Way back in 1998 when AdTech wasn’t even a term, DoubleClick rolled out Boomerang and their first remarketing campaign for Victoria’s Secret, generating a 1000% uplift in CTR’s. In 1998, little was understood about retargeting. Since then, DoubleClick has never looked back and neither did the advertisers. Fast forward to 2019, one in every 5 marketers now has a dedicated budget for retargeting.



Google Trends for the term ‘Retargeting’ since 2004


98% of users do not make a purchase on their first visit. Which leaves you with just 2%. To win back the 98%, marketers need a retargeting strategy.


What Is Retargeting?


Retargeting helps you keep your brand in front of the users who dropped off from your website’s conversion funnel. When a user visits your store but does not take the desired action and bounces off your website, they are targeted, based on their previous actions. This is typically done using display banner ads and email.

Here is what SaleCycle found out when they analyzed 100 global retailers-


SalesCycle conversion funnel stats


It has been observed that retargeted ads attract better click-through rates as compared to standard display advertising. But in this age of digital boom, there are many other ways to bring back the user to your website and encourage them to convert. New channels have made their way, widening the opportunity to bring back lost sales.


Understanding How Retargeting Works


Amidst all of this, the fundamentals of the industry haven’t changed. Revisiting the first principles of the adtech -


Identity Tracking

The first level of sophistication in the AdTech starts with the user identity and tracking users as they browse the internet. This identity can be anonymous in the form of  cookie or deterministic is the form of an email or push notification subscription or device id. It is basis the identifier, it’s longevity and the tracking of the identifier (think cross-device), that determines a platform’s ability to retarget a user. There are various types of identities that can be used for retargeting

  • PII such as Email or Mobile Number - Users often subscribe via Email for newsletters, coupons or just sign-in while making a new purchase.

  • Anonymous

    • Cookie - Online retailers use third party services such as Criteo, AdRoll to for display retargeting and they do so by dropping a cookie.

    • Device ID - This is specifically used for retargeting in mobile apps.

    • Push Notification Subscription - Every time a user subscribers to notification, a unique browser token is generated which is used for communication. This is more lasting than cookies and also maintains anonymity around the user.

Given that that buyer journey is now spread across multiple devices - desktop, mobile and tablet and at times even offline retail as well, user identification is no more a straightforward problem.

Deep User Profiling

Better profiling, helps advertisers curate contextual, retargeting ads. This is the reason why Google Adwords and Facebook Ads are more efficient than the run of the mill ad-networks. Smaller stores rely on their first party data to execute their retargeting campaigns. Though as online retailers grow, so does the need of sophisticated decision making and questions such as

  • Which users are actually worth retargeting?

  • Which products should get a priority lane while retargeting?

  • In a situation where first party data is non existent, how can they enrich user profile for better decision making?

Such problems surface with scale and require a far more sophisticated adtech stack including a exhaustive customer data platform.  


When Should You Start Retargeting?  


retargeting user flow


Retargeting campaigns kick in when the user abandons a specific conversion funnel. In e-commerce, conversion might not necessarily imply purchase. Each online store depending upon the scale has a range of goals that they are pursuing. And each goal helps marketers gauge the buying intent of the user. Goals can be and not just limited to

  • Product Search

  • Adding To Wishlist

  • Reading Reviews ( and responding to reviews )

  • Adding Products to Cart

  • Checkout / Completing a purchase

  • Engaging with product recommendations

Depending upon the micro-funnel that the user is a part off, a very specific targeted retargeting campaign can be kickstarted.

Now, this user need not necessarily revisit your store. You need to make sure that they are reminded about your store or the product that they have abandoned. Here, one way to retarget users is with Display Ads. These display ads follow the user everywhere on the web with the help of cookies and show them the ad of the product they saw or liked.


display ad retargeting

Another way to reach out to them is to add them to your marketing list. How do you do that? These are permission-based channels, where user subscribes to push notifications  or email newsletters when on your website.

It is important that the subscription experience (for both email and push notifications) should be designed keeping the user in mind and not the marketer’s short term goals. We will cover this part in detail further on in the article. Either way, getting this right will help you to build a solid marketing list and retarget them without having to invest in paid media.




Difference Between Retargeting And Remarketing


Retargeting and remarketing are often used interchangeably, but in fact, they are not the same. While their end goals are similar, the strategy is what differentiates them. While retargeting relies on web traffic, remarketing is limited to email as the communication channel. Retargeting is the subset of remarketing, where the former targets the same traffic multiple times and remarketing target the same prospect multiple times.

Retargeting majorly is paid media, where as Remarketing is done via owned media, which includes Email and Web Push Notifications, Remarketing is where a marketing list is built first, to reach out to the users.

With retargeting, when a user visits your site, a cookie is set and this follows the websites that they visit. Retargeting is done through a third party network like Google Display network. Retargeting is frequently used by online retailers, travel portals, service-based businesses to attract users back to their conversion funnel. Leading platforms providing retargeting include Google, Facebook, AdRoll, and Criteo.


Why Is Retargeting Important For Marketers?



Jeff jarret quote on retargeting

Retargeting helps your brand remain fresh in the user's mind. With retargeting, you are reaching out to them with something that they are already interested in. It’s not a new product that is introduced to, it’s something they have previously shown interest. This is the very reason why the response rate is always on the higher side. Now every time that customer sees your brand, they are reminded of the product that they were keen to buy and encourages them to revisit and convert.

You are not a stranger knocking at their door. You are someone they know, trying to sell something they have showed interest in.


Goals Of Retargeting/Remarketing Campaigns


  • Build familiarity and nurture an emotional connect

89% of customers feel no emotion towards a brand they buy from. Which also means that they might not by from that store again. The idea is to nurture a bond because most of the purchases that happen are due to being emotionally connected with the brand.

The more the users see your brand on their screen, the more the recall value. The emotionally connect builds when you reach out to them with the product they have shown interest in. And then suddenly you are not an intrusion, you are a good-wisher, trying to remind them what they need to buy.

  • Brand affinity

Brand affinity increases CTR by 3X. When users search for a product you sell, they would click on a brand they have personal emotions for or heard of before.

With contextual retargeting, users grow a fondness towards you helping you boost their trust. Users are more likely to visit your store, convert and won’t think twice before they make their next purchase.

  • Boost engagement

Retargeting keeps users engaged and encourages them to interact with you. Once users are engaged, they show up at your website at least to browse the products. And they might just convert if they see something that matches their interest.

  • Renew interest

Users visit the store and even though they are interested in buying a product, they leave. Retargeting helps in bringing back the users with the product they liked and ignite the desire yet again.  

  • Better conversion rates

As the users are already interested in the product you are selling, when retargeted, the chances of them converting are higher. Retargeting ads are 76% more likely to get clicks than regular display ads.


Understanding Buyer’s Journey


buyer's journey


Before delving into the nitty-gritty of setting up effective retargeting campaigns, it’s very important to understand the stages leading to conversion. A user typically goes through a five-stage journey before he makes a transaction as mentioned below -

Retargeting addresses the middle funnel i.e. user’s journey from information search to purchase decision stage, helping marketers move users down the funnel.

Typical conversion funnel on an e-commerce store resembles the following journey-


ecommerce conversion funnel


Retargeting ensures that users move from search to repeat purchase stage quickly and the time to conversion is reduced with perfectly timed interactions.



Challenges With Display Retargeting


  • Reach of Display Networks: The reach of the platform that you are using for retargeting is crucial. Your potential shopper could be anywhere on the internet and it would depend upon the retargeting platform whether it has ad-space along with a real-time high enough bid to show your ad at that instant.
    • Ad Blockers are yet another hurdle that comes across while retargeting with ads. No matter how effective your retargeting campaign is, if it does not reach the users, there is no point.
  • Banner blindness is another challenge that marketers face, as users are so used to ads being displayed that it completely gets ignored.

  • Repetitive and annoying: 77% say they see too many retargeting ads from the same retailers. Imagine seeing an ad multiple times from a website you are no longer interested in! 85% report that intrusive ads create a poor opinion of the brand that is being advertised.

  • Plummeting CTRs: And even if the platform manages to show the traditional online banner ad, they still get a click-through rate (CTR) of about 0.1% only.

  • Attribution Challenges: Difficulty in attributing performance to the retargeting campaigns and justifying the investment still remains a challenge for marketers. This can be addressed easily by setting up campaign level conversion goals and tracking the performance of all campaigns individually.



How To Set Up Effective Retargeting/Remarketing Campaigns


  • Figuring out your marketing stack

    You need to place pixels for start building a marketing stack. Keep everything in place from day zero, so that you can start building an audience. 
  • Build audience right from day 0

    user persona for personalization


    Once the pixels are set, you can start building your marketing list and start sending out your campaigns. For effective campaigns, you should ensure that the communication is relevant and contextual, you can start by tagging users into segments basis their demographic details, interests, actions. This approach will help you enrich user profiles over a period of time.

  • Setting Up Communication Triggers

Get the timing of your messages right in order to generate positive reactions & responses from your users.

  • Mixing up the Messaging

Don’t bombard users with repetitive, messages. Send just the right number of messages in every campaign, be clear about when do you want to remove users from a campaign. Personalize the buying experience and make it evolve like a story. Shoelace has captured this exclusively-

retargeting with a story


They also go on to explaining the kind of ads that can be shown to users in the consideration stage-

  • Dynamic product ad to renew interest

  • Show a lot of people are buying it, for social influence

  • Review the product they like, for social proof

  • Reward programme ads to evoke loyalty


  • Exit conditions and frequency of a campaign

Imagine a store asking you to buy a product you just brought. Sounds ridiculous? You bet. But that what happens most of the time. While retargeting you need to make sure that that the users who have brought the product are excluded. For this, you need to add a burn pixel in your post-transaction page, which would remove users who have made a purchase, and stop serving them ads for that product.

88% of consumers report of seeing an ad of the product they have recently purchased. While they should be receiving a ‘Thank You’, they are shoved with ads that provide them no value. And not respecting the fact that they have made a purchase from your store decreases the chances of them becoming your regular customer.




  • Dynamic Creative Optimization

This is from 1998. This can’t be stressed enough. Personalized messages grab maximum attention as they strike the right emotions with users.

 Dynamic-Creative-Optimization stat

  • Keep the duration optimal

Find out the average time taken by an user to make up their mind to make a purchase and set  the duration of the retargeting campaign accordingly. For instance, there is no point in running a retargeting campaign that lasts 15 days for snacks, online magazines. On the other hand, retargeting campaigns for products such as high-end designer clothes can last more than 30 days.

  • Retargeting keeping device in mind

People switch 2-3 devices on a regular day. This is exactly why retargeting needs to be cross-device so that you reach out to the user no matter what device they are using and get optimal results. Here is what the comScore report states-




Go multi-channel: Just reaching out to users on different devices is not enough. You need to be present everywhere they go. You need to leverage the most effective channels to make the most out of your retargeting campaigns. Browser? Check, Inbox? Check. Facebook? Check. Websites? Check. You get where I am heading. 


Frequency and rotation in case of Display Ads

The creatives used in the ads become annoying once they become redundant. The users get tired of seeing the same ad and start ignoring it. Keep other creatives handy and run it on a rotation basis. Also, make sure that they are not bombarded with the same ad every single time. Put a frequency cap so as to they don't get fed up looking at it.


Remarketing ads fatigue stats



AB testing Creatives

You need to test different versions to see what works better and what doesn’t. With ad copy, there is no formula. You need to test CTA’s, try different text copy, different images an so on. But again, don’t over test it. Stick to 2x new ad copies a month.



Personalized merchandise on the landing page

Personalization for e-commerce stores is something you can afford to miss out on. Showing users what they like, what they have brought before makes the experience delightful. Add the user's name, location, the address the products will be sent to, show them products according to their interest and so on. Amazon has nailed landing pages with their personalized approach.

Amazon personalized landing page example

Different ad creatives

That is why ad fatigue has become a thing. Minute changes give it a new look - make changes to the background color, change the copy and change the font.



Campaigns For Retargeting/Remarketing

Retargeting campaigns kick starts when a user

  • Browses a category page and then leaves

  • Views a product then leaves
  • Views a similar product and leaves

  • Adds to cart and abandons the cart

Here are the campaigns according to the points mentioned above-


Browse abandonment  



Users browse your store and then leave. While some visit the category page, some visit the product page and then leave. Because they have shown interest to an extent, they need to be retargeted to lure them into visiting your store again and making a purchase. Read more about browse abandonment here. 

Target users who have visited a-

  • Category page and dropped off

  • Product page and left


A misconception that most people live by is that people who have brought a product would not buy a fancier version of the same product. The best time to nudge people for an upsell is when they are on the add to cart page or the check out page.But if the user does not buy, you need to further nudge them once they leave your site. Show them how the better version can add more value than the one they currently have. For example, when a new iPhone is launched, one can reach out to user who have brought an iPhone before and encourage them to convert.




Almost every product can be complemented with another product. Most users do not realize that they need a product that would go along with the product they just bought. You need to bring that to light. For example, If a user buys a Bluetooth mouse, they might very well need to buy a Bluetooth adapter. By showing them options, you are increasing the chances of bagging more sales.


Back in stock

When users show interest to buy a product that is out of stock, chances are that they are really disappointed. Firstly you need to assure them that it would be back in stock soon. And secondly, you need to inform them when fresh stock arrives. Because they have already shown a purchase intent, they would likely buy the product when you reach out to them.


Price drop

Are users visiting a product page and then dropping off? Price is one of the reasons why users leave the website. This would not only inform the users the price of the product they liked, but also encourages them to return back to the store and make a purchase.

Note: Back in stock and Price drop are not been leveraged by display campiangs yet. These campaings are majotly used in email and web push.


Cart abandonment

reasons for cart abandonment

Adding to cart shows purchase intent. While a lot of carts go abandoned, with the right retargeting campaign urges users go ahead and make a purchase. Users sometimes forget that they have added a product to cart and  sometimes they forget on which store! It also happens that a user is considering other options on your competitors store. You need to reach out to them at the right time before they make a choice that does not resonate with our sales graph.You can understand more about cart abandonment here. 



Retargeting Using Web Push Notifications


How is it different?

While other retargeting platforms work with cookie following the user everywhere on the internet and showing banner ads wherever they can, retargeting with web push notification works in a completely different way. There’s no cookie following you, no banner ads popping here and there on every website you visit.

Every time a user subscribes to web push, a unique access token aka BrowserKey is generated which acts as a contract between the device browser and the server. This is managed automatically by the browser and can be only accessed by the browser itself. This access token is independent of cookies and localstorage (cache) and will remain valid unless the user decides to reset the token. This reset can be only done through the browser settings. Even if the user deletes the browsing history including cache and cookie data, BrowserKey remains intact. This browser key can be read only by the parent domain itself.


What does it translate to?

3 key points that will excite every marketer:

  1. A New Identity that does not involve user’s personally identifiable data ( neither does cookie)
  2. Longer lifetime as compared to Cookie (Technically, infinite)
  3. Not Susceptible to user actions / browser actions / third party app actions such as clean up of browsing history / local storage


Privacy and Personal Information

Web Push as a channel does not require the user to part away with their PII (Personally Identifiable Information). This is one of the key factors why the opt-in rates for web push notifications is almost 30X as compared to email.

Every time a user subscribes to web push, a unique access token aka BrowserKey is generated which acts as a contract between the device browser and the server. This is managed automatically by the browser and can be only accessed by the browser itself. This access token remains valid unless the user decides to reset the token by unsubscribing from notifications.


Opt Out Process

Unlike Programmatic advertising where the user preferences are maintained on the server side or by third parties such as Ghostery, in case of web push notification, permission or subscription is maintained on the end user’s browser itself. in case of web push notifications, users have complete control on push notifications and can unsubscribe anytime. Read here about how users can unsubscribe from web push notifications.


Why do e-commerce marketers need to pay attention to web push notifications?

From an adoption point of view, less than 1% of websites across the globe are using web push notifications. As a communication channel, marketers are increasingly turning to web push notifications for retargeting because of challenges around display advertising and email marketing.

Andrew Chen's law of shitty click throughs captures this problem aptly -


"Over time, all marketing strategies result in shitty click through rates."


Over the years users have increasingly become blind to banner ads. Users almost never look, leave apart click on anything that looks like an advertisement.

Adblocking Trend on Web


Even in case of retargeting ads, which are highly contextual, click through rates over the years have plummeted consistently. Average click-through rates for display banner ads is less than 1%.

This problem gets amplified with adblockers. Adblockers have seen rapid adoption in this decade.

Heatmap of users consuming content


Display advertising as we know is in the process of phasing out. E-commerce marketers heavily rely on display ads for retargeting, a channel that continues to under perform.

Unlike display retargeting, marketers are required to purchase media space or banner impressions, retargeting with web push notifications comes without any such overheads. With service provider such as iZooto, you only for active subscribers. You can then send unlimited notifications, create unlimited audience segments and have many other advantages at no extra cost.

  1. Reach: Web Push Notifications as a channel has a 30x higher opt-in rate as compared to emails. With web push, you can build a marketing list that scales with your traffic.
  2. Instant deliverability: With hundreds and thousands of emails going unread in inboxes every day, web push notifications come as a delight to marketers with its instant deliverability. One push and it’s in front of your desired audience. Of course, you have to keep timing and other factors in mind before you send out your piece of communication.
  3. Personalization: With web push notification, you can personalize each of your notification according to every subscriber’s behavior. You can send a different notification to someone who abandoned the cart and a different one catering to someone leaving after visiting the product page.
  4. Better CTR than other channels: It is a very well known truth. If you keep your own bias aside about web push being annoying and go with the stats, you will instantly see that contextual notifications get CTRs as high as 33% which is 10x as compared to email or banner ads.

Know why marketers are increasingly turning to push notifications for retargeting.  


How you can do it too

Given the fact that retargeting has always been associated with being followed by ‘cookies’ and ‘pixels’, getting started with this new concept of Retargeting with Web Push Notifications can sound pretty daunting to any marketer out there. If you are thinking about getting started (which you definitely should), here’s a quick overview of the factors that you should consider -

  1. The first step, having an Action Plan: Before starting a retargeting campaign, you need to understand how it fits in your overall marketing strategy and plan it out thoroughly. Since retargeting is all about targeting visitors who left your site without completing the desired action, you need to make sure that you have a strong inbound traffic strategy in place. The more the traffic, the larger the retargeting audiences which will further create more option to create specific audiences.

  2. Choosing a Platform Provider: Web Push Notifications as a channel has a 10x higher opt-in rate as compared to emails. With web push, you can get started in under 5 minutes and start creating your retargeting list almost immediately.

  3. Best practices: Notification retargeting campaigns might be a powerful strategy, but the bottom line is they won’t run by themselves. To get the most out of your campaigns, you need to follow best practices, work hard on those notification ad copies and creatives. Mybageecha ran personalized retargeting campaigns which repeatedly hit above 5% CTR.

  4. Build user profiles: For effective campaigns, you should ensure that the communication is relevant and contextual, you can start by tagging users into segments basis their demographic details, interests, actions. This approach will help you enrich user profiles over a period of time.

  5. Define communication triggers clearly: Get the timing of your messages right in order to generate positive reactions and responses from your users.

  6. Exit conditions and frequency of a campaign: Exit conditions and frequency of a campaign.

  7. Personalize your communication: Can’t stress this enough. Personalized messages grab maximum attention as they strike the right emotions with users.

  8. Keep the duration optimal: Find out the average conversion time for the products you are selling and define the duration of the campaign accordingly. For instance, there is no point in running a retargeting campaign that lasts 15 days for snacks, online magazines. On the other hand, retargeting campaigns for products such as high end designer cloths can last more than 30 days.

  9. Measuring your success: Track metrics that actually matter. It’s very easy to get caught up with clicks and subsequent traffic that comes with every notification campaign that goes out. Clicks might seem like a great indicator to a campaign performance but at the end of the day, they are never proportional to the end sales (and revenue earned) and hence should not be taken as an only indicator. Make sure you have a sense of what a potential shopper is worth to you so you can determine whether you have a positive ROI or not.


Your checklist before rolling out a retargeting campaign

Before you start your campaign, be sure to lay down your campaign objectives. If you have multiple objectives, you might want to create different campaigns with different audiences. Your objectives might enable a variety of outcomes, a few of which are stated below:

  • Segment the Audience: This applies to any retargeting campaign that you are creating. Be sure to create segments that support your objective. For example - you can create segments based on the product that the audience browsed on your website or on your add-to-cart page where most of the drop-offs happen.

    Proper audience segmentation will ensure that potential visitors get notifications that is relevant to them.
  • Leverage Automated Drip Notifications: Before you even start your retargeting campaign, be sure to be ‘acquainted’ with your subscribers (potential shopper). Follow up promptly as soon as a website visitor subscribes for notification on your site with an automated welcome notification.

    Another automated drip notification series that’s popular in retargeting is abandoned-cart recovery campaign. This targets subscribers who added products in their shopping cart but didn’t complete the purchase. Combined with behavioural data, automated drip campaigns can be a highly effective way to nurture potential shoppers, build trust relationships and loyalty and also increase sales and conversions.

    Bajaao saw an increase of 34% in transactions after implementing real time retargeting campaigns.



  • Check the Notification Frequency: A frequency check should always be in place while creating the plan for retargeting. You wouldn’t want to overwhelm the user by sending them frequent notifications about their incomplete transaction. Not only will such act result in potential users ignoring your retargeted notification but you might also end up losing them forever.

    Of course, you can always add them onto a new retargeting campaign list and based on their past behaviour, upsell or cross-sell other products and services.
  • Test, Optimize, Repeat: The ad copy and images that you use your notification play a huge role in determining how well a campaign will perform. So be sure to devote time needed to develop crisp communication and creatives as well as test out timings, audience segments and optimize continually to improve the performance of your retargeting notification campaigns.

Best performing retargeting campaign templates


Here are some the best performing push notifications for retargeting :

1. Recover abandoned carts: Send a series of personalized notifications to users who’ve abandoned the product checkout. Bajaao.com, a Shopify plus, store improved conversions on their store by 5x with one campaign. Check out 10+ abandoned cart push notification templates for inspiration.

2. Engage product viewers: Browsing a product page indicates high purchase intent. You should retarget such users with personalized notifications showing product images and quick call-to-action to drive conversions. Read this guide to know how you can deal with browse abandonment and encourage conversions.

Engage Product Viewers with Personalized Notifications


Further Reading

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