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Facebook Offline Conversions for Dummies

Dec 20, 2019 | 6 minutes
Two Facebook specialists working on a campaign.

Facebook Offline Conversions may not be perfect, but is a huge step forward for marketers. Why? 

Because conversions are among the most important metrics a marketer can produce. 

If every transaction took place online, conversion tracking would be an oh-so-easy thing to do. Simple as setting up an ad campaign, or even as easy as reading a click-through rate on a screen. However, the reality is far from that. 

On one hand, nobody really doubts that online ads are instrumental in driving offline events and millions of purchases. 

On the other hand, it has been very hard for marketers to establish a demonstrable connection between online ads and offline events. 

And guess what? 

It's important to show the impact online ads have on real-life actions

The good news is that in 2016, a product was launched to help marketers prove the effectiveness of their campaigns. This is a big problem that has been nagging the industry ever since online banner ads were invented (for the record, that was in 1995, folks). 

Enter Facebook Offline Conversions.

Understanding offline conversions

Simply put, Offline Conversions is a data-matching feature of Facebook Ads Manager. It uses data points called identifiers to find matches between exposure to online ads and offline actions like the purchase of a product. 

Some of the most commonly used identifiers to track offline conversions include:

  • Email address

  • Name

  • Surname

  • Phone number

In total, there are more than 15 data points that can be used as identifiers, though the go-to pick is the email address.

Why is identifier data important?

Identifiers are the link between an online interaction with a Facebook ad (a view, a click) and an offline action (a purchase, a store visit) by the same user. 

In simple terms, identifier data is the connective tissue between an online interaction (a user clicking a Facebook ad) and the desired outcome of the ad (i.e. the user purchasing the product). An example is a good way to understand how it all works. 

For purely educational purposes, let’s suppose we are helping Tesla with its marketing efforts. What we will do is tracking offline conversions for a Facebook Ads campaign promoting test drives of the new Tesla Cybertruck in California. 

The flow of events will be:

  1. We launch a Facebook Ads campaign promoting Tesla Cybertruck test drives

  2. The user sees our ad

  3. The user clicks on the ad and registers for the test drive using his/her email address

  4. If the user shows up for the test drive (the offline event!), we update the relevant field on the CRM

  5. We compile the identifier data into a source file and then upload it to the Facebook Offline Conversions dashboard. We can do this manually, or automate the whole process using Make

And bingo! Facebook will look for matches between the data in the source file and the audience that was exposed to the ads. The result will be pot at the end of the rainbow: conversion rates for offline events. 

With accurate offline conversion rates, marketers can:

  • Optimize ad budgets and campaigns

  • Avoid showing ads of a product to people who already bought that product IRL

  • Run conversion experiments and A/B tests based on location and other demographic markers

All things considered, Facebook Offline Conversions is the farthest-reaching solution to bridge an air gap that is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Offline purchases are here to stay

As much as we love receiving our purchases at our doorstep, it’s not always the most practical solution. The 2 most frequent reasons that explain a consumer’s preference to purchase some items offline are:

  • See or feel the product in person

  • Enjoy the buying experience and be gratified instantly

So, what kind of products fall into these categories? Thousands, actually. But let’s focus on the 3 industries that are poised to benefit the most from Facebook Offline Conversions.

1. Real estate industry

Since buyers normally like to see a house before investing in it, realtors and Facebook Offline Conversions are a natural match. Real estate agencies running ads on Facebook can easily implement an Offline Conversions campaign to track ad conversion rates for

  • Open house events

  • Guided visits

  • Rent, lease and sale agreements

For example, let’s say we wish to track the conversion rate of a campaign promoting an open house event. To do so, we have to:

  1. Launch the ads

  2. See who shows up for the promoted open house

  3. Get the names or email addresses of those who show up

  4. Compile these into a source file and upload it to Facebook Offline Conversions

  5. Check for matches

And that’s pretty much it. This way, you will know how much it costs to bring a lead via Facebook Ads, and plan accordingly.

2. Auto industry

The same approach can be applied to the auto industry. Why? Because buyers want to see and test automobiles before purchasing them. Marketers working with clients from the auto industry can implement Facebook Offline conversions to:

  • Lease agreements

  • Sales and deals

  • Special offers

  • Maintenance and repair services

  • Brand-related events (i.e. celebrations, model presentations)

3. Retail industry

While e-commerce has been growing at impressive rates in the past few years, around 90% of retail sales still take place offline. In light of this, tracking offline conversions is particularly important, but also a bit more challenging. 

The key problem with the retail industry is related to data-gathering efforts. Few people will give away their email addresses when

  • Buying groceries at the supermarket

  • Dinner at a restaurant

  • Or a $20 t-shirt at a store

There are workarounds though! For example, Facebook has been working on partnerships with Point-of-Sale system providers like Square and Lightspeed. By integrating these into FBOC, it is possible to track offline conversions. 

There are other workarounds as well, such as using coupons and discount codes. Coupons can require the customer to provide an email address for validation purposes. This way, the coupon provides the necessary identifiers that will later be used to look for matches.

The Make differential: Automating Facebook offline conversions

The ability to measure offline events with Facebook Ads can pay huge dividends in product sale. 

However, there’s a catch: the bigger the campaign, the bigger the costs. There’s only one way to easily solve this problem, and it’s called automation. 

The need for automation is clear: data gathering and processing takes a lot of time and eats up profit margins like candy. 

On top of this, marketers considering offline conversions need to know that:

  • Datasets for offline conversions are dynamic (data is collected over a period of time, not all at once)

  • Data can come from (and go to) different sources. These include CRM systems like HubSpot, Pipedrive, and Teamgate, or spreadsheets like Airtable and Google Sheets

  • Data coming from different sources have to be consolidated in order to be used

The problem here is obvious. Consolidating data from multiple sources into a one file is an exhausting task when done by hand. 

And here’s where Make comes to save the day. Using Make you can connect data sources and repositories to Facebook Offline Conversions. 

By doing this, you can automate:

  • Data collection

  • Data manipulation

  • Data sync

The larger the dataset, the more cost-effective Make becomes (bonus: it also reduces the possibility of human errors).

To automate quickly, you can use our premade scenarios, or create your own for broader data collection efforts. 

Automating workflows is quite easy once you identify the sources and destinations of your data. In fact - here is a tutorial for automating Facebook Offline Conversions, fresh from the oven.

To conclude, we have a question for the marketing pros. 

Do you see yourself manually consolidating large datasets as data builds up over time? 

If the answer is “no”, then it is time to give Make a shot.


Martin Etchegaray

Content Manager and Senior Editor at Make. I enjoy writing and reading about history, science, and tech.

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