In digital advertising, finding your audience is half the battle

Truly meaningful marketing means mastering the art of delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Here’s what you need to know about audience targeting.

What is audience targeting?

Audience targeting is a core strategy in digital advertising, enabling brands to sort potential customers into specific groups based on shared characteristics—like demographics, interests, behaviors, and purchasing intent.

Why targeted advertising (still) matters

Even as digital advertising shifts towards consumer privacy, audience targeting remains a crucial element of successful campaigns. In fact, it might be more important than ever.

A fine-tuned strategy for the creation and delivery of targeted ads offers brands and agencies numerous advantages, including:

  • Pinpoint precision. Tailor your ads to echo the interests and behaviors of specific audiences. This not only ramps up user engagement but also ensures every ad dollar works harder for you.
  • A boosted bottom line. By focusing on those most likely to click and convert, targeted advertising sharpens your spending and amplifies your ROI, making your marketing budget work smarter, not harder.
  • Bolster your brand. Amplify your brand’s presence by focusing squarely on the users who matter most to you. With targeted advertising, your brand narrative lands directly in the laps of your ideal audience—boosting awareness and nurturing brand loyalty.

The challenges of targeted advertising

Back in its earliest days, advertising was pretty much a numbers game.

Out-of-home placements like billboards aimed to reach as many people as possible—and hope the specific target market was among them. The rise of digital turned this paradigm on its head, allowing brands to target specific users based on their demographics, taste profiles, online activities, and more.

But if you’ve ever tried to build a fine-grain audience, you’ll know that effective targeting strategies don’t come easy—and are often fraught with potential pitfalls:

  • Frequency capping. Finding the sweet spot with ad frequency is crucial—too much, and you risk ad fatigue. But too little? Your message might not stick. It’s all about keeping it fresh without overwhelming your audience.
  • Audience targeting precision. Casting too wide a net with your audience targeting? You might catch a few uninterested fish. Tuning your targeting not only enhances campaign relevance but also optimizes your ad spend.
  • Privacy and data concerns. As privacy standards tighten, delivering personalized ads in a consumer-friendly way is becoming an increasingly delicate dance. Advertisers need to strike the balance between effective targeting and strict compliance with data protection laws.
  • Lack of ad personalization. When ads lack that personal touch, they fail to resonate with the audience, leading to lower engagement rates. Tailoring ads to meet specific user preferences and behaviors is essential for capturing attention and driving meaningful interactions.

5 ways to find your target audience

Identifying your target audience in digital advertising is crucial for ensuring your campaigns are hitting the mark. Not only does it help tailor your message, but it also optimizes your advertising spend.

Here’s how you can zero in on your target audience:

1. Web analytics platforms (e.g., Google Analytics or Piwik)

These tools provide a veritable goldmine of data about who’s visiting your website, what they’re doing there, and how they found you. From demographics to browsing behaviors, these analytics tools reveal the trends and insights which truly define your ideal customers.

2. Customer personas

Gather data on existing customers and analyze it to spot common characteristics. These personas offer a handy snapshot of your typical buyers, giving you detailed information like age, occupation, pain-points, and purchase motivations.

3. Social media insights

Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) offer detailed data about your followers and how they interact with your content. This information helps tailor your campaigns to match audience preferences.

4. Competitor analysis

Look at who’s engaging with your competitors’ content to understand potential audience segments and effective strategies.

5. Customer feedback

Use surveys, customer service interactions, and social media engagements to collect feedback that provides direct insights into customer needs and satisfaction.

How to build hyper-relevant audiences

The building blocks of any audience is data. The more accurate and relevant this data, the better your results should be.

When it comes to sourcing this data, companies generally have two choices: first-party and third-party data. But what’s the difference?

First-party dataencompasses customer lists, website visitors, and social media followers, stored in CRMs, POS systems, or CDPs. Its main advantage is accuracy and enabling targeting without cookies, using data from an audience already interested in your brand. However, many companies struggle with not having enough of this high-quality data to effectively scale campaigns.

To achieve that campaign scale, third-party data often comes into play.

This type of data is collected and sold by data providers, typically through Data Management Platforms (DMPs) or Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs). The main advantage of third-party data is its sheer volume, which allows companies to significantly broaden the reach of their campaigns. The only problem? Third-party data now faces big challenges due to a shift in consumer privacy regulations, opening the door to a range of addressability solutions—including Criteo’s own multi-pronged addressability strategy.

Audience targeting strategies to drive performance

There’s no shortage of targeting strategies—from behavioral targeting to contextual to search retargeting and beyond—but how do you know which will truly drive performance? And how do you avoid wasting spend on targeting the wrong users?

At Criteo, we’ve built a unique network of commerce data which marketers can tap into to make audience targeting a breeze. While other platforms build their solutions on broad demographic categories, vague behavioral signals, or significantly smaller data sets, with Criteo you target continuously refreshed, high-intent audiences actively navigating the web.

Our solutions have been tailored towards two distinct objectives: customer acquisition (known as prospecting) or customer retention (known as retargeting).

Let’s take a closer look at each solution.

Customer acquisition

Our customer acquisition tools harness the power of Criteo’s first-party data network and cutting-edge AI to pinpoint and engage with high-intent audiences who are just a step away from discovering your brand.

You can choose from several different target audience types, including:

In-Market Audiences

An in-market audience is a group of shoppers who are actively researching, adding to basket, and purchasing specific products or services.

Location-based Audiences

These audiences help you connect with consumers in areas that are most valuable to your business—then enrich our radius-based targeting with additional intent signals.

Behavioral Audiences

Want to target beauty lovers, fitness enthusiasts, gamers, foodies, and more? Or perhaps find new parents or first-time buyers? Our behavioral audiences help you do just that.

Lookalike Audiences

Our lookalike audiences leverage AI to mimic the behaviors of your high-value customers—like frequent shoppers or loyalty club members—to target new users likely to convert.

Seasonal Audiences

From the end-of-year shopping season to Mother’s Day and Back-to-School, our seasonal audiences help you reach shoppers who have a history of purchasing and browsing during special occasions.

Affinity Audiences

This audience consists of users who have shown a deep interest in particular subjects, causes, or lifestyles. Think baseball fans, cooking enthusiasts, and theater lovers.

Customer retention

Did you know that getting a one-time buyer to purchase again increases the likelihood of another purchase by 95%?

It’s situations like this where our customer retention tools can be incredibly powerful.

By connecting either online or offline data, our solution drives product discovery and consideration towards repeat purchases. With an industry-leading match rate, your data combined with our commerce insights help you up-sell, cross-sell, and re-engage across the open web.

You can reach your existing customers in a few different ways, including:

Online or offline events

Using data captured via the Criteo OneTag pixel or your own offline data sources, you can complement your retargeting by nurturing consumers based on their site and app engagement, including shopper actions like cart abandonment. You can even combine events to reach shoppers who are in-market for products or brands, based on their lifestyles, life events, seasonal interests and more.

Offline contact lists

Using data from your CRM or CDP, you can match a contact list with Criteo’s network of first-party commerce data to build hyper-focused segments that enable true personalization and deliver superior results. Target consumers based on their real in-store or online shopping history to reach high-value segments with ease.

Predictive Audiences

Find people based on their predicted future actions to prime, re-engage, and grow customer lifetime value. Our exclusive AI models find your next-best shoppers to retain and grow by identifying complex patterns in shopper behavior, accurately predicting a shopper’s future action at scale.

Lower cost per mille (CPM) compared to all other paid media channels
”Our experience partnering with Criteo and Orange has been nothing short of exceptional. Criteo’s cutting-edge technology seamlessly integrated with Orange’s global reach has significantly enhanced our digital advertising strategies. The results speak for themselves precise targeting, comprehensive analytics, and unparalleled support. Choosing Criteo and Orange is a strategic move for any business looking for a powerful, reliable, and innovative partnership.”
Ayman Mobarez |Client Partner Manager, Aleph Holding
Uplift in first-time buyers
"Criteo’s partnership has been a game-changer for us. Their ability to reach and drive first-time buyers surpassed our expectations. Through their innovative strategies and precision in capturing new customers, we experienced a remarkable uplift in first-time buyers. This collaboration has not only deepened our brand’s impression but also opened new growth opportunities for Aiper. We highly recommend Criteo to other partners looking to unlock the potential of their customer acquisition and drive meaningful results.”
Ivan Yi |Senior Manager, Aiper

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