Epic Presents: Retargeting VS Remarketing

Retargeting and remarketing are two very different tools that are all too often confused or used as interchangeable terms. In this blog post we’ll break down the differences for you, and shed some light on when to use each.


Retargeting is a term used to describe online ad placements and display ads that are served to users based on their actions on your site: a users come to your site, a cookie is placed, and you can now target ads to them. Think of the times you have looked at a pair of shoes online, navigated away, and the shoes have followed you in the form of display ads. Retargeting is done through third party networks like adroll and the google display network.

Within the realm marketers can choose from a variety of different channel / targeting strategies.

The 7 top ones:

  1. Search (target individuals based on the searches they’ve conducted on Google Yahoo and Bing)
  2. Site (target individuals based on actions they’ve taken on your site)
  3. SEO/SEM (target individuals based on how they found your site – use the inbound event to better customize messaging)
  4. E-Mail (target individuals who are interacting with your e-mail programs)
  5. Contextual (target individuals who have visited a partner site that shares a similar interest / topic to your own site)
  6. Engagement (target individuals who have interacted with distributed content ( a custom facebook page, an expandable video ad unit or an online game / application)
  7. Social (target individuals who consume similar content to your existing cusomters)

Retargeting is extremely effective when compared to traditional display campaign methods, and have much higher engagement rates. In fact, it’s not uncommon for CTRs to be 3 – 10 x higher in retargeting than the display industry average.

Common pitfalls to be aware of when using retargeting:

  1. Over exposure to the ad: 55% of consumers reported that they are less likely to buy products or services if they see the same ad online more than 3 times.
  2. Retargeting consumers with ads on sites unrelated to the advertised product or service: this can result in negative overall sentiment towards the ad.
  3. Tough to quantify ROI: much of the value is from “view-through” traffic that can’t be tracked by CTR.


This is the term used to describe re-engaging customers with e-mail. For instance:

  1. Shopping cart abandonment e-mail campaign.
  2. Upsell / cross sell e-mails.
  3. Lifecycle marketing e-mails.

Remarketing drives higher conversion than retargeting: a study conducted at MIT shows significantly lower engagement rates for outreach that occurs more than one hour after a visitor has left your site. In fact, your chances of re-engaging a lead can drop as much as 10x if you follow up more than an hour after your first interaction with a potential customer. Since remarketing can be automated to occur directly after the customer visits the site while retargeting cannot, it’s conversion rate is higher.

In conclusion:

Remarketing (e-mail) is for people that you have every reason to believe are incredibly interested in buying. You have to engage them heavily. Retargeting (display) is for people who have expressed interest but need to be eased further though the sales cycle. It is about keeping your brand on the forefront of their mind and repeating a message. There is no reason to choose between the two : in fact perhaps the most powerful tool is both together: use display retargeting to funnel customers, then use remarketing to draw back in those that made it to the end of the funnel and hesitated.