5 Ways to Use Psychology for a Successful Retargeting (Remarketing) Ad

Knowing the psychology behind what entices a person to take notice and click-through on your retargeting ads are what’s going dictate your success.

This article will show 5 ways psychology plays a role in your retargeting ads and why they work so well in comparison to traditional ads.

Specifically, I’ll be exploring these ideas:

  • Using your ads as an additional touchpoint to encourage prospects to convert
  • Reinforcing your offer to instill trust with your business
  • Telling a story through a series of ads to move visitors along the buying cycle
  • Creating exciting and novel ads to combat “Banner Blindness”
  • Asking for micro-concessions leading up to the big ask

But before we jump into some advanced ideas behind the psychology of retargeting here’s some basics to get you started…


Why Retargeting Ads?

No matter how optimized your website is, on average 98% of people who visit your site are going to bounce before signing up, purchasing, or contacting you. This can happen because your site was poorly designed or it didn’t provide what your visitor was looking for (to learn more about the psychology of bounce check out this article.) Other times they were simply doing comparison shopping, got distracted or had somewhere they needed to be.

When this happens, instead of just hoping that your bounced traffic remembers to come back and make a purchase, you can actively re-engage them with retargeting ads. Retargeting ads have up to a 500% higher click-through-rate than traditional banner ads (regular Google Ads).

Why do they work so well?

Say someone comes to your site looking for a dress and although they find the perfect one, they bounce before purchasing. You can follow them with ads across all the sites they visit on the web based on the dresses they looked at on your site. This means they’ll be retargeted with relevant ads (the dress they looked at) which will jog their memory about the dresses they saw, and push them to click your ad and possibly purchase. When you show consumers ads for the products or services they’ve already shown an interest in, they’ll be more likely to convert as you’re simply helping complete the sale. There is a tendency with consumers where, if they see something enough times they’ll eventually click on it and convert.

Now that I’ve gone over the basics, lets dive into what makes people click on retargeting ads and why they’re important to use in your business.


1.) Using your ads as an additional touchpoint to encourage prospects to convert

The more points of contact a person has with your business, the more likely they are to convert on your offer. But what is the ideal number? It used to be 7, but as the number of messages and ads internet users see steadily increases, the number continues to rise.

Now, consumers are poised to wait until they have all of the necessary information to make a purchasing decision. Think of the flood of messages coming in from social, email and advertisements. If you want to stay top-of-mind you need reach out to consumers on a multitude of levels. If you only send emails, or you only make phone calls, it’s easy for consumers to start ignoring them.

This is where retargeting ads are of vital importance. When you use retargeting ads you’re able to get your business (and offer) in front of people who are already familiar with you. Instead of simply sending them emails until they respond back with “stop sending me emails” you can show your offers on the sites they’re going to anyways. You can remind them on their favorite blog or news website (the places they’re already visiting) why they should come back and check out your products and services (again). Now, instead of inundating them with the same offer they bounced from you can show them a highly targeted landing page or product page that will entice them to convert.


2.) Reinforcing your offer to instill trust with your business

When you expose people to a familiar stimulus (your business/offer) enough times they’ll be more likely to rate it positively (and click on it) over a business/offer they’re unfamiliar with. Think of retargeting ads like “top 40” music. Even though the music sounds incredibly similar, because it’s played so much it becomes popular, is played more and over time most people can’t live without it.

The same thing happens with retargeting ads. The more often someone is exposed to a retargeting ad, the more familiar they become with your business/offer and the more likely they are to click. Just be careful not to show it too often (if you’re not rotating your ad creatives). Only show the same ad a max of 10 times.

When you show your retargeting ad the right amount of times you can create familiarity and appeal to the 44% of people who only provide personal information to a website they’re familiar with. The more times they see your ad, the more familiar they become with your business and this in turn makes them more likely to convert on your offer.


3.) Telling a story through a series of ads to move visitors along the buying cycle

Just because a visitor didn’t convert on your offer doesn’t mean they’re not interested. They may have been pulled away before they had enough time to understand your offer. Or they went to the pricing page and held out in search of a more competitive offer. Whatever the case may be, it generally boils down to the fact that it can take time to make a decision on buying a product.

As a smart marketer you’ll know that people are affected by impulse, education, price, convenience, image, peers and reviews. You can make their purchasing decisions easier by addressing these concerns through a series of retargeting ads. For example, if your retargeting ad is for a free ebook, in your first ad you can show a customer testimonial (from a credible source). Your next ad can focus on a benefit they’ll get from reading the ebook. You can reach more people who find your offer appealing by marketing your offer in different ways.


4.) Creating exciting and novel ads to combat “Banner Blindness”

Retargeted ads become less effective the more times a person sees them. This is due to a psychological phenomenon known as attention blindness. Attention blindness is the failure for someone to notice an object that is right in front of them when focusing on something else.

This article by Marketing Experiments puts attention blindness into perspective. They start by sharing a story of how they took a co-workers picture off of her desk and photoshopped her friends face out of the picture and replaced it with a man’s face. It wasn’t until someone else pointed it out that she noticed.




Inattentional blindness or banner blindness happens for a number of reasons:

  • They’re highly focused on another task
  • They’re overloaded by other stimuli
  • They don’t expect to see the object
  • The object blends in

You can’t really control the first three but you can control whether it blends in with the rest of the page or whether it stands out. You need to strike a balance of whether having a flashy banner is a good idea or not. Your focus should be on changing the creatives (the way a banner looks) so you’re offering something new and different than your competition.

How would this work?

The human brain works by subconsciously scanning for changes in the environment. This means that when we see something out of the ordinary we (generally) tune into it. Keep in mind that the brain will be scanning (on average) 1700 ads per month across the web pages they visit.

There are three ways to combat banner blindness:

  • Placement: Eyetracking studies have shown that consumers are more likely to look at content placed at the top of the page. However, there is proof that placing your ads in unconventional places (like in the middle of your content) will encourage a higher click-through-rate as it’s perceived to be more relevant to the task at hand.
  • Relevance: When people were shown ads for a lesser-known brand there was an 82% increased chance of recall over a more well-known brand. The main reason for this was, the lesser-known brand was more relevant to the users interests.
  • Experience: Non-traditional placements are engaged with at a higher rate than standard banner ads (in the middle of an article as opposed to across the top). This is because these placements enhanced the user experience rather than disrupting it.


5.) Use your retargeting ads to ask for a micro-concession

Simply visiting your website doesn’t mean that a person is ready to buy your products, but they will be ready to buy at some point. If you want to get them engaged in the meantime, and make sure that you’re the one they buy from in the future, you can ask for small concessions before going in for the big one.

Instead of badgering shopping cart abandoners with numerous retargeting ads asking them to immediately checkout, ask for a micro-concession such as providing you with feedback on their website experience, answering a quick 1-question survey about why they abandoned, or creating a wish-list for future purchases.

Your success in getting visitors to grant a smaller request (a micro-concession) increases the likelihood of them following through with your big conversion ask later on.


Bonus: Creating ads that encourage people visualize themselves using your product

Human beings are self-centered by nature and generally are more inclined to click on ads that serve their needs. Therefore, instead of simply stating what your product is, you need to show (in your retargeting ad) how your product will solve their problem.

The more you can help your prospects visualize themselves using your product the more it will encourage them to click on your ad. This phenomenon, known as the doppelganger effect, helps them move towards a buying decision by seeing themselves benefiting.

You need to use imagery through your words and hand-picked images. You’re not advertising an answer, you’re provoking a thought. You can use phrases like “imagine yourself…” to help prospects imagine themselves using your product.

Here’s a story to put this into context:

I recently purchased an expensive pair of ski boots and was told that I should probably buy a pair of inserts for my arch support. I opted out and decided that i’d be fine. My first day of skiing resulted in utter agony and I knew something wasn’t right. It was until I went into another store (with a better salesman) that he was able to show me why my foot needed to have these inserts. How if I ski with them i’ll have increased circulation resulting in less pain.

The point of my story was to show you how easy it is to forget to help someone visualize using your products. It’s one thing to sell a product its another thing to sell an experience.  You’re the expert on your product, not the person who is buying it. You need to focus on what someone is going to get out of your product so they can visualize themselves using it.

How you can utilize the doppelganger effect in your retargeting ads:

Colgate does a great job of using the doppelganger effect in their ads. They have a tool that is a smile enhancement tool so you can visualize what you’d look like with whiter teeth.


There we have it, six ways that psychology plays a role in conducting a successful retargeting campaign. You need to make your retargeting ad hard to ignore, and guide a visitor to conversion by asking for small concessions before leading to the big ask.

Remember, your retargeting ad is supposed to appeal to human beings, not robots. When you begin to create ads based on how someone feels about your offer you’ll get higher clicks and will lead to a higher conversion rate which is the end game.

Are there some psychological triggers i’ve missed that have played a vital role in your retargeting ads? Speak up, and let me know in the comments below.

Want to read more about retargeting?

– Written by Samantha Mykyte

When Samantha isn’t crushing content at Wishpond she performs with her burlesque troupe, casts spells in dungeons and dragons and enjoys baking and eating cookies.


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