Increase Ad ROI With Audience Suppression

Perhaps one of the most critical techniques for building a brand through advertising is audience suppression. Audience suppression involves removing specific people or groups from an advertising campaign based on whether they make conversions.

For example, if you are advertising a product and a customer purchases it, it would be great to know so you don’t spend money continuing to advertise that product to him. You’ll want to remove him from the product campaign and, perhaps, add him to a different campaign instead that advertises complementary products or value-added services for the item he’s already purchased.

It’s important to consider how it may affect your brand if you continuously present customers with ads for things they are no longer in the market for. Talking about products that have already been purchased not only reveals to your customer that you are trying to personalize your marketing — but more importantly, that you are not succeeding in your effort. Thus, your customer becomes annoyed with needless ads and receives a negative perception of your brand.

Being unable to suppress users also results in precious advertising dollars being wasted. If you’re spending money on impressions and opportunities to continually retarget an already-converted user, all those impressions are being wasted. Being able to prevent those recurring ads from reaching that user can drastically improve your ROI because, now, you can use that ad dollar in a more effective way.

Suppression Challenges
As important as audience suppression is, it’s not perfect. Following are some ways in which your efforts may be foiled as well as how you can overcome those challenges.

1. Cookie-Based Targeting
Cookies typically alert you to retarget ads to people who leave your site before making a purchase. Sometimes, however, people clear their cookie histories, implement blocking software that prevents this type of advertising, or simply use a different browser. Cookies tend to have short shelf lives, and that can prevent you from knowing the result of your customer’s journey. Further, when customers do make a purchase, you may not know and could unnecessarily continue to retarget them with your campaign.

2. Un-Segmentation
Let’s look at another scenario. Let’s say, a customer doesn’t make an immediate purchase, and retargeted ads are initiated. Then, after further consideration, the customer ultimately makes a purchase. However, now, the retargeting has already been configured, and the marketer doesn’t have logic in place to stop the targeting platforms. The condition that causes users to exit specific audience segments is called un-segmentation — and many companies, nowadays, don’t do it very well. The key here is to be able to make real-time calls to say, “The purchase has been made. Stop targeting this campaign.”

3. Offline Conversions
Another issue is that many conversions happen offline; people are known to walk into physical stores and buy things. In those cases, a data-management platform (DMP) can help you incorporate the offline retail data to make a suppression call — even if those purchases didn’t happen on your website.

Suppression Techniques and Processes
In addition to overcoming challenges, there are a few proactive practices you can adopt to improve your audience-suppression processes.

1. Use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
Many advanced businesses are using APIs to conduct suppression in real time, which eliminates the need to drop a file and wait for it to process. Daily processing might take 24–48 hours to notify the DMP to say, “This person has purchased that product; please stop marketing to her.”

2. Suppress Audiences Across Devices.
A good process to understand regarding audience suppression is how to do it across multiple devices. When campaigns and retargeting efforts are based on cookies or device IDs, the ad is based on the device and not really the person who might be using it, resulting in different experiences for the user on different devices.

Let’s say we have reason to stop advertising to a specific consumer. Without being able to tie multiple devices to that user, we may end up retargeting her anyway because she is on a different device. Another issue could be that we’re running two campaigns simultaneously, resulting in a user receiving different offers for the same product on different devices.

However, if we can understand the device graph and how devices are connected to people, we can target much better and coordinate offers and messaging much more accurately. We can also suppress much more effectively because we’re not basing it on a single cookie that exists in a device.

3. Know When Not to Retarget.
There may be scenarios in which you don’t want to retarget ads to a customer. One example would be retargeting ads for a hotel visit because a person stayed in that hotel previously. If the customer is a business traveler, she may return to that city soon and want to stay there again. However, if the hotel was classified as vacation travel, the customer typically won’t be booking that hotel again for a while, making retargeting an inefficient use of ad dollars.

Different products have different lifespans and are typically purchased in a variety of intervals. For instance, I might buy a new car once every five years or switch my cellphone plan once every two years. For products like these, suppression is based on the frequency of those types of sales and the likelihood that person would buy the product again.

Use Audience Suppression to Improve Ad ROI.
Audience suppression is a valuable advertising tool that can yield impressive ROI while reducing media spend. By understanding some of the potential challenges to implementation and utilizing smart processes regarding who you retarget and how, audience suppression can be easily implemented and managed to boost your advertising strategy and minimize wasted ad dollars.