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A Caveat For Facebook In-Store Attribution Users

Forrester analysts Tina Moffett and Jim Nail break down Facebook’s online-to-offline measurement capabilities.

The launch of the Facebook Store Visits metric in Local Awareness Ads reporting last week appeared to offer greater promise for businesses that want to know if their marketing is actually bringing people through their doors.

But before offline marketers get too excited, Forrester analysts Tina Moffett and Jim Nail suggest taking a closer look at what Facebook’s offering does and doesn’t do.

“First, the warning statement: The Facebook Offline Conversion and Site Metric features give all the credit to a singular FB mobile ad, not considering all the other marketing stimuli a consumer is exposed to,” Moffett writes.

The addition of this new tool is meant to satisfy the demands of brick-and-mortar businesses, which have adopted social media media marketing and location-based mobile ad targeting to generate consumer data and offline sales.

As Facebook pointed out in a blog post heralding its attribution tool, it noted that while people use mobile in 45 percent of all shopping journeys, the majority of sales still happen in brick-and-mortar businesses. In fact, more than 90 percent of retail sales take place in-store.

In theory, at least, by clearing up which mobile ads “worked” to drive people into a store, advertisers would be more likely to increase their spending thanks to greater confidence in the value of online-to-offline ads.

But in Forrester’s view, marketers who rely too heavily on Facebook’s metrics could face a repeat of the “last click attribution” problem, which obscures all the touchpoints along the path-to-purchase by highlighting the last web page before a person clicked on an ad.

“Taking the offline conversion metric as a stand alone metric without considering all your other marketing activity will over-credit social advertising and under-credit other marketing initiatives and misguide your future marketing investments,” Moffett writes. “Additionally, the offline conversion and site metric only works when Facebook users opt into the Facebook location services, so it’s unknown if the metrics are a true sample of intended targeted audience.”

Conflict Of Interest?

Facebook’s offering of location-based ad conversion metrics wasn’t much of a surprise to ad executives we spoke to, especially since the social network’s rival Google announced something similar a few years back.

One digital ad industry veteran we spoke with echoed Forrester’s views about the relatively narrow focus of Facebook’s new metric.

“I expect that this will generate initial buzz, but the scope is somewhat limited in that it is only available with Facebook inventory, and while substantial, it doesn’t deliver a common currency that can be used across an entire media plan,” said the digital ad executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Additionally, Facebook will run into the issue of conflict of interest, in that they are selling the media and also confirming performance. In the past, with the relationship with Datalogix, it allowed them to point to a third party for conversion data.”

Still, it’s worth noting that Facebook isn’t vying to replace the range of online-to-offline attribution offerings that have emerged over the past two years from Foursquare, Placed, NinthDecimal, PlaceIQ, xAd, and others. That it’s merely trying to make its own ad sales more attractive shouldn’t be too controversial for its clients. But as sources note, any confusion in the marketplace about the capabilities of metrics products does need to be fully understood, particularly by the SMBs that Facebook has so assiduously been courting.

Propelling Mobile Growth (On Facebook)

Facebook developed the online-to-offline metric simply because they wanted to reinforce how consumers access and engage on social networks through their mobile device, Moffett says.

She cites a Wall Street Journal report saying that Facebook’s advertising revenue grew by 57 percent in the first quarter to $5.2 billion from $3.3 billion. Mobile ads, specifically, accounted for roughly four-fifths of that revenue, even as the line between ads and actual store visitation and sales remained unclear.

“Providing better metrics around the power of mobile advertising and the capability to link ads to in-store sales gets marketers closer to tying social marketing activity to hard business objectives,” Moffett says. “Despite its limitations, it gives marketers more ammunition to ask for bigger social advertising budgets.”

Forrester’s advice to marketers using Facebook’s offline metrics: “use it in conjunction with your other digital and direct response performance metrics to uncover correlations between different marketing events. Look to your measurement provider to include this metric in their attribution algorithms and resist the temptation to rely solely on this metric because it is easy and convenient.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.