July 15, 2017

Remarketing Vs. Retention Marketing: What’s the Difference?

The Key Differentiating Factors Between Remarketing and Retention Marketing

While both remarketing and retention marketing are popular modern ways to expand and retain a brand’s customer base, the two have notable differences in both their function and their form. Retention marketing is a broad strategy used to retain current customers only and it spans both the physical and digital realms, while remarketing is a digital-only form of online advertising that targets people who have visited your website but may have not made a purchase. This can include prospects and leads as well as other potential buyers. The most popular tools that can be used to integrate remarketing into your advertising strategy are the features embedded in the Google AdWords, Google DoubleClick, Facebook, and AdRoll platforms, and this is typically done by tracking visitors through a piece of code.

I’ll outline different kinds of remarketing strategies in the last section of this post, but in terms of retention marketing, RFM segmentation and analysis is a classic way to utilize data to satisfy your customers and keep them around. As I described in the linked blog post, RFM segmentation and analysis is done through evaluating the recency, frequency, and monetary aspects of a customer’s purchase history with your store. Looking into when a customer last purchased from you, how often they purchase from you, and how expensive their purchases tend to be will help you to understand your customer’s wants and needs, effectively market to them, and ultimately retain them as a loyal buyer.

In other words, retention marketing is solely about retaining existing customers while remarketing is mainly about acquisition - however, it can very easily be used for retention purposes as well.

How Can Remarketing Be Used for Retention?

In addition to pursuing potential customers that have visited your website in the past without buying anything, remarketing can be used to target visitors to your website that have made a purchase if you so choose. Although it is a less common way to use the tools mentioned in the previous section, there is a lot of value in this strategy; this kind of digital retargeting can be used to re-engage and capture the interest of your customers even after they have completed their purchase and left your website.

Think of online banner ads as the new and improved version of physical direct mail. You can easily and immediately reach anyone who has visited and navigated away from your website mere seconds after the fact, both reminding and re-engaging the most relevant people to trigger a purchase. In addition, you can remarket to existing customers for retention purposes in multiple types of situations ranging from product launches to seasonal sales. Targeting your existing customers with remarketing during a new product launch allows you to easily show them what is new in your store in the likely scenario that they don’t actively check your website for updates, and remarketing during seasonal sales allows you to annually advertise to the customers that tend to purchase from you at a certain time of year or around a certain holiday.

Remarketing E-Commerce Strategies

Because remarketing is digitally-based, it’s perfect for e-commerce businesses. As I mentioned earlier, remarketing works by tracking users through a piece of Javascript code. All you have to do is place the code within your website, and the code will automatically apply an anonymous browser cookie to all visitors. When these visitors browse the web later, they’ll be shown relevant ads related to their browsing history.

There are a multitude of strategies recommended by experts (even Google!) that you can use to optimize your results. The 3 strategies that are recommended most often are tracking all website visitors, re-engaging those who abandoned their online shopping carts without making a purchase, and upselling and cross-selling to existing customers. Every remarketing tool is different, but in Google’s case, all you have to do is create a remarketing list where the main URL is that of your homepage. Re-engaging leads that did not complete their intended purchase can draw them back in and guide them to their abandoned shopping cart. This can be done in Google’s multiple remarketing tools by creating a list of customers that have visited your “Shopping Cart” page as well as a second list of those who completed their order and visited your “Order Confirmation” page, then making a custom combination list that excludes those who have visited the latter. This effectively ensures that you will only target those who neglected to complete a purchase. You can also upsell and cross-sell to existing customers by showing them items that complement those that they have already purchased. While this is a bit more complicated to do in Google’s tools, it’s worth it: create a list of converted customers to reach a niche you’d like to target, then customize ads for this group.

Can Retention Marketing and Remarketing Work Simultaneously?

Not only is it possible to use these two strategies at the same time - it is encouraged so you can get the best results. While some companies prefer to invest their resources in one over the other, you can optimize your results and significantly increase your retention - by up to twenty-five times - and acquisition rates by utilizing both retention marketing and remarketing in your broader advertising plan.

As mentioned in the previous section, remarketing is a dynamic strategy as it can actually be used for customer retaining purposes. In this sense, you can use remarketing for both acquiring new customers and retaining old ones. However, it is highly recommended that you use separate retention marketing strategies, like the ones outlined below, in addition to remarketing. While retention marketing is a broad category that encompasses a nearly infinite number of potential strategies, there are a number of brands and companies that have paved the way for the rest by creating their own original tactics to retain their existing customer base.  

Examples of Successful Remarketing Marketing Strategies

Have you ever visited a website only to see its banner ads following you around the Internet for days afterwards? Then you’ve seen remarketing in action. Many well-known brands are using various tools to integrate remarketing into their ad strategy, including Ford, DKNY, Ralph Lauren, and Campmor, a business that saw a 300% higher click-through rate, 37% lower cost per conversion, and a 16% higher conversion rate during a mere sixth month period using Google’s remarketing services.

While the main goal of remarketing is to ensure your brand or business stays fresh in the visitor’s minds, these brands have also had success with personalized remarketing and remarketing with discounts. Personalized remarketing involves displaying ads containing the specific products that the visitor was viewing in an attempt to lure them back and persuade them to purchase the items they already considered buying. Discount-based remarketing is very similar to personalized remarketing, but it displays a significant and relevant discount next to the item the user viewed. For example, if you clicked on a blue shirt from Amazon but navigated away from the page before completing your purchase, you may see a banner ad on the side of another website displaying the shirt next to an offer for a 30% discount for those who click the link. This works as a monetary incentive for customers to buy what they want or need on your website rather than that of a competitor.

If you have any questions or comments about how remarketing and retention marketing can improve your business strategy, send me an email at or let me know in the comments section below!

5 Strategies To Get More Positive Reviews Faster For Your D2C eCom Brand

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll find inside:

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