How to Use Micro-targeting in E‑commerce

Micro-targeting is a word that has been thrown around relatively frequently in the last few years. It can be an incredibly useful marketing strategy, particularly in the digital sphere. Politicians use micro-targeting to reach different demographic groups with their campaign ads. Businesses can use them to reach their special customer groups as well. In today’s article, we’ll look at some things to consider if you’re going to use this online marketing strategy. 

Micro-targeting has got a bad rap lately as it has been linked to some political and misinformation campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic in the past few years. As a marketing strategy in e-commerce, it can be very beneficial as well. This is particularly true for shops that sell a large variety of goods or shops that offer a product that appeals to many different demographics.

What is micro-targeting?

Micro-targeting is a marketing strategy that involves using (digital) data to segment your audience into smaller groups and then customising your message to suit the personalities of those specific groups. 

In other words, with a micro-targeting strategy, you essentially create many variations of digital ads (i.e. different images and/or texts) and send them out to the appropriate audiences. This is in contrast to classic marketing campaigns, which generally focus marketing efforts on one core target audience and/or one message. 

It is a marketing strategy that is perfect for politicians because most politicians are focused on multiple audiences (old and young, rich and poor, etc.). With Brexit, many of the Leave campaigns aimed at different kinds of voters and workers in different industries. 

The ads delivered to fishermen, for example, were different than ads sent to white-collar workers like bankers. Because politicians have to cover so many different topics (e.g. healthcare, immigration, economy), micro-targeting is a great way to reach these different audiences who are invested in different issues. 

As I mentioned above, for businesses, this strategy can be great if you have multiple audiences that like your product(s) for different reasons.


Figure out your different customer groups

As your business becomes more developed, you should be getting a clearer picture of who your ideal customer is. Many businesses have one core target audience. Knowing who this is can be very advantageous, especially when it comes to online marketing.

Therefore, building a customer persona is a helpful exercise for you and it can be a great resource for other teams in your company to refer to for different reasons. 

However, unless your shop specialises in a certain niche market, there’s a good chance that you have more audiences than just your ideal customer. Your secondary audiences might still provide a great source of revenue, so they shouldn’t be ignored.

buyer persona

The beauty of digital advertising is that it allows you to test out new messaging to new audiences for a relatively cheap price. In the past, many brands would spend millions on producing a television advert. This meant that they would have to focus on their main audience and deliver a branding message that spoke exclusively to this audience. On top of that, where you presented these ads was based on the television/radio programmes and magazines that this audience consumed.  

With online marketing on platforms like Facebook, Google, and Instagram, you have the luxury of delivering your ads to all the users that might be most interested in your products because almost everyone on earth uses those platforms. Segmenting online users based on their online behaviours (i.e. Google search terms, page likes, comments, etc.) is the main commodity that social media has and it is by far their biggest selling point. You should be using it to your advantage! 

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Therefore, as an online business owner, make sure you analyse your customer database. Look at what other audiences might be interesting to target in your ads. Yes, they might make a rather small share of your revenue currently, but if the (ad) price is right, the return on investment could be well worth it

Adjust your messaging

Once you know what other audiences you want to reach out to, you can adjust your ads to speak to those customers. The texts and images that might catch a mother’s eye might very well be different than the texts and images that catch a teenager’s eye. 

The core message can be the same. In the example’s below, a fictional jeans company focuses on their unique selling point (USP), their jean’s flexibility. 

In the first image, the ad is talking to mother’s and their ability to be flexible for the sake of their children. It touches on the superhero trend and plays with the idea of a mom and a superhero’s flexibility.

flexjeans ad example Koltyrina

In the second image, the ad aims to target a younger demographic, namely young men. By focussing on some of their hobbies (i.e. skateboarding), flexibility is seen a bit differently. 

Flexjeans skateboarder ad example

Again, the core message is the same (i.e. “Our jeans are extremely flexible”). However, by using different images and slightly different texts, FlexJeans can reach two very distinct audiences. 

This concept can clearly be extended for other audiences as well: blue-collar workers, kids playing in the dirt, break-dancers, motorcycle drivers, etc. This concept works for basically any kind of audience that is very active, so creating multiple images for different hobbyists is relatively easy (and relatively cheap, too!). Social media platforms like Facebook make it extremely easy to target users who enjoy those very specific activities. 

Create new audience groups to target

Hopefully, you have some of the contact details for some of your best customers. Social media advertising makes it easy to target those users. Not only is it smart to target your existing customers, but if those users are on social media, the ad platforms can help you build similar audiences to target to

lookalikes Professional

This concept of similar audiences (or lookalike audiences) is simple. By finding a group of users that perform well in your marketing efforts, you can create another group of users to target who behave similarly (online) to the ones you’ve reached out to before.

I won’t get into too many details about building similar audiences as I’ve written an article focused on that topic already:

Relevant reading:
How to Create a "Lookalike Audience" in Facebook Ads

Besides a user’s interests on Facebook, you can also use their behaviour on your website to target them as well. Targeting users who have interacted with your business in one way or another is also a great marketing strategy that many refer to as retargeting.

The negative aspects of micro-targeting

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to micro-targeting.

man looking in magnifying glass


As you know, user data is a valuable commodity to these social networks. Therefore, the more targeting options you use, the more focused your ads are towards your ideal customer. As these giant social networks are very aware of this fact, creating ads with multiple targeting options tends to be more expensive than focussing on one targeting option at a time.

In other words, targeting to men who like cupcakes, football, and hip hop is going to be more expensive than just targeting men who like football. 

Being too specific

Clearly, micro-targeting involves reaching very specific audiences. By focussing in on too many details, you might be limiting your reach. If you choose, for example, to focus only on men aged 18-25 who love skateboarding, Vans sneakers, and punk music, then you might be missing out on some other similar users who don’t fit this exact customer profile (e.g. Skateboarders who love hip-hop music). 

An additional problem would also be that if this specific targeting works very well, you wouldn’t be able to tell if one of these elements is working better than the others. For example, is the skateboarding element working much better than the Vans sneakers or the punk music? This could be valuable information as you try to optimise your ads and for when you want to create similar audience groups.

It can be helpful to create separate ad sets where each set focuses on a different targeting option. This way, you’ll know which targeting option leads to the best engagements and conversions. You can then produce similar campaigns while keeping costs down during this testing phase by focussing on one targeting option at a time. 

Your ads will get annoying

If your ads are narrowed down to a very specific audience, this might have a great initial impact on your sales. However, the risk here is that your ads will be shown again and again to the same small group of users.

warhol burgers

Naturally, after some time, these ads will start to annoy this target group. Therefore, be aware of the frequency of your ads so that you don’t burn yourself out to that audience. If this particular target group is very important to you, make sure you have some variations of your ads as well. 

More campaigns to keep track of

By creating multiple ad campaigns to different audiences, you (or your online marketers) have more things to pay attention to. Digital marketing campaigns have the luxury of being able to be tweaked in real-time. Sure, that might mean more work, but it also means optimisation is always possible.

Remember, it’s important to keep an eye on all of your campaigns and check in on them every few weeks (and more frequently early on) throughout the lifetime of the campaign. During the early stages, the ads need time to run in order for you to properly analyse them. In the later stages, you need to check in on them quite regularly to make sure they are running optimally and/or not getting stale, etc. 


Micro-targeting can be a great way to reach the different audiences that shop at your store. It can also help you understand your customers better and may even help you discover new customers that you didn’t think you needed to focus on before. By experimenting a bit, you might discover that a smaller customer segment might be relatively inexpensive for you to target with your online marketing efforts, and thus, be worth the return-on-investment required to reach out to them.

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Alon Eisenberg

Alon Eisenberg has been the Content Manager UK at Trusted Shops since 2017. He graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor's degree in Communications in 2004.

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