If you’ve ever cruised a retail site, without buying anything, then seen the items you were looking at everywhere over the following days, you’ve been on the customer side of a retargeting advertising strategy. 

Retargeting ads do exactly what they sound like: they target prospects a second time. It can feel like you’re having your mind read, but there’s actually a clear technological process to retargeting.  

How Does Retargeting Work?

Using website cookies, companies are able to (anonymously) track visitors to their website, and then follow their movement around the internet, which enables them to target very specific ads to prospective customers, wherever they go.

So if you were looking at a pair of Birkenstocks on a retail site, then decided you didn’t want to make the purchase, you might find ads for those exact shoes, from that exact retailer, in the margins of the online magazine you’re reading or on your social media platforms. 

Image credit: retargeter.com

And if you’ve ever bought something based on what you now know was a retargeting ad — so many of us have — you’ll understand how effective this kind of advertising strategy is! 

With first-time website visitors generally maxing out at a 3% conversion rate, retargeting provides businesses with a way to increase brand awareness and recapture a potential customer’s lost attention. 

Retargeting vs. Remarketing

Retargeting and remarketing are often confused, no doubt because they sound similar and mean similar things — but they don’t exactly mean the same thing. 

Retargeting is an advertising strategy that refers to showing ads to previous website visitors while remarketing is the act of collecting contact information from prospective customers in order to send them outbound marketing campaigns.

When You Should Retarget Your Ads

Retargeting is considered a long-term strategy, meaning it’s most valuable for established brands whose websites get at least 100 unique visitors a month. If that’s you, here are some situations that are ripe for retargeting:

  • Increasing brand awareness. The more a prospect sees your brand, and especially the items or services they were initially interested in, the stronger your presence will be in their mind.
  • Boosting already-high sales. Popularity and bestsellers are part of a virtuous cycle, and retargeting (especially when using power words to excite FOMO) can help remind prospective customers to jump on something before it’s gone.
  • Spotlighting slowly-selling products. If you have inventory that’s not moving quickly on its own, retargeting can be a great way to bolster those sales.
  • Introducing new products or collaborations. Like brand awareness, this is about getting your new inventory out there and improving word-of-mouth sales.

Retargeting Tools We Love

Once you’ve decided to retarget your ads, it’s worth investing in a tool to help you get the most out of your strategy. Here are some of our favorites:


AdRoll is the #1 retargeting tool on the market, with over a decade of experience and many thousands of users. With extensive functionality and tons of great metrics for tracking your success, AdRoll is an excellent tool for large-scale projects. It can take a bit of time to learn, but AdRoll provides plenty of educational content to get you over the curve.

Image Source: AdRoll


Meteora uses geofencing for retargeting ads — this is the process of targeting ads based on a user’s geographical location, using data like cellphone GPS or Wi-Fi. This makes Meteora a great choice for small businesses looking to target local prospects, or any business looking to target a location-based demographic.

Image Source: Meteora


With 675 million users each month, LinkedIn has become one of the largest, most widely-used social networks in the world, and their retargeting tool is perfect for businesses whose customer base is other businesses (B2B) or professionals. Plus, it’s a pay-per-click (PPC) model, which means you’ll only pay if your retargeting ads are successful.


Another popular PPC retargeting tool is Criteo, which promises to deliver users around 13x ROI via its machine learning-enabled content. From static images to video ads, Criteo’s software uses your customer data to craft personalized advertisements that are optimized to retarget each individual prospect.

Image Source: Criteo

Google AdWords

Another extremely popular ad retargeting tool is the one built into Google Ads, which enables businesses to target users of any Google platform, including, of course, the search engine but also YouTube, Chrome, and Android phones. This is especially convenient if you’re already a Google AdWords user for other marketing or SEO strategies.

Image Source: Search Engine Watch


Another AI-powered platform, Fixel is a bit different from some other solutions in that it works with the marketing tools that you’re already familiar with. Instead of acting as its own platform, Fixel is a platform-agnostic tool that provides actionable metrics to a wide range of other ad platforms to improve your targeting and retargeting engagement. This provides you with out-of-the-box engagement increases and greater retargeting performance without the need to learn yet another new platform. If you’re already using multiple platforms, Fixel can provide metrics to all of them to give you a boost across the board.

Image courtesy of Fixel


Facebook is the third most visited website on the Internet, so the advertising potential on their site is astronomical. Like Google’s built-in retargeting tool, Facebook Advertising has a tool called Custom Audiences, which enables you to retarget any Facebook user who’s interacted with your business — both on your Facebook page and outside the platform, on any website where you’ve added the required pixel.

Image Source: Facebook


SharpSpring Ads (formerly Perfect Audience) is our absolute favorite retargeting tool, which is evidenced by the fact that we use their services for our own business (full disclosure). But we recommend SharpSpring because we love them, not because they’ve asked us to (they haven’t). 

The best thing about SharpSpring’s retargeting tool is the width of its reach: not only do they place ads across the wider Internet, in banners and sidebars, but they also cover social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, to extend your audience.

Image Source: SharpSpring


Another smart tool, SmarterHQ, uses advanced behavior analysis to help you get the most out of your retargeted ads. By analyzing the way that users engage with your ads, the platform provides you with tools to engage across multiple platforms to make sure that they see your ads at exactly the right time to land the conversion.

Image courtesy of SmarterHQ

Of course, we can’t cover every possible tool out there — so if you’re looking for something super-specific, check out software review sites like G2Crowd or Capterra to see what other people are using and find the perfect solution to fill those gaps.