Using Custom Audiences and Retargeting to Make Smarter Sales

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You’ve definitely searched for something on Google, and then been given a targeted ad for that very thing on Facebook. That’s called retargeting, and it’s one of the best ways to turn potential leads into actual sales. As a follow-up to our introduction to the Facebook Pixel, this article goes more in-depth into using custom audiences to target specific groups, and then retargeting them with other platforms, like email.

Building a custom audience

You can use people who have visited your website, used your app, given you their email address or clicked on a Facebook ad to create a custom audience. Rather than putting an ad to any random person who uses Facebook, you can narrow it down to people who’ve already interacted with your store in some way.

First, start by connecting your Shopify and Facebook Business pages using the Facebook Pixel. This lets you track how people interact with your store via Facebook, and lets you find specific people who are interested in you.

Then, go to your Facebook Ads manager and click “Create Audience”

Note, you have to have permission to use people’s email addresses for marketing purposes. Make sure you’re asking people to accept that you’ll be using their info when you collect their email address. You’ll then choose the type of audience you want to set up.

Types of custom audiences

  • People from an email list like MailChimp (this is the one we’ll go into more in-depth below)
  • People who’ve used your app if you have one
  • People who have visited your website in the past 180 days if they’ve also been logged into Facebook while doing so (that’s what the Pixel is for).
  • People who have engaged with you on Facebook by liking your page, viewing your video, starting to fill in a form, commenting on a post, or attending an event.


One of the great things about custom audiences on Facebook is that you can exclude certain groups of people that you don’t need to target. This is the same idea as segmentation. For example, if you only want to target people who made it all the way through a purchase to get feedback from them, you can choose to set up a custom audience based on website traffic to your order confirmation page in the last 30 days, but nobody else that visited your website. This means you’re not accidentally sending a message that says “Thanks for buying from us, take $10 off your next order by giving us feedback” to people who haven’t made any purchases.

Using your custom audience to find new leads

Lookalike audiences are audiences that have many similar interests or features to your custom audience, like demographics or page likes. They’re a great way to grow your exposure, but you won’t have the same ability to retarget them as they’ll all be new profiles. Once someone from a lookalike audience clicks on your ad, though, you’ll be able to add them to your retargeting list.

What’s the point of retargeting, anyway?

Retargeting, or giving new information to the same person with a different platform, is a key part of a data-driven marketing plan. Retargeting is mainly science, part art. It’s a mechanism that helps you spend your ad money more effectively. So who are you retargeting? And how?

Potential new customers

You can win over potential new customers who need to see your ad a few times before getting excited about your brand. Showing your content on different platforms, and with multiple types of messaging, can help you win over newbies.

Getting repeat customers

We all know this is a huge part of the goal. Repeat customers are more likely to buy and more likely to spend more on average than new ones. Retargeting strategies are how you get them to come back. Ads can be reminders about what they loved about your company, or that it’s time for the new season’s collection.

This works well with the concept of upselling. You can see who’s already bought from your store and sell them more stuff based on what they’ve bought. Retargeting can help you choose which products you’re advertising, because you know what general stuff and prices your custom audiences are interested in.

Abandoned carts

You can use retargeting to try to tackle abandoned carts. If you know some information about your almost-customers (like an email address or Facebook user ID), then you can send them a message with an incentive to come back. Check out these suggestions for retargeting abandoned carts.

Inactive email subscribers

The more emails that bounce, the more likely you are to be marked as spam. Keeping lots of people on your email list who never open anything is tiresome and can be bad for your business. You can use retargeting to see if you can get them interested another way - they might be more interested in seeing your content on social media than in an email.

Retargeting using your email client

This is pretty important - if you want to see how all of your channels and marketing efforts are working together, you should look for ways that Facebook Custom Audiences can be saved, changed and understood through what you’re already using.

MailChimp, for example, can integrate a custom audience you made on Facebook into a list you can use to send them an email. Or, importantly, it can go the other way around - make a list of people whose email addresses you already have collected on MailChimp, and Facebook can try to match those email addresses with users to target. Klaviyo does the same thing, with their Facebook Audiences Integration.

This is the basis of retargeting, or sending someone who’s seen one of your ads new information through a different platform. Since MailChimp lets you send ads on Facebook and Instagram straight through their platform, you don’t even have to switch back and forth between services.

You can do the same for Instagram with MailChimp. When you create an ad using MailChimp, you can choose to select a list you’ve already created to market to on Instagram. They’ll try to match up as many email addresses with users as is possible. Note that you’ll have to update your email custom audiences from time to time, because Facebook doesn’t automatically update when your email list changes.

This is the beauty of lists and segmentation

We’ve talked about in-depth segmentation and using lists as part of your email marketing strategy, but it goes way further. Here’s the kind of thing you can do:

  1. Collect email addresses from your website using a pop-up
  2. Create a list on MailChimp or Klaviyo of new subscribers in the past week
  3. Send that list a welcome email, going over what makes you a great company
  4. Make a Facebook Ad campaign and choose that same list to target on Facebook with an ad showing off one of your best selling products
  5. Go back into MailChimp or Klaviyo and pull up that list, then segment it to only give you those who have clicked on your website through your recent Facebook ad, but haven’t bought anything yet. Send them an Instagram ad video that shows the lifestyle benefits of your company
  6. Go to the original list you’ve created and pull up a segment of people who didn’t click on your website but did look at it for more than four or five seconds. Send them a new ad with an offer code, either to their email address or on Facebook.

Getting creative with segmentation is where your strategy brain kicks in. That’s just one example of retargeting you can do using lists and segments by combining your email client with Facebook and Instagram.

You can take a look at some great examples of custom audiences that are useful on this post.

Dynamic Product Retargeting with Facebook Ads

One feature you can choose with Facebook Ads is Dynamic Retargeting (see our cheat sheet here). Dynamic Retargeting means it shows specific ads to people who’ve done certain behaviours, such as abandoning their carts or buying from your store already.

Once you connect with Shopify and set up the Facebook Pixel, you can upload your catalogue, set up dynamic product ads, and set a budget. Facebook will start targeting people it thinks will be interested, based on others who have already bought from you. If you have a carousel ad (a series of pictures that rotate around), they’ll automatically choose the one that is most clicked-on to go first or products that users have already viewed in your store but haven’t bought yet. Pretty nifty, hey?

Check out more information here.

Take custom audiences and retargeting to the next level with automations

The idea of customising an audience is that you’re slicing into an even narrower, more-likely-to-be-interested group. Rather than setting up endless emails that are going to people who simply aren’t going to buy, retargeting with custom audiences is how you can be more effective at picking the winners.

You never know though. Sometimes you might assume someone’s demographic would make them uninterested, and you could be wrong. That’s why it’s always important to keep tabs of what audiences are working and what audiences you haven’t tried yet.

Use automation workflows (through MailChimp or Klaviyo, for example) to set up your machine that runs itself. Automating your emails uses “triggers” or “if a person has this characteristic and then does this action, they should get this kind of message”. You can set up automations that are based on retargeting.

For example, once you connect your email client with your Shopify and Facebook accounts, you can set up an automation that goes:

  • People who spent at least $30 → Who haven’t shopped in six months → Who have clicked on our site from a Facebook ad → Get sent an email with our latest offer

You can then manually pull that same segment and create a Facebook ad for that audience (or use Kit), since you know it’s a platform that’s worked in the past. Unfortunately, you can’t automate everything. To get a really good retargeting strategy using custom audiences, you need to be constantly thinking and rethinking about who you’re targeting and how. You’ll need to update your content and avoid rehashing the same stuff to people who have seen it before.

The bigger picture

You’ll need to be strategic, and use your creative brain. Custom audiences, email segmentation and retargeting all work together to convert customers more effectively. One important element to think about is how you’re mixing up your messaging.

You shouldn’t just be sending the same photo carousel or tagline on three different platforms - if someone didn’t make a purchase straightaway from your message, come at them from a different angle. This is how you can start to develop an omni-channel strategy, where you use information from one platform to inform how you interact with your customer on the next. While your Facebook ad might be flashy and intriguing, your email will be more in depth about the quality of your products, and your Instagram ad will show testimonials of someone using and loving your stuff.

Want to read more? You can check out Shopify’s Beginner Guide to custom audiences or Shopify and AdEspresso’s 50 page guide to using custom audiences.

If you’re interested in getting help developing a comprehensive marketing strategy using smart retargeting and custom audiences, Elkfox has got you covered.