Remarketing vs Retargeting: What’s the Difference and How Do They Work?

By Banc

6 min read

Remarketing is a powerful way to increase revenue and capitalise on existing site traffic. By serving ads to users who are most likely to convert, you’re well placed to generate conversions at a minimum cost per acquisition.

But what exactly is remarketing? How does it work? And how does it differ from retargeting? To help you get to grips with the ins and outs of remarketing, we’ve put together a complete guide, looking at what it is, how it works and what it can do for your site.

Use the links below to navigate or read on for the complete guide.

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What is Remarketing?

Remarketing is a form of digital marketing which serves ads to users who have visited a web page but haven’t taken action, e.g. made a purchase. It’s an effective way to bring back potential customers who appeared close to a purchase decision and encourage them to revisit your site.

Think of remarketing as giving yourself a second chance to convert a customer. They could have left your site for any number of reasons, so a well-targeted remarketing ad could be all it takes to give them the gentle nudge towards following through with their transaction or booking.

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There are lots of different channels and ad networks you can use to set up and manage a remarketing campaign. We list the different remarketing platform options below:

  • Display ads – the most popular, simple and effective type of remarketing; display ads appear on other sites when a customer has been on yours, and are powered by ad networks like Google and Bing.
  • Social media ads – these work in the same way as traditional display ads, except your ads appear on a person’s social media networks. You can either choose standard display ads, or ads which look like genuine posts but are caveated with a ‘sponsored’ label.
  • Search ads – search ads appear on a person’s search results page after they’ve abandoned your site to continue browsing. For example, if someone was on your site looking at holidays, you could then customise your search ad campaign based on what they were looking for, so your brand continues to appear in Google search results.
  • Native remarketing – native remarketing allows you to serve different content and campaigns to specific users, re-engaging them with personalised content. There are several platforms which facilitate this, such as Outbrain.

How Does Remarketing Differ from Retargeting?

Remarketing and retargeting are often used interchangeably. However, there are key differences between the two strategy terms.

Remarketing is an umbrella term for any digital campaign which tracks a user and serves them with targeted ads or marketing materials. This can include anything from email remarketing to Google display ads, and involves collecting information about a user’s behaviour to create a dedicated ‘remarketing list’.

Retargeting, on the other hand, is simply used to refer to a type of marketing which relies on website cookies to serve ads to potential customers. Cookies are small pieces of data which are stored on a user’s browser when they visit your site; they can be used to serve retargeting ads to the customer based on what they were looking at on a particular page of your site.

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What Are the Benefits of Remarketing?

Remarketing is considered an essential tool in a digital marketer’s arsenal, providing a powerful way to reconnect with potential customers and encourage them to convert. Below, we take a look at the benefits of this strategy in greater depth:

Affordability and Control

Remarketing is considered an affordable and effective way to gain conversions and increase sales. That’s because it targets users who are close to reaching a purchase decision, having already shown interest in your products and services.

Not only that, but remarketing platforms and ad networks give you complete freedom over how much to spend on ads per campaign – working on a cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impression (CPI) or cost per acquisition (CPA) model to give total control over spend.

Utilise Existing Traffic

Every digital marketer knows that half the battle is getting users to visit your site in the first place, so when you’ve gained their traffic, it’s vital to make the most of it. Remarketing allows you to capitalise on existing site visitors, lowering the cost of subsequent acquisitions by targeting those close to converting.

Keep Your Brand and Products Front and Centre

There are many reasons why a user may have dropped off your site before making a purchase. Perhaps they were distracted by a knock at the door, received a message on social media or are just waiting for payday? Or, maybe nature called?

Either way, remarketing gives you a second chance at winning their custom. By serving them targeted ads and remarketing materials, you’ll keep your offering front and centre in their mind, so they’re less likely to go to a competitor or abandon their search completely.

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Get them Back with Special Offers and Deals

The conversion rate for first-time visitors to your site will undoubtedly be quite low – just as it is for most brands. Research, price and innate hesitancy to spend all stand in the way of gaining conversions from new visitors, so it pays to take another stab at it with a fresh approach.

If you’re keen to gain custom from previous visitors to your site, remarketing lets you leverage custom discounts and special offers which may prompt them to purchase. Anything you can do to entice them back is a win, so think carefully about how you can improve your proposition and offering for individual customers.

When Should You Use Remarketing?

On the surface, remarketing sounds like a no-brainer for all your campaigns and conversion goals – and many brands use this across-the-board approach to great effect. However, an ‘always-on’ strategy isn’t for everyone, and there are a couple of downsides to this type of approach you should be aware of.

For starters, serving ads to every user who visits your site without converting can be expensive, and may prove ineffective if the ads aren’t adequately tailored and personalised to the other users. Serving users with too many ads also risks ‘brand fatigue’, so make sure you cap how many an individual sees or you run the risk of annoying them and putting them off your brand.

An alternate strategy is to take a more personalised and targeted approach. Set up your remarketing campaign so that users are served ads based on predefined criteria, which itself is dictated by your conversion goals. For example, you may want to target users who actively added products to their basket, or who showed interest in a specific product or service.

Knowing when to use remarketing is the most challenging aspect of this type of strategy, and will differ depending on your objectives, budget and seasonal trends.

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How Does Remarketing Work?

Remarketing is surprisingly simple. With a whole host of ad networks and platforms at your disposal, it’s not difficult to set up and manage a targeted ad campaign which delivers results for your brand.

Serving ads to users requires the use of a pixel tag. This is a small piece of code which you’ll need to add to your website. Whenever a user lands on your site, the pixel tag will place a cookie on their browser.

It’s possible to track user behaviour and retarget them for ads based on their trail of cookies. Remarketing ad networks allow you to track and access these cookie ‘crumbs’ based on the visitor’s unique ID. From there, you can serve them with personalised ads or marketing materials, or add them to your remarketing list.

What’s a remarketing list? It’s a tool used by ad networks with which you can gather a list of users based on the pages they were looking at on your site. Building remarketing lists is a powerful way to personalise and improve your remarketing campaign, ensuring that ads are served only to those users who are most likely to convert.

For example, on an ecommerce website, you can build a remarketing list for users who added a product to their basket without completing the transaction. This means you can target those most likely to convert, separating them from users who visited your site with little or no purchase intent.

Building lists is one of the cornerstones of a successful remarketing campaign. By segmenting users by their behaviour, it’s possible to tailor the ad messages they’re served based on activity and likelihood of conversion – increasing the effectiveness and performance of your ad campaigns.

Need help setting up and managing a remarketing campaign? Banc can help. Our paid media experts use advanced tactics and innovative platforms to deliver the very best results for your website. To find out more, read about our paid media offering or email us on office@banc.digital