Power Digital Announces Creative Affinity.

Learn More Here
Blog Post

What is email retargeting?

February 22, 2023
Table of Contents

Despite the abundance of today’s marketing channels, more email addresses continue to be registered year after year—and email marketing is projected to generate over $10 billion in revenue for businesses in 2023.1 

One of the most effective features of this marketing genre is email retargeting. Also known as direct mail retargeting, it is a strategy used to connect with consumers who express interest in a brand. It’s a simple, yet effective way of capitalizing on engagement by creating targeted messages informed by their on-site activity.2

Dear Reader,

We’ve noticed your business’s keen interest in email retargeting and believe that revenue could benefit from understanding its ins and outs; so, please read on to discover all about this salient marketing tactic.


Power Digital

Email retargeting, defined

Retargeting is a strategy used to get a product that a user has already seen back on their radar (and their screen). It happens all over the internet in a variety of ways, but most of us are familiar with one in particular: when we encounter a catered ad, often generated by Google, for a product that we’ve recently been researching.3

Similar to retargeting ads, Tailored emails are another highly effective channel for retargeting. Email retargeting is the practice of using information a business already has about a consumer to send them messages that meet their desires and motivate them to act.

There are a few ways companies might use email retargeting:

  • By aligning emails with a customer’s browsing habits – When a business understands a particular consumer’s browsing patterns, they can cater emails to highlight products that they’ll be more interested in. So, if an independent clothing retailer notices a repeat customer has been sifting through the skirt section of their page, it would be wise to send them a retargeting email with the six sleekest skirt styles of the season. 
  • By spotlighting browsed products – When a business knows exactly what a user wants, it may be more advantageous to elaborate on a product they’ve already expressed interest in (rather than distract them with other options). A user who spent several minutes admiring a specific tablet but didn’t pull the trigger might convert if they received a retargeting email highlighting its unique features.

While the purpose of email retargeting is fairly straightforward, there’s a world of strategy and technical acuity involved in creating a message that compels and converts users. To start the process, one needs an understanding of who is browsing and what it is they want.

email marketing strategy

How does email retargeting work?

Like so much else in modern digital marketing, the lifeblood of email retargeting is user data, which is also the case for social media retargeting ads.

An email marketing campaign geared toward retargeting will consist of two parts. First off, it’s necessary to have an address to send targeted emails. Second, that email needs to be associated with some identifying characteristic of a user, like their IP address or profile, to track browsing patterns. Beyond these fundamentals, there are a few routes a business can take to secure this information.

Collecting cookies

Digital cookies identify a user and track their activity over repeated visits to a site. With cookies enabled, a site’s admin can:

  • See the products and services that a potential customer browses.
  • Save them a shopping cart and wishlist.
  • Maintain their preferred settings, like language, for the next time they visit.
  • Measure how much time a user spends on each page, indicating the products and services that interest them most.4 

Cookies are recorded to create a profile of a user, and many email retargeting programs use cookie data as the basis to generate individually tailored messaging.5 These days, however, most users have the option to opt out of cookies. Furthermore, they can also manually delete them or browse in Incognito Mode (or its equivalent). 

So, what does one do when the cookies begin to crumble? There’s always…

Administering User Surveys 

Information collected from surveys can be highly accurate, as it reflects the personal opinions of the respondents. Surveys give a sense of a customer base’s habits and tastes—the perfect data to facilitate subdivision into targeted email groups. 

There are a few ways data culled from user surveys differs from that acquired through cookie collection:

  • It’s not as instantaneous
  • Taking a survey can steer them away from on-site navigational pathways (whereas cookies can be collected while a user is browsing)
  • Self-reported data corresponds with the way a user views themself, as opposed to what their behavior indicates about their desires and motivations

One major advantage of user surveys? It helps identify user groups that are more likely to be invested in a brand, since they’re offering their personal time in taking them.

While not quite as simple as straightforward cookie collection, surveys garner valuable data that give a concrete understanding of what a customer is looking for. In turn, a business can formulate its emails to selectively target consumers with products they know they want to see.

Encouraging Registration

If a user is always logged into their account when they browse a site, the admin can easily track their behavior in that domain. It’s a simple solution to learning what products they’re most interested in and what pages they dwell on most frequently. 

The only obstacle? People positively loathe being forced to create separate accounts for each website they browse.6 

To encourage them to sign in, businesses can:

  • Monetarily incentivize registration – Customers don’t like creating new profiles, but they’ll probably do it for 10% off. For some businesses, offering a small discount in exchange for user email addresses is a drop in the bucket compared to the wealth of valuable data made accessible in that transaction.
  • Make signups simpler – Often, users aren’t wary of giving away too much information—they just don’t want to fill out a signup form. Companies can make a more frictionless process by letting them register through sites like Google or Facebook. Bonus: This entry point may give companies access to some other user information, like their profile URL and registered name, when they connect using external accounts.7
  • Make some features members-only – Keeping a few goodies behind a free signup page presents an easy cost-benefit analysis to customers. They get something fun and exclusive, and all they need to provide in return is their basic information. Whether it’s unlimited article access or features like making wishlists, a little party favor can entice more members to offer up their information.

Once a business registers a new user, it can track who’s looking at what and get a sense of their tastes and habits. From there, it can select how to go forward with its retargeting campaign.

Email retargeting in practice

Once a business has begun fleshing out who a user is based on disclosed data, they can start creating an email retargeting campaign. Drafting these requires tact and careful consideration—“Come on, we know you want it,” won’t convince most consumers to close on a product they just turned down.

When done effectively, an email retargeting strategy can reach a potential customer, spread brand awareness, and boost sales. When working on a retargeting email campaign, companies should consider:

  • Email timing – Users who idly browse a shopfront may find it unsettling to click off a product’s page only to have a tailored and personalized email reach their inbox 0.4 seconds later. But when a user is on the fence about making a purchase, sending a prompt follow-up can be a brilliant way for businesses to make that conversion.
  • Email frequency – A curious customer who browses 100 items on a site will likely never return there if they get 100 corresponding emails imploring them to buy it all. It behooves businesses to choose the products they’ll promote with precision, based on which product categories a user spends the most time browsing.
  • Language and tone – Even when users consent to giving up their data, they still usually aren’t happy to learn that their activity is being monitored (no, of course, they didn’t read the terms and conditions). Fostering sustainable relationships with users by gently promoting the browsed page or offering a slight discount on the product may be just the ticket to capitalizing on curiosity and making a sale.

Stay in your user’s eye line with Power Digital

Email marketing is hard to master in general, but retargeting presents a unique challenge to businesses. Brands need accurate data (and data interpretation) and creativity to earn users’ attention—and creating emails that pull them further down the funnel is always trickier the second time around.

Fortunately, tricky business is our specialty. Power Digital is a full-service digital marketing agency with a proven track record for crafting messages users want to read

How do we do it?

Simple: we leverage our in-house marketing analysis platform nova along with award-winning creative to create campaigns users sincerely want to read and keep up with. For an email retargeting campaign that will have customers second-guessing passing up your products, reach out to Power Digital.



  1. Statista. Email marketing worldwide — statistics and facts. https://www.statista.com/
  2. United States Small Business Administration. How Retargeting and Remarketing Helps Your Advertising. https://www.sba.gov
  3. Fair Trade Commission. Internet Cookies. https://www.ftc.gov/
  4. Mailchimp. Creating a Product Retargeting Email. https://mailchimp.com/
  5. Forbes. How To Get Started With Targeted Email Marketing For Your Small Business. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2022/05/25/how-to-get-started-with-targeted-email-marketing-for-your-small-business
  6. Nielsen Norman Group. Don’t Force Users to Register Before They Can Buy. https://www.nngroup.com/
  7. Google Identity. Getting Profile Information. https://developers.google.com/

Empowering you to break the mold.

Kind of like a full-service agency, kind of like an in-house CMO. Elevate your brand's presence with custom strategy, channel expertise, and flawless execution.

Learn More