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Remarketing — what it is, how it works, and more

by The Adobe Experience Cloud Team Your company’s marketing team works hard to bring visitors to your website. More often than not, these visitors won’t make a purchase the first time they visit your site. This is why it’s important to re-engage with website visitors who interacted with your brand in the past but didn’t complete a purchase.

Remarketing is a marketing tactic that helps you engage with these past visitors and encourage them to convert. But because it’s a paid tactic, you need to prove that remarketing will be a good fit and a worthy investment for your business.

In this guide, we’ll explain what remarketing is, how it differs from retargeting, and how you can get started with remarketing ads.

This post will discuss:

What is remarketing?

Remarketing is a digital marketing strategy that helps businesses reconnect with past website or app visitors. Remarketing serves as a reminder of your brand to customers who haven’t taken a desired action yet. Since these users visited your site and demonstrated an interest in your company, remarketing can significantly improve conversion rates.

This technique is called remarketing because you’re re-engaging with a potential customer. This person is already somewhat familiar with your brand and products, and creating more touchpoints and conversations with them increases the likelihood of a conversion.

While organic strategies can certainly help you deepen relationships with potential customers, remarketing often leverages ads to re-engage with site visitors. There are many ways to do remarketing, but some of the most popular platforms are Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and AdRoll.

Remarketing vs. retargeting

Some marketers consider remarketing and retargeting to be one and the same, but they’re actually two different concepts. Originally, remarketing focused on re-engaging with customers via email, while retargeting focused on nurturing these customers with paid advertising.

While the terms are often used interchangeably today, there are key differences between retargeting and remarketing. Retargeting is still focused mainly on paid advertising and leans heavily into ad performance data to engage with site visitors. Remarketing, on the other hand, focuses on data from past site visitors collected by your company, which is referred to as first-party data. Remarketing uses this first-party data to reach customers who had past interactions with your brand and website.

Remarketing is a broader strategy that can include retargeting. Both retargeting and remarketing aim to re-engage customers who showed an interest in your company, but remarketing usually involves a wider range of techniques and channels, with a heavier emphasis on email. Remarketing can also include re-engaging customers through email after they abandon a shopping cart, sending direct mail to customers who visited your store but didn’t make a purchase, or even reaching out via phone call.

Remarketing is a marketing tactic that helps businesses engage with past website or app visitors and encourage them to convert.

How remarketing works

Remarketing works by using “cookies,” which are small pieces of data stored on a user’s browser when they visit your website. However, most third-party cookies now have restrictions, so it’s best to remarket on platforms that use first-party tracking instead. To do remarketing, you will likely work with either a pixel tag or a remarketing list, depending on the data you have and the remarketing platform you use.

Remarketing pixel tags

Pixel tags, which are also known as tracking pixels, are small pieces of code on a website that enable the placement of cookies onto a user’s web browser. When you create a remarketing campaign with a particular platform, it will give you a pixel tag code to add to your website. From there, the pixel drops a cookie into the user’s site browser, creating a trail of breadcrumbs you can use to serve tailored ads as they surf the web. This allows you to maintain connections with past visitors and engage with them long after they leave your website.

Remarketing lists

A remarketing list is a record of visitors who visited or performed a certain action on your website. When a visitor goes to a specific landing page, the remarketing tool adds that user to your remarketing list. From there, your remarketing campaign will display ads to these users that include relevant content from that landing page. This enables hyper-personalized experiences that make remarketing campaigns much more effective.

Types of remarketing

While most remarketing campaigns use the same underlying technologies, there are several types of remarketing campaigns to choose from.

Standard remarketing

Standard remarketing is the most common way brands embrace remarketing. With standard remarketing, you show tailored ads to users who previously visited your site. These ads are typically delivered through display networks and remind visitors about your products or services — hopefully enticing them to return.

Standard remarketing also uses search engine data to display related or complementary products to these users, making your messaging much more persuasive and powerful.

Dynamic remarketing

Dynamic remarketing is a more personalized form of remarketing that serves ads tailored specifically to a single user. For example, dynamic remarketing campaigns serve ads featuring the exact product a visitor saw when they browsed your website. This creates a much more direct and relevant connection to the shopper’s interests.

Dynamic remarketing can also analyze on-site data, like the blog posts a user reads, to serve ads related to that content. Whether you’re investing in content marketing or want more people to buy your e-commerce products, dynamic remarketing fosters relationships through the power of hyper-personalization.

Social media remarketing

Remarketing largely focuses on past visitors to your site, but social media remarketing sends ads to users who engage with you via social media. If you’re trying to make more of a splash on social, this type of remarketing encourages more people to view and engage with your social content.

Social media remarketing ads can appear either within the social media platform itself or via search engine results pages (SERPs) linked to that platform. Some of the most common social platforms for remarketing are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Remarketing lists for search ads

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is a feature offered by Google Ads that allows you to customize your search campaigns. Use RLSA to tailor your bids and ads to past visitors when they’re searching for either your items or related items on Google.

This strategy allows you to make more aggressive bids and create fine-tuned ad content for users who already demonstrated interest in your brand. Instead of spending more advertising dollars on first-time users to your site, RSLA bids a higher amount on this list of past visitors with the goal of winning more bids and increasing conversions.

Video remarketing

Video remarketing is a strategy that serves ads to users who previously interacted with your company’s video content, whether that’s on your website, app, or a platform like YouTube. This form of remarketing includes displaying ads on YouTube videos, presenting ads before a video starts (pre-roll ads), or showing ads in the margins under “suggested videos.”

While it’s still a relatively new remarketing strategy, video remarketing is already showing promise. In fact, 95% of marketers say video ads increase brand awareness, and 91% say it leads to an increase in traffic.

Email remarketing

Email remarketing targets ads toward users who opened or interacted with your company’s emails. This could include serving display ads to people who opened a specific email campaign, abandoned their shopping cart, or engaged with a certain link within an email.

An email remarketing strategy is ideal if your business already has a robust email marketing system — and email contact list — in place.

Benefits of remarketing

There are so many types of remarketing, but they all come with a host of benefits for your company.

Access past site visitors

You worked hard to bring visitors to your site in the first place, whether through organic or paid campaigns. Few people are ready to engage with your brand when they first visit your site, so it’s important to access past site visitors so you foster deeper relationships that eventually lead to future purchases. These users are likely to have higher brand recognition and could be further along in the buying process.

Remarketing enables you to serve tailored ads to these visitors, reinforcing their interest and encouraging them to return to your site to complete a purchase.

Recapture lost website traffic

Website traffic alone doesn’t guarantee digital marketing success, but it certainly helps you promote your brand to more people. It’s normal for most site visitors to leave without taking action, but remarketing gives you the opportunity to recapture this lost traffic.

By displaying targeted ads to visitors while they browse other websites, you can gently nudge them back to your site for more interactions. As long as you provide valuable, personalized experiences on-site for these return visitors, they’ll eventually make their way through the funnel.

Encourage conversions

Most site visitors aren’t ready to make a purchase or contact you when they first visit your website. According to Gartner, at least 50% of the buyer’s journey happens via third-party sources — not your website. With remarketing campaigns, you reconnect with these users after they’ve had time to do further research, increasing the odds that they will engage with your content or products.

As long as you’re honest about how you use shopper data, remarketing can significantly increase conversions. In fact, a Harvard Business Review experiment showed an 11% increase in click-through rates and a 38% increase in product revenue with remarketing campaigns.

Remarketing campaigns led to an 11% increase in click-through rates and a 38% increase in product revenue.

Remarket to customers across industries and verticals

The great thing about remarketing is that it isn’t exclusive to a certain industry or vertical. It’s incredibly adaptable, which makes it suitable for a range of different applications.

Remarketing will work for you as long as both your business and customers are online. Both B2B and B2C companies use remarketing to promote products and services to potential customers, too.

Use a variety of ad formats

Remarketing isn’t limited to one type of ad. Depending on the preferences of your target audience, you can create text-based, image, or video ads.

This high degree of flexibility means you have total creative freedom to design attention-grabbing ads that resonate with your audience.

Keep your brand top of mind

They might not be ready to buy right now, but people on the receiving end of remarketing will certainly remember your business.

They’ll see your ads when they visit social media or when they look for information on Google. If they added an item to their cart, got distracted, and left, remarketing serves as a gentle reminder to finalize their purchase.

Preserve your marketing budget

Marketing spend on paid media increased — and actually surpassed investments in any other channel — in 2022. While more businesses are investing in paid ads, remarketing is a surprisingly effective strategy for making the most of your advertising dollars.

Click-through rates tend to be higher on remarketed messages because users are already familiar with you. Because click-throughs are higher, you’ll likely see lower costs-per-clicks, too. Remarketing also encourages bounced users and abandoned carts to convert, which helps you see more of a return on your investment.

Personalize eCommerce experiences

More than 70% of shoppers expect personalized experiences, so it’s no wonder why businesses that personalize the shopper experience generate 40% more revenue than those that don’t.

If you use dynamic remarketing or RLSA, you can show e-commerce shoppers the exact items they viewed or left in their shopping cart. Displaying relevant products tailored to their exact search makes it much more likely that a shopper will remember their need for that product and complete the transaction.

Use an ad tool to help your remarketing efforts

Remarketing keeps your brand top of mind with the potential customers that engage with your website, app, emails, social channels, and more. Remarketing comes with so many benefits, including higher engagement and conversion rates, improved return on ad spend (ROAS), and increased sales.

When you’re ready to get started, evaluate your current marketing tools to see if they can handle a robust remarketing campaign. Adobe Campaign and Adobe Analytics work together to help businesses plan and execute more effective remarketing campaigns.

With Campaign, you can visualize and connect customer journeys across every channel. Rooted in email but extending across all channels, it synchronizes campaign elements into one manageable workflow. Analytics turns real-time data into real-time insights so you can make informed decisions about your remarketing campaigns.

Watch an overview of Adobe Campaign to learn more. Get an overview of Adobe Analytics or request a demo of Adobe Analytics to capitalize on the transformative power of remarketing for your business.

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