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More than 90% of the people who visit your website aren’t ready to buy, but not all is lost. You can convert more of those visitors into sales with retargeting. But what is retargeting?

As you know from running your ecommerce business, retargeting is a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising technique that targets people who’ve already visited your website, browsed your website, or purchased something from your online store.

If you’re just starting with retargeting and unsure how to proceed, we’ve got your back. This guide explains how retargeting works, outlines the differences between retargeting and remarketing, and tells you exactly what to do to set up an effective retargeting campaign. 

Use these tips to maximize your conversion rate and grow your business.

Retargeting vs. Remarketing: What’s the Difference?

Although they sound similar, retargeting and remarketing aren’t the same. 

Retargeting focuses on digital ads, reminding potential customers of your products or services even after they’ve left your website. Remarketing focuses more on following up with potential customers via email

The goal of each technique is the same, but there are slight differences in the approach used to make sales.

Remarketing is more effective when a potential customer has already interacted with your business in some way. For example, if you run a B2B business, you may want to use remarketing to convert visitors who’ve downloaded one of your white papers or case studies.

Retargeting is more effective when dealing with visitors who haven’t interacted with your business.

How Does Retargeting Work?

Before you develop a retargeting strategy, you need to know about the two types of retargeting available.

Pixel-based retargeting

One of the most common forms of retargeting is known as pixel-based retargeting. 

When visitors visit your website, their browser receives cookies from your business. Not the chocolate-chip kind—a pixel (a piece of code) that tracks their browsing activity. Once the visitor leaves, the cookie tells retargeting platforms to display your company’s digital ads on other websites.

Retargeting platforms serve ads based on a user’s behavior. Showing relevant ads increases the likelihood of a user returning to your site and making a purchase. That makes retargeting more effective than less targeted advertising techniques.

Some platforms even let you do dynamic retargeting, which updates the ad copy shown to each user based on how long it’s been since that user visited your website. The copy displayed on Day 7 will be much more urgent than the copy displayed on Day 2, prompting the user to take action.

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List-based retargeting

List-based retargeting is ideal if you already have the email addresses of some potential customers who’ve visited your website and left without making a purchase. If you do, uploading those email addresses to social media and other retargeting platforms makes it easy to get potential customers thinking about your business.

One of the major advantages of list-based retargeting is that you target specific people instead of anonymous website visitors. This makes it easier to target narrow segments of a broader target audience, reducing your marketing costs without limiting your ability to convert visitors into sales.

When and Why Should You Use Retargeting Campaigns?

Now that you know the differences between retargeting and remarketing, it’s important to understand when to use retargeting ads as part of your marketing strategy. As noted earlier, serving display ads to anonymous users works best when you don’t have any other way to contact potential customers.

Retargeting is also beneficial if you’re trying to increase brand awareness. Retargeting is the way to go if you’re trying to attract new prospects after their first visit to your website. 

Remarketing campaigns are more appropriate for connecting with inactive customers or people who’ve interacted with your company in some way. With remarketing, it’s possible to keep your business top of mind, creating additional opportunities to generate revenue.

Benefits of retargeting

Whether you use Facebook ads, Google ads, or some other retargeting platform, this advertising technique has several benefits.

  • Retargeting is cost-effective. It costs much less than shooting a television commercial or paying for a full-page magazine spread.
  • Retargeting allows you to show ads to custom audiences to increase conversion rates.
  • Retargeting works even if you don’t have a big list of prospects’ names and email addresses.
  • Retargeting is an excellent complement to email marketing, SEO, SMS messaging, and other activities involving ecommerce marketing tools.
  • Retargeting allows you to display ads based on user behavior. That means it’s possible to serve different ads to users who visited one of your landing pages, browsed your new products, and clicked on a specific product page.

Where Does Retargeting Fit In Your Ecommerce Marketing Strategy?

Retargeting is a critical aspect of a comprehensive digital marketing campaign. 

In most cases, retargeting fits in at the top of your conversion funnel, which aims to increase brand awareness. You can also use retargeting at the interest and evaluation stages. For example, email retargeting makes it possible to serve ads to people who open your emails.

The key to using retargeting correctly is to ensure that you have ads tailored to each stage of the buyer’s journey. Someone who just visited one of your web pages for the first time may need more information about your products.

For people who’ve already interacted with your business, however, you may need to describe your quality guarantee or highlight the benefits of using your products or services.

How to Set Up Retargeting in 4 Steps

Reap the rewards of retargeting by following these four basic steps.

1. Gather data

If you plan to use list-based retargeting, you’ll need to set aside time to collect potential customers' names and email addresses. Once you have a solid retargeting list, you can upload it to the platform of your choice. 

If you plan to use pixel-based retargeting, you’ll need to add a retargeting pixel to your site. Your web developer can help if you’re uncomfortable working with code.

2. Create and optimize your ad copy

Display ads contain text and images, so you need to have the right combination of both to make a good impression on your target users. Images should complement the text rather than distract from it. They should also be relevant to your offer. Otherwise, users won’t have a reason to click.

If you don’t have a full-time copywriter, spend a little time honing your copywriting skills. Believe it or not, just two or three words can make the difference between having a 10% conversion rate and a 30% conversion rate. 

Here are a few tips for writing high-converting copy:

  • Get right to the point. A display ad isn’t the place to write several paragraphs. You need to describe your offer in just a few words.
  • Focus on the user’s needs. Rather than describing a product’s features, explain the benefits of using it.
  • Write an attention-grabbing headline. Your headline copy should hook your audience by using emotional trigger words.
  • Create a strong call to action. “Click here” is weak. “Transform your life today” is much more compelling.
  • Leverage software to help. Demand side platforms are software tools that use AI to manage and optimize your PPC ad spend across the web.

3. Choose a retargeting platform

Now it’s time to choose a retargeting platform.

You have many options, including Google Display Network, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Your choice of platform can greatly impact your results, so take your time and think it through.

Once you choose a platform, follow the instructions to set up your retargeting campaign. Each site has different rules, so take time to review the requirements and follow them carefully. We know you’re excited about starting, but we recommend taking it slowly. You don’t want to move ahead and find out you’ve made a big mistake.

4. Monitor your results

The good news about retargeting is that you don’t have to stick with the same platform or ad copy forever. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your results. 

You can experiment with different headlines and calls to action if you notice an ad isn't converting. You may even want to try a different retargeting platform to see if you get better results elsewhere.

Don’t Lose a Potential Sale: Retarget It

When someone visits your website for the first time, you don’t want them to be “the one who got away.” Instead of losing sales, retarget those visitors to increase your conversion rate

For more guidance on retargeting, remarketing, and other digital marketing techniques, sign up for The Ecomm Manager newsletter. We’re passionate about helping business owners grow their online stores.

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Francois Marchand
By Francois Marchand

Francois Marchand is passionate about helping and educating business leaders, ecommerce professionals, and digital marketers grow their skill sets to stay ahead of the competition. Francois holds a BA Specialization in Communication Studies & Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and 20+ years of experience in ecommerce, marketing, traditional and digital media, and public relations, including The Vancouver Sun, National Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Unbounce, and Vancouver Film School.