In-Store Sales From Online Ads: A 5-Minute Guide to Facebook's Offline Event Tracking

Facebook Offline Event Tracking Tool | Shopify Retail blog

One of the great things about digital marketing is the ability to capture tons of data and measure success. Metrics like click-through rate, time on site, conversion rate, opt-in rate and social shares are at retailers’ fingertips.

That’s all great information to have, but how can retailers determine the effects of digital advertising on offline behavior? How can you know if your online ads boost foot traffic into your physical storefront?

For retailers who use Facebook advertising, the offline event tracker feature could be a viable option to gain those insights.

Prior to Offline Events, advertisers couldn’t determine whether seeing a Facebook ad online would drive an offline behavior, such as visiting the store, attending an event, or purchasing product over the phone. But that has changed, and it’s an incredibly valuable tool for retailers who don’t rely solely on ecommerce.

What Is the Facebook Offline Event Tracking Tool?

Facebook’s Offline Events debuted in August 2016, offering advertisers a solution to integrate Facebook ad performance with offline data. Essentially, advertisers upload files containing their own data — information like name, purchase, date of purchase, and other valuable customer metrics — for Facebook to compare that data with the ad campaign audience.

The result? A more accurate conversion analysis.

Take this example: A retailer is hosting an in-store event to promote a new product line. They advertise the event on multiple channels, including Facebook. However, how is the retailer supposed to know if someone attended the event because of the ad they saw on Facebook?

Offline Events syncs data with those who have seen the ad with data the retailer inputs, such as attendance data. Facebook then matches the two sets of data, telling the retailer how many people attended after seeing the ad, as well as information like how much they spent. This is especially important, because retailers can then weigh the cost and rewards to see how much ROI the ad actually contributed.

This can also affect a retailer’s bottom line. Knowing which ads result in more sales helps retailers continuously improve their advertising, messaging, and targeting.

That level of data can also help retailers create audience segments and run more targeted ads in the future. Up until this point, retailers have been more limited in gaining these levels of insight in terms of the digital and physical crossover.

How to Use Facebook Offline Events

Facebook Business Manager | Shopify Retail blogRetailers who want to use the feature must have a Facebook ad account and a Facebook Business Manager account that are linked together. Facebook has useful resources to help those just getting started.

After laying the groundwork, identify the objective of your next Facebook ad campaign. This will help with not only the ad targeting and creative, but also with determining what offline data you need to gather independently to sync with your campaign.

Now it’s time to get to work in Facebook. Create your Facebook ad first, then turn to the offline events information.

Create an offline event set

Offline Events, Facebook Events Manager | Shopify Retail blogAccess Offline Events through the Business Manager to begin creating the offline event set. Facebook will take you through the steps so you can name it, associate it with an ad account and manipulate other settings.

Upload offline events

Upload Offline Events, Facebook Offline Event Tracking Tool | Shopify Retail blogOnce your offline event set is created, you can upload your offline event data, as determined when strategizing the ad campaign before. This data will need to be a .txt or .csv file. Choose from four event descriptors (event time, event name, value of purchase and currency) and 17 identifiers (which include things like first name, last name, email, phone number, mobile advertiser ID, zip code, city, state/province, country, date of birth and more).

Map your data

Mapping Data, Facebook Offline Event Tracking Tool | Shopify Retail blog

Now you have to tell Facebook how to interpret this data. This is basically a review of the data to make sure Facebook has associated the right values with the right identifiers.

Match your offline event set with a Facebook ad

Your data is in Facebook, and your ad is all set up. Using the Facebook pixel ad manager, go to the ad campaign and choose the offline data set you want associated with that ad. Find the Tracking section in the ad editor and choose the appropriate offline data set.

There’s also an Offline Events API that developers can integrate with compatible systems retailers use, such as a point-of-sale (POS) system. This automatically syncs the data and provides real-time data.

💡 ADVERTISING TIP: In addition to Facebook ads, Google Shopping Ads are a great way to boost revenue for your retail store. Get the 11-step guide to launching Google Shopping Ads.

Tips for Creating Facebook Ads

Facebook Ad, Facebook Offline Event Tracking | Shopify Retail blog

Simply setting up the Offline Events with an ad isn’t enough. Retailers should put their best ads forward. It’d be a lot of wasted effort to set everything up only to run an ineffective ad.

  • Focus on the words. Not only does the Facebook ad copy and CTA need to be compelling and actionable, but the words need to be an extension of your brand. Adhere to your brand voice. Make the CTA clear, simple and direct.
  • But don’t neglect imagery. Social media users continue to engage more readily with visually appealing content. Make sure your image is as strong as the ad copy.
  • Target accordingly. Facebook makes it easy for retailers to target their ads to specific demographics. Know your customer and target only those who will find your product or promotion attractive.
  • Be creative. Facebook users glance over ads all day as they scroll through their feed. Set yourself apart. Utilize a video if you can execute strongly, or test out Facebook carousel ads.
  • Test, test, test. If you’re undecided between two images, give them a test drive first. Post them on your Instagram to see which receives more engagement, or run an A/B test on your email list to see which one drives the most clicks.
  • Analyze and adjust. Use the data Facebook provides to your advantage. As certain ads outperform others, allocate more of your budget to those top performers. If specific audience segments engage more, target more future ads to that group.
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Tracking Your Performance

Everything is all set up in Facebook — the ad is running, the offline event data is uploaded, and your audience is (hopefully) engaging with the ad. Now it’s time for the fun part: Analyzing the results.

Performance data is housed in the Ads Manager, where you can customize your view to look at specific pieces of data for certain periods of time (one, seven or 28 days).

Here, retailers can use these metrics to glean actionable insights. Perhaps there’s a certain demographic that’s responding to your ads and engaging in more offline behavior. Create a custom audience within Facebook and target that group more efficiently.

Retailers can also compare total spend for customers who have seen the ad and those who have not. This will provide insights into how much the ad influences purchasing behavior. If customers who have seen the ad spend more, the action item here could be to incorporate concepts from the ad to the in-store experience. It could be specific messaging, highlighting a certain product or promoting a special offer. Retailers can incorporate this into signage, display the product more prominently or train employees to talk up the offer.

Other interesting insights could include ad performance. Maybe you’ve run an ad that incites tons of engagement, but you find out that it hasn’t driven many sales. This can help retailers run ad campaigns based on the main objective. If raising brand awareness is the objective, that’s great, but if conversion rate is the No. 1 goal, head back to the drawing board and make the ad more actionable.

Moving Forward With Facebook Offline Events

Facebook Offline Events help retailers not only understand which ads drive the most offline behavior, but also how much ROI they’re getting on those ads. And while it’s great for measuring sales, it’s hard to put a number on how valuable the insights this tool provides.