A Guide to Retargeting

15th January 2014 by dan hamilton

There’s a statistic that follows all online businesses, one that seems like a challenge, one that never fails to shock no matter how many times you hear it. The statistic?

“Only 2% of visitors to your site will buy on their first visit.”


This leaves an astonishing 98% of potential buyers that leave without registering, completing checkout or with no intention to return. Of course there’s many touted solutions, and today we’ll cover one that can target these 98% and give your Ecommerce site the best chance of tempting them back: Retargeting.

What is Retargeting?


Retargeting is an online marketing technique to attract visitor traffic back to your site, even if the user hasn’t yet provided you with personal information or completed a sale. A good retargeting campaign will reach your potential customers across the internet, reminding them with display ads on other websites that the products that attracted them to your site are still there. They ensure you become recognisable and second nature to a user, encouraging them to convert. And with some types of retargeting, the user doesn’t even have to have a history of visiting your site. Yes really.

Many people confuse retargeting with remarketing. There’s a very simple way to spot the difference between the two:

·         Remarketing uses the information of customers who have connected with your company in someway previously to target emails and other media to drive further sales and engagement.
·         Retargeting can be used earlier in the purchase process – before the user has given you any personal information or checked out – to attract visitors back to your site via targeted ads on other websites.


Retargeting Types


There are 2 main types of retargeting: Search and Contextual.

Search Retargeting

What if you could target users who were searching for your goods or services with relevant ads across multiple sites, even if they’ve never visited your online store? This is exactly what Search retargeting does. Display Ads such as banners are generated based on keyword search terms you define in your campaign, while an ad network will display these to users across a variety of websites where they have advertising inventory.

Akin to SEM (Search Enginge Marketing) methods such as PPC, it actually expands on the benefits by displaying relevant ads in browsers that are based on the user’s previous and current searches. Where as a PPC ad may only be displayed to the user once on their search results page and given limited or no consideration, retargeting ads can trail a user across sites, with multiple impressions building awareness of your offering until the user is finally intrigued enough to click. There is an old marketing maxim, ‘Rule of Seven,’ which states that consumers need to be exposed to products and services at least 7 times before they are ready to buy.

This is the performance edge Search Retargeting offers over conventional “One Chance” SEM search ads, and can make the ROI multiples higher.


Unlike SEM the keywords you bid on are kept completely confidential. Some studies suggest search retargeting is actually over 95% cheaper too. It utilizes your keywords in a cost effective way and allows businesses to gain more for less as the cost per click is dramatically reduced.

The beauty of search retargeting is that many companies will already be familiar with keyword bidding, optimisation and SEM. In fact a lot use the same keywords that are used for their PPC campaigns. The bidding takes place in an auction, something that marketers will already be familiar with, allowing you to control your budget you bid for impressions.


Contextual retargeting:

Contextual retargeting or site retargeting displays ads on other sites to those users who have visited you previously. So a user lands on your site, does some browsing across your store, but then decides to leave. With Contextual retargeting a user will now see banner ads on other sites, reminding and tempting the user back to your site to pick up where they left off. Similar to Search retargeting in that you are now serving the ad multiple times with the visitor to enforce the message, however the key difference is that these users have already visited your site and expressed an interest. Thus they are further down the purchase funnel and thus more likely to convert if you can bring them back.

Technically this is done by you or your developers placing a retargeting javascript link in your HTML that allows a retargeting provider to follow the user across certain sites with a normal cookie. You then create your campaign with the retargeting provider specifying how often and at what price the ads should be served up to your visitors on their network of sites which they have ad inventory for.

It sounds like a long process but when the retargeting agency has partnerships with Google, Facebook and MSN, it can happen in a matter of seconds.

Some would also say that follow up emails for abandoned carts are a form of retargeting, however we class this as remarketing as the user must have already handed over their contact details for this to happen. Check out last weeks blog for more info on remarketing.


How Users Experience Retargeting


To understand the value of retargeting it’s important to experience the effects from a user’s perspective. Some big companies that use retargeting successfully are Marks and Spencer (despite the recent news), Debenhams and even Macmillan Cancer Trust.

A user may visit Marks and Spencer, they may browse the children’s clothes on offer but leave due to a number of reasons, not enough funds, distractions, computer crash, and interruptions.

As they check their email, catch up with friends on social networks and even shop for food, they’ll see the products that caught their eye alongside a button that allows them to click to buy. It reminds the user of products they had an intention of buying but never quite got round to completing the checkout.

As retargeting can also include sliders or galleries of multiple related products it could also upsell as it retargets.

Debenhams are masters at this, for example a customer visits and browses the bed linen. Leaving the site they find that Debenhams aren’t directly advertising the duvet cover in question but are advertising the pillow shams which are a fraction of the price along with other accessories that complement the set. With the choice on offer in the ad, the user sees a product they can easily afford and return to the site.

Retargeting is especially effective for purchases which require multiple sessions to make a decision. As an example, you would like to buy a new TV. The cost is one not to be taken lightly. You will browse multiple offers before making a decision. As you scroll through TVs with free delivery, ten percent off, free subscriptions to Netflix, it’s easy to forget the previous deal. Retargeting ensures you are reminded of the offer and the benefits of buying that particular TV. It can also make you aware of an offer not previously seen on a visit to the site.


The Hard Benefits


So what are the hard benefits of a well run retargeting campaign?

-Increasing Conversions

Some of the 98% may have left your site with absolutely no intention to buy however some may have been cut off abruptly through a PC crash, an outside influence or interruption. In the latter example, a reminder or two should see them coming back and checking out. Each sites retargeting campaign will be different, but industry consensus is that conversions can be increased by up to 25% for a well executed campaign.


-Lower Customer Acquisition Costs

Retargeting costs considerably less per conversion than other forms of marketing such as PPC and AdWords. You control the budget and you don’t have to be everywhere the user goes.


-Time Control

You can also control the timing of ads, for example, your visitor may have left as they simply didn’t have enough money in the bank. By retargeting with ads at the end of the month, the most common payday for most employees, you could secure a sale when they’re feeling flush.


-Eminence by Association

Regardless of the low costs retargeting can enable you to advertise on some of the most popular websites such as the social networks. By association, this immediately raises a company’s reputation as a successful brand.


Running a Successful Retargeting Campaign


The key to running a search retargeting campaign is understanding the customer that walked away while having your sights set clearly on the results you wish to achieve.

You need to clearly define who you wish to target, where you’d like to target them and the keywords you’d like to bid for. Keywords that were previously out of your price range for PPC or AdWords may be affordable now. A good retargeting company will not only research your target market, they will explore the keywords that will offer you the most value for money while monitoring your buyer’s behaviour. Remember, buyer behaviour is consistently evolving and yesterdays keywords may not be tomorrow’s as customers explore new ways of finding what they are looking for.


The Providers


There are a handful of retargeting providers that seem to have risen to the top over recent years which we’ll briefly introduce:


Ad Roll

Ad Roll concentrate on site retargeting rather than search retargeting however they are very good at what they do. For example, take a quick look of their offerings and within a few minutes their ad will be popping up across Facebook and the net. Quite impressive.

They have no minimum spend and provide a user dashboard to keep you firmly in control.



Chango expect a signficant minimum spend (£K’s) with some clients spending hundreds of thousands in a year. However their ad network claims to reach over 95% of the internet population and boosts over 8 billion search events for you to run campaign against.


FetchBack / Ebay Enterprise

Fetchback are for the more established business. Recently snapped up by Ebay and rebranded as “Ebay Enterprise”, They concentrate on retargeting and have even developed their own solutions to enhance results, however pricing is not obviously available or transparent.



Retargeter Originally simply retargeting this customer friendly team now offer a range of services. These include email marketing and social remarketing. They are considered to be quite expensive but do give you a dedicated account manager to ensure the best chances of success.



Facebook has embraced retargeting offering excellent tools to any business that wants to access their audience through the social network. Of course, you choose who you target but Facebook adopts an algorithm that allows for an almost stalker-ish type of advert targeting.


Monitor and Measure then Build on Success


The internet has always given the smaller business a chance to compete with the bigger brands online as everyone shares the same sized shop front and most have the same tools to use. Of course budget is a factor but as content becomes noticed for its quality rather than quantity once again the SMEs have more control. Retargeting for SMEs doesn’t just remind users of their presence it can also raise a reputation considerably. When a potential customer sees a advertisement on a global website such as Facebook or MSN, the perception of the company can be greatly enhanced, this encourages feelings of trust as money would only be made by other customers choosing to buy.

With any marketing strategy you must always be adaptable to change along with monitoring the results carefully at every stage of the game. If you believe retargeting will enable you to bring back some of that 98% get in touch and we’ll make sure you do it right.

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