woman using facebook with her hands on a laptop
This is the year your brand should start selling on Facebook, if it hasn't already. PHOTO: Karolina Grabowska

In the mid-2000s, I decided to travel the world while figuring out the next evolution in my professional life. Fresh off a 30-hour trip of planes, boats and tuk-tuks, I found myself at my first internet cafe on an island in Thailand. I fired up my laptop and while I waited for my Gmail to load, I start looking around.

I was the only person not on Facebook.

Facebook for Ecommerce

On top of that, I would soon find out I was the only American in the cafe.  Until then, I’d naively assumed Facebook was only used by American college students.

I had no idea the reach Facebook had already created — over 100 million people active every month and growing all the time.

Fast forward a few years and Facebook has only gained popularity and influence — now with more than 1.7 billion people using Facebook every month. Facebook has become a big player in ecommerce, too, attracting businesses of all sizes looking to capitalize on its expansive reach and impressive targeting capabilities.

There’s a reason for this.

Consumers want the ability to shop anywhere at any time, and Facebook’s platform has made it easy for buyers and sellers to find each other by providing powerful advertising and marketing capabilities for businesses and useful shopping features for customers.

 Because of this, brands are increasingly able to build lasting connections with customers, taking full advantage of Facebook’s ability to communicate with consumers at scale. If you haven’t started selling on Facebook, or are looking to drive even more sales in 2017, I have four tips to maximizing e-commerce sales through Facebook.

1. Visual Storytelling is Key

Facebook is about creating an emotional connection with the buyers. Capturing their attention visually is key.

Better images and video sell more. Facebook is so convinced by this fact, they push merchants to reduce text on advertisements with warnings if you’re uploading too many words and actually show your ad less if the image contains too much text.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the top sellers on Facebook are skilled in their use of imagery and video. For example, REI captures the imagination of their customers by serving up beautiful photographs of adventures. They are keenly aware of the fact that a half-clothed guy jumping off a rock into a cool lake 100 feet below is bound to pique the interest of consumers sitting at their desks, scrolling through their newsfeed at work.

 This interest converts to attention from the right kind of buyer, and then they can guide them through their conversion funnel to a sale.

2. Hyper Segment Your Audience

Facebook has the most advanced ad tech in e-commerce right now. It has an enormous amount of data on its users — it even believes it can forecast your break-up before you know about it.

This power, used for the good of ecommerce, allows us to capture our audience’s attention like never before.

The benefit of advanced targeting means that you can be specific and deliberate with your messaging. When you start collecting more information from customers on checkout, you can use it to segment customers and make each visual ad hit the mark.

For example, Man Crates, a gift service for men, does a great job of identifying its buyer. While the brand is focused on men, the buyers could be daughters or sons, sisters or brothers, wives or husbands.

The ability to separate repeat buyers by gender allows its marketing team to serve up the perfect messaging at the perfect time. What is the message you want to send to that exact person around the holidays or Father’s Day or the Super Bowl?

Targeting can take some experimenting to get on the right track - but once you start seeing traction, it’s important to double down on what’s working.

 Take a former project of mine, PaleoHacks. We had an extensive mailing list of 200,000 people, but only roughly 10,000 of these potential customers had purchased from us in the past. By uploading the list of the other 190,000, we were able to extend our network and serve up appropriate ads to first-time buyers. In addition, we were able to target “lookalike” audiences for the 10,000 who did buy from us previously.

3. Understand Your Key Metrics

Maximize your return on ad spend (ROAS) by being intimately familiar with your key metrics: how much you can sell product for (unit economics), conversion rates by channel, and cost of acquisition.

It’s fun to find advertising pockets on Facebook and elsewhere for inexpensive traffic, but rather than chasing clicks, you need to be laser-focused on conversions and ROAS.

Mistargeting customers that click through but don’t end up purchasing is a sure way to deplete your budget. Optimizing and understanding each part of the funnel will allow you to cast a larger net in the future and still see returns.

It’s not just about cost-per-click, it’s about fully understanding your true cost-per-acquisition and maximizing revenue from every sale.

4. Get Your Analytics Right From the Start

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes when selling on Facebook and other channels. Who’s clicking the ad? Who’s purchasing what? Which ads drove which conversions? How many visits does it take for a purchase to take place?

If you don’t have your analytics in place from the start, you could end up flying blind or chasing your tail to get them set up properly later.

Between properly installing Google Analytics and the Facebook Pixel, you can begin tracking accurately, quickly and for free. These tools alone will help you track conversions, create remarketing and look-alike audiences based on different actions, and optimize your ad spend.

Find the Needle in the Haystack

Facebook’s reach obviously expands across the world and their constantly improved targeting technology allows you to find your needle in the haystack. When discussing Facebook advertisements internally or with customers, I still think back to that day in the internet cafe in Thailand when the power of Facebook truly hit me.

Today, the opportunities are orders of magnitude greater.

Maximizing sales through Facebook in 2017 is all about knowing your customers and delivering great visual content the connects with the right person at the right time. Keep focused on your metrics and keep experimenting to optimize each segment, then double or triple down with what works.