Category Archives: Ad Age

Facebook’s Incredible Potential as an Offline Retail Tool

Could Facebook Ads Replace the Circular for Retailers?

By: Dave Williams Published: November 09, 2012

With more than a billion users, Facebook has become a powerhouse in display advertising, but some continue to question whether Facebook ads can drive offline purchases.
That’s starting to change, as studies have indicated that online posts can have a huge impact on consumer action away from the platform. This correlation, along with Facebook’s commitment to new and improved ad products, means that Facebook is about to become the primary marketing tool for retailers and their brand co-marketing partners.
The long-awaited online to offline correlation comes from a study that recently appeared in the journal Nature that found that a single message sent to 61 million Facebook users influenced 340,000 of them to vote when they otherwise would not have. During the run-up to the presidential election, we saw major candidates, political parties, and a slew of advocacy groups turn to Facebook in an effort to sway undecided voters and drive voters to the ballot box.
It also implies that Facebook can influence offline shopping behavior, too, which is great news for retailers. Physical stores still account for 93 percent of total sales, and circular ads have historically been retail’s biggest tool for bringing consumers into stores. Retailers have been looking for a digital way to drive foot traffic.
Several companies have successfully built cooperative marketing structures online. Companies such as OwnerIQ, for example, enable online retailers like Crutchfield to retarget people who visit the web sites of electronics manufacturers, offering the flatscreen TVs they were just studying — at a discount. When it comes to driving brick-and-mortar sales from online, though, Facebook appears to offer the best solution yet. CPG brands gladly pay for retail circulars to help sell their products, and there’s reason to believe they could buy Facebook advertising to drive consumers into retail locations.

One company with which we work, ShopLocal, puts a retailer’s circular content into a database, including images and all the sale prices and details. In so doing it makes local data portable and extendable, so retailers can build online-only pages of the circular, or utilize QR codes to generate more content than exists in the print world.
The future of retail involves bringing circular content into as many channels as possible in a seamless fashion, to maintain consistent messaging across all media, including mobile, video, digital out-of-home. If the retailers or their brand co-marketing partners import that data into Facebook, they could reach a much wider audience with more precise targeting than typical display.
Facebook offers insight into consumers’ interests. So an advertiser using ShopLocal’s services could show someone who Likes a particular brand of soap an ad showing the product on sale at a nearby retailer.
Facebook users not only respond to offers, they actually share them. According to the social network, three-fourths of the 100 most popular “offers” claimed were not from users who were initially targeted, but from someone who saw the offer after it was shared. The offers create more awareness when they are shared, and even better is that they work.

BLiNQ Media was recently able to demonstrate an online-to-offline push to an ice-cream store on a day that normally draws very little foot traffic. By asking these Facebook users to mention the coupon, we could measure how many had come because they saw an ad on the social network.
The Election Day study in Nature validated our anecdotal experience. Local-level targeting gives retailers a huge advantage, enabling mom-and-pop stores to compete with big-box chains.
Another key challenge of course is measurement, which ties us back to the examples mentioned before. The Election Day story took years of research, while the ice cream campaign involved a single coupon good at one particular store. It’s complex to measure the effects of extending multiple offers that are valid at many retail chains in different geographic regions. For Facebook to succeed at driving offline purchases, retailers must feel confident that digital ads lead to in-store sales.
Third-party solutions are popping up, and Facebook is working closely with partners such as Datalogix, which uses robust in-store retail data to prove that ads work and to determine the right frequency, duration, messaging, and targeting that will produce the optimal offline results.

Showing Facebook users customized ad experiences based on the right creative message, targeting, and frequency localized for the consumer clearly helps drive in-store sales, which is the ultimate goal of every retailer. Retailers can take the first step by viewing Facebook as an excellent place to distribute weekly circular offers, expanding their reach beyond newspapers to drive awareness on the desktop, mobile and offers shared by friends.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dave Williams is the CEO of Blinq Media.

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How FACEBOOK makes your global brand feel local

National Brands Are Only Beginning to Understand What Local Businesses Already Know About the Social Network

Published: July 18, 2011
Dave Williams
One of the greatest aspects of Facebook for marketers — maybe the greatest — is that consumers willingly share their information, opening the door to the precise targeting that advertisers dream of. Yet many brands still look at Facebook merely as a way to acquire fans, with little thought given to monetizing that list. Very few national or international brands take full advantage of Facebook’s targeting capabilities. At this point, between 60% and 70% of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from small businesses.
Such businesses are realizing the benefits of targeting consumers on a local level, similar to the way small businesses take advantage of radio, newspaper and billboard advertising to drive local sales. National brands shouldn’t feel excluded — they, too, can engage their audiences on a more intimate level by targeting locally. And unlike traditional display, Facebook gives advertisers national scale on a very local level. Unfortunately, many are leaving this opportunity untapped.
There are multiple uses for localized display on Facebook, including local events, new store openings, holiday offers and other local promotions. Consider a cellphone service provider’s marketing strategy. In addition to the centralized national marketing team, such companies often have local marketing groups responsible for particular regions. Agencies typically like to maintain a single point of communication, pushing the local groups out of the Facebook advertising strategy.
But think of the possibilities for customizing on a local level: New store openings, local promotions, even extended 4G coverage in the region are all valuable opportunities to engage consumers on the local level. It makes little sense to ignore the local angle.
Localized creative is effective at generating awareness and ultimately driving people into stores, building higher order value, and powering transactions. Think of it like the Sunday circular that runs in the newspaper every week. Instead of buying ads in the paper, brands can push weekly specials out to localized audiences, and do so far more efficiently with mass reach and frequency.
We recently ran a campaign to promote a celebrity in-store appearance for a cell phone provider. By targeting the youth market in that region with customized Facebook display ads, we achieved a 0.26% click-through rate, relatively high for any type of display. That high CTR foreshadowed massive attendance at the in-store event, completely surpassing expectations.
Groupon and Living Social are two other companies that know how to effectively leverage this local display strategy, and you’ve undoubtedly seen one or both companies advertise deals in your city in Facebook’s right-hand column. Both companies have national reach, but their business model operates on a local level, so proper targeting pays dividends in scale.
Starbucks is the most popular global brand on Facebook in terms of fans, but it can still use local strategy effectively to maximize reach and frequency in high-density markets. Every Starbucks offers the same products, but consumers often develop relationships with the brand through their neighborhood location. Starbucks often leverages this brand association via campaigns that give consumers coupons for free pastries with a drink purchase. The campaign is national in scope, but it applies the advertising weight at a localized level to maximize consumer appeal and revenues when they visit their favorite Starbucks store.
Nor is local limited to geographic targeting. Brands can target students at specific colleges and universities with unique back-to-school offers, introducing new residents to the local franchises. This is a popular strategy as brands compete for share of mind and wallet of students as they return to school this fall.
Brands traditionally disregard local online advertising because it seems time-consuming and difficult to scale. Localized websites draw small audiences, which offer very little ROI. Facebook, on the other hand, makes it easy to look at which percentage of the population will see your local message, and then build a national campaign customized and targeted on a local level at a reach and scale not previously attainable through traditional display or search advertising.
The local companies currently running campaigns on Facebook rely on the social network’s self-serve ad tool. That’s great for small companies trying to reach a few thousand consumers, but it breaks down for brands trying to reach tens of thousands of people in multiple locales. Doing that requires an entire team customizing and targeting the creative, and there’s just no way to make money that way. Facebook’s direct-sales team doesn’t offer local customization because of the time required.
Fortunately, companies with access to Facebook’s Ad API can automate the process, giving brands fully customized campaigns for individual locations on national (or even international) scale with customized targeting and creative at a fraction of the time and effort.
Marketing on a local level maximizes the impact of your marketing campaigns on Facebook by minimizing advertising waste and maximizing your reach and frequency with the right audiences, making the brand offering more appealing. Customizing an ad makes your brand message relevant to a consumer on a level where he or she can easily engage and take action. It combines the reach and targeting capabilities of Facebook in order to maximize brand awareness and drive consumers into an actual location to make a purchase — which is, after all, the purpose of marketing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dave Williams is the CEO of Blinq Media.

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Ad Age Digital A-List: Flipboard

After a Groundbreaking Year in After Apple Deemed It the iPad App of the Year, Startup Plots Its Next Move

By: Beth Snyder Bulik Published: February 27, 2011

It’s safe to say that iPad owners flipped for Flipboard last year. So did Apple, which named it the iPad app of the year, and Time magazine, which named it one of the 50 best inventions of the year.

Flipping out: Founders Mike McCue (l.) and Evan Doll plan to ‘build a model that’s really sustainable.’
Why the love? Because for all the hype about the tablet being the savior of traditional media, the innovations of traditional print and TV content providers have largely been simply what you’d expect they would look like, re-created for the new devices. It took an outsider to try a fresh approach.
Launched last summer, Flipboard created a “social-media magazine” that turned tweets and Facebook posts into content, and delivered them in beautiful magazine layouts on a digital, swipeable interface. With a year-end update, Flickr and Google Reader were added to the lineup, along with additional social-media capabilities.
The startup is beginning to address some of the concerns it ushered in, namely about how Flipboard aggregates content without publishers’ consent and what happens to the accompanying advertising, as well as its own revenue plans. It’s been testing Flipboard Pages since December with content deals across eight media partners including ABC News, News Corp.’s All Things Digital, Conde Nast’s Bon Appetit, Lonely Planet and the Washington Post Magazine. Flipboard worked with each to create custom layouts for full-article content, and includes ads around those articles. Initial advertisers include Pepsi, Gatorade, Infiniti and Levi’s and publishers get a revenue share.
With $10 million in initial funding, Flipboard has plenty of time for trial and error. Flipboard CEO and co-founder Mike McCue told Bloomberg Television that it has “a couple of years’ worth of cash in the bank,” which allows his team to focus on the user experience and “do right by the reader and the publisher and build a model that’s really sustainable.”

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