Let’s all agree: we’ve all shopped for a pair of shoes on our favourite brand’s website and then seen the exact same pair we were eying advertised on our Facebook newsfeed. Now, how does that happen? That’s called retargeting. You might have heard of it but never really knew what it was about or how exactly it worked. Let us help you figure it out. Here we go.

How does it work exactly?

Simply put, retargeting happens when a customer visits your website, leaves without taking any action and is then served an ad on another channel about one of your products. Now, there are two ways this can happen.


The most common type of retargeting is called “pixel-based”. The way it works is simple: when a user visits your website and leaves, a non-intrusive piece of Java script is placed on their browser – that’s the pixel. Your potential customer’s browser is then cookied, meaning the platforms you are running your retargeting campaign on will be notified and will then serve specific ads based on the pages the user visited. Ok, now let’s try to illustrate this:

The main advantage of this type of retargeting is how timely it is – your potential customer can be retargeted almost immediately after leaving your website. It can also be specific to certain pages and behavior-based, making the retargeting even more precise.

On the down side, pixel-based retargeting is susceptible to reach a lower volume of people at any given moment during the campaign as it solely relies on the amount of traffic your website gets. But, if you have a steady volume of visitors monthly, this should not be a problem!


The main benefit is how specific and customizable this option is: you can decide from the beginning who goes in which list and which ad will be served to them. So, people who have been targeted and have reacted to the ad can be fed with more information, whereas those who haven’t acted can still be reached by other methods, such as display ads.

However, one major down side of list-based retargeting is that, more often than not, a customer will give you one email address and use a different one on their social platforms, making the retargeting impossible. Plus, your lists need to be maintained and uploaded frequently to make sure the campaign is effective, making the process more tedious and timely than pixel-based retargeting.

How is it different from display ads?

Retargeting is a form of online marketing that solely targets users who have already visited your website. The goal is to invite them back to your landing page. Display ads, for their part, target audiences based on various pieces of data to serve them ads about products that might interest them, even if they have never visited your website.

One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but rather complimentary: whereas retargeting is useful for users who have already expressed interest for your brand, and are thus closer to the bottom of the buying-funnel, display ads are effective for creating brand awareness, so working around the top of the funnel and inviting new customers in. As effective as retargeting is, there are still some considerations to be given to your strategy. Find out more about the Top 5 Don’ts of retargeting!