In the not too distant past, if a retailer wanted to advertise a big sale, it required a carefully coordinated, costly, cross-channel campaign to reach people with TV ads, newspapers, direct mail, or email. Even after all that, it was hard to tell whether the right ad was getting to the right customer and whether any of it was even paying off.
These days, there’s Facebook.
When Black Friday 2015 rolled around, the British online retailer Shop Direct didn’t just spring sales on surprised shoppers. Instead, they slowly primed their customer base for weeks before through a steady Facebook ad campaign, one that brought customers down the funnel from a vague knowledge of the brand to check out in an almost imperceptible manner.
It was a masterful performance, and the result was a 20x return on their ad spend, which helped turn Black Friday 2015 into their biggest sales day ever. Overall growth was up 64% compared to their Black Friday numbers for 2014, leading to tens of millions of pounds in sales.
You don’t need to be a huge online retailer, have an amazing creative team, or break the bank on your ads to be like Shop Direct. You just need to use the tools already at hand on Facebook to move people through the funnel: from awareness to consideration, and finally, to sales.
Make a Great First Impression With Video
Unless you’re a very inconsiderate or forgetful friend/family member/loved one, you don’t do your holiday planning and shopping on the same day. You’re thinking about what you’re going to buy well before you actually add a gift to your shopping cart.
Shop Direct knew this and started advertising a full two weeks before Black Friday not by offering specific sales, but with videos that got people to start thinking about shopping on Black Friday.
Shop Direct’s Very.co.uk line used cinemagraph videos, which mix video and still photography in simple, short, but arresting images, to build up anticipation. Cinemagraphs work especially well with Facebook’s video autoplay, because when they start playing on a newsfeed, they create a hypnotic graphic that makes it hard to look away.
Very’s ad was incredibly simple—just two flickering neon lights, and a tagline telling people “It’s nearly here…” It didn’t tell people about specific products or give a tease a 25, 30, or 40% off sale. But by keeping most of the ad in darkness, and using bright neon that evoked the feel of a nightclub, they managed to build a sense of anticipation and exclusivity that went with their image as a luxury brand.
It was enough to get people to click on the video and start thinking about shopping for the holidays—whether Aunt Ida would want earrings or a shawl, whether cousin Tommy could use a new Playstation, or whether they just hadn’t treated themselves well enough that year. Whoever they were shopping for, if someone was thinking about Black Friday, they would be considering Shop Direct.
If you’re a small company working with a limited budget, it might be tempting to get direct with your Facebook ads by repeatedly putting your product or service right in front of people to get them to your website.
Showing the same product-based ads might be cost effective, but time after time, the evidence shows that if you want conversions, it’s much more effective to start by building an emotional connection to your brand. Create that connection, and they’re going to be more receptive to ads for a particular product or service.
Marketers have known for decades that hitting consumers enjoying leisure time in front of the TV is an effective way to build that brand connection—that’s why they spend so much on TV advertising.
You can accomplish the same end for much less on Facebook. People are logging on to Facebook engage with what’s on their feed, whether it’s a friend’s photo, a news article, or a marketing campaign. They’re there to consume content, and they watch a lot of videos while they’re at it—up to 8 billion a day, it turns out.
Here are some Facebook video ad best practices:
- Keep it short, since the average attention span for online videos seems to top out at about 60 seconds.
- Make sure it can convey your message without sound, since autoplay videos are muted unless a viewer actually clicks.
- Split test every part of your video ad, from the call-to-action to the headline to the video itself. AdEspresso automates this so you can find out what’s working and what’s not in minutes
Your Most Interested Leads Are The Best Audience
Video is an excellent way to create a positive relationship with your brand, but it can be hard to measure impact. No one goes into a store and tells the cashier “I loved that 15-second ad with the cats and the cheerleaders right after the Late Show, so I decided right then I was definitely going to buy this Bluetooth speaker from your store!”
Facebook videos, on the other hand, let you know exactly how engaged a viewer is, and let you do something with that knowledge. An advertiser can find the people who don’t just click on a video, but actually watch it—and build a campaign specifically for them.
Those are your warm leads, the people who are truly interested in your value proposition and love your content. With Facebook’s custom audience retargeting feature, you can find these people and target ads directly to them.
People who watched Shop Direct’s video were clearly interested in shopping on Black Friday, so in the week before the big event the retailer retargeted a series of one day only sale ads to a custom audience of people who’d watched the video.
On Very’s site, customers could shop for different fashion and technology deals, but it also let people know that this wasn’t “the main event.”
Customers might have purchased something during the one day sale, but even if they didn’t, the time they spent on Very’s site browsing items they were interested in helped Shop Direct set up one more big push for Black Friday.
It’s great to create a positive relationship with your brand, but it’s more efficient and cost-effective to develop the relationships you already have. That’s why to get the absolute most out of your video ads; you’ll want to create custom audiences out of your warmer leads and test new ads specifically on them.
When you run a video ad, Facebook will separate out those who saw it by how much of it they watched.
If a user views at least 3 seconds of your video, it counts as a “view,” and they get their own category. If they watch 95% of it, they’ve “completed” the video, and they get their own category. That gives you two unique audiences to build around:
- For people who just viewed your video but didn’t stay, try showing them ads that add further value, as an e-book or blog with useful advice.
- People who watched all the way through, on the other hand, are obviously interested in what you’re up to—cut to the chase and start testing ads to convert them and get them to your landing page.
Give People More Options Carousel Ads
After a build up of videos and one-day sales, Black Friday finally arrived. By then, Shop Direct had a target audience of people who’d been anticipating the event for weeks, had made their mental lists, and were primed and ready to get what they needed from Shop Direct.
That’s when Shop Direct unveiled a combination of carousel and dynamic product ads (DPAs) to custom audiences of people who’d visited their website for one-day sales, clicked on products or added them to their cart, but who had not yet purchased anything.
If Shop Direct customers had browsed multiple similar products, the company could show them sales for each one. Just at the moment customers were ready to buy, there were ads for the 5 types of sunglasses they’d browsed through earlier in the week, or the Playstation and BB-8 Star Wars toy their son had been begging for.
Maybe another shopper was torn between 3 different pairs of shoes and spent time clicking back and forth on the website, trying to imagine how great they’d look in each. In that case, why try to guess which pair that customer wanted with a single image ad? Why not give them options and show them no matter which they chose, they’d be getting a great bargain?
On Black Friday, Shop Direct’s campaign paid off in a big way, propelling them to 4.2 million visits to their website, a 339% increase in average daily transactions, and their single biggest day of sales ever.
Companies that use carousel ads have reported as much as 20 percent increases in conversion and click through rates, and Shop Direct was no exception—since they started using carousel ads, they’ve seen a 12x return on investment overall on their ad campaigns.
Carousel and dynamic product advertisements allow marketers to fill a single ad space with up to 3-5 images, and the possibilities for using them are as endless as your custom audiences.
A retailer like Shop Direct can use website custom audiences to create an ad showing off different products from category pages a customer had visited on the website. A SaaS company could build a custom audience of newsletter subscribers, or people who’d visited their blog, and showcase several of their best stories to see which performs best.
You don’t need to limit yourself to just 3-5 images or products, either. You can test out a rotating selection of up to 10 images or products in a single ad—Facebook will automatically rotate them in or out to find what combination works best for your particular audience and objectives. In AdEspresso’s ads editor, activating this features is as easy as flipping a switch.
How Any Company Can Be As Successful As Shop Direct
Shop Direct is a huge brand, but you don’t need to be to have similar success. One of the beautiful things about Facebook ads is that anyone can adopt Shop Direct’s strategy.
Tools that were once available to large companies with huge marketing budgets are available to any advertiser. Facebook used only to collect video audience data on videos that had a minimum of 1,000 paid clicks a day, but these days anyone can collect and put the data from videos to use in custom audiences. The accessibility of all these tools opens up huge possibilities for companies large and small.
Whether you’re advertising a sale like Shop Direct or building up interest in a new app, Shop Direct’s story shows you can turn brand marketing to a broad audience into direct marketing to specific, highly enthusiastic customers. You need to be patient, roll out multiple ads in sequence, and utilize every custom audience tool at your disposal.