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Updated Oct 24, 2023

4 Tips for Making Your Remarketing Campaign a Success

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Mark Fairlie, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst

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Traditional retail store owners measure the number of people coming into their shops by “footfall.” Online retailers measure the number of people visiting their websites as “click fall.”

If a shopper browses products in a retail store and leaves without buying anything, there’s little traditional retailers can do to continue advertising to them. However, online retailers can do precisely this via a practice called “remarketing.”

We’ll explore digital remarketing, how it works and remarketing tactics online business owners can implement to maximize sales. 

What is digital remarketing?

Remarketing is a tactic that involves showing ads to people who have visited your website or used your mobile app. This strategy is a particularly cost-effective way to increase your sales conversions, because you’re reaching out to customers who have already expressed interest in your products or services.

Digital remarketing is also sometimes called behavioral retargeting; it’s an effective way of promoting your e-commerce store or website through online advertising.

To implement a retargeting campaign, your potential customers must have done the following: 

  • Visited your site 
  • Clicked on one of your ads
  • Followed you on social media
  • Searched Google for you

How does digital remarketing work?

To target previous website visitors with remarketing ads, you need to use a “pixel” or “tag,” which is code you insert in the back end of your website. When someone visiting your site with a Google or Facebook account activates this code, you’re able to serve ads to them.

These codes record the following information and send it back to Google and social media networks:

  • What a customer was searching for or interested in buying
  • Whether they simply browsed, put items into their shopping cart and didn’t complete the purchase, or made a purchase

A remarketing campaign is an essential strategy for converting visitors to customers on your website. However, when this strategy is not managed correctly, it can hurt your remarketing plans. A proper campaign requires that you understand your needs.

Types of remarketing ads

There are three types of remarketing: pixel-based remarketing (based on the tag on your website), list-based remarketing and video remarketing. We’ll explain how each model works.

Pixel remarketing

Let’s say you run an online furniture store with a lighting department. You offer different products, such as floor lamps, desk and table lamps, wall lights, ceiling lighting, pendant lights, and chandeliers.

With standard pixel remarketing, you can show a display ad to people who have visited your site previously. A display ad is a graphical ad that you might see on a newspaper website.

You could also run the following types of “dynamic remarketing” ads for people interested in floor lamps depending on their behavior:

  • Nothing added to the shopping cart: If someone didn’t put anything in their cart, you could show them a picture of a floor light they viewed.
  • Item added to shopping cart: If someone put a floor light into their cart but didn’t purchase it, you could offer them a 20% discount in your ads.
  • Item purchased: If someone bought a floor light, you could promote other lighting products from the same brand.

A consumer’s familiarity with your company makes a difference in how they react to your advertising. Statistics show that people are 10 times more likely to click on a remarketing ad than a standard display ad. Some brands have reported a 128% increase in conversion rates through remarketing.

You can use conversion tracking tools like the Google Ads console and Facebook Ads Manager to track the percentage of visitors attracted back to your site through remarketing campaigns.

List-based remarketing

With customer list remarketing, Google will match the contact information on a client or prospect database that you previously uploaded. You’re then able to target advertising to consumers who are already familiar with your brand.

In search ad remarketing, you can display ads to past visitors on related follow-up searches. 

FYIDid you know
You can also upload a list of your current customers or prospects to Facebook, which will check for matching email addresses. You can ask it to find "lookalike audiences" based on the demographics of the users you uploaded.

Video remarketing

For your business’s YouTube content, you can promote your products and services with additional ads sent to people who have either visited or subscribed to your channel.

Remarketing vs. retargeting

Many advertisers consider remarketing and retargeting to be interchangeable terms, but you should understand the difference before you begin your remarketing campaign. 

“Remarketing” is the broad umbrella term, and retargeting is a type of remarketing. Strictly speaking, the types of advertising we’ve described so far are traditionally called retargeting.

“Remarketing” means sending promotional messages to your email marketing contact list of existing customers and newsletter subscribers. For better results from this type of marketing, many companies segment their customers and prospects using a customer relationship management (CRM) solution for personally targeted campaigns. 

Did You Know?Did you know
CRM solutions can benefit marketing campaigns by giving you a clearer sense of your target audience and helping you identify audience trends and preferences.

How SMBs are embracing remarketing

It used to be that only large, data-centric organizations could invest in data mining, according to Raj Beri, vice president of grocery and new verticals at Uber. But small businesses across all industries now have access to the tracking tools necessary to take advantage of digital remarketing.

“With simple-to-use third-party tools and services available now from companies like Google, it has never been easier for small players to set up their own remarketing campaigns,” Beri said.

Remarketing is an accessible tool even for small businesses for whom every online sale counts.

“Remarketing helps to encourage those lost conversions to come back,” said Jeni Garrett, founder of Woodhouse Day Spas. “It is great for small business owners because it has a lower cost per acquisition, so with the impression conversion rates, you are able to move through your sales cycle fast and for a much lower cost.”

Remarketing is helpful in an age where customer attention is limited; consumers may want to revisit purchase decisions later, and remarketing allows them to do that.

“Remarketing is so powerful because it allows marketers the opportunity to continue the conversation that otherwise may have only been a 30-second decision on the part of the consumer,” said Jason Hobbs, founder and president of marketing platform (acquired in January 2021 by Downtown Music Holdings). “When someone comes across the website of a small business, the potential consumer’s initial experience may not be enough for [them] to make a decision. That’s where remarketing comes in.”

4 tips for success in remarketing and retargeting

How can you incorporate remarketing and retargeting into your company’s overall marketing campaigns? Industry consensus suggests the following four steps.

1. Segment and go for the larger groups.

Although visitors may have a general interest in your broader range of products and services, many will visit you with just one or two items in mind.

To go back to our previous example, in addition to a lighting department, an online furniture store may have departments for bedroom furniture, living room furniture and dining room furniture. It may also stock wall decor and general stylings.

But e-commerce stores should not assume that because someone has shown interest in wall lighting, they’ll be interested in finding out about a corner sofa. Focus on the types of products in which a visitor has already shown interest.

To narrow down the target customers most likely interested in a product or service, customer segmentation by product interest, demographics, geographics and other factors is helpful. Customer segmentation performs best with remarketing when we address and satisfy our customers’ immediate needs and wants.

Hobbs also recommends segmenting your list of web visitors by behavior. For instance, if a consumer gets to the last page of an e-commerce checkout process and doesn’t complete the purchase, you should add that person to a different segment for a different messaging set than a visitor who visited only the homepage.

“This consumer was very interested in buying something but decided not to at the last second, perhaps to do a little more price-comparison shopping,” Hobbs said. “That should inform you to run ads that address price-matching guarantees, which will put people back into your e-commerce system so they don’t buy the competition’s product instead.”

2. Mix up your remarketing channels.

Most businesses choose a specific channel for their remarketing campaigns, such as display ads, banner ads, and Facebook or video ads, said Mike Hans, founder and former CEO of Forge Group (now part of TPA Digital). But consumers aren’t on just one channel. 

Just as in any other marketing effort, it’s essential to reach consumers where they are. This means spreading your campaigns across various channels, including (and perhaps especially) mobile devices.

Did You Know?Did you know
For robust Google search engine rankings, it's critical to optimize your website for mobile devices.

3. Don’t be afraid to test and fail.

Beri says that there’s no straight line to success. How you initially thought about your product and how people use it will change daily. The key is to “fail fast”: Learn from what worked and what didn’t, and keep improving your product and business model.

4. Make the most of what you’ve got.

The direct email addresses you have for your existing customers and newsletter subscribers (who may or may not have yet made a purchase) are of tremendous value.

Email marketing campaigns return an average of $36 for every $1 spent. Each represents a personal invitation by someone interested in your products and services to contact them directly.

It’s a good idea to segment your existing lists by product interest and by regular and irregular purchasers to achieve the highest possible returns.

Ensure you send emails frequently and over the most reliable and dependable platforms. The best email marketing software and services often consider unique e-commerce marketing concerns. 

Remarketing gives you and your customer another chance

Getting potential customers to your website and maintaining their interest isn’t easy. In fact, 58% of visitors leave your site immediately after finding it, and, based on data collected by the Baymard Institute, 70% of shopping carts are abandoned. 

Timing is also critical yet difficult to pin down. If a potential customer who abandoned their shopping cart visited your site on another day, they might have made a purchase. 

Remarketing is a way to ensure potential customers get more than one chance to learn about your brand, find the products and services they need, and purchase from your e-commerce site.

Nicole Fallon and Jennifer Post contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Mark Fairlie, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Mark Fairlie is a telecommunications and telemarketing expert who has spent decades working across advertising, sales, and more. He is the former co-owner of Meridian Delta, a direct marketing company that he successfully sold to new management in 2015. Through this experience, Fairlie gained firsthand knowledge of the life of an entrepreneur, from conceiving a business idea to growing a company at scale to transferring ownership. In the time since, Fairlie launched a second marketing company as well as a sole proprietorship. He has expanded his purview to include topics like cybersecurity, taxation and investments as they relate to B2B business owners like himself.
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