TL;DR: What is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a form of online advertising with the purpose of re-engaging individuals who have previously interacted with your website. At its core, retargeting operates through cookies and other similar technologies. When a user visits your website, a small piece of code, often referred to as a pixel, places a cookie in their browser. This cookie then allows retargeting platforms to serve targeted advertisements to this user as they navigate other parts of the web. The beauty of this approach lies in its precision and relevance; ads are shown specifically to users who have already shown interest in your product or service, thereby significantly increasing the likelihood of conversion.

But retargeting isn't just about following potential customers around the web with ads. It's also about timing and relevance. These ads are tailored not only to the user's previous interactions with your website but also to where they are in the purchasing journey. For example, someone who abandoned a shopping cart on your site might see an ad for those very products, perhaps even with a special offer to entice them back. Similarly, if a user visited a specific solutions page, a proactive marketer will create retargeting campaigns with copy and design specific to  each solution.

Benefits of Retargeting

Retargeting’s effectiveness is not just in its ability to bring back potential customers but also in the way it enhances the overall marketing strategy. Let's delve into the key benefits of retargeting:

  • Increased Conversion Rates: Perhaps the most significant advantage of retargeting is its ability to convert window shoppers into buyers. Since retargeted visitors are already familiar with your brand and have previously shown interest, they're more likely to make a purchase when they see your ads again.
  • Brand Recall and Visibility: Continuous exposure to your brand increases the likelihood that a customer will remember your product or service. Retargeting keeps your brand at the forefront of a potential customer's mind, ensuring that when they're ready to make a decision, your brand is the first they think of.
  • Targeting Precision: Unlike traditional forms of advertising, retargeting allows you to display ads to a highly specific audience—those who have already engaged with your brand. This precision not only improves the effectiveness of your ads but also ensures that your marketing budget is being used efficiently.
  • Personalization and Relevance: Retargeting enables you to tailor your messaging based on the user’s previous interactions with your site. This level of personalization makes your ads more relevant to the individual, increasing the chances of engagement.
  • Insightful Analytics: Retargeting campaigns provide valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences. By analyzing the performance of your ads, you can gain a deeper understanding of your audience and refine your marketing strategies accordingly.

Retargeting is not just a tool for increasing sales; it's a strategy for building deeper connections with your audience. It's about delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time—nurturing a relationship beyond a single transaction.

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing is often used interchangeably with retargeting, but it goes beyond just serving ads to past website visitors; it's about creating a comprehensive approach to rekindle interest and maintain a connection with your potential and existing customers.

In one sense, retargeting can be considered a form of remarketing. However, there are slight differences between the two.

Remarketing operates on a principle similar to retargeting, yet it encompasses a broader scope. It involves identifying users who have previously interacted with your brand and targeting them with specific marketing messages. The key here is the data collected from these interactions, which can come from various sources like website visits, social media engagement, or email interactions.

The process typically starts when a user visits your website. Just like retargeting, a cookie is placed in their browser, allowing you to track their online behaviors and preferences. This information then feeds into your remarketing campaigns, enabling you to create personalized ad experiences that resonate with each individual.

However, remarketing's strength lies in its versatility. It's not limited to just displaying ads. For example, if a user has abandoned a shopping cart, an email can be sent to them reminding them of the items they left behind, perhaps with an added incentive like a discount code or free shipping offer. This approach is highly effective in nudging users further down the sales funnel.

By integrating different channels and touchpoints, remarketing creates a cohesive experience that keeps your brand top-of-mind and encourages users to take the final step in their purchasing journey.

Retargeting vs. Remarketing: Why not do both?

Key Differences Between Retargeting and Remarketing

While retargeting and remarketing are often used interchangeably in digital marketing, there are subtle but important differences between the two.

  • Scope of Targeting: Retargeting primarily focuses on serving ads to users who have visited your website or mobile app. It’s mostly about using browser cookies to follow these visitors around the web with ads. Remarketing, on the other hand, usually refers to re-engaging customers through emails based on past interactions, such as abandoned shopping carts or product views.
  • Channels Used: Retargeting is typically limited to display and social media ads. Remarketing, however, can encompass a broader range of channels, including email marketing, direct mail, or even phone calls in some cases.
  • Purpose and Strategy: Retargeting is often used for immediate conversion goals, like persuading a website visitor to complete a purchase. Remarketing is more about building and maintaining relationships, nurturing leads, and increasing customer lifetime value.
  • Personalization Level: While both strategies use personalization, remarketing allows for deeper segmentation and more personalized communication, as it often leverages detailed customer data and interaction history.

Understanding these differences is key to determining which strategy aligns best with your specific marketing goals.

When to Use Retargeting and Remarketing

Choosing between retargeting and remarketing depends on your objectives, the nature of your business, and where your customers are in the buying journey.

  • Use Retargeting When: You want to increase immediate conversions, such as recovering abandoned carts, or when you want to target users who have shown interest but haven’t engaged deeply with your brand. It's also effective for short sales cycles and impulse buys.
  • Use Remarketing When: Your goal is to build long-term customer relationships, nurture leads, or upsell and cross-sell to existing customers. It’s ideal for longer sales cycles and higher-value products or services, where decision-making takes longer.

In many cases, a blend of both retargeting and remarketing can be the most effective strategy. This approach ensures you capture immediate sales opportunities and develop ongoing relationships with your customers for future growth.

Types of Retargeting and Remarketing Campaigns

Site Retargeting

Site retargeting targets users who have visited your website but left without taking a desired action, like making a purchase, filling out a demo form, or signing up for a newsletter. This type of retargeting is crucial for keeping your brand top-of-mind and encouraging these users to return and complete their transaction. It can be especially effective for e-commerce sites looking to reduce cart abandonment rates. Site retargeting is also effective in retargeting users in b2b lead gen strategy. Using site retargeting, users who have visited blogs, case studies, and other informative pages can be retargeted with lead gen offers like demos, trials, or meeting requests. 

Search Retargeting

Search retargeting is a form of retargeting used to target users who have searched for specific keywords or phrases related to your business but haven't visited your website yet. It’s an excellent way to capture the attention of potential customers at the very beginning of their buying journey. By targeting ads based on their search behavior, you can introduce your brand to a highly relevant audience, increasing the likelihood of attracting new visitors to your site.

Email Retargeting

Email retargeting involves sending targeted emails to users based on their specific interactions with your website. This can include emails triggered by actions like visiting certain pages, spending time on specific content, or abandoning a shopping cart. Email retargeting is a powerful tool for personalization, allowing you to craft messages that speak directly to the user’s interests and behaviors.

Contextual and Dynamic Retargeting

Contextual retargeting involves targeting users based on the type of content they are viewing or have viewed on other websites. This strategy assumes that if a user is interested in certain content on one site, they might be interested in related products or services on another site. It’s a way to reach potential customers in a contextually relevant environment, enhancing the relevance and effectiveness of your ads. Dynamic retargeting takes it one step further. Especially relevant in Ecommerce, dynamic retargeting is the strategy of configuring your ads to dynamically generate content that matches the pages they have seen. An ecommerce marketer would export their product feed and import it into their ad platforms (Google Merchant or Meta, for example), allowing the platforms to match product page visits to the products found in your ads.

Engagement Retargeting

Engagement retargeting targets users based on their level of engagement with your content, such as videos, social media posts, or interactive tools on your site. This type of retargeting is particularly useful for identifying and focusing on users who have shown a high level of interest in your content, making them prime candidates for further nurturing and conversion. For example, you can retarget users who have watched more than 15 seconds of a specific video, or users who have spent more than 45 seconds reading a blog post.

Social Retargeting

Social retargeting focuses on users who have interacted with your brand on social media platforms. Whether they’ve engaged with your posts, visited your social media profiles, or mentioned your brand, social retargeting allows you to keep these users engaged with relevant content and offers on their preferred social platforms.

Each of these retargeting and remarketing types offers unique opportunities to connect with your audience in meaningful ways. By understanding and utilizing the right mix of these strategies, you can create a comprehensive approach that covers different stages of the customer journey and various user behaviors.

Best Practices for Successful Retargeting and Remarketing

Targeting the Right Audience

One of the most critical aspects of both retargeting and remarketing is identifying and targeting the right audience. This means segmenting your audience based on their behavior, interests, and stage in the buying cycle. While many marketers set up simple remarketing campaigns to retarget any users who have visited the website (on any page), tailoring your campaigns to different segments ensures that your messages are relevant and effective. For instance, targeting users who abandoned their shopping carts with personalized offers can significantly increase conversion rates.

Creating Compelling Ads

The success of your retargeting and remarketing efforts largely depends on the appeal of your advertisements. Ads need to be visually engaging, with clear and compelling messaging that resonates with the target audience. Including strong calls-to-action (CTAs) and highlighting unique selling propositions (USPs) can make your ads stand out and encourage clicks. Remember, the users who will see these ads already have some experience with your brand. Don’t repeat the same messages or visuals they would have already seen at the top of the funnel—instead, give them mid-to-lower-funnel messaging.

Optimizing Landing Pages for Conversion

As with all advertisements, ensuring that your landing pages are optimized for conversion is crucial. The landing page experience should be consistent with the ad in terms of messaging, design, and the offer presented. A seamless transition from ad to landing page increases the likelihood of conversion. The landing page should be user-friendly, with a clear path to conversion and minimal distractions.

Leveraging Cross-Selling and Upselling Opportunities

Retargeting and remarketing campaigns provide excellent opportunities for cross-selling and upselling. By analyzing past purchases and browsing behavior, you can present customers with relevant recommendations and offers. This not only increases your value per customer but also enhances the customer experience by providing value-added suggestions.

Implementing Sequential Engagement Campaigns

Sequential engagement involves showing different ads to users based on their previous interactions with your ads or website. This strategy helps in guiding potential customers through the sales funnel by providing them with relevant information at each stage. It's about telling a story and building a narrative that keeps users engaged over time.

By adhering to these best practices, you can ensure that your retargeting and remarketing campaigns are not only effective in driving conversions but also in building lasting relationships with your customers.


Retargeting is exceptional for (re)capturing the attention of potential customers and guiding them back to complete a transaction. In addition, remarketing plays a pivotal role in nurturing long-term customer relationships and enhancing customer lifetime value.

Remember, the key to success in these strategies lies in personalization, relevance, and consistency. Everyone wants a catered experience and by keeping your messaging aligned with your customer's interests and behavior, you can create a more meaningful and impactful marketing experience.


What's the Difference Between Retargeting and Remarketing?

While retargeting and remarketing overlap, retargeting primarily focuses on serving ads to past website visitors, using browser cookies. Remarketing is broader, often involving re-engagement through emails, social media, or ads based on past user interactions.

How Do Retargeting Ads Work?

Retargeting ads use cookies to follow users across the web, displaying ads based on their past interactions with your site. This ensures your ads are shown to a highly targeted audience, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Is Remarketing Effective in Email Campaigns?

Yes, email remarketing is highly effective, especially for personalized messages based on user behavior, like abandoned carts or previous purchases. It helps in maintaining customer engagement and encouraging repeat business.

Can Retargeting Improve Conversion Rates?

Absolutely. Retargeting targets users already interested in your products, making them more likely to convert compared to new users. It’s especially effective for recovering abandoned carts and finalizing pending transactions.

How Do I Segment My Audience for Remarketing?

Audience segmentation for remarketing can be based on user behavior, such as website interactions, purchase history, or engagement level. This allows for more personalized and relevant marketing messages. These audiences can be segmented through the ad platforms directly. Each platform has its own retargeting capabilities. It is encouraged to become familiar with these options and make informed decisions on what the best retargeting strategy is for every situation. 

What Are the Best Practices for Creating Retargeting Ads?

Retargeting ads should be visually appealing, with clear messaging and strong calls to action. They should also be relevant to the user’s previous interactions with your site for maximum effectiveness.

How Often Should I Update My Retargeting/Remarketing Campaigns?

Regularly. Keep your campaigns fresh and relevant by updating ad creatives, offers, and messaging based on ongoing data analysis and changing user behavior.

Are There Privacy Concerns with Retargeting/Remarketing?

Yes, privacy is a concern. It’s important to comply with data protection regulations like GDPR and ensure transparent communication with users about how their data is being used. While many ad and tech platforms (like Google, Meta, and Apple) are reducing the access marketers have to data, retargeting and remarketing campaigns continue to play a pivotal role in conversion.

What Metrics Should I Track for Retargeting/Remarketing Campaigns?

Key metrics include click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, cost per conversion, return on ad spend (ROAS), and customer lifetime value (CLV).

Can Retargeting/Remarketing Help with Brand Awareness?

Yes, these strategies keep your brand visible to potential customers, enhancing brand recall and establishing trust over time. This ongoing presence is crucial for long-term brand awareness.