If you’ve spent any time on Facebook since June of last year, you may have noticed ads popping up that seem to appeal to your interests. It’s a new approach to retargeting – Facebook Exchange allows advertisers to pay for ads that target potential consumers. So if you’ve been looking at a lot of running shoes online but haven’t bought any, don’t be surprised if sneakers ads start showing up on Facebook.

How it works

Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is usually divided into one of two types: search retargeting and site retargeting. Both types are usually used together in order to maximize business opportunities, despite the differing techniques and customer bases sought. Search retargeting refers to identifying new customers who have never visited a business’s webpage. They are pointed in the direction of the given business based upon specific words or phrases they’ve typed into one of many search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. On the other hand, site retargeting refers to a business’s ability via a cookie to follow a prospective customer’s web surfing after that person leaves the business site without completing whatever task is considered a successful conversion: completing a contact form, making a purchase or ordering information. As the potential but unconverted customer moves from one website to another, specially designed ads appear in order to influence a click and a return to the original business’s webpage.

So how can you capitalize on this emerging trend? Read on to find out.

1. Pick a platform

Vendors that offer retargeting services may provide managed platforms or self-service platforms. Managed platforms are generally most expensive. Self-service platforms, however, can cost businesses unfamiliar with retargeting a great deal of time and money as they learn the ropes.

2. Decide how you will retarget

If your business sells widgets online, and a potential customer puts a widget in his virtual shopping cart but then abandons the purchase, that lost conversion is a good prospect for site retargeting.  But depending on your business model, you may have different goals for your retargeting campaign. For example, if you’re selling something that doesn’t fit in a shopping cart – a service like landscaping or roof repair – you may be most interested in getting that potential customer to provide contact information, and failing to provide an email address may trigger retargeting efforts, in that case.

3. Offer specific areas of interest on your website

Compartmentalize information on your website so you can closely track specific interests of potential customers. You’ll be able to tailor retargeting efforts to those needs.

4. Carefully plan your retargeting ads

Think about what you want your ad to do. If you’re designing a banner ad, avoid fancy fonts and unclear language.  Plainly state why consumers should return to your website. While it’s a good idea to use color, avoid making an ad so busy that viewers have a hard time picking out the relevant information.

This intervention is specifically termed “disciplined” as it requires the patience to change one aspect at a time and maintain that change for the length of time required for visit data is statistically significant.

5. Understand that attribution can be difficult

Determining whether a conversion is from a site retargeting, search retargeting or the guy in the next cubicle requires that you determine attribution rules before the project begins.

Retargeting in any form is always a work in progress, as any type of marketing has been. While retargeting may seem like a new concept, it’s not much different than traditional marketing – it’s just more specialized, and delivered across a new medium.