The Retargeting Basics

While retargeting has been around for some time, most associations still aren’t using this type of advertising. Here’s what you need to know.

By the FORUM Magazine editors


We’ve all been there: You’re looking at a pair of shoes or workout equipment or doing any other sort of doom-shopping to stave off the pandemic’s doldrums — and suddenly those potential purchases start following you around the internet. That’s the result of retargeting. Here’s how it works, including why retargeting might not be right for your association.

What is it?

Retargeting is a type of advertising that targets people who have visited your website or social media profiles. Shopping for shoes is a good way to visualize the experience.

Say a potential customer goes to a shoe store’s website and browses around without buying anything. As they surf the internet, the shoe company’s products will follow the user around, offering a chance to the potential customer to go back to the store’s site and buy the shoe or other similar shoes. These ads can be scheduled to start appearing any time, whether later that day or a month down the line. Unlike other types of advertising, you don’t need to collect the person’s email address or need them to search for a related product. Once they visit your website, you can instantly start sending that person ads in the hopes of luring them back to the site.

How does it work?

Retargeting is often done through the use of cookies, which are small file thats store information on a person’s computer. Once a user engages with your site, this bit of stored information will then follow the user around.

By seeing your brand’s likeness multiple times, it can help build familiarity and trust, which can increase the chance of someone buying one of your products.

Associations can partner with providers to execute these initiatives. Facebook and Google are two major companies that offer retargeting services, but other smaller providers exist as well.

What are the goals?

Retargeting generally has two primary goals: awareness and conversion. As a first step, retargeting can inform potential customers about the products your association offers. For these retargeting ads, you can educate people about continuing education, events, credentials and more. By seeing your brand’s likeness multiple times, it can help build familiarity and trust, which can increase the chance of someone buying one of your products.

For people who are already familiar with your brand and its offerings, retargeting is an opportunity to get them to commit to a purchase. For instance, if you have a new virtual event, you can create an ad to target and entice existing customers with information about the virtual event as they browse other sites. 

What are the challenges?

Retargeting is a long-term strategy that should be used in conjunction with other marketing initiatives. While it can be beneficial, especially for larger associations, it does require time and effort: Successful retargeting campaigns will likely need to be tested, monitored and tweaked over the course of several months. Additionally, campaigns can take several months before yielding results. Lastly, not all internet users like ads following them around the internet — implementing retargeting campaigns could damage the reputation or goodwill of your brand.

Written by FORUM Magazine editors.

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