In this post, we’re going to answer the question, “What is retargeting?” It’s a critical part of digital advertising that allows advertisers to target users who visit websites but don’t convert. It can play a significant role in new customer acquisition and building customer loyalty.

How Does Retargeting Work?

Retargeting uses a tracking tag, which is a unique code snippet, to allow advertisers to serve ad impressions to users who visited their website. In many cases, these people clicked on an ad previously that directed them to the website. Other times, users organically found the website through search or other means.

Here’s an illustration:

how retargeting works

Why Retargeting Is Important

Retargeting impressions can offer a better return compared to non-retargeting ones. That’s because customers have already demonstrated interest in the product or service. Retargeting helps nudge that person from being aware of the brand to making a purchase.

Because of the increased engagement retargeting offers, 94% of organizations state retargeting is at least somewhat successful.

When Should You Recommend Retargeting to Advertisers?

Retargeting isn’t a tactic for every advertiser. Here are some examples of when it can be impactful as part of an integrated digital advertising campaign:

  • Websites with a steady flow of existing traffic: If your customer’s website is new or has minimal traffic (fewer than 100 monthly viewers), they aren’t likely ready for retargeting.
  • Advertisers with best-selling products: If your customer has a popular product or service, retargeting helps promote these. (Bonus tip: Ads showing reviews or other “social” proof of the effectiveness of the product or service would be very appealing.)
  • Introducing new products or services: For advertisers with strong brands in the market, adding retargeting for product or service launches reiterates the messaging and can draw customers back to the website.
  • Companies that need to move inventory: Many of your advertisers may have seasonal merchandise they need to sell (e.g., local hardware stores have different products for warm vs. cold months). Retargeting with additional promotions could help.
  • Building brand awareness: Retargeting ads don’t always have to be promotional. They can contribute to awareness for businesses looking to capture market share. (Bonus tip: See our brand awareness vs. promotional display ads post for more information.)

Cross-Device Retargeting for OTT and CTV

Retargeting for OTT and CTV works differently than website retargeting. In this model, retargeting uses device mapping technology. With this tool, you can identify people from the same household where an OTT or CTV ad was served. This creates an ecosystem that increases the frequency of ad serving, which can result in clicks. With cross-device retargeting, users can see ads no matter the screen type.

Retargeting Best Practices

To produce the best results for advertisers, share these tips with them regarding retargeting ads:

  • Include product reviews to build credibility.
  • Reference that the person visited your site, and create some FOMO (fear of missing out) in the creative.
  • Split test ads to collect data that will help you improve on them going forward.
  • Find a balance between overserving and underserving. Retargeting too much becomes annoying, but doing it too little doesn’t support engagement. Setting a frequency cap of 15 to 20 impressions per month is a good benchmark to follow.
  • Ensure that ads include clear branding so that viewers aren’t confused.
  • Segment audiences in retargeting, if possible, by behaviors and time since website visit.

Answering “What Is Retargeting?” for Advertisers

The information above allows you to answer retargeting questions from your customers. Based on their goals, budget and other factors, retargeting can boost advertising performance. 

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