In the early stages of digital advertising, marketers tried to employ methods that have worked for traditional mediums to their online campaigns.
Most companies sent out email blasts as a way to get the word out to a high number of people – kind of like newsletters, brochures or pamphlets – and used display ads to try to get people's attention.
And for awhile, these methods worked relatively well, achieving quality returns on investment. But over time, consumers got good at tuning out generic advertisements, most of which consisted of information or offers that weren't relevant to them.
Recently, however, some of those marketing techniques have been making a comeback with the help of targeting – and re-targeting – capabilities.
"Have you ever noticed that the same ads seem to follow you around the Internet no matter what site you are on? That's re-targeting," said Scott Brennan, founder of SEO firm Access Publishing.
Some targeted marketing tools enable companies to cater to Internet users who have already shown interest. Whether a person visited the site once or dozens of times doesn't matter – with the help of re-targeting, an organization's display ad will show up frequently during that person's future searches.
"It is extremely effective because it leverages all of the advertising and marketing you are already doing by touching these people again with the ads," Brennan said. "When they browse other sites over the days, weeks and months ahead your ad will be served up to them."
On top of that, marketers even have the ability to target people based on any number of factors, from age and gender to interests. There's even a new technique called geo-targeting that ensures only local consumers are the ones seeing a company's ads.
Data analytics are the secret
So what's the secret behind these innovative targeted capabilities?
No, it's not magic. Most likely, these companies are using data analytics to develop comprehensive profiles for their customer bases.
In a recent column for Paul Dunay, global vice president of marketing at Maxymiser, wrote that big data analytics will allow organizations to target the right people "with the right offers." For instance, he said that loyalty programs provide companies with "a wealth of personalized data," which can be used to study in-depth the tendencies of both individuals and the overall customer base.
This will be especially useful for mining data as consumers continue to use a variety of channels like mobile devices and social media.