New Facebook features help retailers connect ads with store visits

A store locator in the news feeds lets consumers find retailers, and a metric that tracks location data helps retailers follow consumers

Despite the boom in online shopping over the past decade, research shows that people will still get out of bed, put on pants and go to a store to find something they want. In fact, 90% of all retail sales still take place in brick-and-mortars, according to an October 2015 eMarketer study.

In the coming days, Facebook will introduce three new features to help retailers close the loop between their digital advertising and in-store sales.

First up is "store locator," a map that can be included within a mobile ad showing users the advertiser’s closest retail locations. By tapping a specific location, users can access the store’s address, operating times, estimated travel time, phone number and website. The new ad format also offers call-to-actions like "Get Directions," so no more copy-and-pasting an address into Google Maps.

Alicia Howard, head of social media and digital content at Tesco, called the store locator "a great example of how advertising formats can adapt to how people are using their mobile devices," in a statement.

"One of our key marketing objectives is to make Tesco advertising ‘helpful’ for our customers," she said. Local tools like the store locator are "key to delivering on the promise of ‘helpfulness."

Facebook is also giving advertisers a new way to measure if their ads on the network are actually bringing people to their stores. With "Store Visits," retailers can see when consumers who have been exposed to their Facebook campaigns actually show up in their stores. The metric works by accessing the location data on consumer phones, though only if the function is activated. In early tests, French retailer E.Leclerc found that about 12% of clicks on its ads resulted in visits to stores within seven days, according to Facebook.

Finally, Facebook is bringing an "Offline Conversations API" to its Ad Reporting system to help advertisers manage the effectiveness of their Facebook ads. It’s a way for advertisers to connect transactions that take place in-store or over the phone to Ads Reporting on Facebook, helping track real-time purchases and demographic insights. The API is currently being tested across all ad objectives, and there is currently no timeline for its public debut.

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