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Over 90 percent of marketers say that retargeted ads are as good as or better than the gold standard in digital marketing, search ads, according to a recent survey by leading retargeter AdRoll.


Intent, says AdRoll president and CMO Adam Berke.

“It’s actually not surprising that the two channels would be on par with one another from a performance perspective since they’re powered by the same data type: user intent,” he told me via email. “When you combine this hyper-valuable data set with advanced media buying technology, algorithmic bidding, dynamic creative, and reach across publishers and channels, you end up with an extremely important marketing channel that is now viewed to be as crucial as search engine marketing.”

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In fact, in some ways it’s even better than search intent, because the intent that retargeting captures is right on your own site, while search intent on Google or Bing is, of course, on their sites. So not only can you be quite sure that someone is interested in product X generally, they’ve exhibited behavior that indicates they’re also interested in potentially buying product X from you specifically.

That’s got a lot of marketers excited.

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If the 1,000+ marketing technologists that AdRoll surveyed are representative, marketers are spending a lot more on retargeting. Almost three quarters, 71 percent, are spending between 10 and 50 percent of their digital marketing efforts on retargarted ads. Ten to 50 percent is a ridiculously wide range, so I’d assume the bulk of them are in the lower end of stat, but even so, it’s up from 34 percent who were spending at the same rate a year ago.

Part of of what’s driving the growth is an expansion of what marketers use retargeting for, Berke says.

“Marketers are now realizing that they can use their website’s behavioral data to achieve a range of marketing objectives: content promotion, cross-sell/upsell campaigns, dormant user re-engagement, driving app installs,” Berke said. “For example, marketers are just starting to figure out the best ways to leverage Facebook’s mobile news feed, and with Apple opening up iAd to programmatic buying, there will be all sorts of new ways to engage potential customers outside of the tactics currently being used in standard desktop display ads.”

The hottest area, according to the study, is social retargeting.


Fifty-four percent of both B2B and B2C marketers said social was hotter than mobile, search, or email retargeting, and AdRoll data shows that social retargeting drives 2.8X the impressions, 3X the clicks, and 2.2X the conversions as non-social retargeting.

One of the challenges still facing digital marketers, of course, is attribution.

What, in other words, drove purchase or conversion behavior? Was it the first ad? The second? The one that the customer clicked on? The email you sent them after that? The custom message on your site?

Most marketers are now using attribution, but a third are still rookies, according to the study. The deeper question, of course, is whether the two-thirds that consider themselves experts are just fooling themselves.

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