Remarketing vs. Retargeting – What Do They Mean & How Do I Use Them?

  • August 20, 2019
remarketing vs retargeting


Remarketing Vs. Retargeting – How Are They Different?

Don’t be confused with the two.

How many times have you visited a website, browsed the pages, added items to your cart, and then left without making a purchase? This happens to a lot of modern consumers who either get distracted by something else or decide to take more time to think about their purchase.

And this is exactly what many of your company’s website visitors are doing when they browse the content on your site. In fact, according to Outbrain, only 2% of consumers will actually make a purchase on their first visit to your site.

That’s where remarketing and retargeting come in. Though there are some differences between remarketing vs. retargeting, these two important digital marketing tactics have a common goal in mind – to help you reach back out to visitors who have shown an interest in your brand.

The key to using these tactics effectively is understanding the difference between remarketing vs. retargeting and knowing when it’s appropriate to use each in your own digital marketing strategy. Below, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to understanding remarketing vs. retargeting and some tips for using these tactics to re-engage relevant site visitors.

What Is Remarketing?

Remarketing is typically associated with re-engaging customers through email marketing. These emails are triggered by actions that visitors take on a brand’s website. For instance, a business might send out a remarketing email when a visitor abandons their shopping cart or puts a certain item in their wish list.

One of the biggest reasons why remarketing emails are so effective is because email marketing has a wide reach. With 94% of online adults using email, it’s easy to reach back out to these consumers once they’ve left your site. Furthermore, many businesses find that consumers are influenced by marketing emails and often make a purchase as a result of this type of communication.

remarketing vs. retargeting

These email marketing statistics show just how powerful email marketing can be.

The remarketing email serves as a reminder to the visitor of what they’ve left behind. Sometimes this is all that a lead might need to be motivated to return to their shopping cart or wish list and finalize their purchase. Since the visitor has already clearly shown interest in the product, there’s a good chance that a little reminder might help influence their purchasing decision.

Let’s look at an example of remarketing in action. Let’s say that you are shopping for a new handbag. You spend some time looking at products on Google and land on the Kate Spade website. While you’re there, you find a great bag and put it in your shopping cart. Next thing you know, you become distracted by something on your cell phone and never actually buy the bag.

Soon enough, you see the following email in your inbox:

remarketing vs. retargeting

This is just one great example of what a remarketing email for an abandoned cart might look like.

This email is the perfect example of how an e-commerce company might use remarketing to reach back out to site visitors who have left without making a purchase. The email offers the user a subtle reminder that they have left something behind in their cart.

What’s more, is that the email also offers the consumer extra incentive to go back and finalize their purchase. The message provides a promotional code for 15% off the consumer’s final purchase to “help make up [their] mind.” Further, the email offers a deadline to take advantage of this deal (2 weeks), which can help motivate consumers to act sooner rather than later.

Notice that the subject line (“A Little Something to Sweeten Your Day”) is enticing to consumers and allows them to anticipate what will be in the email without giving too much away. An enticing and engaging headline is key to improving remarketing email open rates.

Additionally, at the bottom of the email, there is a heading that reads – “You also might like…” Here, Kate Spade is taking advantage of the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell by providing the consumer with some further suggestions for similar or complementary products.

Here’s another great, albeit less subtle, example of a remarketing email:

remarketing vs. retargeting

This remarketing email from Urban Outfitters gets straight to the point with simple, yet effective copy and design.

Here, clothing brand, Urban Outfitters is taking a more simple approach to remarketing email content. The copy is very straightforward, yet effective as it lets the consumer know that there are still items in their shopping cart.

Though this email does not offer a promotional incentive like the previous example, it does provide some sense of urgency. By saying, “Get them before they’re gone,” the email reminds consumers that the products are available in limited quantities so they’ll need to act fast if they want to make a purchase.

Though you may hear people use the terms remarketing and retargeting interchangeably, it’s important to remember that when we talk about remarketing, we are usually discussing the use of emails to re-connect with consumers who have abandoned their shopping cart or taken some other action that suggests their interested in a product. (But more on the differences between remarketing vs. retargeting later…)

As we get into the differences between remarketing vs. retargeting later on in this post, it will be important for you to remember that there is a place for both tactics in your digital marketing strategy. Though both tactics have a similar end goal in mind, deciding when to use remarketing vs. retargeting will ultimately depend on the audience and purpose of the communication.

What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a re-engagement tactic that involves implementing online ad, or display ad, campaigns that work to target users who have already interacted with a company’s website.

The main difference between remarketing and retargeting is that remarketing uses marketing emails to re-engage site visitors, while retargeting involves strategic ad campaigns. While remarketing is localized on one platform (email), retargeting involves ad content appearing on outside platforms (such as search engine or social media ads).

Though remarketing and retargeting are different, the scenario that prompts a business to use either tactic is similar. A user visits the company’s website and exits without making a purchase. However, here are where the similarities between remarketing vs. retargeting end. With retargeting, the business then re-engages the user through an ad that appears on another site or a search engine.

retargeting process

Here is a visual that clearly demonstrates the retargeting process at work. Notice that the user returns to the company’s site after seeing the retargeting ad.

Like remarketing, retargeting requires the site visitor to take certain actions in order to trigger the retargeting ad. This may be clicking on a certain product, putting an item in their shopping cart, or visiting a specific site page (like a pricing page) a certain number of times. When the site visitor takes the desired action, a cookie that’s set in their web browser allows the business to retarget the user with ads based on the specific action they have taken.

These are the triggers that you can use in retargeting:

  • A user’s history of online searches
  • Users who share the same interest with your current audience when it comes to content
  • Users who have interacted with any of your digital content such as social media posts, ad, videos, etc.
  • Users who recently visited a similar website
  • Subscribers who have interacted with your emails. For instance, opened the newsletter or clicked a link

Retargeting ads can be placed on third-party sites through the Google Display Network. The Google Display Network allows businesses to reach site visitors on their favorite websites after they have left the company’s site. By showing your retargeting ad content to visitors on the sites they frequent, you have an increased chance of getting the visitor’s attention and re-engaging their interests. This will hopefully lead to a successful conversion.

There are two basic strategies for retargeting ads. One approach is to deliver retargeting ad content to visitors after they take certain actions on your site. The other is to retarget users after they take certain actions off-site. The approach that you use for your retargeting ads will ultimately depend on which kinds of events or interactions that you want to target.

Let’s start by looking at on-site interactions that your ads might target. This is the most popular type of retargeting. On-site targeting involves re-engaging previous site visitors who have interacted with some of your products or services or taken some specific action.

This approach helps you re-engage those who have already shown an interest in your brand. Here are a few different ways that you might target these individuals:

  • Reach out to previous site visitors that feature a product that they have already interacted with.
  • Deliver ad content to email subscribers who have shown interest in your business but have not yet made a purchase.
  • Re-engage visitors based on how they found your websites, such as search or social media.

Targeting customers who have made certain off-site interactions is another approach to retargeting. This allows you to engage consumers who have not yet interacted with your site but may very well be interested in your products based on the similarities they have with your previous customers. This is a great strategy for businesses that want to reach new leads, add them to the sales funnel, and drive them to their website.

Off-site interaction retargeting often involves targeting users based on their search engine behavior. This means that you would target consumers who search for similar keywords and phrases as those who have previously bought from your company. In addition to targeting based on search engine behavior, your business might also target consumers based on their interactions with partner sites that may have similarities to your company’s site.

Google Display Network is not the only place where you can deliver retargeting ad content to those who are most likely to be interested in your brand. If you’ve ever had a product follow you around on social media, then you probably know that Facebook is also a popular platform for retargeting ads.

Here’s an example of what retargeting might look like on Facebook. Let’s say that you are shopping for a new portable speaker. You land on Amazon’s site and find a speaker that you like. You add it to your online shopping cart, but then you decide to explore other options before you make a final purchase.

That night, you go on Facebook and as you’re scrolling through your news feed, you notice something familiar! The same portable speaker that you were looking at on Amazon is now right in your news feed or maybe in the right sidebar.

remarketing vs. retargeting

Amazon is serving you retargeting ad content based on the interactions you’ve made with products on their site.

This isn’t a coincidence. This is retargeting at work. You have clearly shown interest in the portable speaker by placing it in your Amazon shopping cart. In order to take advantage of this interest and help influence a conversion, Amazon has used retargeting to reach back out to you and remind you of what you’ve left behind in your shopping cart.

Overall, retargeting campaigns often have higher engagement rates than the typical ad campaign does. This is because it is easier to influence conversions with consumers who have already shown an interest in your products or services. Since they have interacted with your site content in some way, you aren’t starting from square one. Instead, you can take advantage of the fact that these consumers are interested in what you have to offer and in the market for similar products or services.

Again, it’s important to note that both remarketing and retargeting can be effective in helping you re-engage those who have interacted with your site. However, knowing the difference between remarketing vs. retargeting can help you better choose the right approach to reaching back out to site visitors.

Remarketing Vs. Retargeting: How And When To Use Each

Now that you know the difference between remarketing vs. retargeting, let’s talk about when it’s most effective to use each tactic. Though the goal of both remarketing and retargeting is the same – to influence more conversions from those who have shown interest or are likely to buy from your company – they use different strategies to achieve this goal.

Since remarketing focuses on email campaigns, this approach is best used when an email is the best medium for the message you are trying to send. Though retargeting ads are limited when it comes to the amount of content you can deliver in the ad, emails offer a bit more space. This makes remarketing ideal when you want to not only send the visitor a reminder of what they’ve left behind but also try to upsell, cross-sell, or add an additional promotion to the offer.

If you want a bit more flexibility in the location of the content or want to target a broader range of consumers then retargeting ads may be the ideal way to engage those who are most likely to be interested in your products or services. It’s important to note that while remarketing only allows you to reach previous site visitors, retargeting ads can help get your brand in front of new audiences by reaching those who have taken actions online that are similar to your current customers.

In the end, when it comes to remarketing vs. retargeting, there is no one-size-fits-all solution or one tactic that’s better than the other. Both approaches to reaching back out to site visitors can help increase conversions. That’s why we recommend that businesses consider each tactic carefully and make both a part of their integrated digital marketing strategy.

Final Takeaways

Knowing the differences between remarketing and retargeting is vital if you want to get the most out of your digital marketing strategy. Though both remarketing and retargeting are great tactics for re-engaging those who have shown interest in your site, brand, industry, products, or services, there is a time and place to use each for optimal results.

Still not sure whether you need remarketing vs. retargeting? LYFE Marketing specializes in both search engine ads for retargeting ads as well as social media advertising. We also provide email marketing services, which can include remarketing email strategy and implementation. Our team of digital marketing professionals can help you decide whether remarketing or retargeting is right for your brand.

Contact us today for digital marketing consultation and ask us about which tactic may be right for you.



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