02.07.2020 - Paid Media

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

A powerful way to increase revenue and capitalise on existing site traffic, remarketing serves up ads to users who are the most likely to convert – and gives you the opportunity 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 to answer the questions above, along with what it can do to supercharge your site.

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

Quick Links

  • What is Remarketing?
  • What is Retargeting?
  • What’s the Difference Between Remarketing and Retargeting?
  • What are the Benefits of Remarketing?
  • When Should You Use Remarketing?
  • Does Remarketing Work?
  • What are the Benefits of Retargeting?
  • When Should You Use Retargeting?
  • Does Retargeting Work?
  • What is Remarketing?

    Remarketing is a form of digital marketing which serves ads to users who have visited a web page but haven’t acted (such as making a purchase). It’s an effective way to bring back potential customers who were close to parting with their cash, might’ve got cold feet about it, and then 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 that gentle nudge towards completing their transaction or booking.

    There are lots of different channels and ad networks you can use to set up and manage a remarketing campaign. We’ve listed these different remarketing platform options for you 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 such as 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 – be aware that these’ll have the tell-tale ‘sponsored’ label.
    • Search ads – search ads appear on a person’s search results page after they’ve abandoned your site to continue browsing. So, let’s say if someone was on your site looking to book a holiday, you could then customise your search ad campaign based on the destination they were looking for; your brand will continue 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.

    Then there’s dynamic remarketing too. “What is dynamic remarketing?” you might be asking. This approach lets you show users who visited your page previously ads that feature products or services they viewed when using your site. It’s a more tailored approach which enhances your chances of building leads and sales even more than traditional remarketing. 

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    What is Retargeting?

    You might have also come across the term retargeting if you’ve previously looked into remarketing.

    Retargeting simply refers 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.

    What is the Difference Between Remarketing and Retargeting?

    Remarketing and retargeting are often used interchangeably. However, there are still 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’.

    And while they both share goals, the two are also distinct in the following ways:

    • Remarketing is about re-engaging existing customers
    • Retargeting is about focusing on users who aren’t customers yet

    They don’t exist in isolation either. And you don’t have to pick and choose between the two either. Incorporating both into your marketing strategy is a powerful way to give your conversions a boost.

    What are the Benefits of Remarketing?

    Remarketing is an essential tool in a digital marketer’s arsenal, giving them a powerful way to reconnect with and converting potential customers. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the benefits of this strategy in more detail:

    • Affordability and control

    Remarketing is 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, which means they’re already interested 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, you should then 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 all sorts of different 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 they were just waiting for payday? Maybe nature calling was the reason?

    Either way, remarketing gives you a second chance at winning them back. 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.

    • Get them back with special offers and deals

    The conversion rate for first-time visitors to your site will undoubtedly be quite low. Don’t take this to heart, it’s just the way it is for most brands. Research, price, and that built-in 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.

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    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, so there are a couple of downsides that you should be aware of.

    For starters, serving ads to every user who visits your site without converting can be expensive. This tactic may also be 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 – your conversion goals will dictate what these are. 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.

    Does Remarketing Work?

    Remarketing is surprisingly simple. With a whole host of ad networks and platforms at your disposal, setting up and managing a targeted ad campaign which delivers results for your brand is easy.

    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 the trail of cookies they leave. 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, you can tailor the ad messages they’re served based on activity and likelihood of conversion – both of which increase the effectiveness and performance of your ad campaigns.

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    What are the Benefits of Retargeting?

    Let’s turn to retargeting. How exactly can this approach benefit your business? Here are some of the main reasons it’s worth putting retargeting into your strategy…

    • Reach more focused markets

    It might sound counter-intuitive to fine-tune things where marketing is involved. After all, you’re trying to get your name out there as much as possible, right? However, retargeting’s beauty is that it only targets consumers who have already visited your website. Focusing your attention on these users is often a better method than trying to warm up leads who’ve never heard of you before.

    • Greater insights into your audience

    Details on your audience and target demographic ensure that your efforts aren’t wasted on those who have no need for your products and services. They’ll also make sure you aren’t making assumptions about those who do need what you’re offering.

    Through analytics and stats, you can begin crafting targeted ad campaigns that are tailored to their interests and issues, which you can turn into higher-quality interactions with your actual audience.

    • Increased brand awareness

    Turning impressions into engagement takes time – too much time, for the most part. Retargeting speeds things up since it focuses on users who have already had at least one impression from your website. Because your ads will always be in their view whenever they’re online, you’ll be making sure your brand always stays in their minds.

    • Improved ROI

    Trying to turn cold leads into warm ones? It might cost you an awful lot in the way of spend just to whack the temperature up. But spending money on warm leads you’ve already caught the attention of makes sure your spend isn’t going to waste. That means that, in theory, you can reduce your marketing budget while still making sure there’s a return on your investment.

    When Should You Use Retargeting?

    Using retargeting depends on your broader goals and strategy. Since it’s a method that focuses on reaching potential customers who’ve already interacted with you, retargeting makes sense if:

    • Gaining new customers is your main goal
    • Your brand has a product/service that’s a one-time purchase
    • You’re already spending money on paid ads designed to build awareness

    Retargeting ads can also help in the following ways:

    • You have best-selling products you want to promote – a great way to turn visitors into customers, while boosting ROI on your ads
    • Showcasing a new collection of products
    • Shifting slow-moving inventory

    Does Retargeting Work?

    Like remarketing, retargeting also uses pixel tags to serve specific ads based on specific pages they’ve already visited onsite. Since this approach is a timely one, you can start retargeting users pretty much the second they leave your site.

    The method also uses list-based retargeting in much the same way that remarketing does. By homing in a list of email addresses, retargeting campaigns on social channels such as Facebook or X can locate users with these addresses and serve retargeting ads to individualised users. Since this approach is based on more than behaviour, you can make use of highly customisable criteria across these ads.

    Need help setting up and managing a remarketing campaign? We can help. BANC’s paid media experts use advanced tactics and innovative platforms to deliver the very best results for your website. To find out more, head to the homepage or give us a call on 0345 459 0558.