The Difference Between Remarketing and Retargeting

Digital PR
remarketing retargeting 16.04.20

According to some digital media pundits, less than 2% of customers actually make a purchase upon their first visit on a site. This is where remarketing and retargeting come in: both tactics are designed to help businesses reach back to customers who have shown interest in their brand.

That said, it’s easy to confuse the two when devising a digital marketing strategy. Here is a guide to understanding the difference between the two, and advice on how to use these tactics to re-engage with site visitors.


Remarketing describes the act of advertising to the same web user more than once through the use of email marketing. Remarketing emails are typically sent out following specific visitor behaviour on a brand’s website, such as adding items to their wishlist or abandoning their shopping cart.

Remarketing emails are especially effective due to their wide reach. Most adults use email, therefore making it relatively easy to reach out to potential customers once they have left a site.

For example, potential customer Joseph has landed on a beard care site after searching for specific products on Google; upon signing up for the brand’s newsletter, he adds beard oil to his cart, before being called away to cook dinner. Four hours later, Joseph finds an email in his inbox: “Oops, you’ve left something behind! Here’s 15% off your next purchase to welcome you back.” Joseph clicks through the email, and finalises his purchase on the site.

Ultimately, remarketing emails serve as a reminder to visitors of their previous shopping plan, and sometimes an email is all that is needed to motivate them to return to their shopping cart to finalise their purchase. Given the recipient has already shown an interest in the product, there’s a good chance theirs is a low-hanging branch for which a business can reach.


Retargeting is a re-engagement tool that relies on online ad campaigns to target users that have already interacted with a brand’s website. This is where retargeting differs from remarketing, in that no email address information is necessary to adopt this tactic.

Retargeting ads can be placed on third-party sites via the Google Display Network, which allows businesses to reach site visitors on their top websites after they have left the brand’s own site. This increases a brand’s chance of catching a visitor’s attention, and re-engaging their interests.

For example, Jamie is shopping online for a new summer swimsuit. She sees one she likes on Instagram, and clicks through to the store to view the range of products there. She reads the brand’s “about me” section, and checks the shipping information, ultimately planning to sleep on her decision. The next day, that same swimsuit photo is in her Facebook feed in the form of a promoted post; she decides to go ahead with her purchase.

There are many ways that businesses can improve customer conversion on their websites, and remarketing and retargeting tactics are excellent ways to ensure good return on investment. Still, there is a time and place for each tool, and knowing the difference between the two is vital for businesses looking to achieve optimal results.

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