Retargeting: What it is and how to make it work

Retargeting: What it is and how to make it work

Big Ideas

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May 8 2019
Big Ideas

Remarketing (also known as retargeting) is commonly known as “the annoying Amazon product that was viewed a month ago that I keep seeing advertised everywhere I go.” 

But the world of remarketing is much more diverse than that - it lives outside of banner ads, and can be applied to a variety of technologies. 

The goal of this article is to walk you through the concepts of remarketing, help you identify common mistakes, and to demonstrate how Sherpa can create great remarketing campaigns for you.

Image of Sales Funnel Considering Retargeting



The most common form of remarketing is to pull customer data from a website integration. This allows you to tie a view of your website from a specific IP address to a custom ad presented to that same IP address elsewhere on the internet. You do this knowing that the visitor was on a relevant page within a given timeframe, providing them an ad related to what they saw.

Keep in mind that you will not remarket to just anyone that visited your website - it should always be your goal to find the page or pages that best indicate potential purchase intent, and to only create ads for those potential customers. 

For example: Sherpa hosts events called “Alcohol & Analytics,” and for a 2018 event we decided that visitors to our website that saw the “Digital Marketing” section of our website would be an ideal audience. We then created a campaign that would provide these users the opportunity to learn a bit more about digital marketing like in the ad you see below.

Gif - retargeting example



Re-marketing software allows you to upload customer lists, known as segments, to specifically target a group of individuals.  You supply the software with a list of email addresses that represent your potential customers, and if an email address from your segment is used to sign-in to a Google or Facebook app, you have a ‘user match’ and your custom ad will be served to that user while on that platform.

This allows you to utilize prospects from CRM systems and other email lists you have acquired in order to display compatible ads to compatible customers without them needing to have visited your website first.


Retargeting may be a term coined within the digital marketing world, but the strategy can be applied effectively to other systems as well. The Real Canadian Superstore - PC Optimumsystem is a fantastic example of a remarketing strategy that works very efficiently and promotes conversions.

Grocery shoppers are habitual; they tend to pick up the same things with a predictable frequency. What their grocery store app does is incentivize users to pick up their commonly purchased goods sooner, in higher frequency, while suggesting different brands and complementary goods.

It does this by displaying a custom promotion after each time you shop, playing off an algorithm not unlike the ones we see on YouTube (as suggested videos) or Facebook (with suggested articles).

Sherpa’s team is adept at applying this same algorithmic process to our customer’s product lines, in order to stimulate additional purchases.

Retargeting App Example



(For context, a $100 dollar shop generates around 6,000 points. For every 10,000 points, you receive a $10 gift card)


Geofence advertising, or geofencing, is the ability to use GPS data (global positioning systems) or RFID data (Radio-frequency identification) to trigger a marketing message. This can be implemented in many consumer applications by using the location services available on mobile phones.

For example, a Sport Chek consumer app could trigger a notification with a store's latest deals every time the consumer walks into a shopping mall that has a Sport Chek, based on the GPS data provided by their mobile phone.  This could be the extra incentive your customer needs to pay them a visit.

Geofencing Example



Another effective way to build a remarketing segment list is through Wi-Fi hotspots. When you require an email to login on to Wi-Fi, it provides you the opportunity to compile an email list, get consent to send promotional emails, and build a custom segment for remarketing. 

For example, an automotive repair shop that builds an email list of customers that have been in the shop and had service work done could seasonally create advertisements reminding visitors to come back to the shop for regular maintenance.



Many advertisements can seem “spammy” and unprofessional, but if a campaign is run properly, it can easily be the push that advances the prospect along the path to purchase. 

But remarketing is also not right for every campaign, and can often lead to the feeling of being harassed by a brand. The message or concept of the campaign should never feel desperate. Instead, it should provide information or additional resources that the user may not know about the product or an incentive to come back and purchase.

Retargeting current customers with irrelevant information, or asking customers to purchase a product they’ve already bought, is a waste of marketing budget and is understandably the number one knock against remarketing strategies.


The primary reason this happens is that many companies do not take the time to properly segment their audiences, which results in sending out a generic system of ads to every user, and rarely results in a good conversion rate.
It is necessary to create a strategy that segments those who have purchased and those who have not purchased separately, in order to avoid harassing existing customers and to increase the effectiveness of the ads.

Once segments have been defined, you can target previous clients with messaging, for example, that relates to training and complimentary products rather than pushing the same product they just purchased.


You may not know this but if your company uses multiple retargeting services, the ads created are most likely bidding against each other. The solution is NOT just to use one service. Using multiple services is beneficial as different services have different networks of ad space, but these services also overlap.


Sherpa knows how to plan a campaign between multiple re-marketing providers with the insight and know how to maximize reach across all platforms without competing or bidding for the same space.


With remarketing, it is easy to generalize the needs for each segment and make assumptions
that Google Analytics will track the traffic coming from all paid advertisements.

The fact is that many remarketing platforms do not have the ability to send descriptive information to Google Analytics. When tracking, most analytics software will just group it in with other ‘display advertising’ within reports. 


When it comes to digital marketing, Sherpa believes failing fast and failing cheap is the best way to perfect a digital campaign. We plan ahead, implement a small experimental budget to start, and continually measure and optimize as the campaign runs.

Optimization is by far the most valuable part of the process, but without proper segmentation and measurement, optimizations are only based on assumptions. 

When it comes to measurement, we fully commit to the tedious process of creating a UTM code and a unique phone number to truly track conversions within the sales funnel to their original source. We believe that if you’re not going to spend the time to do this right, then it shouldn’t be done at all. 


Remarketing strategies have been around for a long time, but as technology advances there are more and more opportunities to apply the core framework in diverse ways. Sherpa takes pride in being thought leaders in this realm. and if there are any questions regarding these strategies, or how they could benefit your company, feel free to reach out (email me!)


Thanks for reading!

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