Retargeting vs Remarketing: Similarities and Differences


Chris Young

Retargeting vs Remarketing: Similarities and Differences

ROI, CPC, CPA, CIA, FBI… Sometimes the nomenclature in the marketing world can make people wonder if we work in marketing or in some executive branch intelligence agency.

When it comes to remarketing and retargeting, the confusing jargon doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The similarities and differences between the two terms can make a big difference in marketing performance and still manage to confuse even seasoned marketers. The execution of both can seem quite similar, but the difference in audience is ultimately what distinguishes each. When retargeting and remarketing are used together in their proper contexts, the marketing results can be highly profitable and can help businesses increase revenue.

What is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a powerful digital marketing strategy that allows businesses to re-engage with users who have previously interacted with their website, mobile app, or online content. Retargeting is specifically used for cases when those users did not complete a desired action like making a purchase or filling out a lead generation form. Retargeting works when a user visits a company's website or engages with their digital content, a small piece of code (called a pixel or tag) is placed on the user's browser. This code drops a cookie on the user's device, which then allows the company to "follow" that user around the internet and serve them targeted ads as they browse other websites. These retargeted ads are designed to draw the user back to the company's website or content to complete the desired action they did not take the first time, like making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or requesting more information. Retargeting is an effective tactic because it allows companies to remain top-of-mind with users who have already shown interest, increasing the chances they will convert on a subsequent visit.

The key difference between retargeting and remarketing is that retargeting is focused on reaching users who have had some interaction with a company's digital presence, Remarketing is about re-engaging existing customers. Retargeting is all about nurturing leads and moving prospects further down the sales funnel, while remarketing is about building loyalty and driving repeat business from customers who have already made a purchase. Both strategies can be highly effective when used as part of an integrated digital marketing approach.

What is Remarketing?

While retargeting is focused on re-engaging users who have previously interacted with a company's digital presence, remarketing is all about reaching out to existing or past customers. The goal of remarketing is to build loyalty and drive repeat business by serving targeted ads or offers to people who have already made a purchase. For example, a retailer might use remarketing to advertise a special sale or new product line to customers who have previously made purchases from their online store. A SaaS company could use remarketing to offer a discount on a product upgrade to users who have been subscribed for a certain length of time. The key difference is that remarketing is about nurturing and re-engaging a company's existing customer base, rather than trying to draw new prospects farther down the sales funnel.

Remarketing can leverage a variety of digital channels to stay in front of potential customers, including email, display ads, and social media. With email retargeting, companies can send personalized messages to users to re-engage with them and push them towards purchasing again. Display retargeting involves serving banner ads and other visual ads to these same users as they browse the web. Finally, social media retargeting allows companies to target ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to bring people back to their website or app. By using a multi-channel retargeting approach, businesses can increase the touchpoints they have with previous customers and improve the chances of converting them.

Advanced remarketing strategies can even include aspects of traditional media like mailers. Be More Digital’s proprietary Household Remarketing can target qualified leads with digital and traditional media. This proprietary technology uses first-party data to identify households that have expressed interest in different products or services and remarket to them with physical mail and through digital platforms such as display ads and social media. This incredible program has helped companies achieve nearly 50% year-over-year growth

Use Cases for Retargeting and Remarketing

Retargeting and remarketing can be powerful tools for businesses across a variety of industries and marketing objectives. In the e-commerce space, retargeting is particularly effective for abandoned cart recovery - serving ads to users who added items to their online shopping cart but did not complete the purchase. This allows businesses to re-engage those potential customers and encourage them to return and finish the transaction. Retargeting can also be valuable for nurturing warm leads - for example, by targeting users who have downloaded a gated piece of content or requested more information about a product or service, but have not yet converted.

Beyond e-commerce, retargeting can be leveraged in lead generation campaigns to keep a brand or offer top-of-mind with potential customers as they move through the sales funnel. For businesses focused on building brand awareness, retargeting can be an efficient way to repeatedly expose users to digital ads and content, even if they don't immediately convert.

On the remarketing side, common use cases include winback campaigns to re-engage past customers who have lapsed, as well as cross-selling and upselling efforts to drive additional purchases from existing customers. Remarketing can also power effective customer loyalty programs, where businesses offer special promotions, discounts, or VIP experiences to their most valuable and engaged buyers.

Ultimately, the key is to utilize retargeting and remarketing strategically based on a company's specific marketing goals and the behavior of its target audience. By understanding the differences between the two approaches and how to apply them effectively, businesses can maximize the return on their digital advertising investments.

The Role of Attribution

A key consideration for both retargeting and remarketing efforts is the role of attribution modeling. Understanding how to properly assign credit for conversions and desired actions is crucial for optimizing the performance of these strategies and maximizing ROI.

There are a variety of attribution models that marketers can leverage, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Last-click attribution gives all the credit to the final touchpoint before a conversion, while first-click models attribute the conversion to the initial interaction. Linear attribution spreads credit evenly across all touchpoints, and time decay models give more weight to interactions that occurred closer to the conversion.

By combining multiple attribution models and leveraging advanced analytics tools, marketers can gain a more holistic understanding of the customer journey and how various retargeting and remarketing tactics contribute to desired outcomes. This allows them to allocate budget and optimize campaigns accordingly.

For example, a business may find that retargeting ads are effective at driving initial website visits and engagement, but that remarketing emails are ultimately responsible for a larger share of conversions. Or they may discover that a combination of display retargeting and social media retargeting is more effective than relying on just one channel. Continuous testing and optimization of attribution models is key, as the relative importance of different touchpoints can shift over time.

Ultimately, the insights gleaned from robust attribution modeling can be a game-changer for retargeting and remarketing strategies. By understanding the true impact of these tactics across the customer lifecycle, marketers can make smarter, data-driven decisions to nurture leads, re-engage customers, and drive sustainable growth for the business.


The differences between retargeting and remarketing are nuanced, but a healthy understanding of both can help your company grow by correctly applying each for the right use case. While the concept is fairly easy, the different channels–PPC, email marketing, social media ads, and more–can be challenging to implement. When it comes to implementing remarketing and retargeting tactics, one of the best ways to maximize the chances of success is through partnering with a digital marketing agency like Be More Digital. Our deep experience in advertising execution and other marketing tactics can help create a shortcut for your success. For more information about working with Be More Digital, take a look at our case studies or get in touch with our customer success team. We’re standing by, ready to answer any questions you may have.

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