Facebook is giving Target and other retailers a new way to market to its 1.4 billion users. It's called product ads—yet another ad format that Facebook says sets it apart from rivals like Google because it can harness the social network's popularity and behavioral and location data on consumers.
The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company announced the marketing offering today, calling product ads "a solution designed to help businesses promote multiple products, or their entire catalogs, across all the devices their customers use: phones, tablets and desktop computers."
Businesses will be able to upload their product catalogs and let Facebook generate ads for items while targeting them to users. These product ads could rival Google's shopping ads, which have evidently performed well for retailers in search.
In a blog post, Facebook explained further: "Advertisers can curate ads as they see fit. For instance, they can highlight products that were viewed on their website/mobile app or showcase best-selling products. Or they can create a multi-product ad that highlights the different benefits of a single product."
Like Google, Facebook's system will also recognize when products are out of stock and stop advertising them.
Target and Shutterfly are among the first merchants testing Facebook product ads.