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Remarketing: When Advertisers Stalk You


RemarketingHave you ever been wandering around the internet and been surprised to find the same advert following you? If you have, welcome to remarketing.

Or maybe you looked at an online product and then, later that day, saw a discount advert in your social media feed. Or you clicked an advert in Facebook, and then found it at the top of your searches.

Yup – those are remarketing too. Which sounds just a little less creepy than its former, but now less favoured name: retargeting.

Why Use Remarketing?

Have you ever had a slice of pie and felt you wanted more? Another slice of pie. Yup – that’s what marketers and advertisers want too. You checked out their products but didn’t buy. And now they want another bite of your attention. One more chance to sell you stuff. Or two more, or three…

Remarketing is addictive.


And technology makes it possible. In fact, web technology makes it easy. Even solo-entrepreneur marketers can do it with the suite of tools available from big advertising platforms like Google and Facebook. And there are a host of add-on software tools that make it easy and, yes, more effective. It works.


When I first learned about selling, one thing that stuck in my mind is that you may not make your sale on the first occasion you pitch a product. Maybe it will take two, or three, or more pitches. Indeed, my trainer asserted that the magic number is seven. It takes seven points of contact to make a sale.

By then, you and your product seem familiar, and safe. Remarketing automates the six points of contact that follow number one.

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing (or retargeting) is a form of online advertising. It can help you keep your products or your brand in front of potential customers after they leave your website or view your adverts. For most websites, only a small proportion of visitors buy on their first visit. But, by using software automation to continue to present your products to them, you can capture some of those lost sales.

How Does Remarketing Work?

Wizardry and witchcraft.

No? You’re too modern to believe in hocus pocus?

Well, the real answer (and I’m no expert here, is there is a single pixel on the marketer’s webpage. When the user – that’s you or me – opens the page, we download that pixel. And that causes your browser to store some information, a cookie.

Now, when you visit any other web page that bears adverts which are of the right type, the software on that page detects the cookie. If that cookie says you looked at a page with green stiletto shoes made by, and has the right ad contract, then that page will know to serve you an advert for their shoes.

Advertisers and technologists have devised near-infinite variations on that principle. All of them are designed to spot an action you take online, record it, and serve you some sort of promotional content that they think will appeal to you and take you close to making a purchase.

‘What About My Privacy?’

A very good question. For some, the convenience of reminders to buy that sofa you fancied, and successively better offers of a discount, are not only convenient, but welcome. For others, feeling that big (and small) corporations know what you may want to buy and then exploit that, is a problem.

Now, the responsible players of this game do not collect personally identifiable data. Who you are is of no interest to them. They just recognise that a visit is on the same computer or device as an earlier one. But the big social media and search providers only have one source of revenue: advertising. So, the more they know about their users the more valuable their services become to their users.

This is a hot topic. And one that will play out in the coming years, with outcomes nobody can predict. At the moment, legislation is globally piecemeal. The US has virtually none, and the EU has a lot, for example. I think we can expect some hard cases to drive more legislation in the future.

But, far more certain is this: the genie is out of the bottle. Technologists are brilliant and marketers are eager. That combination can only mean one thing. We’ll see ever more innovative and clever technical products aimed at making sales online. And many of them will include tracking who does what and where on the internet.

It’s time to learn about anonymous browsing.

What is Your experience of Remarketing?

We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.

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