How Facebook Is Gearing Up for the Holiday Shopping Season

Opinion: Instagram provides a great opportunity to increase brand awareness and customer engagement

In 2017, Americans spent almost $20 billion online over the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday CrailsheimStudio/iStock

Facebook is getting a jump on the holiday shopping season—and for good reason. Last year’s holiday season turned out to be a robust one, especially for retailers with strong online and offline operations.

In 2017, Americans spent almost $20 billion online over the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to Adobe Analytics. Eager to increase their revenue share this year, retailers are already beginning to polish their marketing plans, and advertising platforms such as Facebook are already launching new features for advertisers to test.

Some of the biggest announcements Facebook has made in recent weeks include:

New holiday templates and stickers for videos

As Black Friday video content allegedly generated more than 450 million views during last year’s Thanksgiving weekend, Facebook continues to push for more video investment from advertisers.

Its recently released Video Creation Kit is aimed at making the video creation process easier for advertisers by allowing them to upload pictures into any of four pre-existing templates and add some text overlay to help convey the message.

In the coming weeks, Facebook will add holiday-themed templates and stickers for advertisers to use.

New automation feature in collection ads

Facebook’s Canvas ad product was recently renamed Instant Experience. Now, the social network is integrating its instant storefront template with its collection ad format.

This move will allow brands to highlight certain products from their catalogs by organizing them into more personalized groupings like “Suggested for You” or “Most Viewed.”

In addition, manual video upload into a collection is now optional, as the instant storefront template now has the ability to automatically generate personalized videos with relevant products from the catalog.

Although the automatically created videos may seem basic, this is exciting news for companies advertising on this platform, as it shows Facebook’s interest in the improvement of machine learning and the development of artificial intelligence.

Customized overlays and frames for dynamic ads

If you have used dynamic ads within the past year, you might have already used one of the pre-existing overlays to highlight product prices or discounts. If you are like me, you were probably begging Facebook for more creative freedom here.

Thankfully, Facebook listened, announcing that advertisers will be able to build custom overlays and create their own frames to show their products in a more compelling way.

For instance, if a retailer wants to create a catalog sales campaign for Black Friday, it can now create its own Black Friday overlay and make its ad more appealing.

The new decorative borders were tested by two major retailers and, according to Facebook, these retailers managed to increase their return on ad spend by 40 percent each.

Instagram’s new shopping channel in Explore

Many digital marketing experts view Instagram as a great opportunity to increase brand awareness and customer engagement. Although its 1 billion monthly users spend hours scrolling through their feeds and exploring topics, users do not seem to enjoy leaving the application to visit a website, meaning that advertising efforts often result in strong engagement rates but leave us dreaming about leads and sales when compared with Facebook.

Instagram recently expanded shopping to Stories globally, enabling businesses to tag images posted in their stories with clickable shopping bag icons so that users can view more information about them.

Over the next few weeks, Instagram will launch a new Shopping channel in the Explore tab featuring posts from the brands you follow and brands you might like. This is a move in the right direction, as it continues to focus on the discovery part of the sales process to improve conversion rates.

In the future, I would like to see more ad placement options within Instagram so that retailers can choose to show ads in specific topic channels like the upcoming Shopping one.

I would advise businesses to keep a close eye on these new features and try to incorporate them in their social campaigns. As I mentioned, higher customization may translate to better conversion rates. Facebook and Instagram recognize this to be true, and they are providing new tools for retailers to help them increase their return on ad-spend during this year’s holiday shopping season.

HĂ©ctor Ariza is a digital marketing associate at digital agency True Interactive.