Facebook- owned Atlas aims to improve digital advertising
While e-commerce is booming, most retail sales occur offline, presenting a lot of challenges for digital marketers. That’s according to Erik Johnson, head of Atlas, a Facebook-owned ad-serving and measurement platform.
“94% of purchases are offline and a lot of those purchases are influenced by online ads,” he says. “The challenge is tying together the offline to the online to understand how that works.”
Doing so will improve Internet advertising, he says. “The biggest problem with online advertising is that people are tired of seeing bad ads,” Johnson says.
Digital ads often fail to resonate with shoppers because marketers don’t know enough about who sees them. Even if a brand has some idea of whom it wants to target, it might present the same ad to a shopper on his mobile phone and on a desktop, or it might retarget him with a product he already bought. And if a brand only has a vague notion of who will see the ad, it might not have the right demographic data.
Atlas, which Facebook relaunched last September, seeks to change that by helping marketers track the path to purchase for consumers who shop via multiple devices and who move between mobile sites and apps.
“It sounds high and mighty, but we’re trying to clean up the Internet by making Internet advertising better,” Johnson says.
Atlas doesn’t rely solely on cookies because they can’t track a consumer’s actions as he moves between his mobile browser and an app, nor can they follow a consumer as he moves between devices. Instead, when a consumer logs into Facebook on his mobile device or computer, that action registers an identifier with Atlas’ servers, which the platform can then use to track the shopper. That lets Atlas use information Facebook has gathered about the consumer to serve him targeted ads—for example, when he opens an app. Facebook combines that identifier with other tracking tools, including cookies, to follow the consumer as he navigates the web and moves between devices. Facebook also gathers information about consumers’ offline actions via such digital marketing vendors asAcxiom Corp., which track shoppers’ in-store purchases using retailers’ loyalty cards.
The approach has helped apparel manufacturer and retailer Tommy Hilfiger better understand how its online ads influence in-store purchases. The company ran a three-month campaign from March to May in Germany in which Atlas delivered ads across mobile devices and desktops via post-impression retargeting.
Tommy Hilfiger found that 3.0% of consumers reached solely through mobile devices made a purchase, as did 3.3% of those reached solely through a desktop. But 8.6% of those who saw ads across multiple devices converted, which suggests that multiple exposures to an ad can drive shoppers to buy.
Moreover, comparing the company’s customer-relationship management data with impression and clicks generated through the campaign, Atlas found that 13% of members of the Hilfiger Club loyalty program saw at least one of the retailer’s digital ads.
That’s crucial information, says Avery Baker, Tommy Hilfiger’s chief brand and marketing officer. “The campaign not only supported online sales and engagement but drove a measurable increase of in-store purchases—a result that we’ve always found hard to measure.”