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Retargeting vs. Remarketing: What Is the Difference?

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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Retargeting, remarketing, to-may-to, to-mah-to, right? Not so fast. Though they’re often used interchangeably in industry blogs, podcasts, and infographics, retargeting and remarketing are not the same. The line is quite blurry, especially as more brands embrace an omnichannel marketing strategy.

Here’s what to know about retargeting vs. remarketing.

What Is Retargeting?

Retargeting is a powerful marketing tactic that lets brands re-engage with shoppers. You’ll see retargeting in the form of paid ads (display or social media) that are triggered after a shopper clicks on another ad, visits your site, or searches for you on Google. It’s the ultimate way to recover abandoned carts or send a friendly, “Hey, remember us?” message to shoppers who browsed your site but didn’t purchase.

Retargeting works by leveraging pixel tags (small pieces of code on your website) and tracking cookies (which you can think of as crumbs left by site visitors) to identify which users to add to a specific retargeting or remarketing list. Not only can you customize the conditions of your lists (e.g., users who only visit three or more product pages), but you can also deliver customized ad messages and offers to each segmented list.

Trust us when we say retargeting is one of the most powerful marketing tactics available to brands. 

You’ve probably also heard the term behavioral retargeting — it’s another way to describe the process of retargeting based on what shoppers click on, the pages they visit, or how long they spend on a page.

Dynamic retargeting, on the other hand, is when marketers serve personalized retargeting ads to users based on the products they viewed or added to their carts.

Interested in learning more about retargeting? We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide.

What Is Remarketing? 

Remarketing is a tactic also used to re-engage shoppers, but instead of ads, it’s via channels like email or SMS messages. Compared to retargeting, remarketing is more about interacting with shoppers who already know you rather than trying to reach new ones and closing a sale.

That said, remarketing usually involves collecting contact information (such as an email address or phone number) so you can deliver relevant marketing messages. You might use remarketing to re-engage with customers who haven’t shopped with you in a while or use it to deliver additional marketing reminders, such as an invitation to join your loyalty program, to shoppers who have just checked out. Another common example of remarketing is the process of upselling or cross-selling to shoppers.

But here’s where the line gets confusing: Some marketers argue that retargeting is a subset of remarketing, and that remarketing is simply a broad umbrella term to describe the process of marketing to a shopper multiple times. That’s why you’ll sometimes see the terms used interchangeably.

Terminology aside, remarketing and retargeting should both have a place in your overall marketing strategy, as they address different marketing needs. 

What About Google’s Remarketing Tools?

You can thank Google for contributing to some of the confusion involving retargeting vs. remarketing — Google’s “Remarketing” tools are, in actuality, not remarketing at all. They’re actually focused on retargeting.

Getting Started With Retargeting and Remarketing

Now that you’re familiar with the similarities and differences between retargeting and remarketing, it’s time for the next step: getting started!

So, what’s the best way to approach these marketing beasts? With a marketing platform that’ll handle all of the hard work. AdRoll is a leader in the retargeting and remarketing space for good reason: Its AI-powered solutions make it a breeze to reach the right shoppers at the right time and place. Whether you want to launch retargeting display ads or remarketing emails, AdRoll has got you covered.

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