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Targeting for Purchase Intent on Facebook – A How-to Guide

This post is part of an ongoing series that examines emerging trends in the commerce category following our updated suite of products and services for digital commerce companies.


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The Opportunity

According to research from Salesforce, the mobile share of digital commerce rose 23% now making up 57% of the category total. Of that, social traffic grew 42% YoY driving a large portion of that growth.


That rapid growth in social traffic (see: Facebook & Instagram) highlights a massive and growing opportunity for digital commerce marketers. Specifically, Direct to Consumer brands that make their hay on delivering premium digital experiences to acquire customers for a niche product offering.


The key to fully harnessing the potential that Facebook and Instagram offer for commerce is using the right mix of tools and tactics to optimize acquisition and acquire high value users as efficiently as possible. If that sounds like it would require biting off more than you can chew, we can manage that process for you. If you are willing to tackle that challenge yourself, we have some pointers.


Translate Intent Signals to Facebook

In the case of SEM, focusing on intent is key to high performing PPC campaigns. The same principle holds true for Facebook advertising. However, where search engines use keyword searches as a signal of intent, Facebook’s best proxy is affinity in the form of interests.


With every interaction on Facebook and Instagram, consumers add to a rich and evolving interest graph that can be accessed by marketers. Considering there are hundreds of thousands of precise interests available for targeting Facebook, few marketers tap the full potential of the platform.


Rather than applying well known strategies from SEM (longtail KW strategies etc.), most marketers take an overly simplistic approach often targeting overly-generic and competitive interests (e.g. fitness) or just a handful of competing branded interests.


Can you imagine an SEM strategy that was this limited?


To capture the growing opportunity on Facebook and Instagram for digital commerce, marketers should apply the same disciplined approach as they do to SEM campaigns. We outlined how an affinity based approach to keyword discovery on Apple Search works in a

previous article. This same logic can be applied to building your own interest sets on Facebook and Instagram. However, if your goal is to launch, learn, and iterate fast we recommend using a 3rd party tool like Appnique.


Our proprietary technology analyzes massive amounts of behavioral data from app stores to build always-evolving affinity graphs and maps them back to Facebook interests for easy targeting. This lets marketers build affinity-based audiences on Facebook and target them in a matter of clicks.



Pair Audience & Optimization

Facebook has done a tremendous amount innovation around their optimization engines. The algorithms it uses do an amazing job of learning which kinds of profiles take a specific action based on your parameters and can identify them earlier and earlier in your campaign. Unfortunately, many marketers miss out on maximizing these capabilities because they do a poor job of scoping the initial audience.


Lookalike audiences are extremely powerful, but reflect your existing customer base and have certain limitations so they shouldn’t be the only way you scope an audience. And broad base targeting is quick to execute, but inefficient early on for obvious reasons.


The most efficient and effective way to maximize value on Facebook that we’ve found is pairing Facebook interests with event optimization. We go in-depth on the topic as it relates to app event optimization, but the idea holds true for digital commerce as well (optimize for shopping cart events, purchases etc.).


Your ROAS is only going to be good as your original audience with this tactic, and finding the interests that have less competition, but deliver the same high value users is imperative. To test this method for yourself, request a demo of our Audience-as-a-Service offer and we’ll provide one free audience so you can put this theory into practice for yourself.


Marry Creative and Targeting

The real power of interest targeting is the ability to deliver creative that resonate in specific and compelling ways. By targeting personas or even targeting on a single interest, reflecting the interests you're targeting in your creative leads to higher initial response rates and better ROAS.


For example, an athletic apparel commerce brand can create one ad set related to yoga enthusiasts targeting interests related to yoga, mediation, etc. and another ad set with creative geared towards basketball enthusiasts. Rather than relying on generic ad creative, you can imagine how this nature of targeting produces significantly more compelling experiences.

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