In a perfect world, your customers would act upon your marketing efforts the first time around. They’d visit your website, understand, appreciate (and need) what you offer, and convert. But unless your product is what impulse purchases are made of, the customer journey is convoluted. For some industries, like ecommerce, only 2% of people convert on the first visit.

Luckily, you can smooth the path by including retargeting campaigns as part of your strategy. People who have already visited your website but took no action, or have given you their email from a previous transaction, can be reactivated through ads that help them take that next step from consideration to conversion.

There are a few ways to implement retargeting; the two main ways being pixel-based retargeting and list-based retargeting.

Pixel-Based Retargeting

Pixel-based retargeting is the most common:

  1. You add a pixel to strategic areas of your site (or across your whole site).
  2. When someone visits your site, the pixel drops an anonymous browser cookie that tracks the products/pages they view on your site.
  3. When they leave your site, this cookie notifies the ad networks you’ve integrated that they should serve that user-specific ads based on the pages they visited on your website.

There are a few basics you should implement to get the most out of pixel-based retargeting:

  • Activate a burn pixel on your confirmation page so that you’re not targeting ads to people who actually did convert. This makes you look silly and disorganized and annoys your customers who already took the action you’re asking them to take again. Alternatively, use another pixel to track converted visitors and reengage them in another way, with an ad for related products or services, or with a discount code for a future purchase.
  • Retargeting demands unique creative, ongoing optimization, and sometimes custom landing pages. Ads that speak to someone who’s never heard of your brand vs. someone who came within inches of converting should clearly differ. It’s smarter not to enable retargeting if you can’t keep up with the content demands of this kind of campaign.
  • Cap the frequency and length of time you serve up retargeting ads to visitors. Your ads will degrade over time if they don’t take action, negatively impacting performance.

I’m sure you’ve experienced some level of retargeting if you’ve “window shopped” online but didn’t complete a purchase. At the present moment, Zappos is haunting me with retargeted ads for a pair of gorgeous but pricey Cole Haans that I can’t bring myself to splurge on.

Zappos, I wish I knew how to quit you.


List-Based Retargeting

List-based or email retargeting starts with existing contacts in your customer, user or prospect lists.

  1. You upload a list of email addresses to a retargeting campaign on a site like Facebook or through some other display network.
  2. The site identifies users on the network with those email addresses and serves retargeting ads specifically to them.

List-based retargeting can be highly customized and specific, because you have more control over who goes on the list and can base your lists on actions each user has taken.

If you’re utilizing email marketing as a way to connect with prospects or customers, you can target ads to users who clicked on a product in your email with more information to activate them. Or, you can reengage with them through display advertising if they haven’t opened your emails in awhile. 

There are some drawbacks to list-based retargeting – sometimes people enter one email address on a landing page form, yet use another for Facebook, so they won’t get your retargeting ads if you run that kind of campaign through Facebook. It’s best to put together a large list to make this type of retargeting really effective.

Ways to Retarget With Facebook Custom Audiences

Facebook offers several ad retargeting methods, and to use them you have to have a Facebook custom audience:

  • You can use pixel-based retargeting and focus on only a portion of traffic that visited a specific page on your site by customizing URL elements to match specific pages you want to remind visitors of.
  • You can use list-based retargeting by uploading an Excel file with a column of subscriber email addresses. Depending on your list size and how well your own list is scrubbed & segmented, you can layer additional targeting on top of these users to serve up ads only to men or women, for example, or only to users who are 21-30 years old, or even based on their interests for even more relevance.
  • You can also create custom lookalike audiences that share characteristics of your existing audience and who may be likely to be interested in your products and services (this doesn’t fall under retargeting since you can’t retarget people who have never interacted with your site or brand before, but a relevant and powerful way to use the platform regardless).

Ad retargeting is an important part of your social media advertising strategy, and one that we tend to recommend to most of our clients as a way to improve campaign performance and get the most out of your ad spend. For some of our clients and industries it’s so profitable and has shown to drive down CPAs that it commands the bulk of the budget over prospecting new leads & customers.

Ready to learn what sort of returns you could see through retargeting? Contact us for a look into what pixel- and list-based retargeting could do for your ad strategy.

Get the latest digital marketing insights and trends delivered straight to your inbox.

*By submitting your Email Address, you are agreeing to all conditions of our Privacy Policy.