Facebook to Tell Brands More About Who's Near Their Stores, Tailor Ads to Them

Social Network Will Only Share Aggregated, Anonymized Information

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Facebook will give brands a better look at the foot traffic around their physical stores.
Facebook will give brands a better look at the foot traffic around their physical stores. Credit: Courtesy Facebook.

Facebook knows a lot about where you go online, but it also knows a lot about where you go in the real world. And now it's going to start sharing some of that information with marketers.

Starting in the U.S. on Thursday, Facebook will provide marketers with more information about the people in the vicinity of their stores, including what percentage of those passersby may have seen the brand's ad on Facebook and other insights into foot traffic trends. And to push more of that foot traffic into stores, the company is giving brands new ways to tailor their ads when people are nearby.

The effort comes as cellphone carriers are trying to offer marketers similar details about consumers' movements and demographics, based in part on the information they have on their subscribers.

Marketers can now use a new section within Facebook's page insights tool to get that better look at the foot traffic around individual business locations. While the local insights tab will be available for free to any business with a Facebook page that uses the page's location features, brands that advertise on Facebook will be able to see what share of the people passing by a store's location had seen one of the brand's ads within the past 28 days.

Updated once a day, that aggregated, anonymized information won't report the actual number of people that passed near a store. Instead it will provide trend information over the past week, month or quarter so that businesses can see when particular groups of people are more or less likely to be nearby, as well as what times of the day or days of the week are the busiest in the neighborhood. That information will include breakdowns by age and gender, which can be cross-referenced to see when men or women of a certain age are typically in the vicinity. Facebook will break down ages into several groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, 35 to 44, 45 to 54, 55 to 64 and people over 65 years old.

Facebook will also report whether people are from out of town or live within 200 kilometers of a store's location, but brands won't be able to filter that information by age group or gender. Facebook determines whether someone lives within that radius by using signals like the city someone lists on their Facebook account as where they live and, if someone lets Facebook track their location, where that person typically uses Facebook.

Brands can view this information for people that pass within 50, 150 or 500 meters of a store's location. However Facebook will not be telling marketers what share of that foot traffic actually enters their stores. "We're not announcing that at this time," said Matt Idema, Facebook's VP of monetization product marketing.

Because the foot-traffic information is aggregated and anonymized, marketers won't be able to see what individuals were near their stores. If people don't want Facebook to be able to gather even this type of location information about them, they can turn off Facebook's ability to track their location by clicking on the "more" tab in Facebook's mobile app, then clicking on account settings and finally location settings, which will display a toggle to turn off the location tracking.

Facebook is also getting more local with the ads that retailers can show people on the social network. A year after adding the ability for brands to target people who are within a certain distance from a store, Facebook will now let brands in 60 countries around the world that run Facebook pages for multiple individual store locations to customize those ads to each location.

The ads will automatically pull in information about the nearest store, like where it's located, its phone number and links to call that location or get directions to it. Advertisers will be able layer in Facebook's other ad-targeting options -- including age, gender and interests -- as well as upload customer lists through Facebook's custom audience program. After the ads run, they will be able to check out how the ads perform for each location.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said brands can view foot-traffic information for people that pass within 50, 150 and 500 kilometers of a store's location. That information is available for passersby within 50, 150 and 500 meters.

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