Given how over-messaged consumers are, brands need to prove that their communications have value, in addition to prompting purchase.

That this is a herculean task is an understatement. Only 11% of brands in L2’s Data and Targeting report achieve Leader status, while over half languish in the Laggards quadrant.


A key hurdle here (as originally posited in L2’s Data & Targeting report from 2016) is that brands continue to be overwhelmed by technical obstacles. One-to-one personalization is difficult to achieve. Nearly half of brands say steep technical requirements are a major barrier, while a third of brands blame a lack of in-house expertise.

Programmatic retargeting allows brands to engage interested shoppers across the web with tactical display ads. Retargeting vendors deploy tags on brand sites that track consumer browsing behavior and place a cookie that links a consumer’s browser to a profile held in a database by the vendor. When the user visits a site that serves impressions through a programmatic ad exchange, the code on their browser communicates with the retargeting vendor, which pulls up the profile to indicate that this is a person of value to the brand. An impression for that brand is then served, often featuring a creative that depicts items previously browsed.

Data and targeting

While retargeting is an effective way for brands to maintain exposure to shoppers that have visited their sites, a non-insignificant number of brands keep more than one retargeting tag on their site at a given time. At best, this practice creates site bloat due to the presence of deactivated tags not yet removed; at worst, brands are potentially bidding against themselves by working with multiple retargeting vendors, driving up the overall cost of display retargeting campaigns.

In the end, technology is a means, not an end. Third-party analytics and retargeting vendors are often necessary, but over-reliance can lead to data leakage and the erosion of consumer trust. Choose partners judiciously and optimize your customer data sets for the best possible results.

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