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8 Retargeting Hacks for Facebook and Instagram

Retargeting is a lot like brushing your teeth: everybody knows it’s important, but few people do it properly.

If you’re struggling to convert more of your past website visitors into buyers, here are some tips from our friends over at Shoelace to take your retargeting to the next level.

But first, how does retargeting work?

Retargeting (or remarketing) is advertising that specifically targets website visitors who leave without making a purchase. On average, only 2% of your visitors complete the checkout on their first visit. Retargeting helps to capture the other 98% by embedding an unobtrusive piece of code, also known as a pixel, into the website code. Pixels can track website activity, such as product views (ViewContent), add-to-carts, and purchases. With the Facebook Pixel, which can be embedded directly with Shopify’s simple integration , you can build custom audiences of Facebook and Instagram users based on specific activity on your website, creating countless opportunities for retargeting.

To maximize those retargeting opportunities, here are 8 of our favourite hacks:

1. Create multiple Custom Audiences using events

We recommend tracking at least three main website events: ViewContent, AddToCart and Purchase. Facebook can create Custom Audiences from visitors who complete each of these events, creating a set of 3 audiences to work with. You can take it one step further by building out multiple date ranges for each audience set. For example, split up ViewContent into those that took place 1, 7, 14, and 30 days ago, and repeat the process with AddToCart and Purchases. This generates a total of 12 different audience sets, allowing you to get extremely specific and creative with whom you’re retargeting.

In the fast-moving world of e-commerce, the visitors who are most likely to convert will generally do so within several days of their initial visit. Website visitors from 60 or 90 days ago who still get retargeted may experience “ad fatigue.” A good retargeting audience to try includes anyone who has viewed a product in the past 7 days, excluding anyone who has made a purchase in the past 30 days.

2. Tell a story through sequential retargeting

Once you have multiple sets of Custom Audiences ready, unleash your inner storyteller through a series of multi-state retargeting ads. Curate a 3-stage retargeting campaign that reflects the stages of a typical buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. Do you have a blog post that showcases your brand’s story? Retarget that to your customers in the first few days after their visit. In the days that follow, a video or infographic highlighting strong value propositions of your products will help visitors consider to buy. Finally, help your lost visitors decide to buy with a strong call-to-action in the form of a Dynamic Product Ad, showing them the exact products they viewed on your website.

3. Find your frequency sweet spot (and stick to it!)

A commonly underutilized metric in Facebook and Instagram campaigns is frequency, the average amount of times your ad was shown to a person over a given period. Getting the right frequency is a golden key to retargeting success. If it’s too low, your ads are creating too little impact; too high and your retargeting becomes spammy. A frequency of 10-20 over a 7-day period is a general benchmark, but your target may vary depending on the products you sell.

Once you’ve found that optimal frequency for retargeting, abide by it! Merchants sometimes see a retargeting campaign that works well and make the mistake of increasing its budget in hopes of increasing results. For retargeting campaigns, this simply leads to a frequency that is too high, resulting in oversaturation on your previously well-tuned campaign.

4. Select your placements strategically

As appealing as Instagram retargeting sounds, it doesn’t work for everyone. One can imagine how out of place a retargeting ad for office supplies might seem on a timeline full of scrumptious food photos and cute summer outfits. However, office supplies may work very well in the Audience Network, which displays in other mobile apps. Start your retargeting with all five of Facebook’s placement options, and optimize for placement as you collect data on which ones work best for your store.

5. Zero in on abandoned carts

As a merchant, your heart probably drops a little at every abandoned cart. Maybe you even lose sleep over it. It’s incredibly important to retarget those visitors who were so close to the finish line, but just need a little nudging to get there. Consider splitting a portion your retargeting budget to specifically retarget abandoned carts, and maybe even throw in a discount code to incentivize their return.

6. Select the right product images for your ads

Investing in good photography is a must; images need be crisp, clear, and attractive. Additionally, if you have lifestyle product photos that displays your product in a more ambient setting, consider using those instead of pure product images. Our A/B tests have shown an average difference of 340% in conversion rates between lifestyle image campaigns and product image campaigns.

Another commonly forgotten step is to resize images to ad display dimensions. It can stand out like a painfully neon traffic cone when it’s overlooked. Facebook carousel and Instagram ads recommend dimensions of 1080x1080 pixels, and single image ads go by 1200x628 pixels. If you’re looking for a tool to resize your images, check out Shoelace’s free image resizer.

7. Tap into the power of lead generation campaigns

Not every website visitor is purchase-ready after the first visit, especially if your store sells pricier items such as furniture or high-end fashion. Consider running a lead generation campaign for your retargeting audience! This helps to grow your email list while nurturing prospective buyers, who may end up purchasing just a few emails later. Visitors can click a button and opt-in since Facebook already has their email, and the collected email list can be easily exported into a CSV.

8. Understand your conversion results

At the end of the day, all is lost if you don’t fully understand the data, or worse, if the data isn’t accurate. Download the handy-dandy Chrome extension, Facebook Pixel Helper , to ensure that your website conversion events are firing properly. Sometimes, multiple purchase events can fire simultaneously or no purchase events will fire at all, resulting in skewed conversions.

If your retargeting results seem too good to be true, take a look at your attribution window. This can be found under the Customize Columns option inside Ads Manager. Understand the difference between click-through and view-through attribution, and how much of your conversions is attributed to each. Click-throughs happen when a customer clicks on an ad and makes a purchase, whereas view-throughs occur when a customer makes a purchase and was only exposed to the ad at some point prior. Conversions from view-throughs should be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s possible those customers already had intents of coming back.


Retargeting on Facebook and Instagram has now become a staple in the online ad strategy of any sophisticated merchant. Whether you decide to run your own retargeting campaign or get professionals to take care of the details for you, these eight hacks will ensure success for your retargeting campaigns, time and time again.

BY Josie Harness


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