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Remarketing and Display Advertising

The online digital remarketing channel is a great way to reconnect with customers after they have been on your site.
13 min read

The online digital remarketing channel is a great way to reconnect with customers after they have been on your site. Even if you don’t know who the person is, remarketing gives you a vital mechanism to try to get them back again.

Remarketing conceptually has some cross-over with ‘display marketing’ and ‘email marketing’. You can view remarketing as a specific — and more targeted — form of advertising.

There are two types of remarketing: ‘known’ and ‘anonymous’. You can use the IRP for highly-effective ‘known remarketing’. For ‘anonymous remarketing’ you use remarketing companies such as Google.

Remarketing follows the same format used by all digital marketing: Content — Click — Convert. It is a marketing channel that you need to manage to ensure that it operates at an effective CPA%.

Remarketing should form a key part of strategy for online marketers. While the concept of remarketing in general could go beyond digital marketing — for example other channels such SMS or catalogues — this article focuses on the digital side of remarketing.

The two basic types of remarketing and display advertising

There are two distinct types of remarketing:

  1. ‘Known remarketing’ — This is where you have contact information for the customer and you can remarket directly to them.
  2. ‘Anonymous remarketing’ — This is where you may not have any customer information and to reconnect with them you are relying on a remarketing company. The remarketing company effectively helps to advertise your content — on someone else’s website — to the customer who left your website.

How does ‘known remarketing’ work?

The IRP platform provides ‘known remarketing’ functionality. There is no cost. A customer has come on to the website and has perhaps started to check out, so they have provided you with some contact details, including their email address.

If the customer does not place the purchase, you can use the IRP to automatically, or manually, send them an email. This email is designed to prompt the customer to go back and complete the purchase; it is simply email remarketing.

The content of the email should be as appealing as possible to the customer to try to get them to complete the purchase. As you know what product they were interested in, it allows for a targeted remarketing message which should have a reasonably high conversion rate.

You can read instructions in the IRP Knowledge Base for using the IRP Email Remarketing feature.

How does ‘anonymous remarketing’ work?

We have differentiated the term ‘anonymous remarketing’ but in the industry this is essentially just called ‘remarketing’.

For remarketing to work, you need to have signed up to a remarketing company. There are many remarketing companies, including big names such as Google or Criteo being market leaders by size.

You then add their scripts to your website. These are known as ‘third-party scripts’. When anyone lands on your website, the script sends a third-party cookie to that person’s browser from the remarketing company.

The remarketing company does not know who the person is, but once they have that cookie on the customer’s browser, they can track them whenever another website — that also runs their remarketing scripts — encounters that cookie.

The remarketing company has relationships with thousands of other websites known as ‘publishers’ through its publisher network. Publisher sites make money by selling advertising space on their website. The content of this advertising is often provided by the remarketing companies who then display a tailored ad to that person for your website.

As the remarketing company may have some information about that customer — for example what products they looked at on your website — they can ensure that the advertisement has a high degree of relevancy. This is somewhat similar to PPC. You can also control what content you want to display to the customer, what sites you want to remarket on, set budgets, and so forth.

This form of remarketing is quite simple to set up. However, fully optimising it takes a little bit of time and analysis regarding what content to display and where to display it.

Known remarketing using the IRP

The IRP has a full Email Remarketing suite that you can use to engage customers who have abandoned their basket or have not purchased from the site in a set period of time. You can also send order recommendations.

Using IRP Admin, you can send the following types of remarketing emails.

1. Dropped Basket Remarketing

The IRP has a dropped basket section. You use this to remind customers that they have left one or more products in their basket.

Your dropped basket email should contain compelling content and information for the customer to re-evaluate their purchase. It should also offer contact details in case the customer has queries regarding their order.

Customers drop baskets for many reasons, for example the cost of shipping or the ease of use of your website. But they also drop baskets because they are ‘window shopping’ online — they use their basket as a wish list and intend to return to complete the transaction.

You need to target these individuals. Remind them that they do still have products and that these are waiting for them in the basket area of the website. To be most effective, you can sometimes send remarketing emails in a series. For example, the first email offers help, then perhaps two subsequent emails include voucher codes as discounts.

2. Inactive Customer Remarketing

‘Inactive customers’ are those who have engaged with your website in the past and have made a conversion but, since then, have become dormant. Maybe they now buy from a competitor or have just lost interest in the product.

A mistake often made by marketers is to ignore these inactive customers and focus on bringing new customers to the site. It is much more cost effective to market to existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. This means that a company not only loses out on sales when a customer’s interest wanes, they also have to spend more to replace that dormant buyer.

This is where ‘Inactive Customer’ emails become extremely important. You use these emails to engage the customer and encourage them to revisit the site using some form of incentive, such as a discount.

3. Recommendations Email Remarketing

You can also use the ‘Order Recommendations’ email to engage customers who have purchased from your website before. You set up the recommendations using a placeholder that can display products that are similar to, or related to, what the customer has already purchased. The aim is to bring customers back to your website — to make another conversion.

Editing and Tracking IRP Remarketing Emails

You can edit all of the emails described above in the IRP. The emails can be standard HTML and you can customise them in any way. You use placeholders for Customer Name, Products, Recommendation, Voucher Codes and Tracking.

You should track the statistics from these emails like all email marketing — to judge the effectiveness of the content. Although you could view these three example IRP emails simply as ‘email marketing’, they do cover a form of remarketing. You can automate the scheduling and delivery of the emails.

Remarketing companies

There are many companies involved in remarketing and display advertising. They compete with each other in a number of ways — primarily in how they can bring most sales back to you. They differ in the technology they use, cost, business model, type of content you can produce and the dashboard that they offer for analysing and controlling the remarketing.

One very important aspect is the Internet Reach that they remarketing companies have — that is, the number of publishers that they work with. This is a key thing. The more publishers that they are working with, the more chance you have of reconnecting to the customer.

There are many players involved in remarketing. The top five names by order of size are: Google Ad Network, Conversant, Yahoo Audience Network, Criteo, Casale Media. There are a number of different commercial models in use, such as ‘pay per view’ (PPV) and ‘pay per acquisition’ (PPA). However remarketing generally works on a ‘cost per click’ basis, much like PPC.

Google Remarketing

As Google is the largest name we can talk a bit about how it works specifically.

Google remarketing lets you segment your audience of past site visitors and deliver relevant ads for your search and display campaigns based on the actions that people have performed on your site.

This allows you to keep connected to customers who have previously viewed your site and who are interested in the products being sold. Your aim is to encourage them to revisit your site and to complete a purchase.

You can connect with these potential buyers while they search on Google or browse other websites. You can use Google remarketing in multiple ways, depending on the goals that you want to achieve:

  • Remarketing for the display network: This method displays ads to your site visitors while they browse the web.
  • Remarketing lists for search ads: This method shows ads to your site visitors as they search on Google.
  • Dynamic remarketing (only for advertisers with a Google Merchant Centre account): This method shows dynamically-created ads to your site visitors that are powered by your Google Merchant Centre account. These ads are based on the products that your customers browsed or on how they interacted with your website.

The method of remarketing that you choose will greatly impact both the cost and the conversion rates of your remarketing activity. For information about adding Google remarketing scripts to your IRP, see the Site Scripts help topic in the IRP Knowledge Base.


  • Remarketing is a powerful way to stay engaged with your target audience.
  • Presenting your audience with highly-relevant information or ads across the web will keep your brand and products fresh in their mind until the time comes when they are ready to buy.
  • Remarketing is important for customer retention.
  • Remarketing is also a cost-effective way of gaining new customers.
  • You can use the IRP for highly-effective ‘known remarketing’. You can send ‘dropped basket emails’, ‘inactive customer emails’ and ‘order recommendation emails’.
  • For ‘anonymous Remarketing’, you use remarketing companies such as Google.

When it comes to convincing the people who visit your site to take action and convert, one visit usually is not enough. Remarketing gives you the chance to bring indecisive customers back to your website and close the deal.

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