In 2015 Facebook initiated Local Awareness Ads, an advertising tool that allows businesses to specifically target Facebook users in close proximity to their location. This function ensures that small companies and local businesses are reaching the audience they need to access most – the consumers right in their neighborhood. This year Facebook is taking things a step further with the introduction of a tool that will not only facilitate the reach of Facebook advertisements to local consumers, but actually track the success of the advertisement in real time. 

The new and improved Local Awareness Ads will serve Facebook users an ad for a business they are close to at the time, and then track whether or not the user subsequently travels to the store. Facebook will then report to business administrators on their company page the number of ads that successfully resulted in foot traffic using a metric called Store Visits. “It’s a seminal moment for Facebook because it’s the first time we can close the loop for retailers. It’s been difficult to measure and give advertisers the full picture, but now they can see in real time the number of store visits on a location by location basis,” said Sam England, product manager at Facebook.

With the aid of third party companies including IBM and Index, advertisers can even be notified of the transactions that take place during the visit with Facebook’s Offline Conversions API. “The Offline Conversions API allows businesses to match transaction data from their customer database or point-of-sale system to Ads Reporting, helping them better understand the effectiveness of their ads,” Facebook for Business wrote in a blog post. This is a major milestone for marketers, who will now be able to assess every detail of consumer behavior upon being served an ad, from how successful the advertisement was down to which specific products were purchased in-store.

The Store Visits metric will be launched alongside a Facebook product for consumer use called Store Locator. This product, part of the Local Awareness Ad carousel, will provide users with an easy-to-use map interface that shows them the restaurants, shops and businesses in the surrounding area. On this product advertisers will be able to pinpoint their exact location, and users will be able to quickly travel to the establishment using navigation tools, which will be prominently linked on the interface. This will provide consumers with convenient opportunities to receive coupons, learn about in-store events or stay updated on local sales, making it an especially exciting tool for savvy shoppers.

Some, however, may not be quite as excited to be tracked by Facebook. There is one major limitation of the new tool: privacy settings. Users who do not want to be tracked can disable their location settings on mobile. Those who refuse to have their location settings enabled on their Facebook app cannot be tracked through Local Awareness Ads, and as a result the statistics developed for the local population will never be entirely accurate. It is predicted that the Store Visits metric will be available to advertisers globally before the end of this year.