Using Digital Remarketing to Increase Event Registration

Katherine Mandusic Finley, Executive Director, Organization of American Historians
Rachel Daeger, Executive Director, Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior

Ever wonder why the ad for those Zappos shoes that you really wanted to buy now show up on every website you visit? Or why that book that you were going to order but left in the Amazon cart also shows up on the sidebar next to your email and other websites. All these ads are part of digital remarketing. What exactly is digital remarketing? Basically, it is a tool that allows you to put a tag on a webpage that a person visits and that tag follows the user’s computer IP address to other sites they visit and places an ad on those sites. This blog will not delve into the technicalities of digital remarketing but instead explore the advantages and disadvantages of using a digital remarketing tool, share some results from two associations that have used this tool to their advantage, and pose some questions to ask providers of digital remarketing tools.

Google research indicates that 88 percent of customers leave an item/order in a shopping cart without ever purchasing that item. Not all associations sell products, but all have membership and conference registrations. Do you know how many of your members or potential members go to your site to renew or join, and then don’t finish the purchase? Maybe they get distracted and then forget or maybe they go to that page and then are checking out competitor associations. How many of your members go to the site to register to your conference and then leave the site without completing the registration form? Use of a digital remarketing tool can help in both these cases by using a pixel embedded in your site. When they go to another site or their email, they’ll see an ad for your conference or membership. That will hopefully remind them to go back to your site and finish renewing, joining, or registering. So, the biggest advantage of using a digital remarketing tool is to “convert” those individuals who have gone to your website or started a purchase into members, registrants, and product purchasers. It also provides added exposure for your association and shows current and potential members that you are seriously interested in them.

Two associations have recently used the digital remarketing tool with success – the Organization of American Historians (OAH) and the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB). Last year, the Organization of American historians purchased a digital remarketing tool to drive conference registrations and membership. As part of this tool, the OAH utilized “geofencing” to drive conference registrations. A related association was holding a conference 4 months before the OAH’s. Many of its members go to both conferences so the association bought the geofencing tool for a week. When attendees at this conference logged into their laptops or iPhones at the conference site, an ad for the OAH conference appeared. Although the association had a few conversions from this geofencing campaign, the annual meeting website witnessed a significant uptick in traffic during this period. In addition, the OAH bought a one-year service contract with the digital remarketing provider. For the conference, the organization spent $1,950 on eight different ads resulting in 417,355 impressions. Through these ads, the OAH had 114 conversions (or registrants) directly attributable to the pixel placed on the meeting registration page. This resulted in $19,555 in extra registration income (and almost a 1,000 percent ROI)! For years the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior relied on postcard mailings to reach non-member conference attendees with mixed success. The 2018 conference digital remarketing campaign allowed for a geofencing, keyword and registration form drop-out campaigns over two months. A $477 advertising investment yielded 110,000 website impressions and 49 conversions. Even though the campaign results are anonymous, staff used the location and time stamp to confirm 27 non-member and 22 member registrations for a return on investment of $11,260 in registrations.

There can be a few disadvantages of using such a tool. The tool does not provide you with the ads visitors to your website will see on other sites so you should be prepared to have digital ads that well designed. You are competing with a lot of other groups. If you don’t have an in-house designer, this could result in additional costs. Moreover, because so many ads from other companies appear, your visitors may be experiencing burnout with digital ads and may also not like digital ads so it could leave them with a bad taste in their mouth about your organization. And if a member doesn’t allow cookies or disables cookies on his or her computer, then an organization’s ads won’t appear. Be sure your website is displaying the proper notifications about what information is being collected when they visit your website.

When buying the tool, make sure you get the price, the length of term for using the tool, and how much advertising will cost. Moreover, ask about the training for staff who will be using this tool. If no one knows how to use this, and there is little training, then the tool will not deliver the maximum results. You’ll also need to confirm the tracking pixel can be added to your website or the site you use to process registrations for optimal reporting. However, all in all these tools can be an incredible way to convert visitors to your website to members who decide to attend the conference and buy any products you may sell.

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