Remarketing – everything you need to know about it

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Last edited: December 29th, 2022

Remarketing – everything you need to know about it

Remarketing, or retargeting, refers to marketing that is targeted to people in different channels based on their earlier actions online. The most typical form of remarketing is targeting advertising at the people who visited your website earlier. The aim is a conversion for example in the form of bids or downloading online guides.

However, with remarketing you can do much more, such as target advertising at people who viewed a video on Facebook, at the people who have previously bought from you, at the visitors of particular subpages, and so on. The relevant question is not what is possible, but what is important. There are many possible ways to do remarketing. Some of them are more technically challenging and some are easier. Great ideas or theories behind the implementation do not guarantee functionality or success. 

It should be noted, however, that doing remarketing is not always wise. There are many situations in which it would be useful to forget about remarketing to use resources as efficiently as possible. For example, it is not relevant to target remarketing at website visitors if there are only 100 of them per month.

When to do remarketing?

Remarketing should be utilized especially when there is already a significant number of target audience members visiting the website or social media pages whom the company wants to reach. At this phase, advertising is typically already targeted at cold audiences. 

The good thing in remarketing is that it is difficult to spend large amounts on the media expenses if the company doing remarketing is not very large. This is because the number of visitors on the website and on social media pages is limited. On the other hand, this is also the weakness of remarketing, because it is easy to spend more on the planning of the remarketing campaigns than what is spent on the media.

It is also possible in remarketing to show advertisements to the members of the target audience so often that they get fed up with them. On the other hand, repetition is a traditional marketing technique, meaning that showing ads often is not necessarily a problem.

As a rule of thumb, you should consider carefully when to utilize remarketing. The volumes in remarketing are smaller than in marketing to new audiences, and therefore there is less room for testing different kinds of angles in the marketing messages.

Effective remarketing

What is effective remarketing like?

Theoretically, you can build for example complex 7-step remarketing funnels that personalize your messages to all different customer groups and stages of the purchasing process. 

In practice, in such implementations, the assumption is that you understand your customers’ behavior and you know how the purchasing process proceeds. However, this is not often true. Many companies do not have a clue about what matters are repeated in customers’ purchasing processes and which aren’t. 

The purchase process is rarely as straightforward as what different funnels make it sound like. This does not mean, of course, that different sales funnel theories could not be useful. However, it doesn’t mean that the theories should be utilized in all situations, either. 

In general, funnels often describe the general stages of the purchasing process on a very general level. In practice, the descriptions are not so accurate that it would be wise to plan advertising based on them. Common sense helps a lot in the implementation of effective remarketing. Abandon unnecessary segmentation and complexities. If the visitors of your website have not converted to leads, you have not offered them lead magnets interesting enough or you were not able to build trust with your website. It may well be that they simply were too busy and forgot about you.

So, remind them of your existence with remarketing, offer more interesting lead magnets and build trust for example through testimonials. The customer is less likely to rely on what you say, but when a relatable person tells about your company impartially, the credibility of the message increased. 

Remarketing is not, and you should not treat it as, rocket science. 

Let’s look at the most common questions about remarketing.

What timeframe should I choose for remarketing? (the website visitors from the past two days, from the past 14 days, from the past 180 days..?)

At this phase, you ponder which part of the target group is most relevant for you. The simplest answer is to note that the closer to the current moment the person has visited the site, the more relevant the person is. This is usually true. Does this mean that you should always focus on the most recent visitors in remarketing? Not necessarily. 

It should be remembered that there are other ways to find people relevant people than limiting the target audience manually. These ways are often quite effective. Let’s use remarketing on Facebook as an example.

On Facebook, it is rarely wise to buy only impressions from the target group. It is wiser to set targets for the impressions. Facebook then strives to maximize the possibilities of reaching the targets. Advertising can be purchased with, for example, a click-through goal, a conversion goal, or a commitment goal.

When advertising is purchased from the target audience with a click through goal, Facebook tries to find the people most likely to click on your ad from the target audience. It is not a terribly far-fetched idea to think that people who click your ad are more interested in your business than those who just scroll past the ad.

What does this mean for remarketing?

It means that you should keep the target audience a little broader. Common sense tells us that if Facebook can choose from 1000 impressions and you spend so much money on advertising that you can buy all 1000 impressions, then Facebook doesn’t prioritize the most relevant and irrelevant impressions. If, on the other hand, the inventory is 100 000 impressions from which Facebook can choose the most relevant for you, you can probably get better results. 

However, if your marketing is at account-based marketing -level, you will probably want impressions only from that particular target group. Even if the members of the target group would not react to your message during the first six months.

In summary: If you buy advertising space with another goal than impression goal, favor broad targeting. If you buy with a display goal, target as narrowly as possible.

What is too high frequency for remarketing and how much advertising can be shown to the same person?

There aren’t simple answers for this question. I recommend using common sense and pondering the following questions:

1) Is your ad interfering / interrupting, such as YouTube pre-roll videos, or easy to bypass, such as ads on Facebook?

If the ads are easy to bypass, the potential customer will hardly be annoyed by the ads. YouTube ads, on the other hand, may cause some irritation.

2) What is your ad’s message, and will it change over time?

In car sales, I have planned implementations in which practically every ad is different and web users do not see the same ad twice. In other words, there are different cars in different ads. 

In this case, showing ads 20 times in 14 days for the same person did not decrease the power of the ad. On the other hand, if the same ad is shown again and again, the power decreases much faster.

3) How much does showing ads cost and what results does it bring?

If advertising is almost free and it brings amazing results, you should probably show the ads more. If, on the other hand, advertising, advertising is expensive and does not bring results, you should show less ads or stop showing them completely.

In summary:

If your ad is not disturbing, your message will change constantly and you are getting results, the frequency of showing ads will probably not be a problem. As a rule of thumb, 530 impressions in 14 days could be a good amount.

If your ad can cause annoyance, your message does not change, and you are not getting results, you should probably show fewer ads, for instance, 13 impressions in 14 days. 

With what kind of messages should we remarket?

It depends on what you want the customer to do. If you want her to convert to a lead, offer content that is so interesting that she is ready to leave her contact information. If you want to build trust so you could get better leads or get more sales from the existing leads, use customer testimonials in remarketing. If you have a promotional campaign going on and want quick results, use that campaign in remarketing. 

How much of the budget should be allocated to remarketing and how much to other marketing?

It is practically impossible to answer this question because sensible allocations are entirely dependent on how many people you already have as your remarketing audience. If you have contact information from all the members of your target audience and you can create remarketing target groups based on that contact information, then you should probably use the entire budget on remarketing.

If, on the other hand, you are a completely unknown organization and are just starting out, you should use around 0 dollars on remarketing. The allocation is typically something in between. I have previously worked mostly with Facebook marketing and I have to say that at least in Facebook marketing, people often pay too much attention or no attention at all on remarketing. Usually, however, the balance is found somewhere in between.

One of the problems with remarketing is measuring it. The measurements are often biased, which often leads to a situation in which too much money is spent on remarketing. At the other end of the spectrum are the people who have not even heard of or have not been able to do remarketing, or otherwise, just do not see it as relevant.

As an example: in a situation in which around 5000 dollars are being spent on digital marketing monthly, and digital marketing has been done for less than a year, I would spend 500 dollars on remarketing, at most.

In a way, the whole discussion about allocation between new audiences and remarketing is somewhat artificial. One should always focus on the ways that bring results. Remarketing typically brings good results but on such a small volume that it often isn’t a relevant part of digital marketing. The situation is totally different when volumes are bigger.

How is remarketing implemented technically?

Remarketing implementations are somewhat channel-specific and, for example in social media, you can usually remarket directly with the help of data of the people who viewed a video or something else. Remarketing based on the data of website visitors works generally to some extent on cookie basis.

A code is placed on the site that triggers a cookie for the user’s browser, which is then targeted re-marketing. In reality, this is not that simple, because for example with the help of Facebook it is possible to target remarketing at the same person using different devices. However, remarketing is based on adding code on your website. That code helps in creating the target group. 

The easiest way to get started for example with Facebook is by installing a Facebook pixel on the site, but if you want to track your ad more closely or for example perform dynamic remarketing, you need to set up other events on the site than the basic page view event. However, the technical implementations are getting easier year by year and information on the topic can be easily found on Google.

What does remarketing cost?

The price of remarketing consists of work done and media expenses. A simple setup can be created in a few minutes, and then it is possible to build campaigns and get them running in an hour or two. The advertising space itself adds costs. It is difficult to give generalizable information on the pricing, but 1000 impressions typically cost something between 5–35 dollars.

In summary

Remarketing is one tool in the digital marketing toolbox. It is worthwhile to use it in certain situations, but not always. 

It is advisable to start with simple things and common sense. For example, install a Facebook pixel on your site and run a campaign where you target your satisfied customers’ comments or some kinds of guides at persons who have visited your site during the past 180 days.

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