What Is The Difference Between Retargeting and Remarketing?

Anthony Kolesky
April 13, 2021

Have you ever talked about a product with friends or searched for a company, and then suddenly your Facebook and Instagram are flooded with ads for that exact product?

No, a government agent isn’t listening to you through your phone. Rather, businesses are advertising to you through retargeting and remarketing campaigns. These are online paid advertising campaigns built to attract customers who have shown interest in a given product.

This interest can be tracked in various ways, including:

  • Clicking on a business’s website

  • Adding an item to your shopping cart and abandoning it

  • Following or liking a business’s page on Facebook or Instagram

  • Viewing a video posted by a business on Youtube or Facebook

  • Purchasing a similar product from a business

These actions (and more) indicate to businesses that you are a potential customer and may need an extra nudge to convert or purchase a product or service from them.

This is where retargeting and remarketing campaigns come into play.

As digital marketing strategies have become more and more complex, “retargeting” and “remarketing” terms have been used somewhat interchangeably. Retargeting and remarketing work together to improve a business’ visibility to potential clients. However, there are a few key differences between the terms and how the two strategies can be used to drive success for your business.

What is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a strategy that utilizes paid advertisements that help push potential customers further down the marketing funnel.

For customers that have shown interest in your business by clicking on your website or liking your post on Facebook, retargeting campaigns can be used to show tailored ads for a specific product or service.

These advertisements, which most commonly come in the form of display ads or social media ads, remind customers about your business and encourage them to return to your site to complete a purchase.

By adding a short snippet of code that enables tracking pixels on your company’s website and social media pages, you can access information about what actions your customers have taken online. Then, you can use this information to create audience segments based on their interactions with your pages and products. Companies can also create audiences for retargeting through uploading previous customer email lists to the ad platforms, utilizing their own first-party data instead of cookies to create an audience. With changes to tracking cookies in 2021 and following years, first-party data is becoming more important to allow companies to continue to retarget–see this article for more information on the changes.

By using tools like Google Display Network and Facebook Ads, businesses can retarget these potential customers with specific advertisements.

Head to our blog post on conversion tracking to learn more about the benefits of customer tracking and how to set up pixels.

What is Remarketing?

Although remarketing ad campaigns share similar end goals as retargeting campaigns, remarketing is more focused on email communications that remind potential customers of your products and services in order to re-engage them.

Remarketing emails can be more individualized, context-driven, and highly targeted to address exactly where the customer is in the sales funnel. Common examples of strategies that utilize email remarketing include:

  • Sending an email with a coupon code or special offer to a customer that abandoned their shopping cart without purchasing

  • Showing customers related products that they may be interested in

  • Reminding a customer to renew a subscription

  • Nudging a customer that has visited your website multiple times without completing a purchase

These examples showcase strategies that encourage customers on the edge of converting to complete a purchase.

Remarketing strategies are proven to be effective at re-engaging customers. Barillance’s study on email marketing, for example, found that 43.43% of customers opened remarketing emails in 2020, with 9.12% going to the website and 1.43% converting. This small push can substantially increase your business’s overall conversion rate.


Retargeting vs. Remarketing: The Big Picture

So, what have we learned? The main difference between retargeting and remarketing is the type or format of the messaging and the location where the advertisements appear to customers. 

Remarketing advertisements and messaging take place through direct email communication. Retargeting advertisements and messaging are shown through online ads across multiple platforms. Both audiences are established mainly through tracking pixels and cookies.

Through the years, the distinction between retargeting has become blurry, with most marketers using these terms interchangeably.

Although the subtle differences between retargeting and remarketing are important to know, it’s more important to understand the ways that your business can utilize both strategies to make the most of your digital marketing presence.

Rather than focusing your marketing efforts on engaging new customers, retargeting and remarketing can reel potential customers back in that have already shown interest in your product or service–a simple but effective way to boost sales.


Develop the perfect remarketing and retargeting strategies for your business with Perfect Search. We’re experts at building out paid advertising campaigns and increasing your business’s digital presence. Contact Perfect Search today!

Anthony Kolesky
Junior Analyst

Anthony is a Northwestern student hailing from Detroit, Michigan. He’s a Taurus passionate about Pottery Barn. One day, you’ll catch him winning Survivor…or opening a cheese and wine store.

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