Retargeting vs. Remarketing

By and large, first-time visitors to your ecommerce site will look around, get a feel for your online presence and leave—without making a purchase. In fact, only two percent of first-time visitors to an online store actually make a purchase. Which, of course, begs the question: What happens to that other 98 percent? This is where understanding the dynamics of retargeting vs. remarketing can help you influence their subsequent purchase activity.

While both retargeting and remarketing involve reminding visitors to your site they saw something they liked, the approach to accomplishing this goal is different.


When you hear someone discussing retargeting accurately, they are referring to narrowly focused online ad placements. The ads follow people around who have interacted with a product on your site as they do other things on the web.

Basically, your site places a cookie in a shopper’s browser when they arrive and pays attention to the items at which they spend time looking. If they leave without purchasing them, your site will tell the cookie to trigger your ads on other sites they visit. This serves to remind them of items they seemed to appreciate, but didn’t purchase.

Triggers can also be based upon how they found your site—whether it was through social media, a search engine, or some other means. People on your email list expressing an interest in an item, but having yet to convert can be retargeted in this manner as well.


While typically referred to in the same breath as retargeting, the two are in fact quite different. Remarketing is centered upon personalized email campaigns reminding shoppers they’ve abandoned a shopping cart or placed something on a wish list they have yet to purchase. They can also be used to remind subscribers of an approaching renewal, or an item for which they conducted a search.

Remarketing has been proven to be most effective when used to inform shoppers an item they’ve considered has gone on sale. It’s also an effective way to afford repeat customers the “VIP” treatment, such as acknowledging birthdays, wedding anniversaries, or other significant life events. And, as mentioned above, reminding people of abandoned shopping carts is a very effective use of remarketing.

Practical Examples

Let’s say you’re running a string of eBooks online stores., and you wanted to make more sales, you could try listing your eBooks on eBay, you can check out this guide on How To Sell eBooks on eBay.

In this first scenario, a shopper arrives at one of your sites and clicks on the thumbnail of a hot new novel. They read the description and flip through the excerpted pages, but leave without buying the book. Afterwards, they go to Facebook to see what their friends are up to. As they’re scrolling through their feed, an ad for the book appears, with a link back to its page on your site with a call to action. This is classic retargeting.

In the second scenario, the shopper spent time looking at the book, placed it in a shopping cart and wandered away, potentially never to be heard from again. A day or so later, an email message from you appears in their queue telling them the book has gone on sale for 25 percent off. However, if they want the deal, they must act now because the sale will end shortly. This is classic remarketing.

So, Which Is Better?

One is no better than the other, they’re just different and both are good. Retargeting is centered on paid ads aimed at people who have expressed an interest in what you have to offer. Meanwhile, remarketing relies upon email messaging to remind a shopper they saw something they liked and perhaps give them an opportunity to get a favorable deal on it. When it comes to retargeting vs. remarketing, rather than thinking in terms of one or the other, look for opportunities to do both.


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