Last year, Facebook began giving marketers more information about the people who were nearby their stores. Now, it's building on that, giving advertisers data about those who were served an ad and then traveled into a store, as well as adding features to its local ads designed to make store location easier for consumers. Facebook is also letting advertisers link transactions to ads with the help of companies like IBM.
Store Visits is a new metric in Facebook's Ads Reporting tool that aims to help retailers better understand their foot traffic after running local awareness ads, which are targeted toward people within a certain distance of a store set by the advertiser. With the new metric, Facebook said advertisers can now see how many people come into a store after seeing a Facebook ad; optimize the ads' creative, delivery and targeting based on store visits; and analyze results across stores and regions.
"One of the trends on our minds is that people are spending more time on mobile than any channel," said Maz Sharafi, director-monetization product marketing at Facebook. "But purchase behavior is different," he added, with 90% of retails sales still happening store in-store. "With the mobile shift, this is a fundamental challenge that marketers have, in not only how to drive people to a store but how to measure real business results. That's what we're interested in solving."
The store visits metric will be rolling out to advertisers globally in the coming months, Facebook said.
The catch, though, is that advertisers may not be able to get a complete picture of everyone who went into their stores, because users have to opt in to location-tracking in Facebook's app in order for conversions to work.
"It's a seminal moment for Facebook because it's the first time we can close the loop for retailers," said Sam England, product manager at Facebook. "It's been difficult to measure and give advertisers the full picture, but now they can see in real time the number of store visits on a location by location basis. You can cut the data any way you see fit."
Facebook is also rolling out a consumer-facing product, Store Locator, a map feature that pops up in people's news feeds as part of a local awareness ad carousel. The feature will offer retailers the ability to pinpoint locations near Facebook users on a map image, with details including hours of operation, phone number and address. If a person wants more information, like directions on how to get there, they can click the image to be taken to the map app that's native to their smartphones, such as Apple Maps or the map app on Android. The move builds on features introduced last year that enabled advertisers with multiple locations to create dynamic ads for each individual location within a single campaign.
This move, said Yoram Wurmser, analyst at eMarketer, is a bit of a catch-up to Google for Facebook. It will make Facebook's local awareness tools more effective, "but it doesn't add something that other companies don't have," he said.
Facebook's new Offline Conversions API lets advertisers connect in-store transactions or transactions done over the phone to their ads. "The Offline Conversions API allows businesses to match transaction data from their customer database or point-of-sale system to Ads Reporting," Facebook said in a blog post, "helping them better understand the effectiveness of their ads in real-time." Advertisers will have the option to work with partners like IBM, LiveRamp, Marketo and Square, among others, or with Facebook directly.
The data on people is anonymized and aggregated, so marketers can't see the exact individuals who come into or near their stores, but advertisers can view real-time results as transactions occur instore and over the phone and gain demographic insights about people who purchase products, such as gender, age group and so on, said Facebook.
Many companies, including Google and Facebook, have been trying to link ads online to offline conversions for a while, said Mr. Wurmser, analyst at eMarketer. Efforts include Google's launch of local inventory ads, while Facebook started a partnership with Datalogix (now part of Oracle), which it used to link its ads to offline purchases via loyalty cards and emails.
Mr. Wurmser said in an email that Google has generally had an advantage because "people who enter search queries for products are generally closer to the bottom of the funnel than those who see the more discovery-oriented or retargeting ads on Facebook." He added that Google has offered offline conversion tracking in its AdWords API for some time.
But, he said, "From what I've seen, this new Offline Conversion API brings Facebook up at least to what Google has been offering, but probably goes beyond it. By virtue of the behavioral and interest data it gets from its social networks (FB and Instagram), the additional insights about store traffic are likely beyond what Google can offer. So, I think it's going to be pretty attractive to retailers."