Facebook has been developing its ad offerings for years, and while paid social will always sit firmly at the top of the funnel, the social media giant is particularly focused on ad formats that will encourage users to slide straight down to the bottom and make a purchase.
Back in 2015, Facebook released Dynamic Product Ads, which enabled advertisers to serve users ads that were dynamically populated with products they’d previously viewed on site. And now they’re testing out a new ad format in beta: Facebook Shoppable Feed ads.
This ad format allows advertisers to use lifestyle or multi-product imagery, alongside a showcase of product-specific units featured in the ad. At first glance, this seems very much a product-focused direct response tool, but is there more to it?
How do they look?
They consist of two elements: a main image or video with related product images and a second page containing more products. An important feature is that one click on the ad will not take the user to the advertiser’s website; the second page of products is still housed within Facebook. It’s only if a user then clicks on an individual product that they’ll click through to a new site.
The shoppable trend
Facebook is by no means the first channel that we’ve seen moving toward creating a seamless online shopping experience for its users. People shopping on Main Street, or urban shopping centers, spend hours jumping between shops, browsing through rack after rack, and yet in years past, there’s been no effort to replicate that experience for them online.
Shopping campaigns (or Product Listing Ads, for you old-schoolers) on AdWords were the first step in the right direction back in 2012. Since their release, they’ve continued to take a greater share of click volume and grown in importance — so much that they were moved to the top of the SERP.
Last year, a further iteration of Shopping was released, Shopping Showcase Ads. This format will serve Shopping ads for much broader searches and provide a very similar experience to Facebook Shoppable Feed ads, in that one click will take the user to a Google-hosted landing page that acts as a catalogue, from which they can then choose to click through to the site and shop.
Even TrueView, the YouTube advertising platform, which took a while to develop into a viable advertising channel in its own right, has made steps towards being “shoppable.” At the end of 2015, they released TrueView for Shopping, which combined the branding power of YouTube with the direct response of a Shopping campaign. At my employer, Merkle|Periscopix, we saw our conversion rate increase by 40 percent in just one month after adding this shoppable element to our TrueView ads.
What impact will Facebook Shoppable Feed ads have?
To the untrained eye, this might seem like it’s just putting another step between the user and your website. Surely asking people to click onto an interstitial page and then onto the company website will reduce the number of people coming through to the site?
Well initially, yes. But let’s not be shortsighted.
It’s a similar story with Canvas ads. They consist of a click on a teaser ad to the Canvas environment (hosted in Facebook) and then a click to a site. We’ve found that around 80 percent of “link clicks” on this ad format are through the Canvas environment, as opposed to the site. But in my opinion, the value of those clicks to Canvas is still very high.
And let’s face it, the chances of getting that user to complete a purchase the first time they do end up on your site is slim anyway. While an advertiser might just see another click before getting a user to purchase, we need to start thinking like a user to see the potential value of these ads. Wouldn’t you enjoy the chance to do a bit more browsing before you decide to buy?
It’s been debated how many times someone needs to see an ad for your brand before they start to consider buying from you, but ad reps often say it’s around five to seven times. But when one of those ads is an immersive shopping experience that doesn’t even require them leaving Facebook, perhaps that number could be reduced.
It probably won’t be reduced to one. I would predict the number of direct purchases resulting from this ad format would be relatively low compared to, say, dynamic product ads. But they’re likely to lead to an overall increase in conversions, thanks to the impact they will have on user experience and, as a result, brand recall.
If you’re a retailer, put this format firmly on your radar. While it’s still in beta for now, it won’t be long until it’s available to all advertisers, and it should, in my opinion, form a vital part of any prospecting strategy on Facebook and Instagram.
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