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What percentage of ecommerce shoppers do you think convert on their first visit to an ecommerce store? According to retargeting platform AdRoll, it's a mere 2%. I like the folks at AdRoll, but I'd take issue with that. 2% seems very low.  Based on conversations I've had with many marketers -- and third-party research --it seems that 3 to 5% is more typical.

Either way, those numbers should not surprise you.

Ugh! So that means more than 95% of your visitors are leaving your store without buying anything and leaving you totally in the dark as to what to do about it.

Hey, good news! Now there's something you can do about it.  It's called retargeting. Here's an explanation of how this advertising tactic works along with retargeting examples from brands you know and love.

Retargeting has become a prominent CRO strategy for ecommerce  marketers in the past few years - and for good reason. Retargeting lets marketers like you and me re-engage and bring back visitors that would otherwise have been lost to the wind...

The Skinny on Retargeting

For a quick definition, retargeting allows you to show ads to people who have visited your site and then left. And you can show ads to them across display ad networks, within search results and even within social news feeds on Facebook and Twitter. There is also email retargeting, where you send an email to an email subscriber after they have abandoned your site. (They need to have been signed in for this to work.)

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It sounds like magic but it's not. :-) To set up retargeting, a small snippet of Javascript is added to a page (or pages) of your ecommerce store which drops a cookie for each visitor. Then they're essentially added to a list and when they leave your site, your ads "follow them around" the web.

The ad platform SelfScout has an easy-as-pie visual to help explain how this all works.

how retargeting works

Ratko Vidakovic, the VP of Product Marketing at SiteScout, says, "It’s not uncommon to see amazing CTRs with retargeting, anywhere from 0.30-0.95% – which is 3-10x higher than the industry average. In some cases they are even higher." (tweet this)

Even more, according to and reviews website Software Advice, retargeting can boost responses to ads up to 400%. And display ad retargeting increases the likelihood of conversion by 70%. (tweet this)

Now don't get me wrong - those conversion rates are music to any marketer's ears - but CRO isn't the only reason to invest in retargeting.

The ROI for retargeting ranks very well among the most popular marketing tactics today like:

Very few people, outside of those of us who are obsessed with digital marketing, are actually aware of retargeting and how it works. For the average shopper, your retargeting campaigns can create a "surround sound" effect when they see your ads EVERYWHERE on the web. An average web browser might think you are running an impressively expensive ad campaign, increasing trust and awareness in your brand.


What Does Retargeting Look Like in the Wild? Here's a Zappos Example

Let's say you were checking out a pair of heels on Zappos that you've been jonesing for... but you copped out at the last minute because you didn't think your checking account could handle the splurge.

Later,  you move on to your favorite blog to read a news story that catches your eye and you see the heels in the sidebar.


Zappos Example 


Later, after you're done reading the article, you go to check out your Facebook feed...and there they are again!


Facebook Feed

Zappos uses Criteo for their retargeting efforts (they also spend $10 million per year on Facebook ads) and Criteo's former CEO, Greg Coleman, has reported good results for his clients, saying:

"The average click-through rate online for display ads is .07 percent and the average click-through for retargeted ads is about .7 percent... It’s the right ad at the right time to the right person.”

An added plus for Criteo retargeting ads is they link to an opt-out page that explains the ad and allows your customers to turn them off and provide feedback on them.


Avoiding "Banner Burnout"

If you're worried about your visitors getting annoyed by seeing your ads follow them on the web, not to worry. On all retargeting platforms, you can cap how many times a visitor is exposed to an ad per day (conventional wisdom is three per day).

But as ecommerce retailer Indochino found, their customers don't mind seeing their ads multiple times per day. They started with the standard three ads per day frequency, but then started increasing it by three, testing to see how their numbers responded.




Omar Al-Hajjar, Online Marketing Manager for Indochino, said of their experiment:

“We got as high as 15-20+ impressions per day per user. Every time we’ve increased it, we’ve seen greater revenue and ROI. Users don’t seem to mind."

You can also mix up the ads you display by showing different designs after a certain amount of days or impressions.

Or you can design ads for different placement like jewelry ecommerce store does, alternating between banner and sidebar ads. continued


Retargeting experts say that banner burnout starts after 7-11 impressions, but like we discussed in our guide to ecommerce CRO, every store is different, so you don't have to bow to conventional wisdom. Get into the lab and experiment to find the best growth hack for your store!


Want to Start? Here's a Scouting Report on All the Major Players

With ecommerce retargeting getting more popular year after year, ad platforms have sprouted up, looking for a piece of the retargeting pie.

To help you sort it all out, here are the best retargeting platforms for ecommerce marketers.





AdRoll was founded in 2007 and focuses mainly with helping clients like Moz, Levi's, Red Vines, and Salesforce crush site retargeting.

For smaller ecommerce sites, AdRoll's Starter package has no minimum ad spend, while their Pro package requires a minimum spend of $10,000. They also have partnerships with Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, which means your retargeting ads will be able to reach 98% of the Internet if you work with them.

The most impressive aspect of AdRoll's platform is their analytics backend, which is a data geek's dream, giving instant results of all your campaigns.


AdRoll platform


AdRoll also allows you to track user segments.  So if you have a cart abandonment segment, you can easily see how it is performing in comparison to your shoes product list segment.


AdRoll platform continued


Even more, you can target or exclude customers based on their site actions and create segments of users based on their site behavior, like all users who place at least one product in their shopping cart.

Though AdRoll can get pretty sophisticated with their analytics tracking, setting up a campaign is kept very simple. For example, if you wanted to create a Facebook retargeting campaign, you only need to input your budget, schedule, targeted locations, and max CPM bid.

AdRoll Facebook setup


Then with a click of your mouse, your ads will start showing up to any visitor who meets your criteria, visited your website, and later checked their Facebook feed. Rad!

AdRoll Facebook Ad


Remember the little retargeting walkthrough we took you through earlier with the heels at Zappos? If you'd like to do a marketing campaign based on product lists, you can use AdRolls Liquid Ads to do the same thing.

Men's shorts ecommerce retailer Chubbies have used it to great effect, with a 10.5X lift in ROI, as well as a 33% lower cost per acquisition (CPA) than average. Their best performing campaign gave the Chubbies crew a 35.5X lift in ROI!




For ecommerce marketers looking for a search retargeting platform, look no further than Chango, the only end-to-end search retargeting option on the market.

Unlike site retargeting, search retargeting allows you to show ads to people who have recently performed searches for your products on major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.


Chango Solutions 


Chango can take care of your entire search retargeting campaign, but also has some limited site retargeting options as well. Their minimum ad spend is $10,000, but they have a 90% renewal rate with their clients, which include over 30 of the top 500 ecommerce retailers. So clearly they know what they're doing when it comes to search retargeting.

Unlike AdRoll, Chango is full-service, meaning there is no analytics backend to monitor or campaigns you can test yourself. They handle everything.


Perfect Audience


Perfect Audience 


Perfect Audience is the #1 Facebook retargeting platform on the market. They make it as easy as possible for ecommerce marketers getting their feet wet in retargeting to get started. In addition to reaching some of Facebook's two billion users, you can also do Twitter ad retargeting, email retargeting, and site retargeting with Perfect Audience.

To start a campaign, there are just three steps (here is a quick five minute start guide as well):

  1. Insert a snippet of code into your ecommerce store code
  2. Create a list of the type of visitors you want to retarget
  3. Design your ad campaign to target the lists you just made


Perfect Audience List


You can display both standard Facebook ads in the sidebar and also in the Newsfeed, so when a visitor leaves your site and checks their Facebook, they'll see your ads!

Here is an ad Perfect Audience created for themselves using their platform just for fun:


Perfect Audience Facebook


Another reason why Perfect Audience is great for small stores is there are no startup or maintenance fees. You only pay for the campaigns you run.

Also, if you're running your ecommerce store on a platform like Shopify, 3dcart, Magento, or Volusion, you can easily link up Perfect Audience to your platform using their APIs.


How to Create a Seamless Customer Journey with Retargeting

Now that you know where to go to start your first retargeting campaign, let's see how it all fits in with your ecommerce sales funnel using DODOcase as our test dummy.

DODOcase won the Shopify Build A Business contest in 2010 with their handcrafted iPad cases, and they've grown to become one of the leading ecommerce retailers in the space.


Shopify Example


One of the reasons is they've done an amazing job creating a sales funnel that recaptures potential customers that visit their store. At every step of the way, DODOcase has triggers that reach out to visitors with new offers, upsells, or ads, looking to bring them back to their site and make a purchase.

We're going to take you through step by step and show you how retargeting can complete your ecommerce funnel.

Let's say you've browsed the DODOcase site and filled your cart up with a leather wallet and DODOcase for your iPad Air.

When you get to your cart, you have a bit of sticker shock and decide you're going to wait to pull the trigger.




As you go to close out the tab, you see a popup, offering 10% off just for joining their email list. Pretty good deal, right? So you enter your email and move on with your day.


DODOcase newsletter signup 


The next morning, you wake up to check your email and you see you've gotten on from DODOcase:


DODOcase email


Here we see DODOcase's first effort with email retargeting. You can use email retargeting to reduce cart abandonment for all of your subscribers. An even better tactic for DODOcase to take would be to sweeten the deal with 10% off one of the items in our cart if we order within a certain time frame to add a sense of urgency to the offer.

The next day while browsing Cult of Mac, we see an ad in the sidebar for 20% percent off iPad cases. Here DODOcase is using site retargeting to recapture visitors to their site with display ads on targeted sites.


Cult of Mac


Later that day we go to check Facebook and see an ad for 20% off DODOcases in our Newsfeed. Here is Facebook retargeting - maybe they use Perfect Audience?


DODOcase Facebook Ad


At this point in the sales funnel, DODOcase has primed us with three different reminders about their iPad cases, making us much likelier to make a purchase.

As you can see, DODOcase's ecommerce CRO game is on point, seamlessly sliding their retargeting efforts into the customer journey. Efforts like this can reduce cart abandonment, increase brand awareness, and increase incremental sales all in one fell swoop.

Now that we've untangled what retargeting is and where you can go to get started, tell us some of the ways you're going to start using retargeting in your ecommerce store in the comments!

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