Here at Well Done, we don’t put anything out into the world until we’ve carefully considered how it might affect our audience. Will it make them feel joy? Indifference? Annoyance? Disgust?

This is important both from a messaging perspective (see this recent debacle) and a message-delivery perspective. And few message-delivery methods have more potential to annoy audiences than retargeting ads.

What are retargeting ads, and how do they work?

Let’s say you visit a website that sells ceramic pans. You browse, but you don’t buy. But while there, a piece of code tracks your activity. and allows you to be “retargeted” with ceramic pan ads later as you visit other websites.

From a customer’s perspective, retargeting can feel more than a little creepy. They’re a chilling reminder that our online behavior can be recorded and used to sell us stuff. Some customers find them not just annoying, but downright predatory.

So the decision to run a retargeting campaign shouldn’t be made lightly. However, it is a decision every marketer must at least consider.

Why? Because being able to market specifically to people who have already shown an interest in your product or services is a uniquely powerful opportunity. When you consider that 97% of first-time visitors to retail websites leave without making a purchase, retargeting’s potential becomes even clearer. For e-commerce companies in particular, retargeting simply works.

We admire MailChimp a great deal here at Well Done—not only because they are a client, but also because of how hard they work to ensure their platform isn’t used to spam or otherwise irritate people. Their recommendation to pair retargeting with email marketing is something we can get on board with.

Here’s why we like the retargeting/email combo: Retargeting people who are already members of your mailing list is far less invasive than retargeting everyone who happens to visit your website. By narrowing your retargeting ads to people who have already expressed enough interest in your products to receive regular email from you, you vastly reduce your risk of aggravating or alienating people. That’s a good idea for any brand.

So, in conclusion: Retargeting, when done judiciously and managed thoughtfully, is (for marketers) pretty awesome. Beware though: Retarget recklessly, and you’ll repel potential customers and damage your brand. By retargeting only to people who have already expressed some degree of brand loyalty (e.g., your email subscribers) you mitigate the risks inherent in retargeting, and create more engagement, sales, and happy customers.