Facebook to prove online ads lead to offline sales for retailers

Facebook: targeting retailers

Facebook is aiming to position itself as the social media platform of choice for retailers by adding a raft of features demonstrating the link between online advertising and off-line sales.

Retailers will now be able to use a new interactive map, called Store Locator, to allow them to push location-specific ads to users encouraging them to visit their nearest store. Information contained within the ad will include store location, opening times, phone number, website and estimated travel time.

Facebook will then be able to track a phone’s location (using GPS, in-store beacons or WiFi for instance) to determine whether the user paid a visit to the store and present that as a “Store Visits” metric.

To round off the service and demonstrate how many of those visits actually led to a sale, Facebook is launching the Offline Conversions API, which will allow retailers to cross-match data from their own customer databases or point-of-sale systems (such as Marketo or Square) with Facebook advertising data.

Experts predict the move will divert more spend away from traditional media such as outdoor and TV as advertisers have no foolproof way of measuring whether they lead directly to store visits and sales.

The move by Facebook comes one day after Snapchat unveiled its new advertising offer, allowing brands to place videos between users’ picture collections or “Stories”. And Facebook-owned Instagram recently unveiled new business profiles aimed at making it easier for brands to do business on the photo-sharing app.

Other technology providers are also searching for ways to convert online browsers into offline shoppers. In the US, Guess is working with start-up Radius8, a cloud-based platform that enables Guess to see what local browsers are searching online and offer those products in their nearest store. They can also serve up local promotions specific to those products.

The ability to convert online browsers into in-store shoppers and serve up a product offer that is specific to local tastes is something of a retailer’s holy grail and when it happens (which it will), it could be thing that makes retail stores more relevant and more exciting to the younger generation of customer who increasingly shops online.