Email Retargeting: What It Is and How It Works

Email marketing is all about reaching the right customers at the right time, with the right content that drives them to act.

While there are many tactics to help you deliver relevant content to your email subscribers, customers are craving highly targeted content that’s meant just for them.

That’s where email retargeting comes into play.

Email retargeting: What it is, how it works, and best practices

Nearly 60% of people allow email marketing to affect their purchase decision-making process. With so many people turning to the internet to fulfill their purchasing needs, the concept of retargeting isn’t entirely new. Most marketing professionals are familiar with the topic of retargeting, thanks to the use of various display ads and emails that are targeted to a specific user after they’ve visited their website.

For example, once a consumer has signed up for email updates and visits the ColourPop Cosmetics website and then views a particular product without purchasing it. They’re sent a retargeting email acknowledging the fact that they noticed your interest.

ColourPop Cosmetics Retargeting Email Example

Source: ColourPop Cosmetics

Defining email retargeting

The email example from ColourPop Cosmetics is a perfect example of email retargeting. Now, for those who need a refresher, email retargeting is a marketing tactic that helps you reintroduce a specific product to a particular audience member who showed interest but never followed through on the CTA. Actions can include anything from signing up for a webinar, downloading a report, or even making a purchase.

How does email retargeting work?

Email retargeting works by taking the information you have on your customers and using it to create only the most relevant, highly targeted email campaigns suited for their needs. To do this, you need to have at least a basic understanding of behavioral marketing. This is the practice of monitoring and tracking the behaviors of your targeted audience members. Typically, this is done by tracking their website and purchase activities. It can also be done through the use of third-party applications to monitor further how they may be engaging with your brand.

The most common way to track these behaviors is through the use of website cookies. These cookies are stored on a user’s browser to help track user activities. These can include what they choose to click on, how they move through your site, etc. However, this method is becoming trickier than ever, thanks to various technologies that either block cookies or delete them once a user closes their browser.

Turn tracking off in Google Chrome

Source: Google Chrome

More recently, email marketers have been utilizing remarketing pixels in email to help them track their subscriber’s data. A tracking pixel is a tag that’s embedded into the HTML code of an email that tracks the behavior of a specific user after they’ve opened an email.

These tracking pixels work very similarly to website cookies and can help you gain a deeper insight into your subscribers. However, at this time, they can’t be blocked as cookies can.

Email retargeting best practices

As with any other aspect of your email marketing campaigns, there are several best practices that you need to consider before you start building your own email retargeting campaigns. You want to ensure the success of your email retargeting efforts, and these best practices can help you do just that.

  • Utilize email segmentation: Email segmentation is the process of splitting up your emailing list into more detailed, highly targeted lists. Segmentation helps you further target those who are looking for specific information. It ensures that you aren’t sending emails to those who’ve already purchased a specific product or taken another specific action (such as downloading a report, etc.)
  • Time matters: You’ll want to start sending your email retargeting emails right after someone’s clicked off your website entirely. The sooner you land in their inbox, the more likely they are to return to your site and reconsider the service/product that they passed up initially.
  • Help re-engage inactive subscribers: If you’ve noticed an increase in your inactive subscribers, using email retargeting is a great way to remind these subscribers why they subscribed in the first place. The idea is to remind them of what piqued their interest in the first place and encourage them to reconsider acting on a CTA.

London North Eastern Railway re-engagement email example

Source: Really Good Emails

4 real-world examples of email retargeting at work

Email retargeting can have quite an impact on your marketing campaign. This is especially true when it comes to overall conversion rates. According to our friends at Moz, the average ecommerce conversion rate is between 2% and 4%. However, the conversion rate for email retargeting can be as high as 41%.

Not sure how to put email retargeting to work in your email marketing strategy? Here are four real-world examples to help get you started.

1. Renewal reminder

One campaign idea to help put your email retargeting to work is using service renewal reminders. Whether your customer has taken part in a free trial run of your services or their regular renewal period is approaching, sending a renewal reminder to them helps to bring your brand and products to the forefront of their mind.

In this example from Systemic, they’re reminding the user that their free trial is ending. They’re also using the message to remind them that they didn’t pay a penny for this trial.

Systemic free trial up reminder

Source: Really Good Emails

What would make this message even better would be if Systemic went ahead and highlighted features that the subscriber got to sample. They could also benefit from giving them a reason to renew their subscription with a paid version.

2. Cart abandonment

Cart abandonment email campaigns are a great way to put email retargeting to work for ecommerce brands. Typically, these campaigns focus on specific products that a consumer was looking at. In this example from Adidas, they did a wonderful job of bringing the product back into the consumer’s inbox, without sounding salesy in the least.

Abandoned cart email example from Adidas

Source: Really Good Emails

This is arguably one of our favorite email retargeting examples because it takes the pressure off the reader by making a joke. Instead of focusing on the sale, they question the user’s internet status. It’s an excellent way to bring the product back to the consumer’s mind, without plugging a sale.

3. Replenishment update

Consumers land on our webpages for specific reasons and, when a product is currently out of stock, you won’t get the conversion you were hoping for. Instead of writing that consumer off as a lost cause, an inventory replenishment update campaign is a great way to keep your brand at the forefront of a consumer’s mind.

Utilizing tracking pixels or website cookies would allow you to target this particular consumer who’d been looking at a particular out-of-stock item. Once that item becomes available again, you can send them an inventory update, like Uniqlo did in the example below.

Uniqlo Back in Stock Update

Source: Really Good Emails

4. Re-engagement email

Finally, another way to utilize email retargeting is through re-engagement email campaigns. These campaigns are especially useful once you’ve taken the time to analyze the behavioral data that you’ve already gathered on your inactive subscribers.

Framebridge does a wonderful job of reminding their inactive users why they should stay. Plus, with short copy and an easy-to-spot CTA, the action subscribers should take is clear.

Framebridge utilizes email retargeting by emailing inactive subscribers with this re-engagement email.

Source: Really Good Emails

Re-engagement email campaigns can be extremely vital in your email marketing strategy because they help you bring back those customers who may end up falling into the abyss otherwise. While most marketers will lose up to 22.5% of their lists each year, it’s still more cost-effective to attempt to re-engage the list before you try and replace your inactive subscribers.

How you can implement email retargeting into your email marketing strategy

Understanding email retargeting is the first step in implementing it into your current email marketing strategy. From there, you must take a look at what campaigns you’re currently running to communicate with your customers.

Remember, email retargeting is using customer behaviors to send highly targeted messages, so you won’t necessarily be able to include them in more general content, such as newsletters, because they don’t deliver the highly detailed information to each of your subscribers as other campaigns do.

Wrap up

Email retargeting isn’t nearly as difficult as you may initially believe. In fact, if you practice email marketing best practices, including email list segmentation, you’ve already started working email retargeting into your email marketing strategy. You can then begin taking the tips we’ve mentioned above and adding retargeting into several of your marketing campaigns, including your:

  • Cart abandonment campaigns
  • Cross-selling/upselling campaigns
  • Customer support campaigns
  • Inventory update campaigns
  • Re-engagement campaigns

Want to learn more about using pixel tracking in your email marketing efforts? Be sure to read up on how to use these pixels to learn more about your audience in our guide.

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