As social media becomes a bigger part of our wider business process, so too does the demand for better data tracking and improved transparency measures to provide definitive links between social ad spend and subsequent sales impact.
Facebook's taken a lead role in this - they introduced "Conversion Lift" back in January 2015 which compares point of sale data to Facebook details to track how Facebook ads lead to actual, in-store sales, and they've evolved their Local Awareness Ads product to make better use of geo-location services in order to, among other things, help brands reach audiences in the area immediately surrounding their place/s of business.
And today, Facebook's introduced some new tools to help brands better integrate their online ad efforts with in-store actions, with a new option called "Dynamic Ads for Retail".
As shown in the above image, Facebook's new Dynamic Ads enable retailers to showcase products available in the store location that's closest to the person seeing the ad.
"For example, if a fashion retailer wishes to advertise a nationwide sales event happening at every store, dynamic ads for retail will only showcase products that are in-stock at a nearby store and display the price found at that location. As the ads are linked to the local product catalog, if a product sells out in one store the campaign automatically adjusts so that people in that region will no longer see it advertised. Product selection for each ad can be optimized based on people's online and mobile shopping behavior."
As you can also see in the above example, the new ads feature an availability indicator (the "in-store" note above each image) and a CTA button for the user to get directions, along with a map included within the carousel, helping to drive in-store visits.
Each product summary can also include notes on ways for people to take actions (like contacting the nearest store, buying online, or saving the product for future reference) and a listing of similar products also available at their local store.
Marketing Land notes that Facebook's added a clause which requires participating retailers to update their store-specific inventory catalogs at least once every 24 hours to ensure accuracy of the information presented in the new ads.
Facebook's currently testing the new ad units with Abercrombie & Fitch, Argos, Macy's, Pottery Barn and Target, with the option to be made available to more businesses "in the coming weeks". And given the success Facebook's seen thus far with their other efforts to help drive foot traffic to stores (Facebook says Local Awareness Ads now drive over one million store visits per day in 100,000 locations), it's safe to assume the new options will also prove beneficial.
In addition, Facebook's also releasing a new "store visits" objective to help businesses drive more traffic to their businesses.
"The store visits objective builds on the geo-targeting and ad format features of the local awareness ad solution and introduces store visits as the primary reporting metric and a new optimization model."
And while these tools are more suited to larger businesses (with bigger budgets), it's worth noting Facebook's focus in this regard, and its push to improve the links between online ads and in-store actions. While online sales are constantly growing, in-store transactions still account for 92.5% of total US retail sales. Tools to streamline the online sales process are also evolving - social media buy buttons and Messenger for Business tools, for example - but the slow take-up of these newer options underlines the need for business solutions that focus on the shopping behaviors of today, as well as what's coming in future. Facebook's working to do that with their improved tracking tools and options, and as those systems evolve, Facebook will also look to expand their use to other ad offerings, which will include smaller retailers and markets.
What's great about this is we're getting more and more measures to better track and correlate online and offline behaviors, which will eventually improve the accuracy and targeting capabilities available in all applications, and for all advertisers, with levels of transparency not available via other ad methods.
And that can only be a good thing for those looking to maximize their marketing budgets.