How Brands Can Optimize Facebook Ads to Steal Holiday Shoppers From Amazon

Opinion: Facebook’s highly targeted ads go beyond providing options for customers to make purchases online

Leverage Facebook’s new offline tools to draw current and new customers in-store
SUNG YOON JO/iStock

Historically, Amazon has proven to be highly effective at converting in-store buyers, all without spending marketing dollars on increasingly ineffective channels like print or leveraging first-party data on in-store buying behavior.

Online sales during the holiday season continue to be the supergiant’s sweet spot. Last year, Amazon’s online sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday totaled 37 percent of all online sales during the five-day period.

If retailers play their cards right, that’s all about to change.

Traditional retailers are struggling to compete with Amazon, leading many to wonder if they are in for a disappointing 2017 holiday sales season. However, there is a glimmer of hope for retailers to hold onto: While it’s true that online shopping continues to be on the rise, brick-and-mortar stores still comprise 81 percent of total holiday shopping. And Amazon has only just started to penetrate this crucial piece of the market.

Despite the recent rollout of limited Amazon Go and Books locations and the Whole Foods acquisition, Amazon is still primarily an online-only experience. In the race for holiday sales, either Amazon is going to win by taking its online expertise to brick-and-mortar stores, or retailers are going to embrace omnichannel strategies in order to defend their differentiating asset.

In spite of the growing number of products available online, a recent Market Track report reveals that U.S. shoppers still prefer shopping in a physical store.

Are people continuing to buy online because pure-play e-commerce giants like Amazon are better at targeting customers where they spend a lot of their time? Actually, yes: Research shows that shoppers would opt to buy similar products in-store if brick-and-mortar retailers did a better job of advertising to them.

While Amazon has the leg up on an effective online shopping experience, there is still an opportunity for retailers to drive customers in-store by presenting them with geo-targeted ads for items relevant to their interest. To fully exploit their in-store assets, retailers need an effective way to analyze their online and in-store customer profiles. Tools that accomplish this are starting to surface for retailers—Google and Facebook have recently delivered several such solutions that put the power of relevancy behind their ad offerings.

“The average person scrolls through 300 feet of mobile content every day,” according to Facebook global creative director Andrew Keller. For an age of distraction, that provides a rare, captive audience that retailers need to tap into to drive more customers in store.

With this is mind, Facebook has rolled out advertising tools for businesses in an effort to link offline customer purchasing activity with geo-targeted online ads. Facebook’s Offline Conversions API gives retailers the tools to use real customer identities to accurately measure in-store purchases made after these users are exposed to Facebook ads. Recently, Facebook made this data more actionable through custom audience building and retargeting . These capabilities allow retailers to match in-store customers to online users, creating exponentially more direct online marketing opportunities.

Once a customer is identified, Facebook’s rich profile—which includes data from partners such as DataLogix, Acxiom, Experian, etc.—can be leveraged to optimize and measure campaigns that are focused on increasing foot traffic.

Facebook’s highly targeted ads go beyond providing options for customers to make purchases online—they also include directions to the nearest store, empowering customers to be in full control of their buying experience. Providing shoppers with the option to buy virtually or in store is something Amazon cannot yet support.

While retailers now have new avenues to edge out Amazon this holiday season through these online-to-offline tools, efficient and effective strategies are still needed in order to optimize these opportunities. What can you as a retailer do to deliver more personalized ads through your Facebook ad campaign strategies? I’ve rounded up my top tips to help you get started:

Build data-driven, customized audiences

In today’s digitally charged world, there is more customer data available to retailers than ever before—and not just for online customers. This data can be used to draw online users into your stores based on their current and historic buying behaviors.

Having the ability to pass offline purchase data through Facebook opens new avenues for you to build broader, more hyper-targeted audiences than ever before. With comprehensive data for in-store buying behavior to leverage, you can reach the right customers at the right time with the right products to draw them in store.

Create online campaigns based on offline data

The standard online marketing funnel—retargeting, prospecting, cross-selling and upselling – also applies to driving customers in store. By now being able to plug in offline customer data, you can use Facebook’s audience capabilities to exploit strategies that were previously only possible for online activity.

Retarget customers that recently made an in-store purchase by targeting them online with a coupon code or discount ad for a new seasonal product. Enhance your prospecting strategy by building lookalike audiences based on customers’ in-store buying behavior. Cross-sell and upsell products by targeting customers that recently bought related items in store or online. And make sure to also utilize combined offline and online product data—what products are selling best online versus in store, what items are being bought together, etc.—to optimize your retargeting, prospecting, cross-selling and upselling campaigns.

Develop effective omnichannel ad creative

Like all online campaigns, compelling, informative narratives are key to drawing online users in store. While many imagine ad creative as an exercise in branding, “compelling” narratives are built with data-focused personalization.

When creating an ad, think about how you can create a more customized experience for each individual shopper—leverage previous buying behaviors, nearest store locations and previous purchases.

When determining ad format, consider the customer’s place in the conversion funnel. When engaging new, lookalike audiences, use Canvas and Collection ad formats, which provide advanced in-ad browsing experiences similar to a mobile website or application.

When targeting areas with brick-and-mortar locations, use ads with map cards to encourage a visit.

Finally, dynamic carousel ads allow you to promote your entire product catalog, highlighted by top-level category images or videos—making them the best for creating evergreen campaigns. These ads work full-funnel, pulling in the products most relevant to the Facebook user served the ad. To take dynamic ad customization a step further, set up a dynamic template that can be automatically overlaid to product images or videos to add details like sale status, categories, branding, stock levels and other product info.

Lastly, make sure your campaigns include both online and in-store calls to action. For example, campaigns with in-store objectives could include location-specific specials, sales prices, stock levels and other information to help customers make an informed choice on how they’d like to buy.

To compete with Amazon’s notorious monopoly of online sales leading up to and during the holidays, set yourself up for success by having the right ad campaigns in place for when the shopping frenzy hits. Balance the foot traffic on top shopping days—like Black Friday, when everyone is in store looking for deals in a craze—by leveraging Facebook’s new offline tools to draw current and new customers in-store ahead of time this holiday season.

Conor Ryan is co-founder of performance marketing company StitcherAds.