Facebook Rolls Out Online Retargeting Based On Offline Activity

Starting Thursday, Facebook will let advertisers retarget based on what people do in the real world.

“Reporting on the impact of ads is great, but other companies provide something similar,” said Gabriel Francis, global product marketing lead for the offline sales group at Facebook. “We’re letting people actually do something with those reports.”

Google’s offline conversion tracking tool lets advertisers measure offline activity after a user clicks on an ad. Last year, Facebook released its Offline Conversion API, which lets retailers see how many people made purchases offline after being exposed to a Facebook campaign.

Now Facebook is making that data actionable for audience targeting, said Francis, who noted that connecting online ads to offline outcomes will continue to be “a big investment area for Facebook.”

Businesses can build audiences of people who, for instance, made an offline purchase or called a call center. To do this, advertisers must share that offline data with Facebook by either manually uploading a spreadsheet or with one of Facebook’s partners, including digital receipts companies, point-of-sale vendors and CRM and marketing software providers.

“They can also create lookalike audiences off of Custom Audiences to find new potential shoppers that share characteristics similar to people purchasing offline,” Francis said.

Select advertisers will be able to create Custom Audiences composed of people who recently visited a store location.

A juice shop, for example, could target Facebook users who came in for a smoothie the week before with a coupon code for the next time they visit, while a bookstore could automatically display an ad with the latest titles to people who made a purchase within the last month.

Although the offline-to-online retargeting feature is primarily being pitched as a direct-response product, the lines are blurring between DR and branding, Francis said.

“Brand advertisements online are becoming a lot like direct-response advertisements online, and whether the intention is to drive awareness for a product or service or to convert at the bottom of the funnel, we’re seeing all types of advertisers using these tools to understand the impact of their ads,” he said.

But will advertisers want to give up even more data to Facebook? According to Francis, there hasn’t been reticence on that front thus far.

“We’re not seeing that type of pushback,” he said. “This is a really difficult environment for a lot of business trying to stay ahead of the trend, and they want to start treating what happens offline with the same type of analytical rigor that they’ve always had online.”

Consumers demand no less, he said.

“People rely on their phone more and more to find new products, but they’re buying products both online and offline,” Francis said. “And we’re seeing increasing evidence that people expect businesses to keep up and make sure that the ads they show are always relevant.”

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