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What is Behavioral Targeting & How to Improve Conversions with it?

If you want to know how to use behavioral targeting to increase online conversions, you’ve come to the right place.

With 13 real-world behavioral targeting marketing examples learn from, this in-depth guide will  show you exactly:

Let's jump right in. 

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What is behavioral targeting?

Behavioral targeting is a tactic used in digital marketing to improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Behavioral targeting uses data from a target audience's browsing habits to customize emails, website copy, and create relevant ads to satisfy what their audience is searching for. This helps businesses optimize their messaging to fit their target audience and improve conversions.

What is behavioral targeting

By improving customer segmentation and showing highly relevant content to them, it's more likely they'll be interested in your offers, leading to higher conversion rates and more potential customers.

Some of the most common types of behavioral data used in this targeting strategy are: 

  • Web pages visited
  • Referring URL (where did the visitor come from?)
  • Geographic information 
  • Device type (mobile vs desktop)
  • Purchase history
  • Email opens and clicks

How does behavioral targeting work?

Cookies and pixels are the two of the main tools used to track what people do online. They work together to compile buying trends, email engagement, website visits, and other information into user profiles that reveal what your customers like, dislike, and purchase. 

What is pixel tracking?

Pixels are pieces of code placed within a website, email, or ad that collects data on a user’s behavior and reports the action.

Data from pixel tracking helps businesses better understand what their target demographic wants and how to improve their offering to potential customers.

One of the better known use cases is Facebook's pixel tracking

Facebook pixel tracking

What is cookie tracking?

Cookies are small text files sent to and stored in your browser (like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) to help websites remember information about your visit, such as login and password, or items saved in your shopping cart. Cookie tracking offers insight into browsing behavior which can be valuable when creating marketing campaigns or optimizing website performance.

If you want a plain-English answer to the question “how does cookies tracking actually work?” this short video is for you. 


4 behavioral targeting campaigns ot improve your website

Thanks to tracking tools like cookies and pixels, we already know a lot about the online behavior of a site visitorwhen they land on our website. 

You can use all this information to your advantage to increase conversion. 

  • Where did they come from?
  • Is this their first visit?
  • What page are they viewing?
  • How many pages have they looked at?
  • What language do they speak?
  • What device are they using?
  • How much is in their cart? 

Here are four examples of onsite campaigns targeting different user behaviors. 

PS: Once you've decided how you want to use behavioral targeting on your website, we'd love to help you out. Try Privy for free to start converting more of your onsite traffic. 


#1 Exit Intent Campaigns

What it is: An exit intent campaign tracks a visitor’s movement on a webpage and triggers an onsite display (like a popup or flyout ad) to appear when it detects a visitor is about to leave the site.

Why you should try it: Studies show exit intent campaigns can help improve website conversion by 10-15%. 

Real-world example: This popup strategy from the Succulent Source layers in both exit intent data and shopping cart info to form what is known as a "cart saver" campaign. It only triggers if someone has items in their cart but has yet to complete their purchase. 

exit intent behavioral pop up

#2 Location-Based Onsite Campaigns

What it is: A location-based onsite campaign delivers specific messaging based on where visitors are located by country, state, region or postal code (based on their IP address). 

Why you should try it: This use case can be particularly useful for:

  • Managing shipping costs by only displaying free shipping offers to users in specific locations
  • Brick and mortar locations who want to promote local specials or hours
  • Highlighting local product availability, issues, or regulations 

Real-world example: Online boutique Copper Closet uses Privy's geolocated campaigns to display state-specific jewelry to shoppers, depending on where they’re browsing from. 

For example, by featuring Florida themed jewelry for Florida customers and different jewelry for non-Floridians, the store's "complete the look" popup was able to yield an impressive 16% conversion rate. 


#3 Product Upsell Campaign

What it is: Before checkout, target visitors with specific product recommendations based on the items they’ve already placed inside their cart. 

Why you should try it: Offering relevant recommendations is a proven way to increase average order value.

In fact, an estimated 35% of Amazon.com sales and 75% of sales on Netflix come from product recommendations. 

Real-world example: Urban Skin Rx uses product upsell campaigns to recommend similar products to customers are browsing their online store. 

urban skin upsell

Customers add these items directly to their cart, which ultimately has helped increase the company’s average order value. 

#4 Referral Source Targeting 

What it is: Match your onsite display look and feel to the referral source that brought visitors to your website. 

Why you should try it: To get the best return on ad spend. You’ll see better results when your ads look and feel like your landing page, with a similar message and offer. 

Real-world example: Here's how the Bruce Lee Store uses referral source targeting to display custom offers for visitors who enter their site from Instagram.  

bruce lee instagram

4 behavioral targeting campaigns to improve email conversions

Did you know that over 75% of email revenue is driven by behavior triggered campaigns, as opposed to one-off promotional sends? 

But hardly anyone is doing it. 

According to eConsultancy, only 20% of marketers actually use behavioral targeting to send email to recipients based on their actions and behavior. 

econsultancy behavioral email

Here’s four ideas of how you can cash in on this hugely underutilized and wildly lucrative email targeting tactic. 

#1 Abandoned Cart Email Series 

What is it: An automated series of emails sent to someone who has added items to their online cart, but doesn’t successfully make it through checkout to purchase. 

Why you should try it: On average more than 70% of ecommerce carts are abandoned.

The goal of this campaign is to bring shoppers back to your store to finish what they started (without a lot of heavy lifting on your part). 

Real-world example: Online pet supply company Chewy does a great job of following up whenever I manage to leave their site without completing my purchase. Here’s an example of an email that was sent to me earlier in 2019. 

chewy abandoned cart email

#2 Reengagement Emails

What is is: Trigger an email to send based on time lapsed since last purchase. 

Why you should try it: To keep customer acquisition costs down. Turning an inactive subscriber into a customer is 5x cheaper than acquiring a completely new customer. 

Real-world example: Duolingo regularly breaks my heart and reminds me that my Spanish skills are slipping with reengagement emails like the one below, designed to get me back into their app. 

duolingo reengagement email

#3 Replenishment Email

What it is: Messages sent automatically to customers when it’s likely time for them to reorder consumable products based on past purchase behavior, such as makeup or cleaning supplies. 

Why you should try it: A recent study from Listrack found that this type of behavioral email actually has the highest click-to-open rates of any other email marketing type. 


Real world example: After years of buying hair products, Sephora knows my purchase behaviors well enough to prompt my to buy my favorite conditioner before I run out. 

sephora replenishment email example

#4 Post-Purchase Upsell Email

What it is: Make it easier for customers to spend more by including relevant products or service recommendations in an order follow up email sent immediately after they purchase. 

Why you should try it: Because the best time to get a customer to buy is right after they order. 

It’s the digital equivalent of asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

Real-world example: Airbnb uses booking confirmation emails to highlight recommended excursions located in the same area a customer just booked their next trip. 

airbnb booking confirmation emailBehavioral targeting and social media marketing 

Facebook’s dynamic ad targeting can be a super effective way to get in front of your target audience segments with personalized ads. This step makes your online advertising relevant to your audience and increases their likelihood of converting.

You can use dynamic product ads to reach two different types of audiences:

1. Retargeted -- People who have already visited your website, but didn’t purchase.
2. Broad -- People who have shown interest in products similar to yours, even if they haven’t heard of your brand or visited your website yet.

facebook dynamic ad targeting

Let’s look at how online brands are using each of these behavioral targeting strategies on Facebook to increase sales. 

#1 Use broad audiences to find new customers

What it is: Target people who haven’t heard of your brand yet, but have been researching options on competitor sites.

Here’s a handy summary from the folks at Sidecar on how it all works.

dynamic audiences explained

Why you should consider it: It’s a cost-effective way to acquire high-intent customers you wouldn’t normally find on your own. 

Real-world example: Community art retailer Threadless was able to increase purchases 4x by using dynamic Facebook ads to show relevant artwork to a broad audience. 

threadless dynamic targeting adBy using ads designed to show off multiple products relevant to new audiences, the company was able to make more sales and keep the campaign cost efficient. 

#2 Retarget potential customers who didn’t purchase

What it is: Reach people who show interest in your Facebook ads or onsite, but haven’t yet purchased. 

Ideally, it works like this. 

how retargeting works

Why you should consider it: Only 2% of shoppers convert on their first visit to an online store, according to Adroll data

Retargeting helps you bring back the other 98%. 

Real-world examples: Ecommerce t-shirt company The Home T used Facebook ad retargeting during a summer sale to increase revenue 99% over the prior year. 

The Home T retargeting adThey did this by zero-ing in on four key behavioral segments:

  1. Previous customers
  2. People who looked at product pages
  3. People who added items to their cart on the company’s website
  4. People visited The Home T’s Facebook Page or Instagram feed in the last 180 days

The Home T continues to build the size of its audience from the summer sale on an ongoing basis to use for Black Friday remarketing and future sales.

Behavioral Targeting FAQ

Why is behavioral targeting important in marketing?

Behavioral targeting is a useful technique to improve the relevance of your website and ad copy for your target audience. Done right, behavioral targeting can significantly increase conversions by segmenting your audience based on their interests and habits.

What are the other types of targeting?

There are 5 types of targeting that can be applied to improving website and ad performance. They are: behavioral targeting, contextual targeting, predictive targeting, search retargeting, and site retargeting. All of these methods use data collected from online users to serve display ads based on interest.

What are the advantages of behavioral targeting for small businesses?

Behavioral targeting can drive the way small businesses market their product to their customer niche. Behavioral targeting helps to qualify leads earlier in the funnel by tailoring content to match search intent. This tactic can also help small businesses narrow down the relevance of their offering based on their target audience’s online behavior and habits.

How can I implement behavioral targeting for my business?

The first step to using behavioral targeting in your marketing strategy is to decide on which campaigns to use. Once that is decided, there are many tools that can help you implement behavioral targeting for your business. Privy s an awesome option for smaller ecommerce businesses to run campaigns on your website or with email marketing.


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Written by Bernie Reeder

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