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Remarketing 101 For Online Businesses

January 7, 2021

Remarketing 101
Remarketing 101

Remarketing 101 For Online Businesses

January 7, 2021

We’ve shared a couple of posts recently to give some insights into the world of digital marketing for merchants. In case you haven’t seen them yet, you can read Digital Marketing Basics for Merchants Part 1 and Part 2 for the lay of the land, and some great starting points to get more attention from future customers. 
In this article we’ll focus on remarketing (also known as retargeting), a marketing approach which aims to bring return visitors to your site to make their purchases. 

What is Remarketing? 

If you have an online shop, chances are you aren’t the only one selling the product or service you’re offering. In a perfect world, of course, someone would visit your site and purchase right away, but that’s not the case. In fact, according to Statista in a recent report, an average of only 2.72% of visits to eCommerce sites convert to sales! That leaves a lot of customers you’re missing out on, through no fault of your own. 

Luckily for you, there are options, and you have ways to draw these visitors back in, and convert them to customers. 

Remarketing is an approach toward online advertising which enables merchants to share their ads with those who have visited their site but didn’t complete a purchase. This audience will see the merchant’s ads while they are browsing the web, Facebook, or YouTube, for example. This helps to keep the merchant at the top of a former visitor’s mind, and hopefully bring them back to make a purchase. 

Remarketing tends to be very effective, because the people seeing your ads are already familiar with your brand. While there are many digital marketing practices which expand your reach to those who have never heard of you, remarketing / retargeting is like a “warm lead” – you can be pretty certain that your audience is already interested in what you have on offer. 

So how do you, as a merchant, use remarketing? 

Getting Set Up – The Practicalities 

To begin, set up an account with Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords). Within your account, you will find a bit of code written for the purpose of remarketing, called a Tag or a Pixel. When you (or your developer) add this code to the backend of your website, visitors to your site will be added to your remarketing audience due to browser cookies. 

You can even customize the code for different pages, if you have different objectives – for example, if you are the sunglasses vendor we spoke of earlier, perhaps on your site you also sell eyeglasses. You likely want to create a different ad for those shopping for sunglasses than those shopping for prescription glasses, and differentiating between the code on these pages allows you to be more specific when serving ads. 

You can also set audiences based on the purchasing stage a visitor reached within your site. You can have an audience for those who simply visited your site or catalogue, those who added a product to the cart and didn’t complete the purchase, or those who are existing customers that you would like to bring back for a follow up purchase. 

By being very specific with your audiences, you are increasing the probability that you will convert these visitors into customers. As Google Ads’ invoices based on a “cost per click” approach, the more relevant the ads are, the more likely you are to invest in clicks that draw in customers. 

Example of a Google Ads tracking code to place on the website 

Remarketing Through Social Channels 

Facebook and Instagram make it easy to remarket to customers, giving you a chance to display your ads to visitors to your website within their news feeds. As these users scroll through, they will see reminders of your products, services, or general website. 

Setting up remarketing campaigns in social media doesn’t take much effort, and makes your ads available to a captive audience: the average person spends more than two hours a day on social media. Let’s have a brief look at a couple of different ways of implementing social media remarketing: 


By setting up a pixel – a piece of code attached to pages on your website – you capture cookie data when users browse your site, add items to the cart, or exit the purchasing page. These cookies are tracked for 30 days, allowing you to serve ads to these users for about a month after their visit. For remarketing on Facebook, you can serve ads to your customers for up to 180 days after their visit. 

Pixels are added to specific pages, and your ads can be tailored to the pages themselves – for instance, certain products, or different messaging for those who have made it all the way to the checkout page. 

pixel for remarketing
 This is a great option for many merchants, though can be a bit labour-intensive to implement if you want to place the pixel on many pages throughout the site.  


Another means of remarketing to customers is a list-based approach. List-based retargeting is implemented by uploading a list of emails from potential or past customers, and serving ads directly to them. This allows you to customize ads based on what users have purchased or expressed interest in before, meaning your ads can be customized to their direct interests. 

This option doesn’t account for users who have a different email address for social media accounts, and isn’t as timely as the pixel-based option as it requires the manual upload of email accounts. 

retargeting stats

For best results in setting up social media retargeting ads, ensure you are matching your creative and messaging (the images and text on/accompanying the visuals) to the audience you are serving the ads to. If you’re targeting people who were browsing for sunglasses, don’t serve them offers for prescription eyewear, for example. This will ensure that those who are coming upon your ads are more likely to click and reach your site again, and complete their purchase. 

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