Etsy’s Retargeting Campaign – You’re Doing It Wrong

Retargeting Campaign by Etsy fails at different steps


First, let me say that I am aware that the hottest kid on the digital advertising block is the retargeting campaign.  Retargeting is when a website leaves a cookie with you so that everywhere you go, ads for that website appear.  It might be a display ad, search, email, Twitter or Facebook FBX ad exchange (yes that’s one reason why Facebook seems to know everything about you)  I am aware of the stats about how amazing the results on retargeting campaigns can be… in fact, allow me to share*:

  • Roughly 3 out of 5 US users said they noticed retargeted ads
  • The average click through rate for display ads is 0.07%  Click through for retargeted ads is 0.7%
  • Around 20% of internet advertisers now allocate budget to retargeting
  • Of those businesses surveyed, 33% said they increased new customer revenue, 16% increased site engagement and 12% said they saw an increase in brand awareness.
  • 46% of Search Marketing professionals believe they’re the most under utilised advertisements on the web – so, the next big thing I guess!
  • Around 30% of uses state they have a positive response to them, 11% actively disliked them. As a business owner, I’m not a user but as an internet user, I’m one of the 11%!  Here’s why….

The downside of retargeting

I’ve written about the problematic side of retargeting (and it’s sister, remarketing – a good option for eCommerce by the way) on the Talk About Creative Blog before.  Besides the obvious lack of privacy, here are my top three complaints :)

  1. When it’s not set up well and it offers me stuff I already bought
  2. When it follows me EVERYWHERE until I HATE the sight of the product
  3. When it promises and then doesn’t deliver – and that’s what has happened to me with Etsy!

My Etsy story is the story of the pursuit of a Minions inspired (not ripped off, inspired – copyright respected and all that) beanie for a ski trip my Despicable-Me-Obsessed son is taking.  He leaves in just 11 days so I needed an Australian made product.  Google had nothing good so I, like so many Aussie women, turned to Etsy.  I didn’t go through the log in process, just searched for my item and then searched again with Australia in the keywords. There were tons of cool items on there (it’s Etsy, cool is an understatement) but this quick search turned up nothing from Australia to suit my needs.  Instead I went to a local craft forum on Facebook and commissioned one.

Facebook FBX Ad Exchange kicked in and bam, I am Etsy’s new target market.  In fact, they hooked me with a “buy from local artists” message and a  misguided “open your shop” message (I’m officially the world’s least crafty person).  I was however impressed that Alice was from Brisbane and in fact, I found her page on Facebook.  Seems legit.

Retargeting on Facebook FBX Ad Exchange for Etsy


So, inspired by Retargeting, I decided to give Etsy another go!  I went back, reset my password (as I do EVERY SINGLE TIME BECAUSE I NEVER BLOODY LEARN) and then logged in.  I searched again.  Nothing from Australia.  I went into settings and made sure I was set up as an Aussie.  I ticked some boxes and customised my results.  I searched again – at – and bam, I was on the road to a satisfying purchase.


Retargeting geographical fail


Nope.  Nebraska.  So maybe nobody in Australia is doing the thing I’m after.  Searched around for a while and found that yes quite a few are.  Etsy has failed to serve me a purchase winning listing.  It might sound like I’m whining about First World Problems but in fact, I’ve already ordered my beanie, this is all about Etsy’s marketing strategy!

So, I find a few Aussie listings.  Great, will go check them out.  One or two weren’t to my taste and this one makes me a little suspicious as the user “wishes to remain anonymous” – which instantly makes me suspect “warehouse in Hong Kong” not “hand made in Brisbane” but it could be that a bloke runs it and that works against him in the handmade world or simply that the owner is shy and paranoid! Either way, this is the profile pic for the store that Etsy served me:

Retargeting YouQT etsy fail

Definitely not getting the locally hand made feel I was after when I went to Etsy.  Of course, this isn’t Etsy’s fault, it’s probably because I’m after a product that is a big hit in the warehouses of Ghangzhou but still…. it was the perfect end to an imperfect shopping experience.  Like most people, I go to Etsy when I’m after something cool, quirky, unique, handmade or just plain pretty.  In this instance, retargeting campaigns have further undermined the shopping experience by failing to deliver on a promise.  Yes that’s part the problem of the ad copy  but it was the ad copy that had me click through…

So, should you use this kind of digital advertising?

In my experience, it comes across as pushy – the digital equivalent of a shouty radio ad.  These work.  Of course they work, they work their moneymakers off - but, you’d never use one to sell a funeral or a newborn’s teddy bear.  Sure, if you sell SEO, or Viagra  sign up now!  If you don’t, if you sell something that is an emotional or thought provoking purchase and you decide to try them out, be very careful with your ad copy and design and be sure the whole retargeting campaign is not too stalkerish!



  1. This is interesting! I was wondering why the bank I’m already with kept telling me I needed insurance via Facebook. And a website I used to buy outdoor furniture is also flooding me with ‘things I might also like’. Cookies eh? And not the tasty kind.

  2. Yes I’ve also found Etsy’s search feature to be useless for searching within a certain country. And the re-targeting on Facebook spooks me out too, but because it’s been going on for so long, people are getting used to it. So I wonder if, with all advertising, it’ll just become more white noise.

    • Well that’s the destiny of all next big things I guess :) It’s just that some “fads” we regret, I for one had a Jennifer Grey Perm in 1988….

      But the ROI is rather good on retargeting, so it will be around for a while, until the cultural backlash I guess.


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