January 06 2014

Retargeting – Fad or Fabulous?

You have likely noticed that when you are on some websites, you will see ads for retargeting fad or fabulousproducts or services that you’ve been looking at on another site. Part creepy and part genius, retargeting is an increasingly popular tactic for marketers across all industries. Why? Simple – because customers aren’t always ready to take your desired action when they are on your website, and showing your ad on other websites, in search results or on social media platforms is a subtle reminder of their previous interest.

Exploring the Five Types of Retargeting

Retargeting, like many digital trends, has expanded from its original introduction and now manifests itself in five digital spheres. According to an eMarketer 2013 survey, the most commonly used types of retargeting techniques are site targeting (used by 98% of marketers who retarget) and search retargeting (used by 90% of marketers who retarget). However, because retargeting is still in its infancy, it’s only a matter of time before the others increase in popularity.

  1. Site Retargeting – Using browser-based cookies, site retargeting tracks the activity of visitors who have previously been on a site. The cookies act like a breadcrumb trail to follow visitors to other sites and serve up ads through a retargeting provider. Nearly three out of five U.S. online buyers said they notice ads for products they looked up on other sites, according to eMarketer. But is it an effective technique? According to a comScore study, the results are a resounding yes: Retargeting resulted in a 726% lift in site visits within four weeks of initial ad exposure.
  2. Search Retargeting – Through search retargeting, a visitor’s search engine activity is tracked and retargeted ads are served up on other sites based on keywords or phrases the visitor previously searched. Top industries utilizing search retargeting include travel, insurance, finance, software, automotive, charities, medical, legal and education. Advertisers have found that search retargeting provides a more cost-effective cost per click (CPC) and affords the opportunity to connect with searchers beyond their initial search query.
  3. Social Retargeting – With social retargeting, ads are served up on social properties like Facebook and Twitter, based on a visitor’s previous interaction with a brand’s website, matching email and other criteria. Facebook Exchange (FBX) offers retargeted ads on desktops in the right pane and within news feeds, while Facebook Custom Audiences creates retargeting opportunities via a user’s email address, phone number or website/app activity. Twitter’s retargeting offerings include sponsored tweets based on a user’s website activity or a match of an email address to the advertiser’s CRM.
  4. Email Retargeting – Email retargeting is similar conceptually to traditional site targeting, except that ads are retargeted based on the actions of an email recipient (e.g., opening email and/or visiting a landing page). Once the email tracking code is triggered, display ads will be triggered on the user’s web browser for that brand. Ultimately, email retargeting can help reduce the send frequency and maximize email effectiveness.
  5. Dynamic Retargeting – Dynamic retargeting combines visitor site behavior and search engine keyword searches to serve up relevant messaging and banners on a website, thereby creating a more customized visitor experience. Marketers who have a content personalization feature in their CMS can essentially accomplish the same goals.

How Do Website Visitors Feel About Retargeting?

A display advertising study from Bizrate found that 60% of consumers were neutral on the tactic of retargeting, 25% appreciated the ads because they remind them of previous activity, and about 15% do not like retargeting. Let’s be Debbie Downer for a moment and focus on those 15%. While the metrics overwhelmingly show that retargeting can be an effective technique, it is critical that advertisers avoid the “creepy” factor. Most web visitors understand that their activity is tracked, but overuse of retargeting can give a visitor an unappealing “big brother” feel. Additionally, retargeting does not always account for a visitor’s buying intent, so setting the right parameters in retargeting is critical to metrics success and prospect happiness.

What Should Marketer’s Consider When Retargeting?

Savvy marketers are always looking for new ways to reach their audiences in a cost-effective and measurable manner. With costs for traditional marketing on the rise, retargeting can be an attractive option for marketers across many industries. Typically, marketers cast a wide net when planning their campaigns and hope for the fish to bite. With remarketing, you are theoretically fishing in the right pond and simply helping visitors move further upstream in your conversion funnel. According to Marketing Land, retargeted ad campaigns show engagement rates 2.5 to 3 times higher than untargeted ad campaigns among the same customer base.

So how do you cultivate such success? To start, carefully identify your target segment(s). Knowing which audiences you are focusing on will help you determine which retargeting techniques will align best with your goals. Next, determine how much of your budget you want to devote to this technique. If you are stuck with a flat budget this year, consider pulling funds from more traditional tactics like direct mail or mass media and see whether your investment produces a return. It’s critical that you have the proper tracking in place to measure the results of your efforts. Once you are investing in retargeting, scrutinize your analytics and continually refine your programs to maximize results.

Making Retargeting Successful

Retargeting is not a magic bullet, but if researched and set up properly, it can positively contribute to increased conversion rates. Before you investigate if retargeting is right for your business, be sure you are setting up visitors up for success. Sending visitors to a site with an outdated design or poor user experience will undoubtedly be akin to throwing your money out the window. Additionally, consider offering retargeted visitors something unique, such as a coupon code or a free consultation, to show you value their actions.


  • Paid Advertising

posted by
Michelle Brown
Michelle Brown
VP of Sales & Marketing

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.