Retargeting: Your Questions, Answered

retargeting feature image

What a wonderful world it would be if a customer made a purchase from your website the first time they visited. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. 

More often than not, your customers consider making a purchase after you repeatedly expose them to your products. And there’s data to back it up. 

New site visitors not only have a higher bounce rate than returning visitors, but they’re also only half as likely to put an item in their cart, according to Business Insider. 

So the question isn’t, “How do I get shoppers to buy my products on their first visit?” but rather, “How can I get past visitors to return to my website and eventually make a purchase?” 

And retargeting is your answer. 

Keep reading to learn: 

What is retargeting?

Retargeting is a form of online advertising that shows your brand’s paid ads to anonymous shoppers who have visited your website or people whose contact information you’ve already acquired (i.e., customers or subscribers to your content). 

Think back to the last time you were on a brand’s website. After browsing some products and leaving, did you notice that images of the products you were looking at (or similar ones) appeared on other websites you visited or on your social media feeds?

If so, you’ve been retargeted. 

The product images that you saw were paid ads, or advertisements that a brand gets charged per click for.

You can run retargeting campaigns through providers like Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, to name a few. Each platform has their own suite of targeting and segmentation tools to ensure that your ads are getting in front of the people who your brand is most relevant to.  

Here are two examples of retargeting ads from Instagram. 

retargeting ad from Fable Pets

I’ve recently become a dog owner and have lost count of the amount of websites related to dog products I’ve visited. Fable Pets makes a dog toy that keeps your puppy engaged for long periods of time and they retargeted me with an ad highlighting their product. 

With the summer months approaching, I’ve also been browsing warm weather apparel on sites like Marine Layer

retargeting ad from marine layer

Their paid ad is retargeting me with products very similar to the ones I was looking through on their site.

Facebook has picked up on my shopping habits as well. Here are two examples of paid advertisements that appeared on my newsfeed recently. 

wildone retargeting ad

Are you sensing a theme? Wild One just launched a spring line of dog toys that their retargeting campaign thought I would be interested in (they were correct). Meanwhile, Charlotte Stone uses a carousel ad to show me more products related to the sandals I was considering. 

charlotte stone retargeting ad

Besides social media platforms, retargeting ads will also appear on other sites on the web like The Weather Channel

soundbrenner retargeting ad

I was recently conducting research on smart watches and, low and behold, Soundbrenner used retargeting on the Google Display Network to show me a timely ad related to my search. It sparked enough curiosity that I clicked on the ad, and now the Soundbrenner watch is one of my top contenders.

How does retargeting work?

Now that you have a sense of what retargeting is, the next question you naturally may ask is, “How does retargeting work?” 

In order for your retargeting campaign to be effective, you first have to gather an online audience of people to show your ads to. 

There are two primary forms of collecting audience data for retargeting campaigns: Pixel-based and list-based. Each one has its own advantages based on the kind of campaign you’re running. 

Retarget to your audience using a pixel

Pixel-based retargeting is the most common form of collecting data from your target audience. 

The first step in this type of retargeting requires the placement of a JavaScript code (the aforementioned pixel) on your website or landing page. Once you place the pixel, whenever an anonymous visitor comes to your site, it drops a cookie—the highly technical term for a small piece of data that records browsing history—on the visitor’s browser. 

Once a visitor leaves your site, the cookie on the shopper’s browser transmits data back to your pixel and alerts providers like Google or Facebook to start showing your ads to them. 

The pixel is like a private detective—it monitors someone’s activity and then reports its findings back to the original source.     

Retarget to your audience using a list

List-based retargeting is fueled by the existing contact information your brand already owns from either subscribers or customers. 

You can use list-based retargting by uploading a contact list to a retargeting campaign (usually on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter). Once uploaded, the platform scans your contact list and then cross-checks it against users on the platform. 

These platforms would only serve retargeted ads to people whose email addresses match the ones on your list. 

Since it’s not solely based on behavior, list-based retargeting allows you to implement stricter criteria around who might see your ads.

Retargeting vs remarketing

Have you ever used the terms retargeting and remarketing interchangeably? If so, you’re not alone.

For two terms that seem so similar on the surface, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming retargeting and remarketing are essentially the same processes—I speak from experience. 

The fact that they’re both used to achieve the same goals—increase brand awareness, drive consumer engagement, and target new potential customers—certainly adds to the confusion.  

But what actually separates retargeting from remarketing is how each strategy goes about accomplishing those goals.

Retargeting tries to engage shoppers who have visited your website or social media profiles using paid or sponsored ads. Generally, you collect information on your audience via a pixel or a list. 

Retargeting can help potential customers become better acquainted with your products or services. If shoppers repeatedly see your ads on other websites or social media platforms, then it can ensure your brand stays top-of-mind for them.   

Remarketing uses your owned channels, like email or SMS, to communicate with past-purchasers or people who have subscribed to your brand’s content. You can collect subscriber information through signup forms on your site, through the checkout process, or in your transactional emails

Think of remarketing as re-engaging: You’re either trying to coax shoppers who have purchased from your brand in the past back to your online store, or you’re trying to re-ignite the interest of shoppers who are familiar with your brand but who haven’t committed to making a purchase.          

Examples of remarketing campaigns include email series like anniversary emails, cart abandonment emails, or winback emails

Retargeting is only one piece of the marketing puzzle

There isn’t a single solution for marketing success. There are a variety of tactics that play a role in crafting a robust marketing strategy that builds brand awareness and drives sales.  

Retargeting is a tool that you can use to engage with your target audience and keep interest around your products high, but it’s not the only one you should be using to showcase your brand’s products.  

When you use retargeting in tandem with the rest of your marketing initiatives—email, SMS, content creation, lead acquisition, etc.—you can create moments of delight for your customers on every stage of their journey with your brand. 

Want to implement strategic retargeting campaigns? Learn more about the customer lifecycle to gauge where retargeting would be most impactful! 

Create complementary email and SMS campaigns for a seamless customer experience.

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