What is retargeting? How retargeting works?

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Team Storyly
December 22, 2023
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What is retargeting?

Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a digital marketing strategy that aims to re-engage users who have previously interacted with a brand or its website. 

It involves showing targeted advertisements to these users as they browse other sites or platforms online, with the goal of drawing them back to the brand's website or encouraging them to complete a specific action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.

Retargeting works by using cookies or other tracking technologies to identify users who have visited a website or shown interest in a product or service. Advertisers can then use this information to create tailored ads, which are displayed on various ad networks, social media platforms, or websites that the targeted users visit.

The main advantage of retargeting is that it allows advertisers to focus their marketing efforts on an audience that has already shown interest in their brand or products. This typically leads to higher conversion rates and more cost-effective marketing campaigns.

Why is Retargeting Important?

Retargeting is important for several reasons, especially in the context of digital marketing and advertising. These reasons include:

1. Increased Conversion Rates

Retargeting is important because it helps to increase conversion rates by showing relevant ads to users who have already shown interest in a product or service.

2. Improved Brand Recognition

Through retargeting, businesses can ensure that their brand stays top-of-mind for potential customers, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

3. Cost-Effective Advertising

Retargeting allows advertisers to target a specific audience that has already shown interest in their offerings, making it a more cost-effective advertising strategy compared to broad targeting.

4. Personalized User Experience

Retargeting enables businesses to create personalized ads based on users' online behaviors and preferences, which can result in a better user experience and higher engagement.

5. Higher Return on Investment (ROI)

By focusing on users who have already shown interest in a product or service, retargeting can generate higher ROI for advertising campaigns.

6. Re-Engaging Abandoned Shopping Carts

Retargeting is crucial for re-engaging users who have abandoned their shopping carts, giving businesses another chance to convert these potential customers.

7. Cross-Selling and Upselling Opportunities

Retargeting allows businesses to promote complementary products or services to their existing customers, increasing the potential for cross-selling and upselling.

8. Long-Term Customer Value

By continuously engaging potential customers through retargeting, businesses can build long-term customer relationships and increase customer lifetime value.

How retargeting campaigns work

There are three major steps to a successful retargeting campaign. By carefully planning all three steps listed below, businesses can maximize their ad remarketing ROI.

  • Tagging - The first step is to track the visitor. This often involves the use of a tracking cookie. The cookie then provides advertising providers with the information they need to serve ads to people who have engaged with your brand. 
  • Segmenting - Customer segmentation improves your chances of success. Which page did the customer bounce from? How far into the funnel did they get? What are the demographics of the visitor? All of these segments help you better retarget your ads.
  • Messaging - The final step is to craft a message that appeals to the customer segments you've created. This helps to further increase targeting precision and ensures that the right message gets to the right person. Strategies such as A/B testing and retargeting monitoring will help to refine your messaging.

Benefits of retargeting

The use of retargeting has exploded since Google first introduced the concept. Businesses have found that retargeting in marketing provides advantages over traditional advertising. These include:

Increased Brand Exposure

Retargeting campaigns help maintain brand visibility by displaying ads to users who have already shown interest in the brand's products or services. This consistent exposure keeps the brand top-of-mind and increases the likelihood of users returning to complete a purchase or engage with the brand further.

Higher Conversion Rates

As retargeting campaigns focus on users who have previously interacted with the brand, they are more likely to be interested in the products or services being offered. This targeted approach leads to higher conversion rates, as users are already familiar with the brand and may be further along the buyer's journey.

Improved ROI

Retargeting campaigns can deliver a better return on investment (ROI) compared to other digital marketing strategies. By targeting users who have shown interest in the brand, marketers can concentrate their efforts and ad spend on a more receptive audience, leading to increased conversions and improved cost efficiency.

Personalized User Experience

Retargeting campaigns allow marketers to tailor ads based on users' past interactions with the brand. This personalization creates a more relevant and engaging experience for the user, which can lead to higher click-through rates and conversions.

Re-engaging Lost Customers

Customers who abandon shopping carts or disengage with the brand for various reasons can be re-engaged through retargeting campaigns. By displaying targeted ads that address their specific needs or preferences, marketers can encourage these users to return to the brand's platform and complete their transactions.

Cross-selling and Upselling Opportunities

Retargeting campaigns can also be used to promote complementary products or services to users who have made a previous purchase. By targeting these users with ads for related products, marketers can generate additional sales and revenue through cross-selling and upselling efforts.

Building Brand Loyalty

By staying connected with users after their initial interaction with the brand, retargeting campaigns can help foster brand loyalty. When users are consistently exposed to a brand's messaging and offerings, they are more likely to develop a positive association with the brand and become repeat customers.

Types of retargeting

There are several types of retargeting campaigns. This selection allows businesses to perfectly tailor their retargeting marketing to their buyer personas. When launching a retargeting campaign, it's important to retarget your visitors in the places where they are most likely to engage. A/B testing can help find the perfect type of retargeting for your audience. 

Search engine retargeting

This was the first type of retargeting, introduced by Google. It works by retargeting users of the search engine who have previously made a search that's relevant to your brand. For example, someone who recently searched for 'new ovens' may be shown ads by an appliance manufacturer that has launched a retargeting campaign. Like all forms of retargeting, this happens even when the user isn't searching for appliances.

Site retargeting

This type of retargeting improves the targeting precision of search engine retargeting. Instead of retargeting people who have merely used search terms relevant to you, site retargeting specifically shows your ads to people who have visited your site. Customer segmentation is a powerful tool here to deliver precise messaging depending on where the visitor is in your sales funnel. 

Social media retargeting

Social media remains an important way for brands to connect with customers. Building social media engagement is a great way to build brand awareness. That effort is increased by sending your ads to social media followers who have recently engaged with your company's social media feeds.

Retargeting platforms and tools

Many platforms now offer retargeting campaigns. Some of these are traditional digital advertisers that have added retargeting as an extra option; others have built their brands around the newer form of advertising. Most of them allow you to blend traditional digital advertising to drive traffic to your site with retargeted ads to increase conversions from that traffic.

Below is a list of some of the most popular platforms marketers use to launch their retargeting efforts.

Google Ads 

Google Ads have been a dominant force in the digital ad space for a long time. As the first company to introduce retargeting, it's no surprise that they remain a top choice for marketers. Google offers a comprehensive set of tools for segmenting your audience based on data from a number of sources. 

Facebook Ads

When the importance of a social media presence first became apparent to businesses, Facebook was the social media platform driving that change. It's still a huge platform, as the company has acquired other large sites such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Masquerade. Owning several of the largest social media platforms allows Facebook parent company, Meta, to provide highly targeted ads for both traditional and retargeted campaigns. 

Twitter Ads

Another social media site that brands rely on to reach customers is Twitter. Twitter ads allow for several types of remarketing efforts, including targeting Twitter users who have visited your site and those who have interacted with one of your tweets in some specific way. 


So far, we've listed standalone platforms. Companies that want to run a campaign on multiple search engines, social media sites, and display ad networks can use tools like Adroll. The company provides marketers with a single dashboard that allows them to launch and run campaigns across a wide range of advertising platforms in one place. This convenience comes with a small monthly charge, but a limited free tier is available to test the waters.


This company originally started as purely an email list management service but has grown to offer a full range of marketing solutions for its customers. Mailchimp makes use of Google's display network to provide its remarketing services.


As the popularity of retargeting grew, some companies were formed specifically to handle that type of marketing. SharpSpring is one such company. They have partnerships with many ad networks to provide retargeting opportunities across a diverse range of platforms. The company was originally known as Perfect Audience.

Retargeting vs Remarketing

The two words sound similar, and the concept is nearly the same. When it comes to retargeting vs remarketing, the primary difference is who the target audience is. Retargeting is about reaching out to people who have previously responded to a targeted ad in some way. Perhaps they've searched for keywords you're targeting, or they've clicked on a display ad and visited your site. Tracking those users and sending them more ads is retargeting them.

Remarketing focuses on reaching existing customers. For example, if a customer has purchased from you before, then you have access to both their email address and their shopping cart contents. Sending them an email when they leave items unpurchased in their cart is an example of remarketing.


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