Remarketing vs Retargeting: Which One Should You Use?

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Digital marketing is a fast-paced and exciting space. But like most business areas it can also be a little confusing. This is especially true when it comes to more advanced marketing strategies, like remarketing and retargeting.

What are they? How do they work? Are they different from each other?

It can all seem a little too much for entrepreneurs and business owners to wrap their heads around. But with the promise of a fantastic return on investment, these strategies shouldn’t be overlooked.

Luckily, we’ve put together this guide to help you better understand what remarketing and retargeting are. We’ll also walk you through exactly how they differ and which one might be best for your business.

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing is the process of marketing to a customer again after they’ve already engaged with your business in some way.

Remarketing usually refers to the use of email marketing to connect with an individual – an abandoned cart email is a good example of remarketing in action. This practice is usually used when someone adds items to their basket on an ecommerce store but fails to complete the purchase. An email is then sent to that individual to encourage them to complete the transaction.

Remarketing is also commonly used after an individual has made a purchase. This may take the form of reselling a membership/subscription or upselling a complementary product.

As physical data, such as an email address, needs to be gathered to execute remarketing, it’s often used further along the customer journey than retargeting.

What is Retargeting?

Here is where things can get a little confusing. But bear with us – everything will be explained!

Like remarketing, retargeting also focuses on individuals who have already interacted with your business in some way. However, there are a couple of factors that make retargeting unique.

Firstly, retargeting is usually delivered through ads, including search engines and social media.

Typically, data for retargeting is collected through a “pixel” on your website. A pixel is a simple piece of code that lets you gather data on your site visitors. By collecting this data, you can then use it to advertise to those individuals on other platforms, such as Google search engine result pages, Facebook, and Instagram.

As a pixel allows you to collect data from those just visiting your website, rather than those who provide you with data such as an email, this allows you to target them at an earlier stage in the sales funnel. This means that “intent to buy” is often lower with retargeting prospects.

The automatic collection of data via a pixel also makes it easier to retarget customers – remarketing, on the other hand, relies on customers sharing personal data.

You can retarget potential customers using ad networks which publish on popular sites such as Men's Health.

When to Use Remarketing

As mentioned before, remarketing is typically used when an individual has shown some level of commitment to buying. This could be after previously making a purchase, signing up to receive a discount, or simply adding products to their cart.

This makes remarketing a powerful tool for providing bespoke recommendations. For example, when a customer buys a product from an online store, that store can then send remarketing emails to promote similar or complementary items over time. It can also be a great way to give a customer an extra nudge toward committing to a purchase.

Remarketing is most beneficial to businesses that want to maintain a strong and ongoing relationship with customers. The more opportunities there are to sell to a customer, the more beneficial remarketing can be.

As remarketing typically relies on a business collecting key communication data from customers, it’ll usually generate a much higher return on investment for businesses that have been established for some time and have managed to collect a larger volume of customer data.

When to Use Retargeting

Retargeting offers businesses an opportunity to get in front of their target market at an earlier stage of the sales funnel. Unlike remarketing which focuses on customers who have shown high buying intent, retargeting lets you target those who have shown some interest in your offering.

Businesses will typically use retargeting to support efforts to increase awareness and boost interest in their product offering. They may also use retargeting to help them build a larger and more relevant remarketing audience – this can be achieved by using your retargeting ads to lead website visitors to data capture pages.

Although retargeting is effective for all types of businesses, it can be especially beneficial to newer businesses that want to proactively drive potential customers down the sales funnel. This is because it allows businesses to leverage results from their marketing campaigns to drive greater ROI. For example, a business may use normal social media ads to attract customers to their site and then use retargeting to drive home their key marketing messages.

Retargeting can also be beneficial for start-ups and small businesses because it allows them to give a “bigger than they are” effect. When retargeting is used effectively, customers can easily presume that a business has a massive marketing budget and is advertising everywhere online.

The Differences Between Remarketing and Retargeting

We’ve already mentioned some of the key differences between remarketing and retargeting – but just to be extra helpful, we’ve put together this comparison table:

Remarketing  Retargeting 
Uses email or other communication methods to re-engage customers Uses advertising (social media, search, etc.) to re-engage customers
Targets potential customers with high buyer intent Targets potential customers with a lower buying intent
Commonly used during the “desire” and “action” part of the sales funnel Commonly used during the “awareness” and “interest” parts of the sales funnel
Costs tend to be lower based on ownership of data Costs tend to be higher due to bidding for placement on advertising platforms
Ideal for businesses with large volumes of customer data Ideal for small and start-up businesses looking to grow
You will recognise remarketing from the marketing emails you often receive from businesses you have interacted with in the past.

Remarketing vs Retargeting: Summary

Remarketing and retargeting are similar in many ways, especially when it comes to their ultimate goal – to reengage potential customers and drive sales. However, the two strategies differ enough to make them more appealing to certain businesses.

Many businesses, especially well-established online stores, will use both remarketing and retargeting as part of their wider marketing strategy. This allows them to leverage the benefits of both methods across the sales and marketing cycle.

Have you tried out either of these tactics? Let us know in the comments!


Whether retargeting or remarketing is better for you depends widely on your unique business scenario. Start-ups and small businesses will typically benefit more from retargeting because it allows them to better leverage current marketing efforts. Established businesses with high volumes of customer data can benefit more from remarketing since it allows them to develop long-term relationships with customers.
Remarketing and retargeting have the same goal – engaging potential customers to drive higher volumes of sales. However, there are some key differences. Remarketing tends to focus on customers with high buyer intent, such as those who have added items to their cart, using tools such as email to reengage them. Retargeting focuses on driving awareness and interest by using ads (social media, search, etc.)
Written by:
I’m a content writer for Website Builder Expert. I’m a bit of a business and marketing nerd and love sharing my knowledge and experience to help others achieve their business goals. From complex engineering and brewing to international events and brand design agencies, I’ve worked in marketing roles for well over 10 years now. During this time I developed a skill for turning complex (and occasionally dull) information into exciting, easy-to-understand, and actionable content. I also set up my own content marketing consultancy and launched my own ecommerce business on Shopify.

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