Intro to the Top 11 Best Facebook Retargeting Strategies
Here’s the deal: If you try even just a few of the tactics that I’m about to share, you’ll already be doing better than 90% of other businesses advertising on Facebook.
Why? The truth is that retargeting on Facebook is often just an afterthought. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen other businesses simply duplicate their top-of-funnel ads into their middle-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel campaigns and hope for the best.
And I won’t lie—This tactic sometimes works. But it doesn’t scale. If you want your business to grow and make money, then you need to change how you communicate with cold, warm, and piping HOT potential customers.
Do you want to be in the top 10% of businesses advertising on Facebook? *whispers* Yes. Then you NEED to test these Facebook retargeting strategies, right now!
About the Author
I’m a Digital Ads Manager at Fetch & Funnel where we’ve been building businesses on Facebook for over five years. I’ve scaled businesses on Shopify from $0 in revenue to $100K in just one month. I’ve wished for a long time that there was a guide that broke down what kind of ad copy strategies would work the best for some retargeting campaigns we were testing. It turned out that I had to be the one to create it. Copy some of these tactics, and watch your business SCALE.
Strategy #1: Speak directly to your potential customer
You can speak directly to your potential customers with this one VERY SIMPLE tactic: Use the word “you” in your ad copy. That’s it. That’s the strategy.
It works because something different clicks in the brain of your potential customer when you address them the same way you might a friend. It’s rarely done, so when you see it—it feels fresh, organic, and intimate.
It’s especially effective when retargeting folks who have already engaged with your business. Why? Because they’re listening.
Brands That Use Strategy #1—Madewell, ASOS & Love Wellness
This super simple strategy has been used to great effect ON ME by Madewell. (And plenty of others, but we’ll get to that.) Check it out:
These two ads feature images of products I’ve already looked at on Madewell’s website. Madewell very cleverly pairs the images with personalized copy. All it takes is this little suggestion, and suddenly it’s extra-difficult for me not to click on this ad. The images catch my eye, and the copy makes me think: I WOULD look good in that leather jacket, wouldn’t I…
PRO TIP: Use this tactic with dynamic creative on products that your audience has previously viewed. Speaking directly to someone about a product they already want changes the game. It’s A+ personalization for targeting your ideal customer on Facebook and Instagram.
When using this tactic also consider whether you can write the copy so that it can be used with a carousel ad to showcase multiple products. A carousel will give you more opportunities to catch your target’s interest within a single, cost-effective ad. Using Madewell as an example, the copy in the second ad could easily work with a carousel of products, and the copy in the first ad can do the same with some simple modification.
Here is another example of the dynamic product ad tactic, this time from ASOS:
Although this tactic works best with products your target has already shown an interest in, this particular piece of copy could also work well when targeting cold audiences with Facebook Dynamic Ads. After all, before someone buys a product online, they have to imagine what they’d look like wearing it (or feel like using it, etc.) You might as well plant the idea in their mind!
Do other variants of “you” work? Like your, yourself, etc?
- Make your ads personal. Use the words “you,” “your,” “yourself,” etc in your copy. It catches people’s attention and gives your ads an organic feel.
- Use this tactic with dynamic creative. The “you” strategy is especially effective when paired with products that your customers have already shown an interest in.
- Keep it short and sweet. You’ll notice that none of the examples above feature a whole lot of copy. That’s because the images are doing most of the work. Your audience already wants the product. Now you just need to get them to think of that product as theirs. Enter: the word “you.” Easy peezy.
Strategy #2: Leverage Social Proof
You can scream about your products’ magical features and benefits until the cows come home. People aren’t going to believe you.
You know who they will believe though? Literally anyone who isn’t you. (And yes, okay, anyone who also doesn’t work for you.) That’s why you should use testimonials in your ad copy.
FACT: 85% of people perform research before making an online purchase. And you know what these people are looking for? They’re looking for reviews. They’re looking for social proof. If you’re looking for the best strategy for your first retargeting attempt, MAKE IT THIS ONE.
Brands That Use Strategy #2—Mott & Bow, Love Wellness
Mott & Bow learned early on to advertise their sexiest press hits:
But they didn’t just slap their glowing reviews onto any old ad. They knew exactly which publications their target demographics were already reading.
So instead of using the same testimonials for both men’s and women’s jeans, they thought deeper about their gender demographics and split it up, using Business Insider for men and Who What Wear for women.
And they did not stop there, either!
Part of what makes Mott & Bow so successful is that they don’t mess around when it comes to testing ad copy.
They tested a few things here:
- Having the testimonial come first.
- Including a discount.
- Tagging the publication first, which gives it much more of a spotlight.
- An additional quote.
- Alternative headline.
- Oh yeah, and they tested different images. Notably, both with high heels.
When using this strategy (and any strategy, really) you’re going to want to test test test. You can get really into the details like Mott & Bow, but at the very least you should test the length.
Test shorter testimonials like the one Everlane uses versus a much longer testimonial like Beardbrand:
They both have their pros and cons, but you might be surprised by which one rules the day. (And it’s always different, depending on the brand, offer, and product!!!)
I’ll be honest with you: I’m always initially biased because I like the look of shorter testimonials. They’re cleaner, easier to absorb, and just look nicer.
But there have been a number of times that I’ve tested a longer testimonial and it absolutely crushes it. Why does long-form copy perform so well?
Because, while click-thru-rates tend to be lower with long-form copy, ultimately, conversion rates tend to be higher.
This is because the intent from the customer is often a lot higher.
Want to put a potential customer to the test and see if they’re serious about buying from you? Place a big testimonial in front of them. The right people will go to town.
Once you’ve determined your best-performing testimonial, the next step is to pair it with the right creative. You can place it in a graphic, like Love Wellness:
Or maybe your winning testimonial works better in a caption along with a lifestyle photo, like Everlane or Mott & Bow. There’s only one way to find out what kind of images will work best for your brand. You maybe already guessed? You’ve got to test it out.
One more thing to consider: Influencers. Once you’ve tested your hottest press hits and your best customer testimonials, you’ll want to think about any influencer action your brand has received.
There are two main considerations when it comes to influencers. First, your audience may not find influencer testimonials as trustworthy as they would organic reviews from the press or actual real-life customers. Maybe you paid for them, maybe you didn’t, maybe they have 1+ million followers, or maybe they’re a micro influencer with a following of under 5K. Either way, their reviews tend to seem more like marketing because, well, that’s what influencers think they need to do. That doesn’t mean your audience will approach influencer reviews with the same level of skepticism as straight-up advertising, but it’s something to consider.
Secondly, influencers often go a little deeper into the product’s technicalities than a regular customer review would. For example, here is an ad from Little Spoon:
As a potential customer I don’t think I would ever write a review touting vitamin E (because really…what the heck is vitamin E?!) but if you want to get technical in your testimonials, the influencer route may be a good way to go.
- Bring the social proof to your customers. You know your customers will go looking for reviews before they buy your product, so make it easy for them. Don’t count on them taking the time to do the research! Put the reviews in front of their faces before they forget all about you.
- Put the “test” in testimonials. Successful brands find out what works. Test longer testimonials vs. shorter. Test different headlines, different graphics, additional quotes. Test until you can’t test any more!
Strategy #3: Provide a discount
This strategy doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation for you to get the basic idea. But if you haven’t offered a discount as a retargeting strategy, um, you should.
People love a deal. Even more than that, they love getting a bargain for brands they’re already into.
There are, however, ways you can use this tactic more strategically than just slapping a discount code on any old ad.
Brands That Use Strategy #3—PUMA, Glossier
This ad ran during the 2019 Christmas season. The targeting on it had to be broad, something that could work on general website visitors as well as middle-of-funnel social engagers.
There are a number of products shown in the creative. And the copy also indicates that the discount is applicable to all orders.
The tactic here is pretty simple: Give a discount to a broad audience to use for any product.
Here’s where Glossier differs. This ad, which I LOVE for many reasons, features only one of Glossier’s products—a bestseller called Lidstar.
The video features real people with different skin tones and types all using the product in a selfie-like position, which makes it feel organic and authentic.
Using this content and strategy to give out a discount for a specific product is brilliant, first of all, because you can totally use this SAME AD for prospecting and retargeting. And what can I say, I admire efficiency.
But it’s especially effective for retargeting. Think about it.
What’s going to be more effective:
- A blanket discount code using some generic branded lifestyle image? OR…
- A video that could have been filmed by your best friend showing the exact product you want in action?
I think you know the answer to that question.
- Test using discounts in your ads. Give special thought to what kind of traffic will get your discount—cold, warm, hot, or all users.
- Decide whether to go broad or get specific. Consider running a test that gives a broad discount to all warm users versus giving a discount on a certain product, and see what happens.
- Try targeting users who have shown a specific interest. For extra credit you can develop creative that only features a single product and retarget users who’ve viewed that product or added it to cart. Bonus points if your creative is mobile-first and feels super organic. (My secret sauce tip: Try running this kind of strategy on Instagram Stories only!)
Strategy #4: Keep your audience updated
Short and sweet: This strategy retargets your already warm traffic with alerts to new products.
Brooklinen is one of those unicorn companies that has avid brand fans who haven’t even purchased a single one of their products. I know this because I am one of them. Should I ever move back to the United States and be in need of sheets, I already know I’m going to be buying Brooklinen.
They also have sizable marketing budgets. I know this because every time I open up Facebook or Instagram I am pretty much guaranteed to see one of their ads. And obviously…I open up Facebook and Instagram pretty often.
But let’s talk about this ad.
What makes this ad so clever is that they have edited the copy specifically for retargeting audiences. They are letting you know that they already know who you are, and that you’re familiar with their brand.
They’re just popping back into your feed to let you know about a new product that you might be interested in. It feels organic and personal, and it catches my attention.
LISA SAYS GAH provides us with another excellent example of how to use this tactic:
This ad also shows off a great way to grab attention from your more middle-of-funnel traffic, e.g. your social engagers on Facebook and Instagram.
This is because it doesn’t contain marketing fluff. It’s to the point, uses cute emojis, and the creative is something that your younger sister could have taken in front of the garage.
Ultimately, it’s effective because it looks organic.
So how can you truly own this strategy?
First, open up your retargeting windows as big as they’ll go. Although you might have done some testing and found a smaller, more profitable retargeting window for your brand, by opening up your windows to 180 days for website visitors and 365 days for social engagers, you’ll give more potential customers another chance on a hot new product.
Secondly, you should also retarget people who have already bought from you. They are already a fan of the brand, in theory, so by reaching out to them in a more organic way (think the LISA SAYS GAH ad!) you’re giving them that extra non-intrusive nudge that they may have missed in their email inbox.
- Use new product launches for retargeting. New products are a great opportunity to reconnect to website visitors and social engagers without seeming spammy.
- Open up retargeting windows. Extend web visitors to 180 days and social engagers to 365 days to get in front of as many people as possible. Maybe they didn’t buy the first time around, but with a new product you could nab them.
- Retarget your email list. These people like you. Don’t forget them!
- Retarget previous purchasers. These people REALLY like you! Make sure they didn’t miss your product announcement (you sent them an email right?!) by hitting them up on social.
Strategy #5: “Order now and get it by…”
One of the biggest blockers to getting hot-as-heck traffic to purchase is shipping—both shipping times and shipping cost.
You can allay at least one of those fears by letting your audience know the exact date that they will receive their purchase. This will prompt them to visualize the orders coming in and maybe even give them a little dopamine rush as if they’ve already made the purchase.
Brands That Use Strategy #5—Bonobos, Victoria’s Secret, REI
Free one-day shipping is pretty much as good as it gets in terms of shipping deals. And it’s the PERFECT offer for last-minute shoppers who are still looking for gifts the week before Christmas. (I can definitely relate…)
Bonobos taps into that idea and more.
This makes for a successful retargeting ad because the creative showcases all of their product types, thus it’ll appeal to a wide range of viewers. And the “give or get” language plants the idea that it can be a present for someone on your list…or yourself.
Victoria’s Secret takes the free, reliable shipping offer and adds even more enticement:
See that? They paired a free shipping offer with dynamic product ads.
Combining products users have already been eyeing for the holidays with fast, free shipping is a very effective way to tip a few more customers over the edge.
Can we take it EVEN FURTHER? Why yes we can. Check out REI:
REI divided their product feed into separate product types and personalized the free shipping offer by tailoring it just to that product type. A person who already wants these skis will see this, notice that the free shipping is for this product specifically, and will feel an added sense of urgency to take up the offer now.
PRO TIP: The best time to test out this strategy for your bottom-of-funnel traffic? During any holiday season. But especially during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday craze.
- Give your customer shipping estimates right in the ad copy. Do this especially during select holiday seasons like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.
- Pair this copy with dynamic product ads. This strategy is especially effective when retargeting web visitors with products they’ve already looked at.
- Consider personalizing the copy by product type. Give an added sense of urgency by pairing a specific offer with a product type your target has looked into.
Strategy #6: Still Looking?
This strategy is similar to Strategy #1, but it gets even more specific. The idea is to showcase a product or product type that your target has already viewed and ask, “Hey, are you still looking?”
Brands That Use Strategy #6—Warby Parker, Peak Design
There are three main reasons why this is a must-try strategy.
- It’s perfect for more middle-of-funnel audiences (e.g. social engagers) where you know generally what type of product they’re looking for.
- It usually requires the word “you,” which, cough, we already know is a winner. (See Strategy #1.)
- When paired with a hard-hitting CTA it is very effective for lead generation and even purchases!
This Warby Parker ad embodies all of the reasons this is a must-try strategy:
This Warby Parker ad embodies all of the reasons this is a must-try strategy:
- The ad targets social engagers, who, of course, are looking for glasses.
- “You” = check.
- The invitation to take a quiz is a distinct but easy CTA.
The Warby Parker ad also gets bonus points for mobile-first, authentic creative.
Peak Design shows us a few more clever ways to use this tactic:
First, it establishes a connection with the audience by pointing out shared values—in this case, design and function. Second, they’ve combined strategy #6 with strategy #5—announcing a new product launch!
- Ask users if they are “still looking” for something. Pair that copy with a popular product or even an idea. (Like: “Are you still looking for that Oscar-worthy outfit?”)
- Test this strategy first with your middle-of-funnel audiences. It’s great for social engagers or one-time-only website visitors.
- Pair this strategy with another strategy. It’s a great mixer 🙂
- Use this with a distinct CTA. It’s great for lead generation or even purchases.
Strategy #7: The “I Saw You Looking” direct callout
Okay, so, yes, Strategy #7 is another variation on Strategy #1. This time, the strategy is to acknowledge that you know your target was looking at a certain product and call it out directly in the ad. It’s simple, funny, up-front, and grabs attention.
What many retargeting ads get so wrong is that they don’t speak directly to the customer. This strategy does exactly that, and then—and this part is essential—pairs that copy with dynamic creative that shows the product they were looking at.
Brands That Use Strategy #7—Nasty Gal, Brooklinen, Casper, Love Wellness, Cosabella
So… how the hell do you start off with this strategy? Well, you could do a split test to find out the best language to use, just like Nasty Gal did:
Next, the copy formula is both simple and effective. Short, quippy copy about “forgetting” your cart or imploring you “to take another look” would work for just about any brand.
Third, they add an emoji. Actually…make that two. Emojis work, people.
But where Nasty Gal is truly winning… IS THAT THEY ARE TESTING THEIR DAMN MESSAGING TO SEE WHICH ONE ACTUALLY WORKS.
[Insert copy testing rant here] Because this is another point for another article, BUT…
If you aren’t testing your copy on the regular, then you’re f***ing up.
Brooklinen uses a similar “don’t forget” formula paired with a dynamic product ad:
They pair it with a lifestyle image, which stands out for me and is definitely something you should test if it fits with your brand. And major LOL at the “Holy sheet” part. It totally makes you do a double-take.
This great example from Love Wellness is simple, sweet, and to the point:
This copy seems like something that a friend would write to you more than a brand…which is exactly how this strategy should work.
If you aren’t really sure where to start with this strategy, copy this ad by Cosabella:
The language is casual AND it gives a sense of urgency at the same time by saying “there’s only a few left.” For products that fluctuate in stock, this is a great one to test out.
If you’re strapped for time, take a cue from Casper:
Dynamic Product Ads. Check. Casual tone. Check. (I’d more likely expect that “Hey!” from some random on my WhatsApp, so it’s very sexy in an ad copy, just FYI.) Plus, bonus for you, they found a sweet way to cut down on all the product-specific work and lumped it all under “sleep products.” If you are testing out something new or you’re just low on time, this is a great option.
- Let your audience know that you know that they’re checking you out. Make the copy short and clever and you’re bound to get some bites.
- Use this strategy with dynamic product ads. I feel like I’ve said this a lot? That’s because it works. Retarget users with images of products they’re already interested in.
- This strategy is HOT for cart abandoners. Run, don’t walk, to test out this strategy there.
Strategy #8: The meta “we’re on the internet together” callout
Listen, this strategy is not for the faint of heart. But how meta would it be…if we used an ad that was posted onto social media to CALL OUT that we are, like…on social media.
In short, this strategy uses short and direct copy to call out the digital experience you and your audience are participating in.
What’s the point of this? Valid question, but before you dismiss this strategy as millennial nonsense, let’s look at some examples.
Brands That Use Strategy #8—ASOS, Madewell
Frankly, if you have an apparel brand that’s geared towards younger audiences, ASOS is one to look to for inspiration. Their ads are ripe with hot new takes on copy that leaps out at people while they scroll through their social feeds.
So, naturally, they are crusaders of this new tactic.
Here we can see that they are doing a little copy test to find out which works better—talking about the all-powerful algorithm or reminding users about how freaking close this product is to going from their social feeds to their homes.
I know that I, for one, would like to know how the test panned out. This is definitely an account I’d pay money to look at.
Here is an example from Madewell that emphasizes the sheer ease of completing a checkout:
Maybe someone left this in their cart and then life got busy. They got caught up at work. They got caught up in family stuff or maybe even just flat out forgot about the product. (I can’t be the only one who falls in love with a product I see online only to completely forget about it a few days later, right!?)
This is a great tactic to try if you want to hold out on giving your customers a coupon. You can make them see the other value prop, which is how easy it really is to get the product they want into their hands.
- This “meta” strategy is great for younger audiences. Use ad copy to call out the fact that this is a digital experience on a social media platform. It establishes a connection with your audience and gives your brand an honest and authentic feel.
- This tactic works best with dynamic product ads. So help me god, if there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this. Show your audience products they’ve already shown an interest in!
- Use it in place of coupons. If you don’t want to offer a coupon, this strategy can help you emphasise other factors to incite a purchase, e.g. ease of checkout, limited stock, etc.
Strategy #9: The ethos and evergreen offer combo
We’ve concentrated on a lot of tactics that target your bottom-of-funnel, cart-abandoning, and piping-hot audiences. So what do you do for your middle-of-funnel folks?
Here’s where I (and many great brands) like to introduce the “ethos” strategy. This tactic combines emotional testimony about your brand identity along with your best evergreen offer.
Brands That Use Strategy #9—TOMS, Everlane, ThirdLove, Flamingo
This TOMS ad executes the strategy in a really clean and clever way:
They don’t tell you everything about their ethos, but rather offer a little hint in the link text: “Your purchase drives change.” If that’s important to the viewer, then they will be compelled to click.
But they don’t stop there. This ad has a lot more going for it.
First, they use bullet points. Bullets are effective for bulky text, and effective for social media. (More specifically they work for Facebook placements; Instagram is not too generous with the copy space.)
Right at the top they also offer a financing option, which is great for your impulsive but money-conscious consumers.
And there’s a 15% off offer. That all adds up to an ad that’s hard to ignore.
Here is another example from Everlane:
Ethos, check. Free shipping, check. And I know what you’re thinking—yes this strategy could also be used for prospecting as well as retargeting. Highlighting your introductory offer will definitely help move people to the website either way.
Now check out this ad from ThirdLove, which has a slightly different take on what constitutes an “offer”:
Well done, ThirdLove. This evergreen “promise” is definitely something to highlight and I think this idea alone will push many people over the edge to make their first purchase.
PRO TIP: An offer doesn’t have to be a discount! It could be a promise that you are already making to your customers without meaning to use it as a push toward purchasing. Money-back guarantees, generous return policies, or any other guarantees that help your customer overcome objections all make for great evergreen offers.
Use your customers’ hypothetical objections to your advantage. Call them out directly in the middle of funnel and put those fears to rest so that more people start adding to their cart.
The copy is golden for Instagram AND they have two press badges right on the creative. If your product has won any awards, you should definitely highlight that on your images in the middle of funnel.
What I’ve learned is this:
When people are on the fence in the bottom of funnel, they aren’t convinced about the product or the offer.
When people are on the fence in the middle of funnel, they aren’t convinced about the brand.
SO HIGHLIGHT YOUR BEST EVERGREEN OFFERS AND PROMISES…and for chrissakes brag a little bit, okay?
- Combine a message about your brand’s ethos with an evergreen offer. This will warm your audience up to your brand by showing them how your values align AND push them to purchase at the same time. Win-win.
- An offer doesn’t have to be a discount. In addition to highlighting your opening offers—such as free shipping—be sure to showcase any guarantees you might have.
- Use this on middle-of-funnel audiences. Especially those that may have interacted with you on social media but haven’t made it to your website or onto a product page.
Strategy #10: Time’s running out…
This strategy is all about urgency. Let your customer know that the product they love might not be around when they’re ready to buy it. And don’t be boring about it.
Brands That Use Strategy #10—Coach, Rent the Runway
Coach executed this strategy super well:
First, they use dynamic product ads to remind customers about items that they’ve already checked out. And then, for dramatic effect, they let the audience know that this thing is not hanging around forever.
This split test is very clever as well. The first ad is testing a more branded and polished approach to the copy, while the second one is a little more punchy and casual. Which one will their audience favor? Testing is the only way to find out.
Now, check out how Rent the Runway turns up the spice on their one-outfit rental product:
I mean…what could be worse than spending all that time sifting through dresses to find one for an upcoming wedding only to discover the one that you LOVED is now out of stock? This ad does a great job of stoking that fear with some simple, conversational copy.
- Scare your potential customers. No need to bust out your Freddy Krueger mask. Just tell them that TIME IS RUNNING OUT to get whatever thing it is that they want.
- Use dynamic product ads, people. Show them products that they’re already interested in. I’m getting a bit tired of hearing myself say it, so I can only imagine how you feel, but this is for your own good.
- This works best on customers who’ve shown interest in a specific item. Concentrate on view content folks and cart abandoners.
Strategy #11: These are the problems we solve for you…
This strategy hones in on the problems you solve for your customers, and spells them out point-blank.
Over 80% of customers do not buy on a first touchpoint, but wait instead to do more research. So, do the research for them! Be explicit about which problems your product will solve and put it right in front of them.
Brand That Uses Strategy #11—Ann Taylor
Ann Taylor really killed this strategy recently. AND I also found proof that they’re testing out the copy to figure out which option perfectly expresses the problem that their products solve. Can you figure out what that problem is?
The problem? What to wear when you’re going from work to the bar. (Or wherever else people do their socializing these days.)
Ann Taylor is showcasing how their products are the perfect no-fuss solution for professionals who have a career AND an active personal life. They do this by highlighting “busy mornings,” “Monday-to-Friday style,” “morning meetings to date night,” and “office or anywhere.”
For this particular test they paired solution-focused copy with dynamic product ads, but I think this strategy would also suit broader collection creative to target more middle-of-funnel audiences.
- Explicitly state which problems your product solves for the customer. The more emotions you can conjure up, the better.
- Test this strategy on both middle- and bottom-of-funnel audiences. Use dynamic product ads on the bottom of funnel and lifestyle images on the middle.
If you’re sort of lost at where to begin from here…then good. The main point here is to TEST different kinds of copy and see what works best for your audiences. One of the biggest problems I see as a professional media buyer is a lack of testing. AND ESPECIALLY a lack of testing on different forms of copy.
Start off by selecting one or two of your favorite strategies and then implement them into your retargeting funnels. Then let the testing begin!
Which tactic are you most interested in trying? Have you used any of these tactics before?