Improve the ROI of Remarketing Campaigns


It is very common for auto dealers to run remarketing campaigns, also known as retargeting. Remarketing is a form of online advertising that puts the dealer’s brand message in front of a consumer (who visited its website) with display or text ads. Remarketing appeals to store managers because it gives the dealership top of mind awareness for the following 30-90 days.

A marketing manager recently asked me if she should remarket to all website visitors. The answer for most dealers is no. Remarketing to all visitors is a lazy strategy that fails to present relevant advertising messages based on the actions a consumer took on the dealer’s website.

I’ve found that when a dealer retargets 100 percent of the visitors to their website with a single set of banner messages, the campaign data and performance is clouded by low time on site, low engagement, and minimal conversions associated with new sales opportunities.

Applying to All Visitors

It is difficult to create a relevant banner message that can appeal to all visitors. If a consumer clicks on an ad, is taken to a Vehicle Detail Page (VDP) and leaves three seconds later without even scrolling down the page, should the dealer follow that consumer with an ad featuring that specific vehicle? Many dealers would, but I would warn against page-based retargeting.remarketing

One of the reasons why retargeting and display traffic is suspect is because there are many websites that appear to be valuable/interesting destinations but they are just ad farms. Some websites are designed to fool consumers to click on ads when the consumer only wanted to view the next page in the content series.

A second reason why display and retargeting ads often have low engagement is advertising placement on bad websites. Agencies looking to expand a dealer’s reach may place dealer ads inadvertently on websites known to be filled with BOT traffic.

Narrow Your Remarketing Focus

Google Analytics (GA) makes it easy to create lists of visitors which are subsets of the total visitor traffic. Some dealers have experimented with creating custom Audience Definitions in Google Analytics based on which pages a consumer visited. For example, if the page URL contains the word “F150”, retarget the consumer with F150 ads.

While this strategy is better than retargeting all visitors, there is an even better way. By creating a Google Tag Manager container, dealers can track consumer engagement on their website. By knowing which page elements, consumers clicked on, dealers can create lists of highly engaged shoppers. It is hard to read the minds of consumers who visit a page and do nothing on the page that a shopper would do.

Creating Audience Definitions is done in the Admin section of GA and here is an example of one definition I created based on click events. The list will contain consumers who looked at vehicle photos, started a trade-in process, viewed a window sticker, requested a price, or wanted to schedule a test drive. These events were created using a Tag Manager script created by the team at VistaDash. By default, most website platforms do not have Google Analytics events visible to create Audiences.

The good news for dealers is that a growing list of website companies are supporting the PCG Engagement project, which provides a list of common event names used in Google Analytics. Website companies that include Dealer eProcess, fusionZONE Automotive, and DealerInspire all natively support consumer engagement tracking.

When you create targeted Audiences in GA, you create more effective and relevant ad campaigns. Their audiences can be used by your AdWords agency to upgrade your remarketing strategy. Give it a try and I am confident that you will see a significant lift in engagement, conversions, and ROI.

2020 Automotive Analytics & Attribution Summit (AAAS)

Marketing Managers who want to learn more about Google Tag Manager, using data to improve marketing campaigns, multi-touch attribution, and tackle the hard question of measuring the influence of their marketing campaigns are invited to Palm Beach, November 15-17.


Details on the conference can be found here: