Ecommerce Special – A Beginner’s Guide To Retargeting

If you have ever looked at the number of website visitors you get each month and wished that just five percent more of them had converted into paying customers, you are not alone.

On average, only around four percent of site visitors are looking to buy right away. The rest of them click on your ads, add your products to the cart, get distracted by something else, and then circle back after a few months to complete the purchase. They also sometimes drop the idea of purchasing from you ultimately.

Retargeting is defined as the marketing tactic that enables businesses to reach consumers with relevant messaging based on their previous behaviors. It is a technique that has the power to boost ad engagement rates by up to 400 percent.

Honestly, it is not bizarre for businesses to think that the consumers, that land on their online store, will not only complete the purchase cycle in one go but also remain a loyal customer.

However, such is not the case:

  • Some visitors may visit the website, browse through a little, and then leave.
  • Some may go only through the blog.
  • And, some may put products in the shopping cart, and then get distracted and leave. (Ouch, abandoned carts!)

That is where retargeting comes in – to help your potential customers visit your website more often and buy more of what you sell.

How does retargeting work?

Retargeting is a hyper-focused marketing strategy. It keeps track of all potential customer activity, i.e., how long they browsed through your website, which products they looked at, whether they came back a second time. The data gathered helps you to stay on those consumers’ radars with timely, relevant ads until they make a purchase.

Basically, retargeting makes use of a cookie and pixel-based technology to keep track of your website visitors and to subsequently retarget them with ads after they hop on to other websites.

Ecommerce Special A Beginners Guide To Retargeting
Source – ReTargeter

For instance, if user A spends some time browsing through ModCloth, but doesn’t buy anything and leaves, then the online lifestyle shop can use the cookies for retargeting A with the same products that they browsed through – as shown below.


You must have experienced this yourself, where you were bombarded with display ads of the products you previously browsed through – haven’t you?

Boost brand awareness and increase conversion rates with retargeting

Do you know that retargeting helps address the 98 percent of visitors who leave a website without making a purchase?

Online shoppers that come in contact with retargeted ads of a brand are three times more likely to click on them than those who haven’t interacted with the brand before. According to eMarketer, three out of five online customers in the US alone increase their shopping carts based on similar products offered in retargeting ads.

Retargeting helps reduce cost-per-impression and cost-per-click, improves ROI, and brings down branding costs.

There is no doubt that retargeting boosts an online business presence and attracts the ‘distracted’ potential customers towards it, thereby raising conversion rates, as high as 150 percent, if done in the right manner!

Retargeting needs to be goal-oriented if it is to work for you. Most retargeting programs center around two prime objectives – increasing awareness and driving conversions. Let us study them in detail:

Boosting awareness

Given that most consumers are not ready to buy when they first visit your website, retargeting can help boost awareness of your company so that they come back and buy later. By staying on your potential customers’ radar, your products and services remain on their minds. And when they are ready to buy, they are likely to think of you.

Driving conversions

The ultimate aim of every marketing activity is to bring in more sales revenue, and retargeting can help with that.

For example, pixel-based retargeting helps more potential customers to submit lead forms. In contrast, list-based retargeting helps increase downloads of your material, registrations for your webinars, or even direct purchases.

Let us examine in detail these two ways in which retargeting campaigns reach potential customers:

# Pixels

A pixel is a small string of code on your website. When someone visits your site, the pixel adds a cookie on their browser that tracks all of their browsing activity.

This way, they get to see your ads wherever they go and wherever your ads can outbid the other top-performing ads. Pixel-based retargeting is instantaneous, and you can also set up specific cookies for specific pages on your site.



However, you don’t have any control over who you are retargeting. It could be a customer or a competitor. But the great thing about pixel-based retargeting is that it is instantaneous. As soon as someone visits your website, they can start seeing your ads.

# List

List-based retargeting focuses on your existing customer list. All you need to do is upload the email IDs of your customers onto a retargeting platform, which will then display ads to customers with matching IDs.

This form of retargeting allows you to market specifically to consumers whom you want to convert. However, the IDs that they may enter when submitting your contact forms may not always match the ones they use for their social media profiles, so the match rate of IDs might end up being fairly as low as 20%.

Differences Between Retargeting and Remarketing

Since many people confuse retargeting and remarketing, those who want to work with retargeting should know the differences between the two:

  • With retargeting, you show online ads to the people who have visited your website but left without taking any desired action. Remarketing includes various marketing tactics to reconnect with interested users.
  • Retargeting uses display advertising as the primary method, while remarketing can involve email, social media, ads, etc.
  • Retargeting takes place immediately after someone visits a website, but you can implement remarketing at any time. 
  • Retargeting is done on a smaller and more specific audience, while you can do remarketing on broader customer segments.
  • While the goal of retargeting is to convert website visitors into customers, remarketing aims at building brand loyalty and increasing customer retention.

Commonly used retargeting platforms

The entire internet space is your oyster when it comes to retargeting. You can choose between a range of platforms to reach your potential customers. But these “big three” platforms take the cake:

# Google Display Network (GDN)

This network covers over 1,000,000 platforms, lets you run video ads on YouTube, and is your best bet if you have an AdWords account. All you need to do is to add the Google remarketing pixel on your site, design your ads, and set up your campaign.

YouTube video

Done right, this can help you advertise to over 10 percent of the Internet. Plus, if you are running text ads, you can use remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) and customize your ad content and keywords for people who have visited your site before.

# Facebook/Instagram

With about 1.3 billion active users daily, Facebook is another excellent platform for retargeting. Plus, it owns Instagram. Therefore, you can run Instagram ads through Facebook too.

Setting up a retargeting campaign on Facebook is easy.

Still, it is essential to remember that there won’t be as many conversions as through GDN, given a large number of distractions that social media users have on their feed.

# Twitter

Twitter’s retargeting platform is much like Facebook’s, and it is easy to add the Twitter retargeting pixel to your website.


Twitter remains a useful platform for improving awareness about your company and maximizing exposure in essential marketing campaigns.

Retargeting best practices you must follow

To successfully retarget those consumers who have previously visited your website/online store, you should follow below.

# Segment audiences

Remarketing the same message to different categories of site visitors is unlikely to work. Instead, set up different criteria (like geographical location or time spent browsing) and different pixels on each site page so that you can address specific needs with your ads.

# Set view-through conversion windows

An excellent way to help track the actual impact of your brand awareness campaigns is to set up view-through conversion videos. These link a customer seeing your ad to their conversion, even if they never actually click on your retargeting ads.

# Run rotating ads

If you keep repeating the same ads to your audience, banner blindness will eventually set in even if they were interested in your product in the first place. It is thus essential to keep rotating your ads based on how your audience is responding to them. A/B testing is useful in this regard.

# Decide on a frequency

To avoid irritating your potential customers with too many ads, keep the highest frequency of advertisements for around 1-2 weeks after your customer visits your site. As time goes by, the likelihood of your customer coming back goes down; decrease the number of ads shown.

# Use a burn code

Continuing from the above point, add a burn pixel to your thank-you or checkout webpage. That way, customers who have already purchased your product or availed your service are excluded from seeing any further ads of what you are selling.

Examples of retargeting campaigns

Now that we have discussed everything we need to know about setting up a retargeting campaign, it is equally vital for you to know that ‘content sells.’ If your ad copy is not exciting enough, you will not be able to engage potential customers for long. Let’s analyze brands whose retargeting ad copies are inspiring.

# Expedia

The retargeting strategy of Expedia is based on fulfilling the urgent requirement of the consumer. In this example, the travel company retargets the visitor with a Facebook ad and uses an attractive landscape image that instantly strikes a chord with the user.

Its CTA, “Book Now,” is simple, and it instills a sense of urgency!

So, are you actively searching for a beach resort for spending a long weekend? Don’t worry – Expedia has got you covered with its “flash sales!” “last minute bookings” and “50 percent discount deals.”


# Freshdesk

Are you tasked with finding a new helpdesk system for your team?

Freshdesk is the solution to your problem! By highlighting the main customer benefits: “world’s simplest customer support software,” and “trusted by more than 30,000 companies”, the software executes a retargeting strategy that focuses on building brand awareness.

Although Freshdesk’s CTA copy “30-Day Free Trial” doesn’t create a sense of urgency, the overall banner copy encompasses the gist of the software, which makes the instigates the confused consumer to go back to the website and sign up for the free trial.


# SurveyMonkey

A popular tool for creating online surveys, SurveyMonkey has more than 20 million customers, including Facebook, Salesforce, and Samsung. How do they retarget potential customers? By highlighting their main customer benefit, i.e., reliable insights.

Why do businesses conduct surveys? To gain new data and make better decisions based on it. That is what SurveyMonkey’s retargeting strategy banks on!


The banner copy makes use of phrases such as “for FREE,” which instantly catches the eye. Its CTA is to-the-point and straightforward and asks the consumer to take action, which, in this case, is “click here.”

If you want to maximize your remarketing efforts, you might want to consider using tools that enable you to reach more sites online and help you streamline your retargeting campaigns from a single dashboard.

# ReTargeter

This is the perfect tool if your website is getting good traffic (the tool is designed for sites with 30000+ unique visitors per month) and if you can afford the hefty fee. You can access a massive number of websites and customize your target audience as you like.


# Perfect Audience

This tool lets you keep things simple. All you need to do is add some code to your website, create a few target consumer lists, and create some ads, and Perfect Audience will do the rest. However, this tool offers you only basic control over what your ads are doing.

# AdRoll

AdRoll is one of the top names in the retargeting space, and a subscription with them gives you access to 98 percent of all websites on the net. While they are a pricey option, their service is easy to use and gives you excellent ROI.

Wait, there’s more…

Don’t forget about email marketing.

Emailing is still considered a high-converting platform for reaching the target audience; despite the digital noise, social media has managed to create in the last few years.

If you want to improve the ROI of your business through emails, then supplementing a mobile-responsive email marketing campaign with retargeting is ideal. In such a scenario, you will retarget those consumers who not only visit your website but also are your email subscribers.

Place a line of code in the email signature or the email HTML. Serve ads to whoever opens the email on their browser.

Over to you

So, just because a potential customer left your online store without buying anything, it doesn’t mean you can’t get them back. Creating retargeting campaigns is fun, and requires you to study the visitor behavior properly.

A/B test the ad campaigns to find out what works for you and what doesn’t.

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