Udemy Had Me At Hello Again With Facebook Retargeting

Have you ever admired a product from afar? You wantingly frequent their website, admiring their products or services. But despite all the reasons you want to buy…you just don’t. Maybe the time isn’t right. Maybe you can’t justify the cost. Maybe you’re putting it off until that time when _____.

Whatever the reason, you love the idea of buying, but you don’t.

I do this all the time because I’m commitment phobic when it comes to purchases. With the plethora of options online, it just makes perfect sense to “play the field” before sealing the deal.

As a marketer, I know I’m in the majority of website visitors.

I visit. I want. I leave. I don’t buy.

And as a marketer, I know that I’m prime opportunity.


This is my story from the receiving end of retargeting

I’ve been a fan of Udemy for a long time. They probably have me pegged as one of their avatar personas:

Kim - B2B SaaS Marketer Kim — B2B SaaS Marketer, Content Hoarder, Obsessive Learner.

I’m also probably in the 90%+ or so of website visitors who window shop and leave.

I stroll around the website, looking for the next thing to learn. I add courses to my wishlist. Then I get distracted and leave. I don’t buy—I wistfully wishlist.

Until…the day I log in to Facebook and see a sponsored offer for 50% off any course.

They hit me right in my soft spot

Udemy's Facebook Retargeting Ad

At 50% off how could I deny myself all those courses I had just wishlisted yesterday. The want was fresh. And the 50% was the nudge I needed to take the leap. Udemy’s Facebook retargeting ad was successful at removing both friction points in my customer journey:

  • Timing
  • Cost

50% is great for me, but what about Udemy?

I don’t know the economics of Udemy’s business, so I can’t say whether their 50% discount was a loss leader. But I can say that it was the first of many purchases. In the long run, that ad was what eased me into being a committed customer.

Is retargeting the right strategy for you?

It really depends on your goals and your current stage of growth.

If your top marketing priority is to drive traffic, then no. Retargeting isn’t going to help you.

If your goal is to increase conversions, then maybe. Retargeting might help you capture more conversions from website visitors on a return visit.

In other words, if you have a low volume of traffic then the benefit of retargeting will be minimal.

Since retargeting serves ads to people who visit your site, the higher your current traffic volume, the further your ads will reach.

Retargeting is a method for delivering online ads to people who already visited your website.

When someone visits your site a cookie gets placed on their computer. These cookies store which pages the visitor hits.

For example:

If I visited a specific course on Udemy’s site—let’s say Justin Mares’ SQL for Marketers. My computer would now have a cookie that shows I visited that page.

But then let’s say that I didn’t buy (even though I did). By not buying, I would not have hit their “thank you for purchasing” page. So my computer’s cookie would not have stored info about a visit to that page.

Udemy could create ads that target people who (1) visited the SQL for Marketers course, but (2) didn’t visit the “thank you for purchasing” page.

They know I’m interested in SQL courses, but I didn’t convert. Now they can deliver ads to me (and anyone else who did the same thing) offering a deal on any SQL course, or even that specific course.

This depends on your marketing goals.

Here are some times when you might want to use retargeting:

Not everyone converts on the first visit. But that doesn’t mean those visitors are a lost cause. Give them a reminder and a reason to come back by running retargeting ads that address the products/features/solutions they checked out on your website.
For example, you might know that pricing is a friction point. To move your prospect past that hurdle, run retargeting ads offering a limited time discount, or a bonus add-on if they purchase today. 
If you’re driving traffic to your site with ads, you are leaving money on the table when the majority of that traffic doesn’t convert. Retargeting can be a great way to get those who didn’t convert to come back. The cost of driving repeat visits using retargeting ads is often lower and the conversion rate higher than the original ads that target cold prospects who’ve never heard of you. Because they are familiar with your brand and what you offer the second time around, they are warmed up to the idea of converting. This lower cost to acquire leads from retargeting will lower your overall CPL from paid ads.


Prioritize your time and spend on retargeting ads based on:

  • your current website traffic levels
  • your marketing goals

If you have a healthy volume of website visitors and improving the conversion rate from that traffic is a priority, retargeting ads are a great addition to your marketing mix.

If your biggest challenge is increasing new website visitors, then spend minimal time and money on retargeting ads. That’s not to say don’t do it. Just recognize the results will be minimal. Set up a few ads with a small budget and very basic segments (i.e. all website visitors who didn’t convert) and move on to online marketing strategies for increasing awareness.