Retargeting: A Smart Marketer’s Guide to Happy Endings

By Katherine Nails, April 25, 2018

Once upon a time, a weary web wanderer found your site.

“Alas,” they cried as they filled their cart. “These fabulous wares bring me such delight!”

Just as it seemed your skill in ecommerce would pay off,

The client’s phone rang, and the school said her daughter’s come down with a cough.

As the customer hurried out to collect her child,

She left behind a forgotten cart, her purchases unreconciled.

Once upon a time

Source: Blurb

The bad news: This tale’s ending isn’t uncommon. The good news: There is a strategy to increase the likelihood that your estranged customer will be reunited with their cart the next time they’re browsing the web, giving both of your stories a happy ending.

Here’s what you need to know about retargeting.


What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a method of drawing people back to your site after they’ve visited. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including combating cart abandonment. Retargeting can also up your conversion rates by drawing in people that are interested in what you have to offer.

Related Post: 3 Ways the Bachelorette Can Help Your Remarketing

The graphic below shows a typical retargeting scenario:

real retargeting

Source: Supercell Media

Depending on your needs, there are different types of retargeting you can use.


Types of Retargeting

Picture this: Robin Hood fighting his rivals with a sword. Sure, it may do some damage, but his famed bow and arrow would help get the job done much more efficiently. Along the same lines, choosing the right type of retargeting to add to your arsenal will help you reach your goals more effectively. There are two types of retargeting you can use. They are pixel-based and list-based. 


To begin pixel-based retargeting, all you need to do is add a few lines of JavaScript to your website. The script implants an unobtrusive cookie in the browsers of people that visit your site. It then acts as a fly on the wall as they surf the web.

Using the cookie, you can serve tailored display ads to customers based on how they interacted with your site. For example, let’s say you visit Old Navy and browse their women’s shoes section. For the next 30 days, you see ads pop up for Old Navy women’s boots. That’s pixel-based retargeting working its magic.  

You get a cookie!

Source: Ask Ideas

Of course, there are pros and cons to retargeting.


  • It’s Instantaneous. As soon as a client enters your site, they’re cookie-ed. Once they leave, they’ll begin seeing your ads.
  • It’s Specific. Once the cookie is planted, the ads that the customer sees are tailored specifically to their online behaviors.

Related Post: Retargeting Gone Wrong: 4 Tales of What Not to Do


  • It’s Anonymous. With pixel-based retargeting you don’t know whose browsers you’re planting cookies on. This leaves you more vulnerable to fraud and wasted money.


List-based retargeting is less common than pixel-based. It uses your existing customer lists, usually emails, to serve display ads. To run this kind of campaign, you upload your list to a retargeting platform, which checks the email accounts and targets your ad.


  • Fraud Is Less Likely. Since you know who your targets are, it’s less likely for a bot or a rogue rival to slip through the cracks.
  • You Have More Control. Using customer lists allows you to have greater control over exactly the amount of ads you want to serve. In addition, you can compile specific lists to serve specific ads.

Related Post: 3 Simple Ways to Make Your Retargeting Campaign Stronger


  • People Usually Have More Than One Email Account. Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to have a personal mail account, a business account, and even one for social media. Because of this, an email may be deemed by a retargeter program as illegitimate, when in fact it’s a perfectly good lead.

Retargeting, when used correctly, is a great strategy for drawing customers back to your site, As always, do your research to be sure that the campaign you’re using is what’s best for your company.


The Happy Ending

After putting her daughter asleep, your client sat down and logged on,

While browsing, she saw an ad for merchandise in the cart she’d forgone.

“I can’t believe I forgot about my cart,” she said as she clicked “complete purchase” with laughter.

Thanks to your savvy retargeting, both you and your client will live happily ever after.

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Katherine Nails

Katherine Nails

Katherine Nails is a former eZanga Content Marketing Intern. She is a student at the University of Delaware, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Media Communication, and minors in Journalism and Integrated Design. When she’s not tracking down a source for her school’s student newspaper, you can find her relaxing with a good book or movie. More Articles by Katherine Nails