5 Ecommerce Retargeting Ad Examples and Tips to Learn From

Retargeting is a major force in the modern sales landscape. Study these successful ecommerce retargeting ad examples and then create your own ad campaigns!

Nobody likes being followed, do they? Following people around the internet is something that companies need to do nowadays as part of a modern marketing plan. When a potential customer—and they’re all potential customers—visits your site, chances are they will be in the 98% of people who visit and leave. That’s a lot of business to miss out on.

Once they begin to visit other sites, your previous visitors should start to see smart, eye-catching ads that attempt to lure them back to you. These retargeting ads should be intelligent and compelling, and they should enhance the customer experience while bringing in new business for you.

Read on to see some effective retargeting ad examples, learn what to avoid, and understand how to do retargeting correctly.

The Psychology of Retargeting

Humans respond to visual cues, and human memory absorbs repetitive images. Good branding gets that name, logo, or product in front of people as much as possible so that they remember it. 

Before the internet, companies spent their ad budgets on ways to increase their visibility to customers who were unfamiliar with their brand. The goal was to introduce the product or service, and then convince consumers that their offering was the best–this is outbound marketing.

Marketing products and services on the internet is a vastly different model. Google now offers up consumer choices curated through search optimization and marketing efforts. When a potential customer lands on your page, it means that they found you. This type of advertising is inbound marketing.

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To keep them on your page, you must present a polished online presence with good content. If you don’t keep them on your page (the 98% bounce), you should use your budget to try and get them to return. Behold your retargeting opportunity.

Keys to A Well-Run Retargeting Campaign

Varied Ad Copy

In short, keep things interesting. Retargeting campaigns are not a one-off effort. They generally run for several weeks, so the messaging needs to be entertaining, and give potential customers choices. It also allows your business to offer different products and services–taking a page from outbound marketing. 

Good Timing

Roll out your messages and offers over a few weeks–this technique is known as time-delayed retargeting. Mixing the ad up per week distributes a ton of different content ideas to several audiences. If you have their email addresses, even better: reinforce the offers through email campaigns as well.

Message Analysis

Be willing to look hard at your landing pages and calls to action and be critical. Maybe your offer isn’t relevant to someone who doesn’t know what you do. Perhaps they don’t want a free consultation or quote. Maybe you should offer them more education before asking for their business. 

If you find that your conversion rate doesn’t change over time, offer an analysis quiz, a video, or a link to other parts of your site with more information. These educational leads can bring them back for a future visit, and perhaps a conversion from visitor to customer.

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Insightful Targeting

It seems silly to say, but when we say “everyone is different,” we mean it. Creating retargeting ads using Google Analytics can boost sales and conversion rates because you’ve customized your efforts to suit your audience.

For instance, if you have several international visitors, you can display ads in their language at times when they’ve been on the site. If you see that a specific segment has many products in their cart, you can tailor ads to them. Data is a marketer’s best friend.

How Does Retargeting Work?

There are two types of retargeting: list-based (such as email addresses) and pixel-based (an actual bit of browser code that tracks your website visitors after they leave). Let’s talk about each of these.


List-based retargeting campaigns send marketing information to people whose information you already have, usually email addresses. An advantage of list retargeting is that it works with customer relationship management (CRM) data to customize the content to individuals. 

CRM information is often paired with social media profiles to allow a full spectrum of behavioral data to define the type of content likely to generate sales. Many people have a separate email address for their social media accounts, so this type of retargeting works best with a large list of recipients. List maintenance also makes this marketing style less immediate.


Pixel-based retargeting is the most common type of retargeting. When a visitor lands on a website, the site “cookies” their browser, and when they leave, that bit of code asks ad servers to display your retargeting ads on other sites that they visit.

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There are some advantages to pixel retargeting: it is immediate, it is specific to the page they visited on your site, and it is based on the visitor’s behavior. The disadvantage is that it is limited to the number of site visitors you have.

Choose a Platform

It’s possible to set up a retargeting campaign yourself, but it’s generally best to get the help of professionals. A great deal of time, data collection, ad design, and optimization goes into good retargeting campaigns, and choosing a full-service provider can eliminate many headaches.

If you have just a few customers, a small budget, and the time to devote to learning the specifics, then self-service may be the way to go for you.

Retargeting Ad Examples and Strategies

Here are five examples of successful retargeting campaigns, and the thought process behind them.

Address a Common Concern

There is no need to plaster your logo all over the ad, nor is it necessary to stick to discount coupons or offers. Point the ad to a blog post that talks about a common pain point. This strategy brings them back to your site and answers questions.

HubSpot ran a Facebook retargeting campaign about a CRM tool that people didn’t purchase because they thought it would take too long to configure. Clicking on the ad brought visitors to a page that explained how the CRM only took 25 seconds to set up.

Target Your Visitor’s Interests

If your visitor poked around your website and lingered on the page with the fishbowls, then, by all means, send them an ad about the fishbowls. The ad can be informative and include a discount. Nordstrom designs some beautiful retargeting ads that follow customers who linger on certain pages. They display the product and ask “Still thinking it over?”

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Create a Sense of Urgency

Offering a flash sale fosters a “fear of missing out” and compel your potential customers to take advantage of a great deal they know will go away quickly. 

These ads tend to be effective in the travel industry. Expedia’s retargeting ads offer last-minute deals on hotels, getaways, and plane fares.

Cross-Sell Complementary Products

Say your customer did go through with their sale. They are unlikely to buy that product a second time, but they may be interested in an accessory to go along with it. 

Crate & Barrel accomplishes this through the use of flattery: The ads say “You’ve got great taste.” and offer them sale products that might go with their previous purchase.

Nurture Your Repeat Customers

Remind them why they love your brand. Advertising new arrivals, pointing to a new blog post, and sharing company news releases are all ways to stay in front of the people who like you the most.

ModCloth and TheRealReal follow repeat buyers with ads showing new arrivals, multiple products, and exclusive sale reminders. 

A Few Deadly Sins of Retargeting

Retargeting can be a terrific way to market your company; it can also appear creepy, insensitive, and desperate. Here are some strategies to avoid:

Too Many Impressions

This is an obvious mistake, and it is very easy to avoid. You can set a cap on the number of retargeting ads that your visitors see, and you absolutely should.

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Too Few Impressions

Some businesses mistakenly skimp on their retargeting impressions. Some research and data analysis fixes that problem.

Bad Context

Everyone has experienced a creepy retargeting ad that seems based on personal data and search history. This strategy annoys the majority of internet users to the point that they wouldn’t click on it for any reason. 

Bad Design

If you’re going to put yourself in front of potential customers, make your ads look nice. If you’re making the ads yourself, research banner ad best practices, and do your best to design clean, readable, and concise advertising. Or hire someone to do it for you.

The 98%

This how many people that will bounce off your site and whom you should be retargeting first. Get them to come back. Use analysis to figure out what to advertise, then use that same data to decide how and where to advertise it.

Study more retargeting ad examples and even create separate landing pages for those who click on those ads. Specialization and customization are the keys to effective, non-creepy retargeting campaigns. Leverage social media and Google analytics to help your process. And think about how you would react in your customer’s shoes.

Lastly, check out our resources to help drive your inbound traffic. After all, your potential customers need to find you before you can retarget them.

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