What Is Retargeting and Remarketing? A Guide to Effective Retargeting Ads

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Visitors who browse your website, fill up their shopping cart and leave without a purchase are all too common. In fact, 98% of website visitors don't make a purchase on their first visit to a website.

But why not? These potential leads are obviously interested in what you have to offer, but for whatever reason, they didn’t make a purchase. So how do you keep customers interested in your product when they’re no longer in your sales environment?

This is where retargeting comes in. This digital marketing technique helps businesses to convert interested customers into paying customers. Let’s talk through how retargeting works.

In this remarketing and retargeting guide, you’ll discover:

What is retargeting?

Retargeting ads work by deploying cookies, which are small pieces of data stored in a web browser used to track your activity on the internet. To enable tracking, brands will place a cookie on their site to follow web activity and serve them with ads based on their behavior.

Users who visited your website, browsed a product but ultimately didn’t buy, are likely to see ads for that product appearing when they visit other websites. This is retargeting marketing in action.

Using a retargeting approach, your marketing team can create an advertising campaign that captures the attention of potential customers who have already expressed interest in your company. Retargeting, often referred to as remarketing despite their subtle differences, directly advertises to customers who have bounced without making a purchase.

How does retargeting work?

We can capture retargeting data through two main tools:


In order to collect information for retargeting, you’ll need to place a retargeting pixel — or piece of code — on the pages of your company’s site where you want to monitor customer behavior. As visitors are captured by this pixel, they will then be “cookied” and served display ads across other sites in your network.

This enables marketers to serve highly personalized ads to users based on the products they’ve seen. However, retargeting through Pixels can be time intensive – requiring special coding on the relevant product pages you want users to click through to.


List-based retargeting involves collecting and grouping email addresses of both current and potential customers in order to target these leads on social media. After uploading your contact list on a social network’s ad platform, a retargeting campaign can be created to target certain behaviors and traits, such as personal interests, hobbies, age range, and location. While list-based retargeting is less common and involves more prep work than pixel-based, this approach provides companies with more information about customers.

Using this data, online retargeting ads then allow you to re-engage users who visited your site but didn’t convert and bring them back into the funnel.

In order to capture the attention of a bounced lead, a marketing team will create what are called “retargeting ads,” which pop up throughout the web to remind potential customers of the goods or services they viewed but did not purchase.

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Advantages of retargeting.

Retargeting is a highly effective marketing and advertising strategy. Some of the main advantages and benefits include:

Increasing sales.

Increasing sales is the main purpose of retargeting — to convert a browser from an interested consumer to a buyer. Retargeting gives a business a second bite of the cherry, and another shot at making the sale.

Connect with prospects.

Instead of serving ads to people you think or hope might be interested in your product or services, retargeting enables you to serve ads to those whom you know are interested.

Imagine you’re a travel agency. You create a retargeting campaign on visitors to your website who have been viewing vacations in Mexico. Perhaps some site visitors have even gone as far as shortlisting hotels but haven’t taken the plunge to book. You can retarget those prospects by serving ads for the shortlisted hotel.

Reduce your cart abandonment rate.

Cart abandonment used to be one of the most frustrating elements for businesses, when potential customers would select products, but them in their basket — and then leave the website before ordering.

It happens a lot; according to HubSpot, the estimated average for cart abandonment rate is 86%. However, retargeting enables you to contact those potential buyers by email to give them a nudge. This works for those customers who have given you their email addresses, obviously, and not always first-time customers. A friendly, ‘hey, did you forget something?’ message can be very effective.

Increase brand awareness.

Okay, so the sale is the main goal — but if you can’t achieve that straight away, retargeting can still be a win.

Retargeting advertising might not land a sale every time, but it works as a great marketing tool, putting your brand front and center in the mind of website browsers.

They might be researching laptops well ahead of any intention to buy, and when they come back to it a couple of months later, there’s a good chance they land back on the website that’s been retargeting them with relevant ads.

Retargeting vs Remarketing: what’s the difference?

Although remarketing and retargeting can be used interchangeably, the difference between the two strategies revolves around where each advertising campaign is run.

Businesses use retargeting when customers are very close to converting. Retargeting generally uses cookies or email addresses to push paid ads on sites or social media networks where potential leads are visiting.

Remarketing, on the other hand, is a top of funnel approach, where the business goal is to bring potential customers into the funnel. Remarketing usually involves email marketing, where a business deploys a series of creative emails as a strategy in order to engage with potential customers.

Although remarketing and retargeting strategies approach marketing in slightly different ways, it’s important to leverage both strategies in order to deploy an effective campaign.

How to launch a retargeting campaign.

Before you launch your retargeting campaign, you’ll need to identify the goals of your company’s marketing efforts, which audience you’re targeting, and where you’ll be pushing out these retargeting ads. It’s very important to complete this step thoroughly, in order to measure results effectively.

1. Choose a type of retargeting campaign.

First, you’ll need to choose a type of retargeting campaign. Are you serving these ads to generate more brand awareness? Or are you looking to capitalize on conversions?

If you’re hoping to drive brand awareness, you’ll want to serve ads focused on the mission of your company, as well as the message you want consumers to walk away from. Make sure your value proposition is clear and easy to follow and optimize for maximum impressions as opposed to purchases.

If your campaign is more focused on conversion, you’ll want to serve a direct, sales-oriented message. Make sure it’s clear to your potential customers what you are offering, and ensure your campaign is optimized for clicks, downloads, or other conversion goals.

2. Segment your audience.

When launching a retargeting campaign, you’ll want to be very clear on the audience you’re targeting. By understanding your audience, you’ll be able to better tailor the ad.

Here are some other factors to consider when segmenting your audience:

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How to choose a retargeting platform.

When you’re considering a retargeting campaign, you’ll want to evaluate which tools to use. Remember that different social networks and web search tools offer different platforms, and each tool will allow different types of segmentation and results.


Facebook Ads and Facebook Pixel are two ways to use retargeting on Facebook. You’ll either need to set up a Facebook business account to run ads or implement a pixel on your site. From here, your team can segment your audience through Facebook’s demographic filters, set a daily or campaign budget, and track your campaign’s results.

Similar to Facebook, you can install a Google pixel on your website to help with retargeting or you can set up your ad in Google Ads. You’ll be able to segment your audience and manage your campaign right from the Google console.

Best practices for retargeting ads.

There are many ways to run a retargeting campaign, but you’ll want to make sure you’re adhering to best practices when setting up your campaign in order to hit certain goals. Here are some rules to follow:

Frequently asked questions about remarketing and retargeting.

How important is retargeting?

Retargeting is an important marketing strategy because it enables businesses to track visitors to their website and provides other opportunities to connect with them. Without using retargeting, it’s not as easy to reach out to those visitors again — who are all potential customers. Online retail is a competitive world and businesses need every advantage they can get.

What is email retargeting?

Email retargeting enables businesses to send tailored content to people who have signed up to their website. If someone has viewed a product, for example, but not purchased it, email retargeting allows the business to send a follow-up email. A message saying, ‘you left something in your basket’ or ‘here’s another 10% off product XXX’ are typical email retargeting strategies.

Does retargeting work?

Although success rates of retargeting will vary by campaign, overall, the statistics are impressive. According to Meazy, the average click-through rate for retargeted ads is 0.7%, compared to 0.0.7% for display ads — a 10x improvement. With those odds, your conversions could be significantly improved.

Begin your next retargeting campaign today.

Retargeting can be one of the most important tools in your integrated marketing campaign—helping you achieve a variety of goals while keeping customers moving through your conversion funnel. Make sure you’ve laid out your goals and designed effective ads to maximize your results.

Marketo Engage — Adobe’s best-in-class digital marketing solution — can help your business drive brand success and achieve desired results through retargeting.

Try Marketo Engage to begin your next best retargeting campaign today.


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