What is retargeting?

Retargeting, or behavioral retargeting, is the practice of adjusting online advertising strategy based on a consumer’s previous online actions or purchases. Retargeting uses cookies, which links a web visitor’s browser to a particular website or products and allows companies to retarget users with web ads and ads on social media.

How retargeting works

  1. Cookies

    When a visitor looks at a company website he or she will often see an alert that the site uses cookies. A cookie is a marker in the visitor's browser that tracks the visitor's path through a website -- what types of products and services they've viewed or other click-throughs.

  2. Using cookies

    Retargeting advertising is driven by cookies. Online ad delivery -- the ads a website visitor sees -- are customized based on the data the cookies provide related to the visitor's click-throughs. For example, if a user does a google search on airline flight from New York to Los Angeles, he or she might see a pop up ad for cheap airfares on other sites he or she visits.

  3. Different types

    While website retargeting is used my marketers the most, companies also retarget consumers through email, on social media, and through search. For instance, if someone is logged into a company's site and the company has his or her email address, they might get pinged with a message for a deal after they've visited a particular product page. Google search results can also be altered based on a consumer's previous searches.

Why retargeting matters

  1. ROI

    Imagine if a company's entire marketing budget could be aimed at consumers the company knows wants it products. That's what retargeting does. It gathers data on a consumer's browsing habits and uses that data to target consumers more directly.

  2. I follows consumers

    Retargeting has broad online reach. If a consumer spends a lot of time on Facebook, a retargeting strategy can account for that. Same with other social networks and web platforms, such as news sites and prominent blogs.

  3. Get it right

    Consumers might get antsy when they see ads for products they've just browsed on a company's site on CNN.com. A retargeting strategy shouldn't overwhelm a web user, and companies should stop retargeting after a conversion or a product purchase. If not done right, retargeting can be seen as another form of spam.