AdRoll Blog

Actionable tips, community conversations, and marketing inspiration.

6 Steps to Building an Email Retargeting Strategy

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

Topics Covered:

Want to engage with shoppers who’ve demonstrated an interest in your brand? Or perhaps you know it’s high time to follow up on those pesky abandoned carts?

We’ve got two words for you: email retargeting. As a beloved tactic for growing brands, it’s a powerful tool that has forever changed the way businesses communicate with shoppers and their customers. But while you may be familiar with the ins and outs of what email retargeting is and how it works, getting started can be easier said than done. 

Luckily, we’re here to help with this step-by-step guide on building a successful email retargeting strategy — let’s dive right in! 

A Quick Refresher: What Is Email Retargeting?

Email retargeting is a marketing tactic where you send triggered emails to shoppers based on particular actions they take on your website, whether that’s abandoning a cart or clicking on specific product pages.

However, unlike retargeting ads that let you reach anonymous site visitors, email retargeting is limited to people already on your email subscriber list. 

Step 1: Identify Your Email Retargeting Goals 

Before you begin tinkering with fonts, colors, and layouts, it’s crucial to determine precisely what ground your retargeting emails need to cover. 

Are you looking to:

  • Improve email opens and clicks?

  • Increase engagement with existing customers?

  • Boost conversion rates on your site?

  • Convert casual browsers into paying customers?

  • Encourage new customers to make a secondary purchase? 

What is the key to determining your email retargeting goals (which should now be as specific and measurable as possible)? Having a clear understanding of how users currently interact with your site and other marketing efforts, then translating these insights into a comprehensive map of your customer journey and touchpoints. With that in mind, you should strive to create a retargeting email strategy that addresses different shoppers’ needs wherever they are in the funnel. 

Step 2: Review Your Target Audience

For any email retargeting strategy to be a raging success, you need to be familiar with your target audience. Enter your buyer personas, a comprehensive snapshot of who they are, what they like, and what they need — in other words, the ultimate guide for you to craft relevant and compelling retargeting email messages later on. 

As you review your various target audiences, make sure to ask yourself:

  • What are the offers that’ll speak to them the most? (E.g., a discount vs. free shipping vs. a small gift) 

  • What does their customer journey look like? What other marketing touchpoints have they interacted with?

  • How familiar are they with your brand? 

Step 3: Create a Segmentation Plan 

One reason why building an email retargeting strategy can be such a daunting task is because of its flexibility — the types of retargeting emails you can send are virtually limitless. 

Luckily, here’s where segmentation comes in. By segmenting your email list into groups based on specific criteria, you can easily create multiple email retargeting campaigns without extra effort or time. It’s the ultimate way to ensure that you’re delivering appropriate and relevant messaging — and building trust throughout the process! — rather than blasting a generic email hoping that it’ll somehow reach the right people. (After all, nobody wants their inboxes spammed with useless promotional content.) 

Here are some of the different ways you can segment your audience using AdRoll. 

Here are some of the different ways you can segment your audience using AdRoll

You could, say, create a segment of cart abandoners, with emails triggered when a shopper has added items to their cart but hasn’t checked out within an hour. You could also segment according to details and characteristics such as:

  • Their location

  • Whether they’re a new or returning customer

  • Which product categories they showed an interest in

  • The value of their carts

  • Their purchase history

When it comes to how you segment your audience, there’s no right or wrong answer — you can slice and dice your lists in countless ways. But remember: creating conditions that remove users who have signed up, purchased, or downloaded content accordingly is important. You don’t want to keep reminding a shopper who has just hit the “check out” button to recover their abandoned carts.

Step 4: Determine Your Email Schedule

As you finalize your email retargeting strategy and begin developing your content, make sure to determine an email schedule that’s right for your brand. 

This is where it gets a little tricky. One study found that emails sent within three hours of cart abandonment see, on average, a 40% open rate and 20% click-through rate. Meanwhile other experts recommend that brands deliver retargeting emails within an hour of a user exiting their site. 

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no magic number. Ultimately, each brand will have its own unique retargeting email schedule depending on what types of retargeting emails they’re sending — don’t be afraid of experimenting with different times and frequencies for different audience segments once you roll out your email retargeting program. 

Step 5: Consider Your Email Capture Processes

Given how powerful retargeting emails are, it makes sense that there’s a limit to who you can reach with them. Because your recipients must be subscribers, optimizing your email capture processes is one of the most important parts of your email retargeting strategy. 

AdRoll offers a variety of contact capture templates you can easily customize to match your site.  

AdRoll offers a variety of contact capture templates you can easily customize to match your site.  

Despite the convenience of an email capture form on your site, it’s not a foolproof method for marketers to collect user data. Consider also: 

  • Adding an email sign-up field to the footer of your site 

  • Gathering email addresses from event (whether in-person or virtual) attendees 

  • Using social media to encourage followers to subscribe 

  • Launching exit intent pop-ups 

Make sure to A/B test your various email capture messages, including the headline, CTA, and offer (e.g., a discount vs. free gift). 

Step 6: Map Out Your Retargeting Emails

Now that you’re familiar with the goals of your email retargeting program, your target audience, and your segmentation details, the next step is to list your retargeting emails and map them onto your marketing funnel. In other words, you’ll want to determine exactly where each of your emails will appear in the customer journey, including triggers that will prompt each email to go out. 

Here are some common types of retargeting emails to consider: 

  • Encourage cart abandoners to return to your site and check out. 

  • Upsell or cross-sell recent shoppers. 

  • Promote your loyalty program to existing customers. 

  • Re-engage with customers who haven’t visited your site in a while. 

  • Introduce returning customers to new products. 

  • Hype up an upcoming sale or product launch. 

Use this map as a guide when you begin designing the flow of your retargeting email campaigns in your email platform — this exercise will be useful for spotting any content gaps. 

Get Started With Email Retargeting Campaign

Retargeting emails is a powerful way to recover abandoned carts, boost click-through rates, and increase sales… when used in a well-thought-out strategy, that is. Luckily, with this guide, you’re all set!

If you’re ready to take your email retargeting strategy and put it into action, check out AdRoll’s email retargeting solutions.

Or if you're all set to look into optimization tips, look no further:

Explore Next

Topics Covered:

Get the online marketing news and tips you need to grow your brand, in the AdRoll newsletter.