Let me take you on a journey. This is not the hero’s journey. Nay, it is much more harrowing of a journey than even that. It is the first hand account of the buyer’s journey of a true millennial, raised on the Internet and forged in Angelfire of the web’s dark ages. I am jaded, I am ad blind and I am distracted, like so many of my peers.
It was a Monday like any other Monday. There I sat at the busiest intersection on my daily commute. I was beating my early-week doldrums by listening to the latest episode of one of my favorite podcasts.
“This episode is brought to you by Clothes Co XYZ,” the meathead coming through my speakers proclaimed. “Take the guesswork out of looking good. They deliver fashionable clothes right to your door step every month,” he went on to describe. “I wear my Clothes Co gear all the time,” he lied, “and you should too!”
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m anything but fashionable. Surely he was speaking directly to me, through some form of divine intervention. “Siri, find the website for Clothes Co XYZ.” And just like that, the web site was there for me to peruse when I had some free time that day.
Predictably, I forgot to revisit my web query, until I was conveniently reminded a few days later while I was down-voting posts into oblivion on Reddit. At the bottom of the app, there was an ad for Clothes Co XYZ. So like any motivated millennial, I mashed that native ad and clicked over to their web site. I browsed around, and just when I had made it all the way to the checkout process to start my free trial, I realized that my Apple Wallet had no cards on file that had not yet expired. Surely I couldn’t be bothered to update my payment methods, so I closed out the window and went back to the clickhole from whence I had temporarily emerged.
Upon waking the next morning, I snatched my phone from my nightstand before finishing my first yawn of the day. I ran through my ceremonial cycle. Facebook to Reddit to Instagram to Snapchat, finally to email. There in my inbox was a reminder from Clothes Co XYZ that I had forgotten to finish my checkout process. Swipe left.
Back to the web, I scrolled aimlessly through my Instagram feed. There it was, the latest fashions that could be delivered right to my front door, compliments of Clothes Co XYZ. I continued scrolling, but couldn’t shake the desire for that awesome blue button down that the model who looks nothing like me was sporting in the ad. I wanted that shirt. I could just picture myself in it, begrudgingly rolling up those sleeves. I could picture it in my closet, hung from my twelve-for-a-dollar plastic clothes hanger. Clothes Co XYZ really could solve my lazy fashion proclivities, couldn’t it? But just like that, as I went back to find the ad, it had long been gone. “I’ll set up my account at lunch,” I lied to myself.
Sealing the Deal
Now it’s 11pm. I’m making my last rounds, double-checking all of my rented online real estate. “OH YEAH! I forgot to set up my account this afternoon,” I was reminded so conveniently by the ad in the right bar of the music gear review site I happened to be reading. Finally, I completed the process. I did a quick search of the web for “Clothes Co XYZ Coupon Code.” I found five different codes, four of which were invalid. I set up my account, saving 30 percent. It was done. My account was created, and I was on the road to being a fashion icon.
A few days later, my clothes arrived. Of course I hated how everything fit and I quickly cancelled my account before my first full-priced month could go into effect. What am I, crazy? But that’s beside the point. Even though Clothes Co XYZ had not succeeded in creating a brand advocate on my part, they had done what so many companies struggle to do. They converted a passive millennial.
Clothes Co XYZ snagged my cash through a process called “retargeting” and integrated marketing. Retargeting is the industry term used to describe the marketing process of repeatedly serving ads, through different mediums, to potential customers who have visited your web site. What originated as a podcast sponsorship started the retargeting snowball.
From the moment I visited the Clothes Co XYZ web site for the first time, the marketing inertia had begun to take hold. Because I was logged in to all of my online accounts, the various platforms were able to share their market intelligence and continue to serve me ads across my multiple networks. This is just one example of the many lead-nurturing practices that are available to smart web marketers today. From the time I first heard of Clothes Co XYZ on the podcast to the moment where I completed my order was a span of multiple days. Over the course of those days, I was served at least a half dozen ads and was strategically reminded about the Clothes Co XYZ brand. It is online marketing at its finest. And the most impressive part? It’s likely that each and every one of these touch points was completely automated.
While the idea of automated, intuitive and targeted marketing on such a personal scale is scary to some web users, I welcome it with open arms. With online marketing today, we are no longer pounded into oblivion by “one-size-fits-all” brand advertisements. We are served content that is relevant to our interests and our search history. It is informed marketing that shows us what we want to see at the exact times that we want to see it. Today, through online marketing, ads are no longer served AT you, they are served to and for you. And at the end of the day, with so many ads competing for your attention, I welcome quality advertisements that are truly informed by my interests.