“Ads on Autopilot”
- The Opportunity, Dynamic Product Ads, and “The Rub”
- The Facebook Funnel for E-Commerce Sites
- The “New” Facebook Pixel: Using it to Build Audiences and Track Conversions
- Example: Creating an Audience For A “Manual” Retargeting Ad
- The Holy Grail of E-Commerce Ad Automation: A Primer on Dynamic Product Ads
- Conclusion and next steps
It’s a great time to be an e-commerce store owner.
The continued evolution of social advertising platforms has opened a new world of opportunity that’s available to shop owners large and small.
One of the key developments over the last 2 – 3 years has been the steady roll-out of sophisticated retargeting and audience management solutions, mainly through Facebook.
The new “Facebook Pixel” enables you to do really awesome things like:
- Build custom audiences and look-a-like audiences, all the way down to the product level
- Run “hyper-targeted” campaigns to convert cart abandonments and other actions of interest
- Set up “Dynamic Product Ads”
Dynamic Product Ads are an incredible tool for any e-commerce store owner who has more than a few products. If you haven’t seen Dynamic Product Ads (DPA), here’s the skinny:
DPAs enable you set up e-commerce retargeting ad “systems” that basically run on auto-pilot and dynamically show products from your store to your website’s past visitors, based on their unique behaviors.
Further, because this is all based on Facebook’s Pixel tracking, it works cross-device!
There’s a bit of a “rub” here though:
Getting advanced capabilities like Dynamic Product Ads set up properly is a major hurdle for most store owners, so most stick to the most basic targeting and ad-types.
Relying on basic targeting is like Facebook giving us a rocket launcher and we’re using it to shoot water balloons.
So, what do we need to trade those water-balloons for “rockets”?
DPA’s require two key components:
- Your on-site tagging needs to be very exact and must send the proper data to Facebook dynamically
- You need to add your “product catalog” to Facebook to get the dynamic data to flow through properly to the ads interface (Power Editor)
Unfortunately, because Facebook has been transitioning to a new “Pixel”, there’s a load of outdated or flat-out incorrect information out there about how to set up the tagging.
In this post, we’ll go through an overview of the Facebook e-commerce funnel, how the new pixel works, show an example of a “manual” retargeting ad for a product, and then take a longer look at Dynamic Product Ads.
The Facebook Funnel and How It’s Setup For E-Commerce Sites
If you’re experienced with e-commerce conversion funnels, most of this will be familiar.
For most e-commerce (and Shopify sites), you have the following flow to your site:
- The visitor hits a product “category” (or “collection”) page. Many products are displayed on this page, as specified by your site’s products’ metadata (eg: “T-Shirts”).
- The visitor clicks through to a specific product.
- The visitor adds the product to the cart.
- “” initiates checkout
- “” enters a payment method
- “” purchases the product
So, to arm ourselves with the capability to build “audiences” of people who have performed any subset of those events, we need to send Facebook data about who is doing what actions on the site.
Facebook offers a set of “events” that you can add to your site’s tracking to mirror those behaviors.
If you’re not familiar with “events” in the context of the Facebook Pixel (or the pixel in general), don’t worry, we’re about to go into more detail momentarily.
From the flow we presented above, I’ve removed a few intermediate steps (but kept the most important ones), and let’s look at how Facebook’s events and parameters map to this behavior flow:
If this seem extremely complicated… it makes a lot more sense if we talk a little more about how Facebook gets this data and what these “tags’ look like in the wild.
The Facebook Pixel: Using It To Build Audiences And Track Conversions
Before we go any further, let’s take a step back and talk about Facebook’s new tracking “pixel”, which is aptly named “Facebook Pixel”, which was rolled out around June-July of 2015.
The beauty of this pixel is that it controls both audience creation and conversion tracking. This is a vast improvement over the old setup, where you had separate remarketing tags and conversion tags.
There have been some complaints about how complicated it is, and there were a few missing features at first, but Facebook has been rolling out improvements and the current state is about 95% of what I think they’ll settle on… so it’s a good time to convert to the new pixel if you’ve been dragging your heels (plus, the old conversion tags are being phased out of support in 2016…).
Now, there’s a lot of bad information out there about this pixel, so let’s go ahead and break it down really quick.
When you create your Facebook Ad Account, you are prompted to create your new “Pixel” to place on your website.
The code they give you in that process is what I call the “Base Pixel”. This is the code that you would place in the header or just after the opening body tag on all pages of your site. .. or as I would recommend, use Google Tag Manager and set it to fire on “All Pages”.
For you e-commerce store owners out there, this pixel doesn’t do an incredible amount of good “out of the box”. Basically, it just gives you the ability to create audiences based on the URLs that people have or have-not visited.
Now, with Facebook’s new “Custom Conversions”, you CAN create conversion objectives after you add your base pixel, without adding any additional code to your site… by using URL pattern matching.
Warning: “gotcha ahead”
Sounds great right? At first, you might be thinking: “O, well that sound simple enough… I’ll just go set up my audiences & conversions based on the URL patterns I have set up”.
That WILL technically work. There’s a few problems with this though:
- Creating all of the audiences you need is going to be a BEAR of a task, especially if you have 5 or more products
- Your ability to segment and laser-target your audience will be drastically reduced.
- You won’t be able to use Dynamic Product Ads, ever.
- What happens if your URL structure changes? What about when you add new products?
- What about “AddToCart”, if your store doesn’t immediately redirect the visitor to the cart page?
Basically, I don’t recommend any e-commerce shop try to run with the out of the box pixel, unless you just have one or two products and your key events can be 100% isolated to unique URLs.
So, now we know we need to add some extra horsepower to this “Base Pixel”.
We do that through the Facebook Pixel’s “Standard Events”, as we touched on above.
A standard event, in the page source, looks something like the screenshot below, and can be “fired” from the page any time after the base pixel loads (they don’t need to be… and shouldn’t be… included in the base tag):
Note: Don’t use this exact code in your Shopify store… although that “Double-curly” syntax may look familiar, this is actually from Google Tag Manager, which has its own variable syntax that is similar to Shopify’s
So, what we’re doing here is really important.
First, we’re sending a “standard event” (AddToCart), accompanied by parameters to describe the product that’s being added to the cart.
Second, we’re populating the parameter values DYNAMICALLY. This means that we’re relying on our Shopify (or other e-commerce) backend to populate the values (the “variables” in double-curly braces above) so that we don’t have to manually create new tags for every single product. That would be torturous.
This means that, if we set these tags up correctly the first time, they will apply across the site, and even for new products!
Once this “event code” has been added to our site in the appropriate area, when the user performs a specified action, the FB event tag is “fired” and the data is sent to Facebook, thus making it available in our Facebook Ad backend for audience creation and conversion tracking!
Now, if you’re familiar with “Add To Cart”, as we said earlier, it’s hard to isolate that action to a pageview in most e-commerce store setups.
This is where a tool like Google Tag Manager comes in handy, making it easier to fire the tag “On-Click” of the add-to-cart button. Again, refer to my course for exact instructions on how to set that up.
Next, let’s look at how we can use this data in the Facebook Ad Manager back-end to create our audiences.
Example: Creating An Audience For A “Manual” Retargeting Ad
Assuming we’ve properly set up our “AddToCart” and “Purchase” tracking, let’s look at how we would create an audience in the Ad Manager back-end for targeting. Maybe we want to send the folks who have added a certain product to the cart but NOT purchased a special discount code or a reminder ad.
In your Facebook Ad interface, we would go to “Tools , “Audiences”.
Next, click “Create Audience” , “Custom Audience”
Choose “Website Traffic”
In the “Website Traffic” section, we’re going to choose “Custom Combination” from the dropdown, then below we’re going to choose “Event”, “AddToCart”, then add the parameter “content_ids” with the qualifier “contains” and add our product ID of choice as the value.
The, we’re going to click “Add Exclusions” and add an exclusion for “Event”, “Purchase” and then add the same qualifier “content_ids”, “contains” and then the same product ID.
The end result looks like this:
So, now we have an audience of people who have added this product to their cart, but not purchased!
Here’s where some doubt might be creeping into your mind:
“What if I don’t get enough traffic to generate enough people who do such specific actions at the product level”
“It would take forever to set up all these granular audiences”
And you’re right. This is a somewhat manual way to operate (although it does have its uses)… enter the Dynamic Product Ads!
The Holy Grail of E-Commerce Automation: A Primer on Dynamic Product Ads
Back to where we started this post: the Dynamic Product Ads.
At this point, we have our tagging set up properly, but we need one other key component to get our Dynamic Product Ads off the ground: a “Product Catalog” integration with our Facebook Ad Account.
Here are the detailed instructions from Facebook, but for you Shopify store owners, there’s a very handy app available to make this easier.
It’s by Flexify and it’s aptly-named: Facebook Product Feed
With this app, you can easily generate your product catalog and it will “auto-update” at an interval of your specification, so that you can be sure your products are kept up-to-date (for availability, new products, etc).
Use of this app does slightly alter the way you need to set up your tagging, but the code in my course outlines how to set this up properly, since using this app is by far the path of “least-resistance” for creating a product catalog feed.
Think of your product catalog as a “look-up-table” or mini-database of sorts, where each row contains a product + variant ID, the associated image, the description of the product, and so forth. Here’s a mock-up that Facebook provides:
We won’t go through the steps of setting up the product catalog here, but after you have it set up properly, you will be able to dynamically pull in your product data for ad images, copy, etc.
You can even specify different “Product Sets” inside Power Editor, so that you can cross-sell people who have purchased certain product types but not others.
Let’s look at an example of Dynamic Product Ads in action.
First, in Power Editor, we’re going to “Create Campaign” and give our campaign a name it “DPA – Retarget Sweaters”. Our goal with this campaign is to get people who have viewed sweaters or added them to their cart in the last 10 days to purchase.
For our objective, we’re going to choose “Product Catalog Sales”.
We’ll go ahead and check the options to create a new Ad Set and a new Ad, just naming them “test ad set” and “test ad” for now (we can rename later).
Here’s what we have so far:
Next, we’re going to hop down to the “Ad Set” level in Power Editor and open it for editing.
Here’s where things get interesting. You’re going to have a few new options that aren’t present in other ad types that really set Dynamic Product Ads apart.
First, we’re going to be asked to specify a “Product Set”. This is where we’re going to choose the group of products we want Facebook to “draw from” when creating our ad.
So, we’ll click the plus sign to set up a new Product Set.
For this example, we’ll name our Product Set “Sweaters In Stock”.
Next, we need to set our filters.
Filters are the inclusion and exclusion “logic” that helps you specify your product-set more tightly. These fields draw from our Product Catalog, and Facebook will give us some handy “auto-fill” values to make our life easier.
I’m going to specify my first filter as “Product Type” “is” and in the value field, when I start typing, “Sweatshirt” auto-populates. I’ll choose that from the dropdown.
Next, I’m going to add another filter to be sure that the products that are being shown are in-stock, available for order, or “preorder”.
Here’s what I have now:
I’ll click “Create”, and now I’ll have this new product set available to select in the dropdown list. I’ll go ahead and choose it.
Next, I’ll set up my Budget and ad scheduling like normal, specifying a daily budget and a campaign start and end date.
The next section “Audience” is where Dynamic Product Ads really shine through.
You’ll see some really cool options here that would be incredibly painful to set up manually:
Pay close attention to those Upsell and Cross-Sell Options. Here, you can specify a SECOND product set from which you want to create an audience to cross-sell the first product set! I imagine you can think of some pretty awesome use-cases for that!
For example, maybe I want to cross-sell our newly created “Sweaters In-Stock” product set to people who bought t-shirts in the last 120 days:
But, for our purposes, we’re going to choose the top option: “Viewed or Added to Cart But Not Purchased” and I’ll leave the time threshold at 10 days for now.
I can further specify the geo-targeting, demographic and interest targeting if I would like. I’m going to narrow my audience to females age 24 – 35 living in the USA.
In the placement settings, I’ll go ahead and limit my ad set to the desktop newsfeed for now (I might duplicate this adset and run it strictly for mobile news feed after I’m done).
I’ll leave the Optimization and Pricing as it is (“Link Clicks”, “Automatic Bids”)
So, I’m done editing my ad set. I’ll go back and rename my adset to reflect my targeting and placement: F_24-35_USA_DesktopNF.
On to the Ad editing.
I’m not going to go through all of the ad editing steps here, but I’ll show you what makes Dynamic Product Ads different than normal ads.
First, we’re usually going to use a “carousel” ad type here with multiple products being displayed. This is because we’re retargeting folk who have already checked out some of our products in this category, and I want to give myself an opportunity to showcase a few different products.
Next, the coolest thing here is I can dynamically pull attributes of the products to populate our images, headlines, and copy!
So, instead of me having to hand-type out all of this copy and cropping / uploading a ton of images, Facebook does all the heavy lifting for me!
In a very advanced set-up, you could even create a new meta-field in your Shopify backend where you put in a “Facebook Description” … Then add it to your product catalog so that I can be used in your ads (so that you’re sure your best copywriting skills shine through)!
After finishing up the ad setup, I’ll rename the ad to specify which type of ad I’m using (single vs. carousel) and maybe a couple of details about the copy. I’ll also be sure to associate the ad with my site’s “Pixel” (to track conversions) and I’m done!
Do you think “Smarter” Facebook Ads and Dynamic Product Ads could make a difference in your store’s sales?
I believe they will make a huge difference, especially if you’re using them for retargeting, upsells, cross-sells, look-a-likes for new custom acquisition, etc.
If you like the idea, but aren’t sure where to start with the tagging setup and your Product Catalog, be sure to check out my course “Advanced Facebook Advertising For Shopify”, where we’ll walk through the entire process, complete with videos, checklists, and a group to ask questions and get help.
One of the key benefits to the way you’re going to learn to implement the Facebook Pixel in your store: we’re going to set it up so that it can be extended to send data to other ad platforms / analytics platforms, etc. (if you wish).
Let me know in the comments about your experience with Facebook Ads for E-commerce, and any questions!
You can learn more about the course by clicking the image below.