What is Retargeting? Definition, Types, Process and Best Practices

What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting is defined as an online advertising method which helps you connect and engage with users who’ve visited your website or platform and can be reapproached with the intention of completing an action or performing new actions.  

Retargeting can be used to re-approach users to perform either of following actions:

  • To complete a purchase
  • To make another purchase
  • To renew/repurchase an earlier product or service
  • To upgrade to a better product/ service

For example, if a user lands on your website's product page, gives the intended signals to showcase interest in the purchase, but does not make a purchase. If the right user tracking technology is present in the site (such as cookies and pixels), then such a user may be retargeted for conversion using online ads by partnering with various ad networks such as Google and Facebook, and their respective network sites.This is a clear example of using retargeting to complete a purchase.

Now, let's say that a user already makes a product purchase but had shown interest in another product. This user may also be retargeted with ads of the product for which they showed interest. Similarly, this tech-based process/ technique can be applied for renewal or upgrade.
Retargeting is considered effective because it specifically involves ad spends on audiences who are familiar with your brand and have recently demonstrated some level of interest. Therefore, it promises a relatively better ROI when compared to other digital marketing strategies that cover larger audiences who may or may not have been introduced to the brand.
It mostly leverages a cookie-based technology that involves a simple JavaScript code to follow your audience all over the web - also known as a pixel. Before we look at the process and types, let’s understand what is a retargeting pixel.

Benefits Of Retargeting

Here are some more of the key benefits of retargeting:

Better ROI from existing ad spend
As an advertising method, retargeting allows you to re-engage with someone who is already aware of your brand as a customer or has shown interest in your offering. Because of this reason, retargeting can give you greater ROI over generic ads that lack the intelligence about the target audience that retargeting depends on.
In fact, many organizations prefer a 2 tier ad funnel policy - first to get new users, and then to retarget the ones who show some level of interest but do not convert. Such an approach enables advertisers to efficiently utilize potential customer acquisition opportunities coming through digital ad spend.

Convert more from organic traffic
One of the most continuous and reliable sources of traffic is organic traffic that comes from ranking your site on search results, especially pages that rank for bottom-of-funnel keywords (keywords closely associated with the purchase of a product or service, for instance). What makes organic traffic users more valuable is the journey they have already taken - searching for keywords based on what they are looking for, then clicking on your website, and visiting it. These are strong intent signals arising naturally out of the user with no advertising effort involved from your end. Such users are ripe to be retargeted, however, the pages selected for retargeting should be as tightly associated with your offering as possible.

Increased target achievement from conversions
A study by Criteo found that website visitors who are retargeted, are 43% more likely to convert than audiences who are freshly targeted with ads. This indicates that when retargeting principles and best practices are properly incorporated, it has the potential to generate increased conversions and therefore achieve more of the end goal. Based on the type of organization, this may be sales revenue, student enrollments, citizenship awareness, etc.

The better outcome from social media effort
While social media helps bring in new users and prospects from interested groups and forums, the volume of such traffic is usually much less compared to other sources like organic. However, these limited users can be targeted with an ad spend budget, either within the same social media site itself or even outside on other advertising platforms like other social media sites, blogs, and search engines.

Retargeting Process: How to retarget your audience
There are basically two ways you can approach retargeting - pixel-based and list-based. While pixel-based retargeting is more common, faster, and effective, list-based retargeting requires more groundwork before you can actually get to it. Let’s find out how these two work.

Pixel-based retargeting:
It is essentially a piece of code on the backend of websites that runs whenever a web page loads. Through this, a website can keep track of people who are visiting in order to help optimize advertising efforts for the future. There are multiple platforms that enable advertisers to retarget users. Some of those platforms are Facebook, LinkedIn and Google, amongst others. 

The steps to creating a retargeting plan using cookies or pixel, begin with a little technology tweak in your website backend. Here’s how it goes.
Step 1: You place a small code on the backend of your website, which is also known as a pixel. This code/pixel is unobtrusive and does not affect the website performance in any way.
Step 2: Every time a new visitor comes to your website, the code drops an anonymous browser cookie (a piece of data that gets sent from your website and gets stored on the user's computer by the user's web browser while they are browsing) which helps you remember stateful information or to track and record the user's browsing activity.
Step 3: So when your cookies audiences browse the internet, the cookie automatically lets your retargeting provider/ digital marketing agency know when and where to serve them with your ads. This ensures that your advertisements are served to only those who have previously visited your website.

The cookies can be generic/ anonymous, or subscriber-specific and capable of detecting the stage of a user in the buying journey, to accordingly serve them the ads. The cookie detection and the consequent ad placement, can all happen in real-time
For example, when a user visits your e-commerce website, it stores a cookie for them as a new visitor and serves them ads across the web, trying to generate their curiosity to visit your website again. Also, your system stores a cookie for each user who has purchased a product from you and detects this cookie, to serve them an ad about a returning customer discount.

List-based retargeting: List-based retargeting is possible when you already have an individual’s contact information. You can upload a list of email addresses for a retargeting campaign, usually on social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter, through which the platform will identify users on that network and serve them the retargeting ads.
This kind of retargeting isn’t that common, however, it has its own advantages. It allows you to set customizable criteria based on user behavior, for your ads as you can segment your lists and create different campaigns for each.
On the other hand, there is always a probability of email id mismatch between what’s in your system and what email id someone uses on a social media platform.

Key Types Audience Retargeting

Here are some of the most popular and effective ones:
Email retargeting:
This is a great way to optimize your already running email campaigns. You can implement retargeting within your email campaigns by embedding code into the HTML or in the signature of your email. Just as a pixel picks up visitors from your website, here the code captures those who open your emails, showing one level of interest. Soon after, a leader who opens your email starts getting your ads on their screen, automatically.
Account-based retargeting: This is an efficient B2B retargeting strategy for acquiring prospects or upselling to existing target accounts. It is ideal for capturing the interests of valuable accounts you want to acquire or continue doing business with. This is more of a list-based kind of retargeting. Some of the platforms that offer account-based retargeting services are Demandbase and LinkedIn.

Site-based retargeting:
It is the most common form of retargeting and involves the pixel-based retargeting we’ve discussed earlier. As soon as a visitor comes into your website, you can tag them and follow them around the internet with your messages by partnering with ad networks like Google Ads, Facebook Audience Network, Verizon Media and Appnexus, etc. While doing so, identify what user actions are ‘tag-worthy’ based on pages as they correlate to your buyer's funnel. For example, who may be reading a post on your blog may not be as ready to pitch for sales as someone who’s watching a product demonstration video on your website.
Keyword/search based retargeting:
It is one of the most effective strategies as it brings together your search engine advertising with site retargeting. With the help of AdWords Retargeting, you can show a display advertisement to users based on keywords, who have already visited a related page on your website. This is a method of advertising that can be highly personalized, thanks to the addition of search keywords, a prime intent signal not present on social media or website display ads.

5 Retargeting Best Practices With Examples

Now that you know all the benefits and types of retargeting, here are some time-tested best practices that will help you make the most of it.

Segment your audiences
When you know who you’re targeting, you can customize your messages to suit their interests. This is what the audience segmentation does too. In retargeting, when you place different pixels on different pages of your site, you can identify the depth of engagement of each user and tailor your creatives accordingly.
For example, you may segment your audience basis:
Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), those who visit pages where you’ve posted some general information rather than specific product detail;
Middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU), those who visit your product pages but need nurturing to reach the buying decision; and Bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) those who visit your product-related pages indicating they’re considering a purchase (such as the pricing detail)
For those who fall in the TOFU category, you may serve ads with content such as an e-book that’s similar to the content they browsed, while those in the MOFU stage can be served case-studies or demo videos. Those at the BOFU stage can be offered a free demo video or consultation.

Set-up frequency caps
If someone visits your website or app, briefly, once or twice doesn’t mean they’re ready to consider a purchase yet. If your ads follow them everywhere on the web, they may rather get turned off. Such overexposure may lead to a descent of the campaign’s performance. This is where setting up a frequency cap, helps run an effective retargeting campaign, otherwise you may risk falling in the trap of what’s commonly known as banner blindness (a phenomenon when prospects completely ignore your ads). With a frequency cap, you can limit the number of times a user sees your ads, preventing prospects from being crowded or feeling overwhelmed. Also, time your ads in terms of the buyer journey stage a user is in.
An example of a common frequency cap recommended by the display ads solution provider, Retargeter, is to serve 17-20 ads per user, per month. Another example is that say you set a frequency cap of 4 impressions every 24 hours. This means that your audience will only see your advertisement for a maximum of four times every day.

Rotate your ads and deploy A/B testing
When you serve the same ad to people for a long time, you again risk banner blindness, and your campaign performance also notably reduces. A ReTargeter study revealed that clickthrough rates decrease by almost 50% after five months of running the same set of ads. To prevent this, apart from setting up frequency caps, you can also rotate or refresh your ad creatives every few days or weeks to keep attracting your audiences.
Additionally, A/B tests are a proven method to provide the data you need to decide on high-performing ads. Avoid random guesses about what will work and run these tests for deploying measurable, better performing campaigns. A/B testing your creatives helps you determine the best combination of ad copy, calls-to-action, and graphics.

Site-exchange retargeting:
This kind of retargeting involves an exchange of pixels between companies or websites that have noncompetitive businesses yet cross-sectional audiences that can be leveraged by each other., relevant to a searcher, such that both can target each other’s prospects. For example, an airline and local hotel site can target each other’s audience based on destinations that were searched or booked on either

Do include a burn pixel
While pixels are great at making your ads reappear in front of those who’ve just visited your platform, what about those who’ve just made a purchase and start seeing ads about the same item everywhere? That’s a bit annoying, isn’t it? This is where a burn pixel comes to rescue.
A burn pixel is a small code that’s used on your thank you or checkout page to untag users who have made a purchase. This not only prevents you from annoying your buyers but saves you a lot on your efforts and budget for impressions.
This doesn’t mean these audiences are excluded from your retargeted campaigns. You can retarget them with new ads based on their purchase, showing them other similar or complementary items. Simply put, you exclude them from the base retargeting campaign and add them into a new one as per their buyer journey stage. This way you can up-sell and cross-sell to the set of audience that has already been converted once. 

Top 5 Retargeting Tools and Platforms

Out of the many, here’s our recommended list of the top 7 retargeting tools and platforms for you.
Facebook:
A whopping number of visitors that land on your website is not ready to buy. They come to your site, wander for a while, then leave. And what’s worse, most of them even forget about your website as soon as they leave. So, how do you engage with them? Facebook Retargeting ads is a great way to do that as most of us are now regular users of the platform.
It is quite easy to set up, and there is a good chance you’ll find and be able to attract most of your target audience there. Plus, Facebook offers wonderful features to help you efficiently retarget and attract your prospects at the right time and in the right context.

LinkedIn:
LinkedIn retargeting uses web technology to track people who have visited your website. In this manner, you can target them with ads as they continue to browse around on cyberspace. LinkedIn marketing is quite effective in the current scenario, especially for B2B companies that need to advertise to other business professionals. Some examples of businesses which may benefit from this type of retargeting are:
B2B services
Commercial HVAC and construction jobs
Financial services
Job ads

Twitter (Tailored Audiences):
With a simple retargeting mechanism, Twitter also allows you to do wonders with this form of advertising, just like its contemporaries, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can simply install a Twitter pixel onto your website which will collect the cookie IDs of visitors and then match them with the Twitter users to serve them your ads. It allows you to use its remarketing solution to Tailored Audiences in three different ways:

Lists: Using email addresses or Twitter usernames to target specific users
Web: This focuses on the people who have visited your website and can be enabled through the use of Twitter’s website tag
Mobile apps: This leverages the data collected from the user activity on your mobile app.

Google AdWords:
Google’s remarketing service Google AdWords is a great tool for retargeting ads. Through Google AdWords, you can create lists of targeted people to whom your ads will be served across searches on Google and on the web. It is basically an advertising tool which emphasizes on a cost-per-click model of paying for ads. Usually, AdWords tracks data on the performance of ads and ad campaigns. This can provide you with valuable insights into your current campaign. Thus, it is known to have great RoI. It offers the following types of remarketing opportunities:

Standard remarketing:
This allows you to serve ads to previous website visitors as they browse on other websites.
Dynamic remarketing:
This can help you tailor your content and serve ads that include the specific products or services visitors looked at, on your site.
Remarketing lists for search ads:
When someone searches for a specific product or service that’s relevant to or same as your products/service, on Google, your ad will be displayed to them.
Video remarketing:
This one displays your ads to people who have watched your YouTube videos or any other videos.
Customer list remarketing:
Through this, you can upload lists of contact details for Google, which enables it to serve them your ads whenever they use different Google products or platforms.

AdRoll:
One of the pioneers and the most popular tool for retargeting, AdRoll is a platform for performance marketing that helps you reach out to your target audiences for following up on cart abandonment, or recommending products and even setting up display ads for brand recall. It helps with the conversion of window shoppers into final customers. It is one of those solutions for retargeting, which are popularly used and can tap multiple platforms, including mobile and social media. Some of its special features include:

Audience Targeting & Retargeting Software:
Get highly sophisticated targeting solutions for specific audiences. Affinity and demography based tagging help serve personalized content for greater lifetime customer value.
Retargeting for Mobile:
Get seamless mobile retargeting solutions for converting leads into customers. Reach out to customers across a plethora of mobile devices and desktop.
Personalized ads:
This works as the perfect re-engagement solution for visitors. Personalized and beautifully tailored dynamic ads are served in order to build customer connections.
Retargeting through email:
There is the onboarding of CRM data for building an audience base through your current email list. This helps initiative programs with cross-channel retargeting.

Apart from these five, the other noteworthy platforms or solution providers for retargeting include Facebook’s Instagram, ReTargeter, Perfect Audience, SiteScout and Criteo. While there are many more, one of these should fit your marketing requirements and budget.

So, here’s all we had to share on retargeting. Tell us if we’ve missed something on LinkedIn or Twitter!