How To Maximize Your Retargeting Results


Best Practices To Maximize Your Retargeting Results


As retargeting continues to gain prominence, marketers are extending their investments beyond lower-funnel conversion objectives to upper-funnel awareness campaigns, lead nurturing, customer engagement, and customer loyalty and customer retention.

Advertisers are retargeting on a more extensive network of devices and platforms, as the use cases for mobile and social continue to expand. As businesses and marketers work to compete with an increasing number of brands vying for customers’ attention, a standard and integrated retargeting strategy has become paramount to deliver results and provide a deeper understanding of customer intent.

Perhaps you’re a retargeting newbie or a specialist of programmatic personalization, this article intends to help you get even more out of your campaigns with the latest tricks and tactics that drive results.

Retargeting 101

What is programmatic advertising?

Before we delve completely into retargeting, it is important we take a step back to get a bit of background knowledge as to its origin for a more comprehensive understanding.

Retargeting is a sub marketing strategy of a larger practice, which is programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising is the buying and selling of available ad spaces, or inventory, online. These days, programmatic advertising is typically purchased through Real-Time Bidding (RTB).

Typically programmatic advertising makes use of an algorithm automatically to make purchasing decisions for marketers. Using RTB, majority of publishers offer their available ad spaces to ad exchanges. These ad exchanges then allow the demand-side platforms (DSPs) to bid on ad space for their clients. DSPs bid on the bases of the probability that a client’s customers will purchase a product.

A winner is then chosen, and their ad is displayed on the page. This process gives marketers the opportunity to track how their budgets are being spent in real-time, thereby eliminating unnecessary contracts while helping them speedily determine which channels perform best.

What is retargeting?

To put it simply, retargeting allows marketers to deliver customized content to users who have visited their sites in the past. This includes content that relates to the sites they have visited and the products they’ve viewed in the past.

How does retargeting work?

The process of retargeting is actually quite simpler than you’ll imagine; firstly, a snippet of code (retargeting pixel) is placed on your website. This pixel then collects important visitor data, such as; the pages a user has visited, how long the user has spent on your site, and their location around the world.

As soon as a user visits your website, the pixel drops a retargeting cookie in their browser. This cookie then leaves a trail of ‘crumbs’ as the user surfs online; this enables you to retarget them with display ads across the web even after they must have left your site.

A user visits your website but leaves without completing the desired action (purchase, signup, etc.). Later on, as they use another device, they get targeted with your ad.

This recaptures/reignites their interest, this makes them then return to your site to complete your desired action.

The logic behind retargeting

Yes, it is good to know how retargeting works, but surprisingly, a lot of marketers are still not convinced as to why they should consider running campaigns that employ this tactic. The answer is simple really; it gives marketers an unparalleled advantage of enhanced audience targeting—at scale.

Prior to retargeting, a lot of marketers would directly purchase ad space on sites that they imagined their readers frequented. From this, marketers would then utilize demographic data to target their ads based on who they imagined their audience was. The focus for this data were on things like a prospect’s gender, age, occupation, location, and interests. While it is important to admit that this process had been effective for some campaigns, it however largely relied on a marketer’s inherent rather than factual assumptions about their target customer.

So what was the improvement?

The importance of first-party data

Retargeting was able to gain prominence because of its efficacy at harnessing the power of first-party data to inform the process of how digital media campaigns bid for remainder ad space online.

First-party data can simply be defined as the information that a marketer collects from its website. This includes but is not limited to; survey results, email addresses, and general website behaviour. Unlike how it use to be done when reliance was on assumptions, first-party data focuses on a person’s actual online behaviour i.e. it is evidence-based, hence a more effective option. For example, if a prospect visits your website and puts one of your products in their cart, but then leaves the site without completing the purchase. Retargeting enables you to serve those visitor ads for the exact product they left behind as a sort of reminder as they move across the web and social media. A culmination of this is what is called BUYER INTENT.


In this era of programmatic advertising, buyer intent data is without a shadow of a doubt your most valuable marketing asset, unfortunately, the majority of businesses fail to leverage its full potential. Retargeting tools take full advantage of buyer intent data, allowing you to customize the ads delivered to prospects on the basis of how they’ve interacted with your website.

Potential customers will be shown ads that have been selected specifically for their interests, remaining engaged with your brand even as they move around the web to their favourite blog, news site, or social network.


Before we go on full throttle, we need to make sure you are well set and equipped to kick off your retargeting campaign. You need to have:

A website

The retargeting tool works by tracking the behaviour of every user on your site. If you don’t have a site or only have a social page, using retargeting tools especially AdRoll is not the best fit for your business.

Over 500 monthly site visitors

Retargeting functions optimally when you have at least 500 monthly site visitors. If you are oblivious about many monthly site visitors you have, most retargeting tools can help you find that out by using the retargeting pixel to monitor your web traffic.

A site with structure and navigation

If your site has no clear and straightforward way for visitors to take actions (i.e., completing purchases or filling out forms), it will be difficult to see positive results. Your site needs to have an intuitive interface and navigation needs to be clear and simple.

Ways to Use Retargeting: Best Practices For Mobile, Web, Social, CRM

The most interesting thing about retargeting campaigns, and programmatic advertising in general, is that they can be run across multiple websites, platforms, and social media channels, this effectively ensures that you can connect to your target audience wherever they may be online.

Retargeting on the web

Web retargeting is defined as the combination of customized messaging and targeted ad placement. Targeted display ads are bought through ad exchanges and served on blogs, news sites, and other locations online, wherever your customer may be browsing.

Web retargeting works particularly well for e-commerce, tech B2B, media and entertainment, and well typically any brand interested in engaging current or prospective customers online. This as strong as a foundation can be for any retargeting program.

Retargeting on social

We all know the benefit of Social networks in giving brands a direct line to extremely engaged consumers. Hence, retargeting on social gives you direct access to some of the largest audiences online and allows you take advantage of native tools; such as shares, likes, and comments—helping you to further extend your reach.

Users on social are relatively more engaged while they’re browsing, so be ready to interact with prospective customers that come across your retargeting ads. This is a very good opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality and relate with users by curating your Facebook page or tweeting about new products and content offers.

Using AdRoll, you’ll also be able to run retargeting ads across Instagram.  As it currently has over 500 million users and 500 thousand advertisers, there’s no better time to give the platform the attention it deserves. Instagram is a truly mobile-optimized platform, and since the majority of online activity is spent on mobile devices, infusing Instagram to your publisher mix is a very essential part of a cross-device strategy that is guaranteed to reach users on any channel, at any time.

You can learn more about how to successfully retarget across Facebook here, and how to create successful Instagram campaigns here.

Retargeting on mobile

Mobile as a result of its omnipresent and multipurpose feature has become a critical part of the shopping experience at every stage of the purchase funnel; right from researching new products and comparing reviews to completing orders and sharing with friends and even giving reviews.

With mobile retargeting, it is possible for advertisers to retarget desktop visitors as they surf across social networks on their mobile devices, or alternatively, retarget mobile site visitors as they transit to desktop computers to research larger purchases. This is extremely important because we’ve realized that advertisers or marketers who include mobile platforms to their online marketing campaigns experience a 120% higher click-through rate (CTR) and serve 32% more impressions, this is too significant to be ignored.

For brands with mobile apps, this is also a very good opportunity to promote app-install ads. You can directly target consumers with personalized ads on their favourite apps. Facebook and Twitter Mobile ads and mobile app-install ads are a great way to get started.

CRM retargeting

How does retargeting work with email? When a marketer decides to use AdRoll emails, their site’s AdRoll Pixel will automatically recognizes when an email address is submitted on any website page and collect it.

Each time a marketer opts into AdRoll emails, an email address will be recognized and collected automatically when an email address is submitted by AdRoll’s pixel. By associating each cookie the pixel drops with a distinct email, the vendor can link email subscribers to the actions they take on their site. What is of major importance though, is collecting those email addresses.

Each time a visitor is asked to submit their email address, this serves as an opportunity for the marketer to add a potential customer to their email audience.

The AdRoll emails tool not just your typical email provider—it stands out in the market by offering value that functions with or without your existing email provider. AdRoll emails are unique in that they act as a first-party email provider, allowing businesses and marketers to directly target customers who visit their sites.

Also, it can work directly with marketers’ existing email campaigns and apply frequency caps to protect brand image—this helps to ensure that users won’t get chocked with emails.

Take advantage of these opportunities to serve emails:

  1. Subscribing to your blog or newsletter
  2. Logging in to their account (with an email address)
  3. Checking out
  4. Signing up for a promotion or coupon

Learn more about email retargeting best practices here.

Your Secret weapons for retargeting success



Take ad personalization up a notch by displaying products that are suited to each individual’s browsing behavior. You can easily leverage these beautifully customized ads to enhance performance across devices on the web; Facebook, Instagram, and email.

Learn more about how to use dynamic ads here.


Prospecting or display prospecting as the case may help attract fresh audiences who have a high probability to convert and become customers. By targeting digital profiles that are similar to those of your existing customers, prospecting allows you to automate new customer acquisition.

This can also be called look-alike audiences, similar audiences, or audience modelling; prospecting is the initial step in a full-funnel marketing strategy.

Find out more about prospecting with AdRoll Attract here.


This is simply the capacity to reach prospects across different devices, such as desktop computers, mobile phones, and tablets. Cross-device campaigns are typically helpful when creating an effective full-funnel campaign; this will be discussed later—as they enable you to extend your reach to multiple different devices that your prospects frequent on a daily basis. Just think about how often you switch between a desktop, a phone, and even a tablet? Making use of this strategy will help ensure you reach your customers anywhere they go online.

Ads are one of the most significant aspects of digital campaigns, especially when you want your marketing to stay top of mind and convince prospects to convert.

The Kick-off: Strategies for retargeting success

You’ve outlined your success metrics and taken a decision on an initial budget. Before you begin your campaign, it’s highly important to identify what is of most importance to you. Is it spending your whole budget or getting the best performance possible for the campaign?

Why you shouldn’t prioritize both

  • The reason is simply that they’re inversely related. That is, optimizing for performance is the best way to ensure that every ad dollar you spend is giving you the best ROI possible. However, for you to get the best performance, you may end up limiting your audience to prospects who are most likely to convert and avoid spending to reach anyone else. Yes, it may be great for return on investment (ROI), but it mostly limits your audience size and budget fulfilment.
  • On the other side of the coin, optimizing for spend is the best way to reach the widest audience possible. Because you’re not strictly focused on performance, you have the freedom for your campaigns to have more flexibility to reach various segments of visitors you might otherwise have missed out on. When you widen your audience, you’re more able to spend your intended budget and achieve a wider reach.

Which should you focus on?

Well, it’s a balance. Once you have an understanding of the value of each customer action to you, you can then seek to drive as much reach as possible while you stay below your specific targets. Answering these questions will help unlock what matters most to you:

  • Would you rather spend your total budget or hit a certain KPI in the first month?
  • How would your performance expectations change if you could 2x your budget?
  • Would you swap hitting your KPI target for getting a higher volume of conversions?

Based on what you answer to these, you’ll have a good idea of if you should focus on spend or performance. If you run an Automated Campaign, AdRoll’s intelligent platform optimizes 24/7 to help you achieve whatever goal you choose.

The full-funnel approach

The full-funnel approach is of great importance as it helps marketers better customize their content to their customers, while also making sure that this content reaches their target audience across platforms and devices.

A full-funnel approach may seem unnecessary, but simply put, it refers to the process of optimizing campaign strategies in order that they are able suitably to communicate to your prospective customers wherever they may fall within the sales cycle. What this means is that instead of employing one strategy to mass-blast a particular message to your entire audience, you can now serve ads across devices to any user, depending on things like their intent to buy and how much they know about your product.


This is the most critical aspect of the full-funnel strategy because it informs you that retargeting gives any marketer the power to extend their campaigns’ reach to various websites, social channels and apps. Putting in place a full-funnel strategy also assists marketers to customize their ads to communicate to one-on-one consumers.

The funnel explained

The full-funnel approach provides marketers with the opportunity to adjust the methodology, and measurement of, their campaigns depending on where a prospect is in the buying cycle. Because customers require a different approach at every stage of the funnel, it’s imperative to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.


The very top of the funnel also known as the awareness stage, where prospects are either oblivious to your product or just starting out in their research. Retargeting at this stage ought to be aimed at educating potential customers on your brand and cajole them to become a little more familiar with your offerings.

At this point, the AdRoll Attract tool can analyze your existing customer data and assist you in finding fresh, high-quality audiences when they’re in the market for your products. The AdRoll Attract is driven by the AdRoll IntentMap™, the world’s largest advertiser data co-op with over 1.2 billion digital profiles. As soon as these users are driven to your site, they will automatically be added to your retargeting campaigns.


The middle of the funnel is where things start to become serious for buyers as this is where they begin to show a lot of interest in your product. Probably they’ve downloaded a white paper, signed up for your email list, or requested a demo—whatever your conversion point maybe, this is the moment where you can get the most from retargeting.

The goal at this point is to maximize the total number of conversions. Once a prospect leaves your site, retargeting comes in to serve as a reminder of their intent to get more information about your products, ultimately driving them to convert.

At this point, you’ll want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Marketers should be running retargeting across the web, mobile, social, and email (essentially get aggressive as possible) to extend online presence and make sure their ads get in front of customers.


The bottom of the funnel is where the deals begin to close and upselling opportunities begin to come into play. Now that prospects are well informed of your brand, seal the deal with a decent discount or demo opportunity.

At this point of the funnel is also where marketers have the opportunity to expand their current customer base. Marketers at this stage should make use of retargeting to show gratitude to loyal customers with exclusive deals or discounts or grow current accounts by displaying ads to them that show off other products.

In summary, marketers looking to grow their bottom line and keep their customers should look to create a smooth retargeting flow from the top of the funnel down to the bottom.

Segmenting your audience across the funnel

At this point, the buyer intent begins to take the center stage. When your retargeting campaign must have been set up, you’ll automatically begin to collect valuable information about your prospects. This happens because visitors leave a history of intent data as they browse your site, which reveals a plethora of information about their buying behaviours and interests. As mentioned earlier, this is the data that retargeting captures and acts upon.

You can structure your buyer intent data by creating basic audience segments. Typically, groups of people who have taken the same or similar actions online for your retargeting campaigns. As soon as you start collecting data to fill these segments, you can then begin to serve these targeted groups customized ads based on interests they have demonstrated.

This is why audience segmentation is so critical—it ensures advertisers group users on the basis of where they fall in the funnel. A user who visited your homepage and left without making a click can be grouped in an upper-funnel campaign, likewise, a user who navigated all the way to the cart page and then leaves can be targeted with lower-funnel strategies.

Using these segments to reach your audience, it’s guaranteed that you’ll be on the path to attracting, converting, and growing your customer base. 

Measuring full-funnel success

You may be confused as to how you can measure these cross-device efforts that target users at each stage of the sales funnel. Well, the answer can be found by looking at your attribution models.

It’s long been considered that the best way to measure the success of your ads is to account for how many people clicked on them. However, this is not completely the case. In 2017, AdRoll’s State of Performance Marketing report discovered that nearly 75% of marketers are of the opinion that attribution is very important to marketing success. More than 40% agreed that they spend massive amounts of their yearly budgets on campaign measurement.

Despite the rush of interest, a lot of marketers continue to track only ad clicks to measure their campaigns. Tracking ad clicks exclusively completely misses a huge portion of your audience, i.e. those who don’t click on your ads but may still have a propensity to convert later.

It is highly recommended to measure success through conversions. A conversion happens when a visitor completes an action that is considered valuable to your business after they must have interacted with an ad. Depending on the business in question, it may be a purchase, a phone call, a lead form submission, or any valuable action that helps in growing your business.

By getting clarity on which conversions matter most to your business and how much each conversion is worth to you, it makes it easier to create campaigns that are best suited to your specific business needs and objectives.

With AdRoll, the following KPIs are measured for retargeting campaigns:

  • Spend: This is the amount spent on delivering ads
  • Impressions: This is the number of times an ad has been displayed
  • Clicks: This is the number of times an ad has been clicked
  • Click-through rate (CTR): This is the no of impressions that resulted in a click expressed as a percentage
  • Cost per thousand impressions (CPM): This is the total spend divided by the number of clicks
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA): This is the total spend divided by the number of conversions
  • View-through conversion (VTC): The number of conversions completed after someone saw an ad but did not click on it
  • Click-through conversion (CTC): The number of conversions completed after someone clicked on an ad
  • Return on investment (ROI): This is the total attributed revenue divided by spend

The simple answer: Multi-touch attribution

Ideally, marketers should measure the success of their campaigns by taking into consideration every touchpoint that leads to a sale. The multi-touch attribution framework is generally seen as the gold standard for marketing attribution.

What it aims to do, is to incorporate touchpoints, including display ads, search, and even offline marketing such as events. The idea behind this is that by accurately distributing credit across channels, multi-touch attribution assists marketers to better optimize their whole marketing strategy.

An all-inclusive multi-touch attribution process isn’t always possible, however. The setup process tends to be expensive and intense, needing a deep dive into data, deduping of multiple systems, and more. This is why we’ll recommend against taking an “all or nothing” approach by waiting for a complete or perfect attribution solution.

How other marketers have used AdRoll and found success

Retargeting on the web

With aggressive lead targets and limited funds, AlienVault intended that retargeting would help them leverage the investments they were already making even more, from a paid as well as an organic perspective.

The AdRoll easy implementation feature, real-time testing capabilities, and efficient customer service enabled AlienVault experiment with different strategies while also building out their brand. They made use of Retargeting for the web as well as Facebook.

After testing successfully, AlienVault sought to expand their audience even further and customize their paid social reach using AdRoll’s CRM integration with Marketo.

Pursuing these unsubscribed users proved to be extremely successful; without being able to access them by email, AlienVault successfully re-engaged unsubscribed users with a CTR of 0.14%.

The team was fully convinced at this point: AdRoll’s full-funnel marketing platform was indeed the best way to drive results and increase their revenue. “You’re losing money if you don’t do some form of retargeting in this day and age. Especially if you’re already dedicating budget to paid programs,” – Brooke Leslie, senior marketing manager at AlienVault.

Retargeting on social media

For Los Angeles Marathon, digital advertising wasn’t a priority: past initiatives had provided minimal returns. Yet, as they explored more sophisticated registration solutions, they realized that digital advertising deserved another try. They employed AdRoll with the steep challenge of increasing the number of registrants—and selling out sooner than they typically did. To reach their entire sales funnel, they began retargeting across all inventory, including the web, Facebook and Instagram.

Of the lot, AdRoll for Instagram has been their most creative and valuable tool for driving brand awareness. Los Angeles Marathon’s retargeting campaigns broke all the records: they drove thousands of conversions and earned more than half a million dollars in attributed revenue. Unsurprisingly, the marketing team is maintaining Instagram in its ongoing promotional strategy for a growing lineup of events. “For 2016, we’ll be focusing on Instagram-specific content,” – Ryan Cavinder, marketing manager, Los Angeles Marathon.

Retargeting on mobile

As prospects of Preferred Hotels & Resorts spent time researching different destinations and running price comparisons, the marketing team had the objective of promoting special offers for the locations these customers were interested in visiting. The company noticed that majority of prospective vacationers were using smartphones, tablets, and the web interchangeably, so its team worked alongside AdRoll to promote highly targeted ads across all devices.

With AdRoll’s real-time reporting, Preferred Hotels & Resorts could reallocate budget toward the highest-performing websites, devices, and operating systems as quickly as possible. As CMO Casey Ueberroth explains, “We know our customers are engaging with us across multiple devices. With AdRoll, we had visibility into which platforms and devices were driving more conversions.”

Retargeting through email

Sam’s Furniture needed a simple and straightforward solution to quickly send customized emails to customers who were interested in their products. “As a local retailer, I’m always looking for ways to compete with big-box vendors and cut through the number of different resources a customer uses to shop,” says Seth Weisblatt, chief marketing officer of Sam’s Furniture & Appliances. AdRoll emails offered Sam’s ability to quickly send customized emails, delivering reminders of key and specific products customers had previously looked at.

Although there were initial concerns that customers would not be responsive to being sent multiple emails, the end results cleared all doubts. By making use of AdRoll emails, the Sam’s Furniture team witnessed a 47% email open rate and a 16% CTR. “Using AdRoll Convert for the web and Facebook, along with AdRoll emails, was essential to our marketing strategy. They have proven to be a great way to remind our customers of our products and build on the success we’ve seen with our email marketing efforts,” says Weisblatt.


For a lot of businesses and marketers, retargeting has brought forth a new form of data-driven personalization to convert casual browsers into loyal customers. By simply placing a short snippet of code, marketers can now convert valuable customer data into actionable advertising strategies— and in real-time. Collecting and organizing anonymous information on user behaviour and intent helps to make sure that brands can duly convert more prospects by presenting and engaging them with the right creative and messaging.


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