Retargeting VS Remarketing: Is There Really A Difference?

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Retargeting VS Remarketing: Is There Really A Difference?

Retargeting VS Remarketing: Is There Really A Difference?

The buyer’s journey is a long one, and it would be a mistake to think of it as an easy route. Few people will choose to buy a product after just seeing one advertisement, hearing the brand’s name once, or after sending one enquiry email. That is why retargeting and remarketing is so vital – to convince those who have interacted with your brand before to get closer to making a purchase.

While the importance of retargeting and remarketing is undeniable, how they work isn’t so straightforward. Many marketers use the terms interchangeably, but is there actually a difference between them?

Let’s take a look at how you can use retargeting and remarketing in your digital campaign.


Retargeting is using ads to attract users who have interacted with your brand in the past. For example, when a person goes to your brand’s website to look at your products offered, they might not immediately buy anything. Cookies in the web browser will take note of their activity on this site, and use this to launch targeted ads to the same user.

These ads are typically placed by third party operators, like Google Display Network or Facebook, and are displayed on other sites that your visitor goes to. Since these ads are shown to those who have already exhibited some interest in your brand or products, there is typically a higher engagement rate for retargeting ads than ads to a fresh audience.

Retargeting ads can take two forms: on-site and off-site.

On-site retargeting is based on direct activity with your brand, including your website. The ads are often tailored to users based on their activity, such as the products they’ve looked at but didn’t buy, the inbound channels they used to reach your website (e.g. social media, search), and whether they’ve signed up for a mailing list (possibly, in return for receiving some freebies).

In contrast, off-site retargeting stems from interactions with your brand on third-party platforms. Facebook pages, events, Instagram posts, videos, and listings on other e-commerce sites are some examples of where off-site retargeting can come from.


While retargeting centres on paid ads, remarketing uses email as a marketing channel.

Think of those emails you get from a brand you have bought from – emails on new product launches, for renewal of services, exclusive sales, and so on. Some brands even use email to ‘remind’ customers about products they’ve put into a cart, but didn’t checkout. These are all examples of remarketing.

What’s the difference?

What’s the difference?

Retargeting and remarketing sound remarkably similar, because they have overlapping goals. Primarily, they are both to nudge consumers down the buyer’s journey, inching them closer towards a purchase. Both focus on a part of the audience who have had prior interactions with your brand, which increases the likelihood of conversions.

The main difference between remarketing and retargeting is the channel by which it takes place. Retargeting focuses on paid ads, while remarketing uses email marketing. However, in the past few years, the lines have become increasingly blurred.

For example, on Facebook, you can add your mailing list as your custom audience on an ad campaign. What Facebook does is that it uses these emails to identify users on its platform, and churn out ads that are tailored to them. So, someone who has visited your website before and provided their email might receive Facebook retargeting ads based on their website activity. Google Ads has a similar feature as well.

This fluidity between paid and email channels have made it such that the difference between retargeting and remarketing is no longer so significant. We can even go so far as to say, it doesn’t matter what you call them – what matters is that you know how to make it work.


Of course, the next question would be: what are some great strategies for retargeting/remarketing that really work? You can find out more by attending a search engine marketing (SEM) course, which more often than not will cover topics like cost bidding, crafting compelling copy, and audience targeting techniques suited for digital marketing in Singapore.

If you are looking for an agency to help you with crafting brilliant PPC ads, you need to look no further – we’re right here to help you with that!