Targeting & Retargeting Interview with Criteo

Criteo, a company in the field of retargeting approached me for an interview a while ago. Although I am more focussed on Behavioral Targeting in this blog I just couldn’t say no. So here we go…an interesting interview about the future of online advertising, retargeting and Criteo’s role in all of this.

What does the future of online advertising look like?

Advertisers are already able to target consumers with incredibly personalized ads, displaying products as specific as the exact product the online shopper recently viewed. Soon, display ad technology will empower advertisers with maximum insights and ability to control their campaign performance with real-time campaign bidding and in-depth analytics about how their ads are being served, viewed and clicked. The power and tools of the search world have already started to show up in online display advertising.

Cost-per-click (CPC) will rule the ad industry as advertisers will only pay when the shopper clicks the ad and comes back to the retailer’s site. With this CPC model, innovative ad technologies will automatically prioritize the shoppers with the greatest history of clicking on their ads, while minimizing or eliminating the ads served to online shoppers who have historically not interacted with the retailer’s banners – therefore saving retailers money by not serving ads to those who do not click.

What do you do to make targeting an easy experience for your customers?

One of the most convenient and efficient components our customers benefit from is that Criteo‘s process is a turnkey solution, making it a “one-stop-shop” for ad campaign deployment, including personalized banner design, product recommendations, media planning, ad serving, campaign optimization and real-time reporting. The ads are dynamically generated on-the-fly based on the visitor’s product-viewing history.
Criteo’s technology is completely scalable, meaning our advertising partners can execute retargeting campaigns aimed at any level or number of consumers. Soon, advertisers will benefit from the ability to adjust their CPC anytime they please and control their campaign cost-of-sales down to a product category level.

From the perspective of the advertiser: What is the single most important factor why you should get into retargeting today?

Online shoppers simply do not have the time or interest in viewing or clicking generic ads that do not apply to their shopping tendencies. With personalized CPC retargeting, not only are shoppers being served relevant ads, but also the advertiser only pays for the ad when the customer clicks to revisit the site. Retailers are already spending money on customer acquisition tactics (SEO, Ad Words, etc.). The fact is that 95 percent of online shoppers leave a retailer’s site prior to making a purchase. Personalized retargeting compliments these efforts by serving customized ads to those customers who have already expressed interest via acquisition techniques, but have left the site for one reason or another. The retailers that retarget those exact customers dramatically increases the odds of finalizing the sale. Studies have shown that retargeted prospects are 70% more likely to complete a purchase. Likewise, their purchases tend to be 50% higher in value than non-retargeted customers.

What makes Criteo’s technology stand out from the rest?

Criteo’s advertising partners are experiencing more incremental sales at faster rates than any other retargeting company. In June, only several months after launching its US headquarters, Criteo announced it had driven more than $1 billion in post-click sales for its clients. This number already has reached more than $2 billion YTD in post-click sales to date in 2010.

Criteo offers its personalized retargeting solution on a pay-per-click (PPC) business model, charging only for clicks (CPC) that bring prospects back to the clients’ website. Other providers continue to charge based on cost-per-banner impressions served (CPM), cost-per-“engagement” with banners (CPE) or cost-per-action (CPA), which include view-through purchases resulting after a website visitor was exposed to, rather than clicked on, a retargeted banner. These view-through purchases cannot be directly attributed to viewing a retargeting banner.

By measuring value generated based purely on post-click sales, Criteo delivers true ROI to clients. As a rule of thumb, view-through calculated sales numbers can be to two to ten times higher than the actual post-click sales generated. Granted, some sales may be influenced by viewing ad impressions; nevertheless, Criteo does not include view-through in its value calculations to clients.

If a company is already using search tactics (SEO, Ad Words, etc.), what is the benefit to supplementing with personalized retargeting?

Criteo complements existing traffic acquisition tactics, catalyzing online pre-qualified online shoppers (those who previously visited the retailer’s site) to revisit and finalize the transaction. Companies spend tens of millions of dollars per year racing their competitors to the top of the search engine queue via strategic Ad Words and SEO terminology. However, as we know, more than 95% of website visitors coming from these tactics, leave the website before making a transaction. Criteo’s Personalized Retargeting offer retailers a way to optimize their traffic acquisition spend by finding these prospects and driving them back to the site to purchase.

For example, global fashion retailer Boden implemented the retargeting campaign as a complement to their current traffic acquisition tactics (SEO, SEM, etc). Criteo’s technology targeted shoppers that had previously expressed interest in Boden clothes, placing relevant personalized display ads on the sites they visited after leaving the fashion retailer’s site. Online shoppers experienced ads showcasing an array of relevant products. This not only resulted in bringing the shopper back to Boden’s site, but the tactic increased these customers’ average basket size.

What do you have to say about consumers who are not too keen on retargeted ads?

There is a large misconception about consumer privacy and retargeting, and Criteo is at the forefront of easing the concerns of worried consumers. The truth is that Criteo does not collect any personally identifiable information (PII) about their clients consumers. Criteo also does not buy, sell or share data any consumer data among it’s advertisers. In fact, Criteo cannot connect data to a particular person, in any way. The technology works in such a way that an online shopper is “cookied” when they browse a retailer’s site. This anonymous cookie collects specific product browsing data to enable the display of an ad featuring those product, similar to the technology retailer uses to recommend products within their website.

Responsible retargeting providers, such as Criteo, are transparent about their opt-out procedures. Shoppers can opt out of Criteo’s technology at any time. Consumers have complete control over the retargeted ads they wish to be exposed to.

Criteo has invested years of time and resources into research and development, with dedicated teams focusing on the online shoppers experience and privacy concerns. We plan on being the leaders in providing education about the retargeting industry, and we want to ease the concerns of those that may be troubled by a lack of knowledge about how Criteo’s personalized retargeting actually works.

How do we know which ads add the most value to the browsing experience?

Consumers respond better to personalized banner ads that show products that interest them. Criteo has data to support that personalized retargeted banners perform 6x better than general banners and 4x better than basic retargeted banners. So many websites and distractions compete for consumers’ online attention, and the statistics show that 95 percent of visitors leave a retailer’s site before completing a purchase. Retargeting helps drive incremental sales by driving consumers back to a retailer’s website to complete a previously abandoned purchase. A recent Criteo study found that retargeted consumers are 70 percent more likely to complete a sale than their non-retargeted counterparts. And those same retargeted consumers spend, on average, 50 percent more than non-retargeted consumers.

Advertisers only want to pay for clicks that are driving sales, and consumers want relevant ads about products or services they actually care about. A recent study conducted by PreferenceCentral suggests online consumers are growing increasingly comfortable with retargeting. According to the results, a majority of online consumers prefer relevant, tailored ads as a trade-off for quality, free online content.

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