Facebook Now Tells Whether Mobile Ads Lead to Desktop Purchases

New Measurement Helps Advertisers Attribute Sales to Ads on Specific Devices

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The Facebook logo is reflected in the eye of a woman in this arranged photograph.
The Facebook logo is reflected in the eye of a woman in this arranged photograph. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Facebook is trying to show advertisers how powerful its mobile ads can be when it comes to driving sales.

The social network announced on Wednesday that it would start telling advertisers on what device people saw an ad and on what device they took an action, such as buying a product or signing up for a test drive, as a result of seeing that ad. That means Facebook will be able to credit mobile ads that lead to desktop sales and desktop ads that result in mobile purchases.

Advertisers can already track conversions through Facebook on desktop and on mobile, but to date Facebook hasn't broken out conversions by device type for advertisers to see. For example, advertisers have been able to see if their desktop and mobile ads lead to conversions, but they didn't know on which device type those conversions were taking place.

The new cross-device conversion measurement only works for advertisers who place certain Facebook trackers on their websites and mobile apps. Advertisers specify whether they want those trackers to trail after certain conversions, like adding products to a shopping cart or views of certain pages. Without sharing users' personal information with the advertiser, those trackers can see that a Facebook user is checking out the advertisers' site or app and whether they've converted in the advertiser-specified fashion. If the person did convert, Facebook's trackers can trace back to see if that person has seen an ad from that advertiser on Facebook, which may have directly or indirectly led to the conversion.

Facebook's cross-device conversion measurement doesn't report if a desktop or mobile ad led to an offline conversion like an in-store purchase or over-the-phone inquiry. Facebook has a separate offline conversion product for that type of measurement.

By breaking out conversions by device, Facebook is making a case for its mobile ads' impact. It is trying to win over marketers who may think people are less likely to buy something on their smartphone and therefore are less willing to spend money on smartphone ads.

To bolster its claim that mobile ads have broad impact, Facebook looked at an undisclosed number of U.S. campaigns and saw that more than 32% of the people who "showed an interest" in a Facebook mobile ad ended up converting into some kind of customer on their desktop computer within 28 days, the company said in a blog post announcing the cross-device reporting.

Facebook has become predominantly a mobile company. More than half of Facebook's ad revenue (62%) stemmed from mobile in the second quarter. And mobile accounted for roughly 80% of the social network's daily and monthly active users during the period.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that before today's announcement Facebook did not measure cross-device conversions. The company did but did not share those measurements broken out by device type with advertisers. Ad Age regrets the error.

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