Retargeting Vs. Remarketing

Understanding retargeting vs. remarketing can help you reach visitors who are already interested in your brand by bringing potential customers back to your site to convert or complete a purchase. Though the words sound similar, they are not interchangeable.  By taking a closer look at the differences between the two, it’s easier to see where they fit into programmatic advertising.

Everyone knows that customers who are already interested in your products or services and are in the buying cycle are more likely to generate sales and create a high Return on Investment (ROI). However, many consumers may visit a website and spend some time on it, then leave without making a purchase. According to Outbrain, among the customers who visit your website, only 2% will make an actual purchase on their first visit. How do you get them back to your site to complete the transaction?

This is where retargeting and remarketing come into the picture.

Table of Contents:

What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting uses cookies to serve ads to audiences who have previously visited your website. The goal is to bring those users back to the original site to complete the purchase or conversion. 

Who a marketer chooses to retarget can vary and be based off of a variety of actions, such as visiting a particular page, viewing on a product, or adding an item to their wish list or shopping cart. Once this predefined action is completed, a cookie is fired in their web browser that enables the advertiser to retarget the customer. 

Consider, for example, a customer who searches for Bluetooth earphones, and after adding them to his or her cart, decides to look at other options. The retailer could then retarget this user with additional ads on other sites to encourage this customer to return to their site and complete the purchase. Retargeting is an effective option that helps you make a more memorable impression on potential online consumers.

What Is Remarketing?

While the two terms sound very similar, remarketing is not exactly the same as retargeting. As with retargeting, remarketing is also a marketing strategy focused on visitors who have previously interacted with your website or products to drive them to complete a particular action, such as completing a purchase. Remarketing can also serve in cross-selling or up-selling products to existing customers. 

One main difference is that remarketing can include email as a channel, which is not generally included in retargeting which relies on cookies. Remarketing campaigns are often focused on re-engaging previous customers by sending them email offers based on their previous search history, items on their wish list, or items in their cart awaiting checkout. 

Retargeting vs. Remarketing: What’s the Difference? 

Before you can start updating your advertising strategy, we need to settle the remarketing versus retargeting question. Both retargeting and remarketing aim to convert previous visitors or customers into future sales. However, the major difference between the two is the strategy they use.

  • Remarketing comes in many forms, including marketing emails that are generally focused on a specific stage of the buying cycle.
  • Retargeting relies on placing cookies on a users’ web browser, in the hopes of bringing them back to the site to complete a purchase. 

Both of these digital marketing tactics have the same goal: bringing your best customers back to your site to take a specific action. 

Benefits of Retargeting

Consumers visit and leave your website on a daily basis. Thanks to modern advertising technology, bringing people back to your website is easier than ever before. Retargeting does really work, and it can enhance your business with a range of financial and branding benefits. Some of the advantages of this strategy include:

  • It provides the right ad at the right time: Timing is everything when it comes to displaying ads. Retargeting is a simple strategy that allows you to show product ads to web shoppers after they leave your website. This subtle advertising reminds them they need to return and make a purchase before they forget about your brand or choose a different product.
  • It’s scalable: In an age when digital and mobile consumer experiences are the standard for businesses in every sector, retargeting serves as a scalable marketing strategy you can trust. Because it relies on the use of cookies to deliver relevant ads, it can continue providing the capabilities businesses need to stay up to date with technological advancements.
  • It increases conversions and sales: Most importantly, retargeting can help drive up business conversions and sales. While consumers often move on quickly while contemplating a purchase or browsing websites online, retargeting ads can encourage them to keep your brand in mind. The reminder will serve your business well in the long run by increasing brand awareness and rekindling consumer interest.

Benefits of Remarketing

Although remarketing is not the same as retargeting, the two advertising methods offer similar advantages. The benefits provided by this strategy include:

  • It helps you create reminders: Consumers are constantly having their attention diverted from one image, article, or product to another. You can set your business apart by reminding them to return to your website and take action.
  • It appears in consumers’ emails: Unlike retargeting, remarketing typically happens over email. This avenue is a great way to reach out to customers who use email regularly, and it offers an opportunity to provide them with another call to action when they need an extra nudge in the right direction.
  • It helps you make more sales: When your potential customer receives an email reminding them of the product they were considering, it may convince them to return to your website for more information. More sales create more revenue, which helps you facilitate growth over time. 

Does Retargeting Really Work?

If you’re unsure whether retargeting really works, consider how many consumers leave websites without purchasing. Whether the customer is simply browsing or they have a specific product in mind, they’re unlikely to make a commitment right away unless they know exactly what they’re looking for and want it as soon as possible. Many consumers end up moving on or choosing a competitor to fulfill their needs, which costs your business precious revenue.

Retargeting helps prevent this situation by showing the customer relevant ads while they’re online. Gaining and keeping a customer’s attention is critical in online business, and a retargeting strategy can often draw back in more people who previously considered your brand. This method is most useful for attracting individuals who have previously shown interest in your brand and may be ready to make a purchase.

How Effective Is Remarketing?

If a consumer is browsing the Internet or shopping for a certain product online, chances are that they will visit multiple websites along the way. Like retargeting, remarketing is a highly effective way to convert customers by reminding them of their time on your website. If a customer is looking through your inventory, a quick ad reminder could keep your business in their mind when they need a specific product.

Remarketing is typically most useful for customers who are simply browsing without a certain goal in mind. It’s an effective strategy for increasing brand awareness and informing potential customers. For example, a person may be surfing the Internet and viewing different products and websites without committing to a particular brand. By sending a remarketing email, you can set yourself apart from the competition and create an impression that the consumer will remember.

Which Strategy Should You Use? 

Though both retargeting and remarketing are aimed at bringing visitors back to your website, they have different levels of effectiveness. Retargeting is effective for customers who are already in the buying cycle and exhibiting a high amount of interest. If your retargeting is effective, when the customer is ready to buy a product, he or she has already had a certain amount of exposure to your ads to influence the purchase behavior.

Remarketing is effective for customers who are not actively searching for a specific product. Personalizing emails for these customers and offering them coupons or discounts will hopefully have a higher impact on their purchase decision. While they may not have been thinking about the product you were selling, your emailed offer or promotion will ideally be too good to pass up, so they will be inclined to click through to your site and buy something they might not necessarily have known they wanted to purchase. 

Deciding which of these digital marketing tactics to use depends on the intended objectives to be achieved and situations that you want to address. Marketers can pick one or decide to use both simultaneously by building awareness using retargeting and converting them using remarketing. 


If you have a plan to implement a retargeting or remarketing strategy into your marketing campaign, you may also have questions about your options. We’ve listed some of the common questions and answers below, and we’re happy to provide all the information you need to make an informed business decision.

How Much Should You Spend on Retargeting? 

How much money you spend on retargeting will likely depend on your budget and the size of your business. It’s important to set aside the majority of your ad budget on regular website, social media, and notification advertising. Many factors can affect your marketing strategy, so setting aside funds for the latest targeting strategies is essential. That said, dedicating at least 10 to 25% of your budget to retargeting could be an excellent way to bring in more revenue from undecided customers.

How Much Should You Spend on Remarketing? 

Whether you decide to use retargeting, remarketing or both, it’s important to consider your unique budgetary limits. By adding remarketing to the retargeting budget, you can create a solution that meets your needs and allows you to retain more customers. Retargeting and remarketing are equally important aspects of your ad strategy thanks to their unique benefits, so they generally deserve equal spend.

Can You Retarget Site Visitors on TV? 

You can! While this is still a relatively new technology, there are services that allow you to engage in cross-channel retargeting. Given that the average American spends almost eight hours a day watching TV, the ability to reach your digital consumers this way has incredible potential. You can try out Connected TV today with AUDIENCEX.

Can You Retarget on Facebook? 

Facebook offers a wide variety of personalization options for all your retargeting needs. All you need to do is identify the people you want to retarget, install the Facebook pixel, and choose the type of ad you want to use. Facebook has more than 2.7 billion members, which makes it a great place to reach new and old consumers alike.

The Bottom Line

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to digital marketing strategies or tactics. Both retargeting and remarketing aim to reach visitors who have previously shown a certain amount of interest towards your products or services. Though both of these are great tools to re-engage your audience, it helps to know the differences and how you can effectively use them for optimal results. By focusing your marketing efforts on these consumers who are more likely to convert than an anonymous website visitor, they typically generate a greater amount of conversions to help you grow your business and build your brand. 

Ready to put one of these remarketing or retargeting strategies to the test? Do you have additional questions? Contact us to learn more about how we can help you reach your marketing goals!

Download the Guide to Programmatic Advertising During a Global Pandemic

Fill out the form below to download the Guide to Programmatic Advertising During a Global Pandemic.