Are You Being Re-Targeted?

Chances are you are being stalked by the website that you visited. No, the website itself isn’t following you around the internet but ads for their products are. If this is the case chances are you are being retargeted! Within the past couple of years there has been a significant increase in the use of retargeting ads and for good reason. Retargeting ads help companies recapture lost visitors. They entice customers to return to a previously visited website and to purchase products the customer may have left behind.

For, those of you who are unfamiliar with retargeting ads, here is how they work.  When a user visits a website and views a product “cookies” are stored on the person’s computer. After the person leaves the site, ads for previously viewed products are displayed, often as banner ads. These ads are designed to follow a person around the internet for up to two week after the person initially views the product or visits the website.


I can tell you I was a little freaked out when I was first realized that I was being retargeted. A couple of days after viewing a pair of shoes on my favorite website, I noticed that an ad for the website and the shoes was following me around the internet. No matter which site I visited the ad was there. At first I thought that it was a coincidence but then I realized that I was being intentionally targeted. According to Small Business Trends, “The idea behind retargeting is to get a higher percentage of visitors to convert to a sale, because they are reminded of your site even after they leave”.

As online users are being presented with more and more retargeted ads two main questions arise. 1) Do retargeting ads really work and 2) are they ethical?

Let’s deal with the first question first. Do retargeting ads really work? There is some evidence that suggests that these ads do in fact work. reported that its shopping cart abandonment rate was reduced by 40% due to retargeting ads and Zen Desk reported a 1317% ROI from combined conversions (view through and click through conversions) thanks to its retargeting advertising efforts. Furthermore a 2010 study found that retargeting ads were twice as effective as other tactics used when trying to get customers to search for a specific brand. Other than these three examples, there seems to be strong conclusive evidence that retargeting ads are widely effective.

Second is the question of ethics. Are retargeting ads ethical, after all they do invade your privacy and repost images of products that you have previously viewed. Retargeting ads are in fact ethical as long as the website engaging in retargeting ads notifies visitors that their website contains cookie files that will later be used in retargeting ads. As a user, if you wish not to receive retargeting ads consider removing all cookie files at the end of browsing session or consider using an “In Private” browsing session (cookies are not stores during this sessions). Whether you are a fan of retargeting ads or not they are a growing part of digital marketing and they are here to stay.

Let me know what your thoughts on retargeting! I would love you hear about any experiences that you have had with retargeting ads.


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