This was way back in 1998 when AdTech wasn’t even a term. DoubleClick had just rolled out Boomerang and their first remarketing campaign for Victoria’s Secret provided a 1000% uplift in CTR’s. Little was understood about retargeting. But DoubleClick never looked back - neither did advertisers. Today, online retailers depend heavily upon retargeting campaigns to drive their conversions, one in every 5 marketers now have a dedicated budget for retargeting [Source].


What is Retargeting?

Retargeting, also known as re-marketing, is a specific form of online advertising that helps you keep your brand in front of the users who dropped off from your website’s conversion funnel. This is typically done using display ads, email. Retargeting ads attract better click through rates as compared to standard display advertising.

Retargeting is frequently used by online retailers, travel portals, service based businesses to attract users back to their website and improve their conversion rate. Leading platforms providing retargeting include Google, Facebook, AdRoll, Criteo and more. When a user comes on a site, a cookie is set following which the site can re-target the user by showing relevant ads on other sites.

There’s always been a lot of confusion between the terms - retargeting and re-marketing. While retargeting relies on cookies dropping ads, re-marketing uses email as the communication channel.


What is at the core of a Retargeting engine?

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

Identity Tracking: The first level of sophistication in the AdTech industry, starts with introduction of identity and its tracking. It is basis the identifier, its longevity and tracking of the identifier (think cross-device), that determines a platform’s ability to retarget a user. Given the number of devices being used by a single user, identification is no more a straightforward problem to solve. On a given browser, user identity is managed using third party cookies. Online stores typically ask users to register using their email, which serves as another channel in the form of email remarketing.

Deep Profiling: Better profiling, helps advertisers curate contexual, retargeting ads. This is the reason why Google Adwords and Facebook Ads are more efficient than the run of the mill ad-networks.


Why is retargeting important for marketers?

Retargeting is extremely important for marketers because more than 98% of website visitors users do not convert and bounce off [Source]. Retargeting helps your brand sit in the front seat of your shopper's mind.

When someone adds a product to their shopping cart, it shows a strong purchase intent. Now every time that customer sees your brand, they are reminded of the product that they were interested in.


Understanding Buyer’s Journey

Before getting into the nitty-gritties 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 -

Understanding Buyer's Journey

Problem / Need recognition: This is the first stage where the user identifies the need for a product. It could be a result of internal stimuli where the users discover it themselves or it could be due to external stimuli where advertisements or word of mouth play a role. As a brand or a business, you should ensure that you are within your users reach whenever it happens. The Recommended approach here is to figure out where your users hang out, run brand campaigns there to be within their reach.

Information Search: The second stage where the users search for and seek more information about the products. Marketers should design the marketing mix to ensure that their brand stands amongst all the noise, making it a part of the consideration set.

Evaluation of Alternatives: This is the most critical stage where users try to find the fit for a product and evaluate it against the alternatives. Objective characteristics such as features and functionalities of the product as well as subjective characteristics such as perceived valued of the brand - both play a key role here. The objective should be to provide users with detailed information about the products, reinforce the value, leverage on users’ intent to drive them towards purchase.

Purchase Decision: This is the stage where users decide to go ahead with the purchase. The objective here should be to ensure a smooth transaction experience.

Post-purchase Behavior: Once the product is purchased or used, users evaluate the product against the promised value. They will either have a sense of satisfaction or will be disappointed with their decision. In the former case, you have an opportunity to convert users into loyal customers and brand advocates, enabling you to derive long term value from your customers.

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 following journey


E-commerce 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.


Retargeting scenarios for E-commerce

A user’s journey on an e-commerce store provides various stages where a marketer should interact with and give the user a nudge towards conversion. Here are some of the scenarios:

  1. User adds a product to the cart but doesn’t transact.
  2. User searches for a product and it is out of stock. It’s made available again.
  3. User goes through a product, doesn’t transact.
  4. User goes through a product, doesn’t transact, and the price of the product drops.
  5. User browses through a specific category on the store but doesn’t purchase any product.


Challenges with Retargeting

  1. Calculating ROI: 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 performance of all campaigns individually.
  2. Reach of Display Networks: The other one is the reach of the platform that you are using for retargeting. 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.
  3. 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.


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., 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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