by much.)

It’s hard to zero in on clothes in specific, uncommon sizes. So I wind up clicking on a lot of links that lead to clothes that do not come in my size.

And then, I start seeing ads for things like this:

Asian Large Trench Coat
I’m sure it’s huge in Japan.

That’s actually a nice-looking coat! I’d love to get that … Except once I click around, I see they only make it in Asian sizes that sound about as big as one of my socks.

I can get over that. That’s been my life since I was 10 and grew out of “huskies.”

But then these ads, in the immortal words of Denny Hatch, Start. Chasing. Me. All. Over. The. Internet.

Seriously, I’m seeing Amazon ads for trench coats in essentially children’s sizes on Facebook, Yahoo, every article I visit, and even occasionally in our own Today @ Target Marketing newsletter (which sometimes serves network ads via LiveIntent).

Some of the dangers of retargeting are well documented. Yes, it’s annoying to see ads, sometimes even sales, for things you just bought and products you could’ve bought instead. It’s annoying to see ads for things you shouldn’t buy but tempt you, even after your willpower won the battle against temptation once.

It’s another thing altogether to see hundreds of ad impressions for a piece of apparel that is actively making you angry because they don’t make it for you.

That’s when the customer experience goes from “OK, this can be useful, but today it’s annoying” to making me go full Picard.

Amazon PicardTargeting algorithms aren’t going anywhere. I’ve personally been enticed to spend way more thanks to them — when they’re not actively taunting me.

But the deeper we get into this uncanny valley, the more we see instances where your AI sales assistant acts dumber than your pimple-faced summer stock boy. And I wonder if that will ever change.

Landing Pages: This Worked, That Didn’t

Nothing derails an email conversion faster than the wrong landing page. Good emails tell a story to the recipient. It may be the story of a sale, how things work or what’s going on. Whatever the story, it needs to flow continuously from beginning to end. Any break introduces distractions that can divert the participant from the preferred action. Today we are reviewing emails and their landing pages from two companies that offer home improvement items for this edition of “This Worked, That Didn’t.”

Nothing derails an email conversion faster than the wrong landing page. Good emails tell a story to the recipient. It may be the story of a sale, how things work or what’s going on. Whatever the story, it needs to flow continuously from beginning to end. Any break introduces distractions that can divert the participant from the preferred action.

Every component of an email has a simple purpose: Move the person reading it to the next step. The purpose of the subject is to motivate the recipient to open the email. Once opened, the content should be a continuation of the subject and provide information for the next step.

Today we are reviewing emails from two companies that offer home improvement items for this edition of “This Worked, That Didn’t.” The emails—found in the Email Campaign Archive—are similar in content and creative, but very different in execution. The challengers are Build.com and Rejuvenation.

Both emails have a do-it-yourself subject line. Build.com uses “Make Your Outdoors a Masterpiece” and Rejuvenation has “Update a Hardworking Bath with Lighting, Hardware, and Accessories.” Recipients gearing up for home improvement projects would find the subjects appealing.

The Rejuvenation email (Image 1) has a photo of the beautiful bathroom. The copy at the top of the photo reads: “Hardworking Spaces: Bathroom Simple, warm, practical – a rustic bath will stand the test of time.” A button under the copy has a link to “Shop Bathroom.”

Clicking on the link takes the potential buyer to a landing page (Image 2) that continues the story started in the email. The same image is featured in the email and on the landing page. The headline on the landing page, “Time-Tested Bathroom,” is consistent with the copy from the email. The copy following the headline says:

For a bathroom that stands the test of time, consider borrowing design ideas from that other hardworking space: the kitchen. An apron-front sink and butcher-block counters stand up to just about anything, and will only get better with age. Burnished metals with a timeworn patina suit this understated aesthetic perfectly. Try a pair of Kent wall brackets in Antique Copper and beaded mirrors in Bronze finish for warmth and sparkle.

Featured products continue the story immediately following the copy. This is an excellent example of using an email to move people from their inbox to the shopping cart.

The build.com email starts out well too. It has a photo (Image 3) of an exquisite house with a sunset backdrop and beautiful lighting. The copy tweaks the subject line into “Make Your Outdoors an Oasis.” The button at the bottom of the image reads, “Get Started,” creating an expectation of additional information on how to get this look. There is another link at the lower left corner that is barely visible. It reads, “Sea Gull Outdoor Lighting.” One expects that the link will take you directly to the lighting used at this house.

The beautifully crafted email takes a surprising turn when you click on the Get Started link. Instead of information on how to create the look or the products used, the landing page is the company’s outdoor department (Image 4). The first thing you see is a lawnmower. Scroll about halfway down a very long page and you’ll find information on how to light up your night. Before you get there, you pass a video on grilling and the segment on indoor living outdoors. Only the most dedicated email recipients will search the page for the information they’re seeking.

The Sea Gull Outdoor Lighting link is also disappointing. Instead of going to the product page, the potential customer is taken to the outdoor department. Getting to the featured item requires choosing from thirteen outdoor lighting links or doing a site search. There is nothing easy about finding the items featured in the email. A search of “Sea Gull Outdoor Light” yields 2,606 products. Good luck finding the ones featured in the email.

The winner of the landing page challenge is Rejuvenation. To insure that your emails are always on the winning side:

  • Make links take people to the page they expect to see. If you don’t have an appropriate page, either build one or change the email message.
  • Keep the path from first click to checkout as short as possible. The longer the path, the more likely people will leave.
  • Tell a continuous story. Continuity keeps people moving forward. A good story answers questions at the right time and removes all resistance to completing the final call to action.