Facebook Just Added Data to Help Brands See If They’re Driving Offline Sales

Atlas gets point-of-sale insights and other updates

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Facebook Atlas, the social platform's ad server that extends far beyond its own site and apps, is getting a few noteworthy updates today. 

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is announcing Offline Actions, which lets Atlas-using marketers upload their own point-of-sale data and view it alongside their ad campaigns. It's a move likely to appeal to brick-and-mortar retailers and packaged-goods brands. 

The measurement-oriented product will, in theory, let advertisers know more clearly if their Facebook Atlas campaigns—which encompass ads via numerous publishers and websites—are driving offline sales. Until this development, adding this sort of sales data was only available to marketers when their promos ran on Facebook's website or mobile app. 

Secondly, Facebook is offering a metric called "Path to Conversion" that helps marketers understand whether ads on desktop or smartphones/tablets drove a digital sale. For instance, it could compare two mobile ads versus a mobile ad followed up by a desktop promo. 

"It provides insight into how real people—not cookies—see ads across multiple devices," explained Brian Boland, vp of advertising at Facebook. 

This pair of updates are also designed to allow marketers to optimize their Facebook Atlas campaigns before they launch as well as tweak them on the fly. 

The social giant's additions are part of a clear trend in activity on the digital-offline measurement front. For instance, two weeks ago, Foursquare and a few tech vendors debuted products that aim to tackle the sales-attribution question. 

Facebook Atlas will also begin offering video ads by the end of March. 

For all three endeavors, Boland and his team ran multiple rounds of research in the past several months. Here's some of the insights, per Facebook:

  • The company found considerable bad inventory on third-party sites running via its LiveRail video platform while researching ad effectiveness, and Facebook said it shut down 75 percent of the inventory. 
  • Carmaker Mini found that 30 percent of all conversions started on desktop but ultimately converted thanks to ads on mobile devices. 
  • KLM uncovered 24 percent more sales conversions with the path-to-conversion feature.  
  • The same metric helped fashion retailer Yoox discover a 29 percent lift being able to attribute sales to channels.
@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.