How to Improve Your Facebook Advertising Funnel with Sequential Retargeting

sequential retargeting

Advertising on Facebook has become one of the most effective ways to drive high quality traffic to your online store.

But when a prospect sees an ad for your product on Facebook for the very first time, chances are that they don’t have their credit card in hand, ready to make a purchase on the spot.

Even when a visitor lands on your website, there is a sequence of events that you’d probably like them to complete before leaving.

At a high level, those events might be:

  1. Visit homepage
  2. Browse category
  3. View product
  4. Add to cart
  5. Purchase

Naturally, not every visitor will make it all the way through to the end of the journey.

Some might get as far as adding a product to cart but will leave without buying anything, while others may leave after only having viewed the home page.

On average, only 2% of website visitors will end up making a purchase. A great way to visualize this is by looking at it as a funnel, where your conversion rate is the percentage of people who make it all the way through to the end.

facebook advertising funnel

Given how low the typical conversion rates are, even a minor improvement to your funnel conversion can have a big impact on your overall sales.

Consider a store that has a conversion rate of 0.5% and an average order value of $100. With 2000 visitors to the site, the store will make $1,000 in sales. If the same store had a conversion rate of 1.5% that could mean $3,000 in sales!

Big difference, right?

Retargeting can be an effective way to increase your conversion rate. But poorly executed retargeting campaigns can lead to wasted ad dollars and annoyed prospects.

If you're new to Facebook Advertising, be sure to check out An Introduction to Facebook Ads for Ecommerce.

3 Types of Retargeting Strategies

A visitor who left your store without having viewed a product is nowhere near as ready to buy as a prospect who abandoned cart. Your retargeting strategy should account for this and your ads should be tailored to nurture prospects at each stage of the funnel.

Your retargeting strategy likely fits into one of three types:

  • Generic Retargeting (beginner)
    • Behavioural Retargeting (intermediate)
    • Sequential Retargeting (advanced)

    When you’re just starting out and your traffic is still limited, it’s perfectly fine to begin with Generic Retargeting.

    But as we’ll explore below, once your audience starts to grow, Sequential Retargeting may be a much more impactful way to nurture prospects along the customer journey.

    Generic Retargeting

    Generic Retargeting is when you target all your past website visitors in a custom audience and show them a retargeting ad after they leave your store.

    generic retargeting audience

    This audience contains prospects at various stages of the funnel, but they’ll all see the same ad. One downside to this approach is that the ad messaging will not fully resonate with every audience segment.

    A visitor who bounced from the home page probably needs to learn more about your brand to build trust before they are ready to even think about buying. Whereas, a visitor who abandoned cart might be more receptive to a strong call to action message like “Buy now!” with a discount offer.

    facebook advertising funnel

    Behavioural Retargeting

    Behavioural Retargeting is when you segment past website visitors into different audiences based on the actions they performed while they were on your site.

    Visitors who viewed a product go into one audience, visitors who added to cart go into another and so on. Then, you’d create a separate retargeting campaign for each of these audience segments.

    behavioral retargeting audience

    Behavioural Retargeting is a lot more granular in its targeting. This allows you to get creative with the ads to make the marketing copy hyper-relevant to each audience segment.

    Perhaps for the audience segment who added to cart you can make a cheeky remark about how they forgot something in their cart? Or maybe to the audience segment who bounced from the home page, you might promote a recent blog post you wrote to give them a sense of what your brand is all about to build trust?

    behavioral retargeting funnel
    The biggest drawback to plain Behavioural Retargeting is the repetition in the ads which can cause ad fatigue. Depending on how long of a retargeting window you set, your audience may be seeing the same ad over and again for weeks or even months (😱) after they leave your website.

    Think about your own experience scrolling through your social feeds; the moment you notice a piece of content that you’ve already seen, how quickly do you scroll past it? Insta-scroll, right? Well, your customers are no different and repetition in your ads will cause them to ignore your content.

    Or even worse, annoy them too much, and your prospects might even hit the “Hide ad” button on your sponsored post. This can significantly drop your ad’s relevancy score and drive up your ad costs.

    hide facebook ad

    Sequential Retargeting

    sequential retargeting

    Sequential Retargeting is when your visitors go through a sequence of ad experiences after they leave your website. Instead of seeing the same repetitive retargeting ad, they will see a variety of ads as they move through the sequence.

    There are several reasons why retargeting sequences are so powerful:

    • Fights ad fatigue: Keeps the content fresh as visitors go through your sequence so your audience is more likely to engage with your ads.
    • Nurture prospects: Your sequence can address the various objections a prospect may have about buying from your brand. (e.g. talk about your generous return policy, share positive reviews from other customers, etc.).
    • Stands out by blending in: Each time your prospect scrolls through their social feed they expect to see new and interesting content. Stand out from other boring ads by blending into the dynamic nature of the social feed.

    Layering Audiences to Create Retargeting Sequences

    The technique you would use with Facebook Custom Audiences to create retargeting sequences is called layering audiences. It’s when you create layers of included & excluded custom audiences based on the number of days since the visitor has left your site to target someone on a specific day or day range.

    Suppose you want to create a retargeting sequence that lasts for three days after someone leaves your site, where they’d see a different ad on each day. And suppose you wanted to do this only for those visitors who added an item to cart, here’s how you would do that with layering audiences.

    Day 1

    This audience includes anyone who added a product to their cart within the past day, which gives you an audience of people who added to cart on their first day after leaving your website.

    day 1 sequential retargeting audience

    Day 2

    This audience includes anyone who added to cart within the last two days and excludes those who added to cart within the last one day. With this, you can get an audience of people who added to cart on their second day after leaving your website.

    day 2 sequential retargeting audience

    Day 3

    This audience includes anyone who added to cart within the last three days and excludes those who added to cart within the last two days. This gives you an audience of people who added to cart on their third day after leaving your website.

    day 3 sequential retargeting audience

    Once you have your audience segments created, it’s time to set up a retargeting sequence, which may look something like this:

    sequential retargeting campaigns

    I recommend creating each sequence as a new Campaign on Facebook. In the Ad Set for each Campaign, you’ll select the appropriate custom audience you created in the previous step and as for the Ads, that’s where you can get creative with a different sequence of ads and messaging!

    What Sequential Retargeting Looks Like In Action

    When you combine behavioural and sequential retargeting, you get a powerful combination. You can create a different retargeting sequence for prospects at various stages of the funnel.

    In other words, you can set up a sequence for prospects who bounced from the home page, a sequence for prospects who viewed a product, and so on.

    This funnel-driven strategy results in highly relevant ad experiences to nurture prospects along the customer journey.

    For example, Shopify Plus merchant 100% PURE ran a retargeting sequence targeting visitors who bounced from the home page. Each day, for three days after leaving the website, prospects saw a new ad experience, learning something new about the brand.

    sequential retargeting funnel

    These are visitors who left without even viewing a single product. So, the aim here is less about nudging prospects to immediately buy and more about building trust and credibility with the goal of bringing them back to check out at least one collection or product.

    Here's what their retargeting sequence looked like.

    Day 1: Blog Post Ad
    day 1 facebook ad

    This ad promotes a blog post called “How to Strobe with Gems and Minerals”. It’s a piece of content that provides value to prospects and positions 100% PURE as a thought leader in their space.

    Day 2: Best Sellers Ad

    day 2 facebook ad

    This ad features a link to the Best Sellers collection. This is a good way to surface a popular collection that you’d recommend the prospect check out to learn more about your brand and products.

    Day 3: Refreshed Skin Set Ad

    day 3 facebook ad

    This ad promotes a featured product: the Refreshed Skin Set. The aim here is to drive the prospect directly to a product page to check out an item that’s popular or trending.

    Measuring Success with Sequential Retargeting

    Depending on which segment of the funnel your retargeting sequence is aimed at, the definition of success can vary greatly. Many advertisers will judge the performance of every retargeting campaign by the same metric: ROAS (Return on Ad Spend).

    But this is simply not the right success metric for all campaigns.

    At times, you may not have the budget to afford to run any campaigns that aren’t focused on immediately driving ROAS—and that is completely fine—but it’s important to know that some campaigns should be measured differently.

    For example, if you run a retargeting sequence targeting prospects who bounced from the homepage, you’ll want to measure how much engagement the ad got, how many people return to the website and how many viewed a product.

    measuring ROI of facebook retargeting

    But if your retargeting sequence is targeting prospects who abandoned cart, you most certainly want to measure return on ad spend and how much revenue the ad generates.

    measuring ROI of facebook retargeting

    Use Sequential Retargeting to Improve Your Funnel

    If your approach to retargeting has been to simply set up a Dynamic Product Ad and just let it run, you are missing out on a whole lot of opportunities to improve your campaigns and increase your conversion rates.

    Remember these key points:

    • Your past visitors are going to leave at different stages of the funnel, so communicate with them accordingly.
    • People hate repeatedly seeing the same content in their social feeds—use sequences to keep your ads fresh.
    • Success of a funnel-driven retargeting sequence isn’t always measured in ROAS—keep that in mind as you assess performance of your campaigns.

    If you have any questions about sequential retargeting, or Facebook ads in general, leave a comment below. I would be happy to help!

    Source: Reza Khadjavi 27/03/2019,

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