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Facebook catches up to Google with ads measuring in-store sales

Facebook is enabling advertisers to more accurately measure their campaigns? effect on in-store sales with new features and metrics, including a native store locator for mobile ads, leveraging a strategy previously rolled out by Google and underscoring how mobile's return-on-investment is becoming clearer. 

Per a post published on its business blog, Facebook is now enabling advertisers to include additional calls-to-action in their ad units, such as directions to their nearby bricks-and-mortar stores. As mobile attribution continues to be a hotly contested topic among marketers, Facebook?s decision to introduce the store-visit metrics ? also used by Google AdWords ? could fuel more traditional retailers to partake in its advertising model.

?The whole advertising space is going in this direction, and it?s super exciting,? said Thomas Walle Jensen, co-founder and CEO of Unacast. ?We?re seeing a strong trend that advertisers are getting more sophisticated and want to know their ROI on the campaign, and thereby knowing if people returned to store.

?Its been easy to measure if people clicked on the ad and went to the brands ecommerce site, but as more than 90 percent of purchases are made in bricks-and-mortar store, this is very the real challenge and opportunity lies,? he said. ?The important part here though is how the ?return-to-store? data is collected and the methodology behind.

?It's important that the data collected is accurate and deterministic, and many players in this space unfortunately use unreliable GPS data with an accuracy of more than 100 meters, which means that it?s more a guesstimate if the person saw the ad and returned to store. There are other technologies out there that offer better accuracy and granularity, especially beacons, Wi-Fi and NFC.?

Bridging physical and digital worlds
Facebook?s new ad solutions seek to address challenges that bricks-and-mortar marketers face when measuring the effectiveness of their ad campaigns on in-store sales and visits. The social network?s local awareness ads now include the ability for smartphone users to receive relevant calls-to-action, such as directions to a retailer?s nearby store.

Building on its previous location-based unit updates, Facebook is rolling out a native store locator tool accessible within each brand?s mobile ad.

With many consumers typically encountering friction or difficulty when typing in their ZIP codes or addresses on businesses? store locator pages, marketers can combat this problem by opting to implement a store locator feature within their Facebook ads.

The tool will display a map of all nearby retail stores. Individuals can see the store?s hours, phone number, address, Web site and estimated travel time without having to leave the Facebook application.

The technology behemoth has also added store visits to its Ad Reporting metrics, so that advertisers can better understand the impact on their store traffic. Store visits reporting will reveal the number of consumers who visited a store after spotting a Facebook campaign, and will suggest ways to optimize ad delivery, targeting and creative based on these results.

This will enable brands to analyze their results across all stores and adjust their future marketing strategies accordingly.

Advertisers that have leveraged this service include Petco, Cadillac and Burger King UK.

Hopping on Google?s bandwagon
Fellow technology giant Google also rolled out a store visits metric in its AdWords platform in late 2014 with the intent of aiding retailers in improving their offline sales.

?Google has offered the same opportunities for some time where they can measure return-to-store on search ads,? Mr. Jensen said.

The competitive feature leveraged Google Maps to showcase a nearby store?s proximity to users who had location history enabled on their mobile devices.

Therefore, while Facebook?s new update may result in more advertisers coming onboard its platform, the technology behind it does not bring a revolutionary spin to the mobile market. The store locator tool, however, will likely end up being useful to shopping enthusiasts inclined toward making impulse purchases.

?While Facebook?s update serves as a great way for brands to know that their marketing efforts are driving revenue to bricks-and-mortar stores, the update is nothing new for mobile marketers,? said Jon Hook, general manager of advertising at Phunware. ?Correlating data, such as tracking app visits and consumer behavior, to in-store visits via location marketing and messaging has evolved tremendously.

?Today, location marketing is much more sophisticated, having evolved from simple tactics such as geo-fencing a competitor?s stores and spamming consumers with un-strategic messaging,? he said. ?Now, retailers are utilizing their location and analytics SDK to help feed and shape customer insights, which help to influence their media purchasing decisions not only across mobile, but across other media like out-of-home advertising.

?What?s key today is using location marketing and analytics SDK to gain valuable data and real-time information. Typically, more impressions and clicks tell marketers little about their customers. However, real-time and personalized data brands get via location marketing and analytics SDK?s give retailers unprecedented insights about their customers.?