If someone has interacted with you, such as a like on Facebook, or downloaded a resource from your website; the chances are that their interest in what you have to offer is high.

What about those who have already bought from you? Both these types of users - past customers, and interested prospects - are important for your business. This is because their interest in what you have to offer is likely to be much higher than some random person browsing the internet.

When designing a marketing strategy to attract these users back to you, you must have come across terms such as retargeting and remarketing. It is worth mentioning that they are both great tools for marketers.

However, these terms are often confused and sometimes used interchangeably, which is why first let us understand the difference between them. After that, we will discuss which one is more effective and why.

Retargeting vs. remarketing: what is the difference?


Retargeting can be approached in different ways. Most often, it is referred to online ad placements, shown to users who have previously interacted with your website in some way.

Have you ever searched for something and then seen ads for it the day after or maybe even the same day? Facebook is very good at this - let us explore a scenario.

You are looking to go on a holiday and search for flights to Lisbon from London, click on a few options to find the cheapest prices. After a few hours, you are scrolling through your Facebook feed and see an ad of TAP airlines, showing deals for the same route. Facebook has mind-reading capabilities, you may think; however, it is simply a retargeted ad.

There are two types of retargeting interactions;

  1. On-site - this targets those you have already interacted with your products, services or website and is the most common method used.
  2. Off-site - this is a group of users which have not interacted with you, but have similar interests to those of your customers. These may or may not have interacted with your competitors.


Remarketing on the other hand, is reaching out to your current or old customers, with an objective to re-engage them. This is usually done with the help of email marketing.

Have you ever received emails from companies along the lines of “Where have you been” or “We miss you”? These might even come with offers, discounts, or perhaps an event the user had previously engaged with.

This kind of strategy can be important for remaining top-of-mind of consumers. In some cases, they might have once bought from you, but then forgotten about you. By designing a remarketing campaign, you are making sure you haven’t forgotten your customers, and that they haven’t forgotten you.

Some examples of remarketing campaigns include;

  • Product offers related to previously bought or ‘liked’ products or services
  • Offers for customers who have been inactive for a while
  • Abandoned shopping cart emails

The last point is interesting - did you know that while approximately 30% of your website visitors will put something in their cart, only 3% will usually complete the purchase? While this may seem daunting at first, it is a great opportunity to remarket to those 27% that did not buy.

Given below is an example of a remarketing email. It came with the subject line “We saw you looking”.

Remarketing email example

Moreover, research has shown that engaging within an hour after the abandonment of a shopping cart, shows 10 times more results than waiting for 2 hours. The advice here is simple - be fast.

Which one is more effective?

When comparing and analysing retargeting and remarketing, remember that they have the same goal; re-engaging an audience that has already expressed an interest in what you have to offer.

As discussed above, the main difference is that retargeting primarily uses paid ads and remarketing is done with the use of email marketing. This means that retargeting targets web traffic whereas the other is only limited to email.

To effectively incorporate such tactics in your marketing strategy, you cannot forget the basics - such as defining your target audience and your objectives or goals. This will then help you decide which one will be more effective for you.

Go for retargeting if;

  • You want to attract more users to your website,
  • You want more conversions
  • Your email list is not very engaged

Go for remarketing if;

  • You do not have the budget for ads,
  • You have an extensive email list,
  • You want to increase customer engagement and retention

The straightforward answer is that both are effective in increasing conversion and maximizing your results and there isn’t a need to choose one or the other. You can try to incorporate both in your strategy to maximize results.

Remember that when you choose remarketing, your main channel of doing so is Email Marketing. As discussed in previous blog posts, email is a powerful tool with a high ROI. However, before starting any email campaign, you should remember to verify your mailing lists.

Email Address validity is an often overlooked metric, but it can make or break your campaign. Try TheChecker, as it will give you a concise list of which emails are deliverable (in your mailing list) and which aren’t.