There are quite a few terms being thrown around in the behavioral marketing space and it can get confusing to make sense of all the products and services being offered.

Display advertising providers use multiple terms for similar strategies – Google calls their product “Remarketing” and Microsoft titles their product “Remessaging”, while the rest of the display industry uses the term “Retargeting.”

Email solution providers have added to the confusion by also using all three terms when describing event triggered email. For example, Experian adopted the term remarketing and Listrak uses the term retargeting.

Here’s my attempt to make sense of it all:

What is remarketing?

At AdRoll, we think of remarketing as a broad term that describes a marketing practice. Remarketing involves showing a customer a message which is targeted or personalized to the customer’s previous interest in the company’s products or services.

What is the difference between remarketing and retargeting?

Display retargeting is one form of remarketing, and we think the term retargeting should only refer to display advertising. Remarketing is a more general term and exists in many forms.

What is the difference between remarketing and behavioral targeting?

Remarketing uses a company’s first-party data about consumer intent whereas behavioral targeting uses third-party data from external cookies and database appends.

How do companies determine consumer interest?

For most companies, there are two main ways of identifying past consumer interest: purchase behavior and browse behavior.

Past purchase remarketing

Marketing based on past purchase behavior is the practice of using a client’s previous purchases to determine what they are likely to be interested in purchasing in the future. This form of remarketing allows companies to present personalized promotions and messages to a consumer. The New York Times published a piece on Target’s predictive analytics which allowed the retailer to send out direct mail coupons to clients who were likely to be pregnant. This is just one example of how advanced past purchase behavior remarketing has become.

How are a customer’s past purchases tracked?

Retailers with physical stores track past purchases through loyalty programs, such as your Safeway card, and with a process known as credit card matchbacks. Online sales are significantly easier for retailers to associate with individuals since most ecommerce orders require an email address, credit card and shipping address.

Browse (website visit) based remarketing

With browse-based remarketing, consumer interest is determined through website engagement, such as the pages and content a visitor viewed on a website.

How are website visits captured?

Website visits are often captured anonymously through browser cookies which can be set when a user visits a website and then persists. A visitor’s engagement can also sometimes be captured in the web platform itself. Visitors can be matched back to individual customers through certain identifying actions such as logging into the website being browsed, or clicking an email which directs to the website.

What remarketing solutions exist?

Email remarketing and triggered email

A common example of email remarketing is an abandoned cart email, or a product browse email. A good resource on email remarketing is Experian’s Remarketing Report [PDF]. Advanced retailers are also remarketing by segmenting their email lists based on past purchase behavior and sending targeted marketing emails.

Direct mail remarketing

A simple example of targeted direct mail based on purchase behavior is sending a gender-specific catalog based on whether a consumer purchased male or female apparel previously. More advanced direct mail programs use website visits as triggers to send free samples, promotional offers and mailers to people who recently visited the website.

Onsite recommendations

If you’ve ever shopped on Amazon, you know how effective using both a customer’s past purchase and browse data can be to present a customer with relevant product suggestions.

Display retargeting

Retargeting has certain advantages over other types of remarketing. If you aren’t doing any form of remarketing today, here are a few reasons display retargeting should be your first remarketing program.

Reach new customers
Compared to using past purchase behavior or email based remarketing, retargeting can help drive a customer’s first purchase. You can only target existing customer lists with email and remarketing that uses past purchase data.

Retargeting puts a marketing message in your front of your most engaged customer group, people who recently visited your website. Many other forms of remarketing require time to pass before the marketing message reaches individual or the remarketing reaches out to individuals that haven’t engaged with your brand recently.

Ease of implementation
Retargeting requires a pixel to cookie website browsers and creative banners, but compared to time consuming email and database integrations, retargeting is a form of remarketing that can be implemented in a much shorter amount of time with a lower level of effort.