People tend to think of offline and digital marketing in terms of attracting new customers to a business. But an equally important activity which often provides better value is to focus on how to keep existing customers coming back.

That is why loyalty schemes are so popular, for example. For a small discount or other incentives, you are almost guaranteed to get a higher percentage of conversions from customers who are already fans of your brand than you are from, say, running an advertising campaign aimed at new business.

Remarketing is another strategy focused on generating future business from people who are already familiar with your brand. However, what people mean when they use the term ‘remarketing’, the objectives and the tactics used, has changed over time, muddying the waters a little. 

We therefore thought it would be worthwhile to clarify what people mean when they speak about ‘remarketing’, so you can be clear about what you are getting if you are offered it as a service.


Keeping in touch

In its broadest sense, you could argue that remarketing describes any activity which aims to keep contact with existing customers in order to promote future sales - you are literally ‘remarketing’ your business to them over and over in a bid to win repeat business.

In the pre-internet era, the term came to be associated more specifically with direct mail campaigns. As opposed to unsolicited mail drops, which essentially work by pushing adverts through as many letter boxes as possible, direct mail targets existing customers for the reasons outlined above - to entice them back with special offers, events, product launches and so on.

As digital marketing evolved with the arrival of the internet, email became the natural channel to pick up this strategy. Online platforms made it easier to capture an email address than it ever was previously to get a full customer address, so remarketing became more and more widespread. The branded newsletter is a typical example of digital remarketing after this fashion.

Woman remarketing megaphone

Google Adwords

Then along came Google. The digital giant offers remarketing as a specific service within Adwords, its online advertising platform.

Google’s take on remarketing is a departure from the kind of strategies the term was previously used to describe - some even suggest it’s a misnomer. What Google means by remarketing is online advertising campaigns that are specifically targeted at people who have previously used your website or mobile app. 

An important difference here is that Google Adwords remarketing does not necessarily target previous customers - people don’t have to have bought anything from you, they only have to have visited your site. Adwords can use data traffic to make sure such people see your ads as a priority when they are browsing using relevant keywords in search.

There is a different emphasis here - instead of encouraging loyalty from existing customers, Adwords remarketing aims to convert site visitors who are aware of your brand but have not necessarily made a purchase yet.

This is why it is important to be clear about exactly what your marketing consultant means when they talk about remarketing. In its original usage, they will be talking about online and offline contact campaigns to keep existing customers engaged. Any mention of Google, however, and they are talking about digital advertising targeting previous site visitors. 

In our next blog, we will look at some of the benefits of remarketing, in both uses of the term. In the meantime, if you have any questions to ask, feel free to contact our digital marketing team - we’re always happy to share our insights and offer friendly advice.

Written by Emma Puzylo April of 2018