Facebook and Google both continue to improve their location-based advertising products, targeting mobile users and attempting to cash-in on online to offline conversion.

Here's a roundup on the state of play and some thoughts as to why Facebook may be best positioned to win the battle of the high street.

 Facebook local awareness ads are now customisable by location

Facebook has updated its local awareness ads so they can not only target nearby customers, but can deliver dynamic ad copy based on that location, too.

Here's the update from Facebook.

New updates to local awareness ads allow businesses using Locations for Pages - a tool for connecting and managing business Pages with multiple store locations - to use information from each of their Pages to add dynamic ad copy, links and call-to-action buttons to their ads, so each ad is localised for its corresponding store.

This means businesses will be able to more effectively drive awareness of local stores, just as AdWords location targeting does.

Facebook Local Awareness ad

facebook local ad

Facebook now has a targeted tool to compete with Google's Store Visits metric

Google has been trying to tie up ad spend with offline purchases and visits through a variety of products including call tracking, the upload of offline conversions back into AdWords, and also through estimated store visit counts.

Local Insights is Facebook's attempt to bolster its own online/offline credentials, focused on profiling local users to help businesses understand passing trade.

Page Insights has a new tab with information for local businesses who want to understand more about the groups of people near their store.

Local insights tell businesses the aggregate demographics and trends associated with the people nearby, so they can better understand and cater to the needs of the people in the area.

It's vital that Facebook works with advertisers to show higher offline conversion rates for its ads. Though cost per click is often significantly cheaper for Facebook mobile news feed ads than AdWords ads, the picture isn't as clear for conversion.

Yes, app download and reactivation is very effective through Facebook, but the platform is seen as chiefly about brand awareness when it comes to retail.

Though local ads mean that stores can remain front of mind with nearby Facebook users, proving higher footfall is something Facebook wants to do through local insights.

The tech company admitted as much on its launch blog.

Now, for the first time, advertisers can see the percentage of people nearby who have seen their ad, helping them understand how well their ads are reaching their potential customers.

Over time, this new metric can also help advertisers draw a connection between reaching a larger percentage of people nearby and accomplishing the business outcomes they care about.

Drawing that connection between business outcomes and local advertising on mobile is vital for both Facebook and Google, especially considering the proportion of ad revenue now generated through the device.

Facebook sees 78% of its ad revenue come from mobile, according to its latest results.

Facebook Local Insights

local insights

Can Facebook's push outperform Google's pull?

Though Google still has the trump card in bona fide user intent behind every ad served, recent numbers from Facebook can't be ignored.

Time spent in Facebook, increasingly watching video, is massive, as the following figures demonstrate.

  • Mobile monthly active users: 1.39bn.
  • Daily video views: over 8bn daily
  • Average user time in-app per day: 20+ minutes (Comscore).
  • A study from Forrester in February 2015 has time in Google app as 10 times smaller than Facebook. 

And content discovery within the platform could be set to increase further still as Facebook's Instant Articles are presented in a standalone news app launching in November 2015 called Notify.

If Facebook continues to dominate the awareness and discovery battle online, the argument for Facebook ads looks as part of online-to-offline campaigns is pretty solid.

Facebook ads - right for every store?

Will estate agents and car dealerships see value in Facebook local advertising in the same way that clothes retailers will?

Facebook is a key platform for brands as publishers and users are accustomed to interacting via social media.

Where once automotive steered clear of Facebook (e.g. GM withdrawing its Facebook ad budget in 2012), now car manufacturers cannot ignore it (see Facebook's case studies e.g. Volvo).

However, Facebook local ad products will only target based on age and gender, not specific users, so local ads aren't a way of tracking hot prospects.

That doesn't mean they can't be successful for estate agents (they do allow messaging and calls from an ad) but it's clear that the intent shown by Google searchers makes local AdWords potentially more attractive for high-value, low volume purchases.

facebook volvo ad

Do homogenous high streets favour Facebook?

I'm not sure about my thinking on this but it did occur to me that as high streets become more homogenous, familiarity may breed contempt. Consumers may need that extra push to revisit a store.

If consumers increasingly use a Westfield mall or a compact high street, rather than walking across town, and also look to Amazon for specialist items, perhaps the future of high street retail is more passive than ever.

Maybe consumers will sit back and expect to be informed of when something good is happening in-store, and also to have a better experience when they get there.

That can only be good for a discovery network like Facebook.

For more on this topic, see Jeff Rajeck's post - Where can Facebook advertising challenge Google?

Ben Davis

Published 9 November, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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