The Marketer's Guide to Retargeting - Scout Digital

The Marketer’s Guide to Retargeting

June 15, 2018 by Dave Saraceno

Smart SEO pulls visitors to your website, and great content keeps them there. Still, potential customers visit your site, read your blog, watch your video, and view your products but click away without buying anything. It’s a common scenario for retail brands selling online. So let’s break down what’s actually happening here.

Imagine a woman we’ll call Sarah Shopper walking through an enclosed mall (remember those?). Sarah spots a display ad on a kiosk announcing that the exact item she’s been looking for is on sale in one of the mall stores. She checks the directory, navigates her way to the outlet, and heads inside.

Sarah spends 20 minutes in that store. She looks at the product on sale, peruses a few other items, flips through a free magazine, and even chats with one of the sales associates. Sarah picks up the original item three times before reluctantly setting it back on the shelf and leaving the store without ever removing her credit card from her purse.

The buyer was ready, the store experience was idyllic, and the product was right. But Sarah didn’t buy. Whether in a brick-and-mortar store or online, retailers want to know: Why don’t purchase-ready shoppers buy? And what can I do about it?


Why buyers act the way they do.

Many factors affect buyer behavior. Culture, social elements, personality, weather, motivation, device, and urgency can all determine whether a customer buys a product, and if so, when.

Keep in mind that online shoppers in particular are looking for a seamless or frictionless experience. By this, they typically mean a user-friendly experience that integrates real-life occurrences with digital ones. Customers want to learn about the options, find the product they need, compare prices and benefits, check out easily, get the item right now, and enjoy a generous return policy.

A blip in any point of the journey – whether caused by the retailer or an outside force – can distract the customer from buying. That’s why keeping your customers emotionally engaged with your brand and giving them a simple, pleasurable buying experience is so important.

About 98% of prospective buyers, however, still walk away, frustrating marketers everywhere.

There’s a silver lining for e-retailers who deal with this problem. While the staff at the brick-and-mortar store in our example can’t chase Sarah Shopper through the mall, shoving sales flyers in her hand, an online retailer can follow her from site to site on the internet with banner ads. And she won’t think it’s weird. In fact, it will make her much more likely to buy.

We call that strategy retargeting.


What is Retargeting? defines retargeting as “a cookie-based technology that uses simple Javascript code to anonymously ‘follow’ your audience all over the Web.”

Retargeting’s goal is threefold – to pursue engaged customers, increase brand memory, and move consumers farther down the funnel. In some cases, retargeting blends traditional retail marketing strategies with digital ones. For instance, a retailer can follow a customer who visits a website with invitations to buy from a brick-and-mortar store “near you.” Customers who use a mobile app are also prime for retargeting.

According to Hubspot, retargeting is “a powerful direct response tactic that maximizes ROI … and a great brand-building tactic that keeps you in front of prospects.”


How Google retargeting works.

Google advertisers can use the search engine to help with retargeting. The process is simple. Add a piece of code, called a pixel, to your website in order to put your visitors into a retargeted audience through browser cookies.

You can customize the pixel for each item you sell. For instance, if you are an online home furnishings retailer, you can create a pixel that will retarget people who viewed “lamps.” The more targeted your ads become, the more relevant they will be and the lower the cost per click.

Furthermore, Google lets you refine your retargeting ads based on customer behavior and perceived intention. Is this a new customer or a returning one? Did the customer view the product or actually put it in the basket before clicking away? Your ads can address each consumer based on their behavior.


How Facebook retargeting works.

Facebook retargeting works much like Google does. An e-retailer puts a pixel on their website, it anonymously tracks the customer, and it permits effective retargeting. The difference is that Facebook retargeting happens only in Facebook ads on the right sidebar under where the Newsfeed was. Your customer has to be on that social media site in order to see the retargeting ads. Still, Facebook remains by far the largest and most used social media site. Two billion people have a page, and 1.3 billion of them check it daily. Your near-buyers are going to visit their Facebook accounts very soon, and when they do, your ad can remind them to finish what they started back on your e-commerce retail site.


What results does retargeting drive for your business?

Combined with other digital advertising strategies, retargeting can increase sales or leads by 50%. An aggregate number, however, tells you little about what retargeting can do for your specific enterprise.

To get the most out of your retargeting investment, you need to optimize your campaign by taking the following steps:

  • Create great content. Retargeting ads can address potential consumer questions, offer discounts, or promote related products. Whatever you think it will take to get Sarah Shopper back in your store, you can test as ad content.
  • Too much of a good thing is still too much. Cap ad frequency at 17-20 per month.
  • Use a burn code. This device removes buyers from the list. Once a customer has purchased your product, they probably don’t want to see 20 ads a month for it. Alternatively, they might want to see ads about relevant products. A burn code can move your prospect to a different list.
  • Segment your audience. All prospects do not respond to the same messaging. Start with at least four segments – new customers, existing customers, cart abandoners, and  people who viewed several different products while on your site. Retarget different content to each segment. As your strategy grows more sophisticated so will your segmentation.
  • Test your creatives. Fashion two ads, and devise a simple A/B test to learn which one works. The data will not lead you astray.
  • Measure everything. The more data you track, the more effective you can be.






Retargeting is one of the most effective tools in the marketing box, but it only works if you do.  To get the most out of your retargeting strategy, consider bringing on a professional organization to devise and roll out the campaigns.


What are the laws on retargeting?

As always, marketers want to stay well within legal and ethical bounds as we execute our strategies. After GDPR became law in the European Union and Mark Zuckerberg testified before the U.S. Congress, public awareness of data use has grown, and concern has intensified.

Currently, the law is not restrictive, but Google and other search engines are offering customers the opportunity to press the mute button on ads they find annoying. Eric Cosway, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer of QuantumDigital, recently published a helpful article in Forbes describing the rules of retargeting.


Final thoughts.

Digital retargeting has given marketers and retailers the tool they wanted to own for years. You can chase down prospective customers without irritating them. Used intelligently and skillfully, retargeting is a powerful strategy for increasing sales and leads, enhancing brand awareness, and creating emotional loyalty to your business.