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What is the difference between Remarketing and Retargeting?


Effective marketing is the life-breath of an organization. Companies implement multiple marketing strategies to achieve their goals. Two such strategies are remarketing and retargeting. Even though they seem to be similar and are used interchangeably, they are two distinct strategies. While there is some overlap, there are major differences as well.

Other than attracting new customers, a major objective of marketing is to consistently be in touch with the existing customers, find ways to re-engage with them and form long-term trustworthy bonds. This is where remarketing and retargeting come into the picture. However, to be able to use these strategies effectively, one must understand them in detail.

What is remarketing?

Remarketing involves re-engaging any past customer or anyone who visits a brand’s website to persuade him to return and do business with the brand again. This marketing strategy gathers the users’ information and then sends them emails to reconnect.

Examples of remarketing include sending emails such as:

  • Introducing new offerings which are similar to the customer’s past purchases.
  • Reminding customers to return to their shopping carts and complete the transaction.
  • Highlighting discounts and deals on products related to the customer’s past purchases.
  • Giving a discount or a coupon when a frequent customer has not made a purchase for quite some time.

Remarketing has proved to be a very successful tactic to drive conversions from existing customers. A report by Campaign Monitor revealed that targeted email campaigns could lead to a 760% increase in revenue.

What is retargeting?

Retargeting shares the same goal as remarketing which is to re-engage customers who have already shown an interest in your products. However, the marketing tactic used in retargeting is different. Here, online or display ads are shown to audiences who have interacted with your brand’s website or social media profile in some way or the other, even without purchasing anything.

As an online customer, you would have experienced retargeting if you had visited a brand’s website and then later saw an ad for the same brand while scrolling through social media or visiting any other website.

In retargeting, the data about audiences visiting a particular website is captured and then those audiences are re-targeted through Google display or social media ads.

Retargeting can be categorized into two approaches depending on the kind of interactions being targeted.

  • Targeting ‘On-site’ interactions

This involves targeting people who have already made a purchase before or have just visited your website and did not buy anything. Retargeting such customers can help retain their interest and increase conversions. Retargeting campaigns have consistently shown greater engagement than the non-retargeting ones which proves that it is way easier to advertise to those who have already preferred your brand once rather than to first-time visitors.

  • Targeting ‘Off-site’ interactions

Initially, retargeting used to be restricted to the on-site behavior of users only. But, as more and more users started interacting and looking for information at other places such as social media, brands started retargeting them at those places. This could be done by finding users who interacted with the brand’s page or events on social media sites.

Remarketing vs. Retargeting

So far, it is understood that both remarketing and retargeting are marketing tactics used to bring your brand back to the attention of warm audiences and drive them into the purchase funnel. Both tactics also have similar goals, which are:

  • Targeting past customers
  • Engage audiences most likely to make a purchase
  • Build long-lasting bonds with customers

Even though the goals are the same, the approach adopted by each tactic is different to reach those goals. Let’s compare remarketing vs. retargeting:

  • The major difference is in the marketing strategies used to re-engage audiences. Remarketing uses email to reconnect with past customers whereas retargeting uses paid ads to re-engage audiences who have visited your brand’s website or social media profiles.
  • Remarketing is based on email campaigns and mostly reaching out to those who have made purchases in the past. This allows for a more personalized form of messaging targeting a specific customer or a set of customers. Retargeting, on the other hand, displays ads to users on the sites visited by them or on their social media profiles, promoting a brand the users might have just glanced at.
  • Remarketing is more about engaging past customers to buy a product again or reminding them to act based on their purchase history. Retargeting is about persuading potential customers to go down the purchase funnel.

Remarketing vs. retargeting: Which one is right for you?

The right strategy is based on the type of market segment you are targeting, and the goals you want to achieve.

Remarketing is suitable if:

  • Your primary focus is on re-engaging your past customers
  • You have prepared an engaged email list
  • You lack the budget for paid ads

Retargeting is suitable if:

  • You want to attract new customers to your website
  • Your website is attracting a lot of traffic, but it is not leading to conversions
  • You don’t have an email list of past customers

In fact, you don’t have to choose one of the two strategies. You can use both these strategies in your marketing campaign to maximize your profit and expand your customer base.


Both remarketing and retargeting go hand in hand, particularly in today’s time when the line between the two has become blurry. This is because platforms like Facebook and Google Ads added the capability to target audiences on their platforms using email customer lists. Thus, emails and paid ads are not entirely different strategies but work in tandem to target and re-engage audiences.

Remarketing and retargeting have assumed great relevance for brands worldwide as the way people buy products has undergone a digital shift. These marketing tactics allow brands to present themselves before the customers when they need them and are one of the easiest ways to build brand awareness. 

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