Retargeting is a form of online advertising that aims at consumers based on their previous Internet habits.

For example, after a consumer visits a shoe company’s website, a banner ad can be served to them on other websites that promotes the shoes the consumer looked at on the previous website. This form of marketing can “follow” the consumer online for days, weeks, or longer. The most common method for targeting consumers is the placement of a “tracking pixel” on their computer. It works like this:

  1. Consumer visits Brand A’s website and a tracking pixel is placed in their browser
  2. Brand A monitors the consumer’s path through their website
  3. Consumer leaves Brand A’s website
  4. Consumer visits another website (perhaps a blog or news website) that is part of a banner advertising network.
  5. Brand A (who is part of the ad network) serves an ad to the consumer, often targeted to match the past history of the consumer on their website. These ads can often be very personal or customized, they may actually include a photo of the product the consumer looked at on Brand A’s website.

Email Remarketing
Google has used the term “remarketing” to refer to tactics that others in the industry call retargeting, which may confuse the term.

Retargeting can be used on website visitors who have placed items in a shopping cart and left an abandoned shopping cart. Retailers can send emails to these customers specifically to try to recover the abandoned cart.

Social Media Retargeting
Retargeting can be extended to many channels, not just to websites, it can also be used on social media and even via email marketing. A consumer can visit the Converse website and look at a green pair of shoes, for example, and within minutes or hours they may see an ad customized with those same shoes when they logon to Facebook.

Some consumers think retargeting is “creepy,” but the method is usually very effective, showing excellent ROI. The best retargeting campaigns are highly specific in their focus, serving very enticing ads to the consumer.