It should come as no surprise to discover that the internet is now mostly mobile. Things have been going that way for a while and 2016 marked the first year that it became official.

For any business’ retargeting strategy, this is big news. The retargeting ad has been around since 1998, which is practically a thousand years ago in terms of the internet. A big part of the retargeting ad’s staying power is its simplicity: a user visits a website, doesn’t convert, and they are then shown adverts from that website on the pages they visit after.

The mobile internet won’t change these fundamentals, but the strategy which businesses use still needs some updating.

Desktop needs to come second

If mobile is first, desktop is second. That should go without saying. With things being pretty much 50/50 right now, you should probably give each medium the same amount of your attention. However, as the mobile internet becomes more prevalent and the desktop internet becomes less prevalent, mobile will demand more attention.

Four years ago, 94% of Fortune 500 companies didn’t have mobile-friendly websites. Pretty much every one of those companies would have designed their websites desktop first and mobile second.

But, times have changed. When Microsoft gave Skype a recent overhaul, it started with the mobile website. Now, it’s looking to roll these changes out to desktop. This is how things need to be done; this way of thinking is the future of the internet.

A retargeting ad designed specifically for mobile needs to be mindful of just how much money people spend on their screens. Laptops have 10, 12, or 14-inch screens and, on all of these ads, only take up a tiny section of the screen.

With mobiles, people will spend $1,000 extra to go from the “tiny” 5-inch screen of the Moto G5 to the “huge” 5.8-inch screen of the iPhone X. As such, a retargeting ad has the potential to take up a much bigger section of screen. With a bigger chunk of the screen comes a bigger responsibility to make a retargeting ad which connects with a user.

For the love of data

This change in the way retargeting ads are consumed needs to be understood by retargeting ad creators in a way that goes beyond data. Nadya Powell’s long breakup letter to the world of marketing was wrong about many things, but one thing it hit on was how much digital marketers love data.

Data is helpful and it can inform lots of important decisions when it comes to digital marketing. However, to understand the shift from the desktop internet to the mobile internet properly, marketers need to understand what their customers are thinking, as well as the data behind it. Thinking about screen size is a perfect example of that.

That doesn’t mean utilising less data, though. Quite the opposite. The mobile internet means that more data is available to marketers than ever and it would be ridiculous not to take advantage of that.

For example, not only can you retarget ads at people based on whether or not they are on mobile or on desktop, you can also direct ads on people based on what kind of mobile they are using. If they are an iPhone X user, they are likely a wealthy and style-conscious person who loves the Apple brand. If they are a high to mid-range Android phone user, they are likely a lot more tech savvy than they are style conscious. And if they are using the Moto G5? Well, they’re probably the type of person who loves a bargain.

That data is great, and it can be combined with creativity to create retargeting ads which are so much more personal than they ever have been. However, it also needs to be combined with restraint, so mobile users don’t feel uncomfortable...

Big Brother is not watching you

There are some pretty pushy mobile advertising techniques out there and users are already fighting back against them. To give just one example, it is now possible to display retargeting ads to mobile users on their locked screens. Of course, just because you can do this does not mean that you should.

Consider the backlash users felt when iPhone users were given a free U2 album which they couldn’t delete. It meant huge exposure for U2, sure. Yet, to many users, the album felt less like a gift and more like a virus.

It’s because of Orwellian nonsense like this that users are rebelling against mobile retargeting and mobile ads in general. Less than 30% of mobile ads elicit a positive response and 300 million mobile users have downloaded adblocking software.

This would probably explain why mobile has a much lower conversion rate than desktop — despite the fact that people use mobile more. Good retargeting ads should help to recapture those non-converters, but bad mobile marketing is making the whole experience so tiresome that many users don’t bother.

Exposure for the sake of exposure is not necessarily a good thing. It is because so many digital marketers believe that it is that we are failing to create successful mobile retargeting right now. The upside to this, of course, is the huge potential for the businesses that get it right. There is a massive gap in the market right now about the size of a business which knows how to do mobile retargeting properly.


By Liubov Khomenko, head of marketing at Adsterra

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