Remarketing ain’t Marketing

As digital tactics continue to explode in breadth as well as depth, we’re being asked about how to think about remarketing in the context of other advertising tactics.

The answer is simple: you shouldn’t.

Remarketing, or “retargeting” is the practice of specifically advertising to people who have shopped a product but not bought it.  This usually means a user searched for a specific product and didn’t buy, or an abandoned shopping cart with specific items in it.   If you’ve ever browsed a product, and then suddenly noticed that same product advertised elsewhere on the site (or even on others), that’s remarketing.

But it’s not marketing, and shouldn’t be measured alongside tactics like print, radio, and search.  Let me be clear- this doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea- in fact it’s hard to argue with the principle.  But saving a sale is not the same as driving a sale, and if we’re looking for which marketing and advertising tactics are driving incremental sales, we should ignore remarketing.  It’s simply an operational program to increase conversion rates among people who have already demonstrated their interest in a product.