Glossary

Remarketing vs retargeting: The difference and what it means for improved targeting

Advertising
No items found.
Magnifying glass against cityscape
Written by
No items found.
Published on
May 17, 2024

Recommended reading

Your guide to reducing wasted ad spend using first-party data

An estimated 23-56% of ad spend is currently wasted (and that’s before third-party cookies are completely deprecated). So how can brands ensure they’re reaching their ideal audiences at a time when consumers expect more personalized — yet privacy-preserving — advertising experiences than ever before?

Key visual for guide to reducing ad waste

Remarketing vs retargeting: The difference and what it means for improved targeting

Remarketing and retargeting are often used interchangeably. But they serve distinct purposes and need different approaches — especially in regard to what role third-party cookies play. 

In this article, we'll unpack what each method achieves for brands' targeting goals. Then we’ll dive into what the future holds for each of these methods in light of third-party cookie deprecation. Finally, we'll highlight where brand marketers would be well-advised to invest their paid marketing budgets going forward.

Remarketing and retargeting are similar but different

The basics of retargeting vs remarketing

Retargeting

Marketers and non-marketers alike are familiar with the concept of retargeting. This happens when prospects have visited a business’s site without completing a desired action. So if you’ve ever been reminded with an ad that you still have items in an online shopping cart, or are shown ads today about a product whose landing page you visited yesterday, you’re being retargeted. What’s important to remember here is that the focus is on conversion rate.

Retargeting is currently made possible by third-party cookies. We’ll cover how it will work post-third-party-cookie-deprecation later in this article.

Remarketing

Remarketing, on the other hand, focuses on customer retention and customer upsell. Instead of casting a wide net to attract new customers, remarketing focuses on nurturing relationships with existing ones. 

Historically, brands have done remarketing through personalized email marketing campaigns, push notifications, and newsletters, among other methods. They achieved this by using customer data like email addresses and purchase history to create targeted campaigns aimed at re-engaging with past customers. 

These are all techniques that fall under "direct marketing" and are still effective. But in recent years, it has been possible to remarket with paid media channels too. Marketers can do this using Google Customer Match, Facebook Custom Audience or using ID Solutions like Liveramp. Similar to traditional remarketing methods, these platforms allow brands to upload customer data and use it to create custom audience segments for targeted ad campaigns across different platforms.

The TL;DR version of all this? The term retargeting applies to the conversion of a prospect, whereas remarketing includes marketing tactics used to market to existing customers.

How things will change post third-party cookies

Despite Google continuing to delay the deprecation of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, marketers continue to make alternative plans to ensure their marketing strategies are no longer dependent on this technology.

Cookieless retargeting

Because they rely so heavily on cookies, retargeting strategies as we know them are dying. This is the case already (even before cookies crumble completely) due to the general decay in third-party data resulting from eventual cookie deprecation. However, the survival of retargeting will be ensured thanks to the Protected Audience API from Google Privacy Sandbox. And thanks to the fact that this API runs in the browser or inside a trusted execution environment third-party server for maximal user privacy, personal data will no longer be shared with the ad ecosystem, but users will still be retargeted.

Cookieless remarketing

On the other hand, the current methods enabling remarketing will survive cookiepocolypse — albeit with stricter regulations. Brands will no longer be able to send customer email information to  publishers without express consent from the customer. They will also have to apply the data minimization principle, meaning they shouldn’t disclose their entire CRM to the publisher they want to run ads with, but just the overlapping customers. Most brands will require additional technology — such as a data clean room — to facilitate this type of data collaboration.

For maximum protection, DCR users can also add IAB PAIR on top of the DCR to guarantee that the personal data is not shared between advertiser and publisher.

Against the backdrop of all the changes happening in the privacy and adtech spheres, it’s possible for brands to practice remarketing and retargeting in ways that prioritize user privacy. 

At the same time, it’s important to remember that they both have a common limitation: Neither retargeting nor remarketing is suited for prospecting new customers. Marketers will need to turn to other methods to serve this purpose — such as lookalike audiences, for example.

References

Recommended reading

Your guide to reducing wasted ad spend using first-party data

An estimated 23-56% of ad spend is currently wasted (and that’s before third-party cookies are completely deprecated). So how can brands ensure they’re reaching their ideal audiences at a time when consumers expect more personalized — yet privacy-preserving — advertising experiences than ever before?

Key visual for guide to reducing ad waste

Related content

Subscribe to Decentriq

Stay connected with Decentriq. Receive email notifications about industry news and product updates.