Facebook Ads for Ecommerce (Part 1): How to Create Irresistibly Clickable Ads for Customer Acquisition

Posted by Hannah Stacey 25 Sep 14

Remember the good old days when you’d sign into Facebook to be met with ads like this? 

When advertisers (often veering towards the more shady end of the spectrum) would tempt us with jobs that paid £5000 a week for sitting at home and twiddling our thumbs, promise to reveal the secret to losing 99% of our body fat, or use an element of Facebook’s (at the time, very limited) demographic targeting, and link it to something completely irrelevant in order to get you to click? Are YOU 26 and still single? God forbid.

While this all seems horribly unsophisticated, in a roundabout way the latter were on to a good thing; personalised marketing, a few years later, is a piping hot topic for marketers.

And the great news is that Facebook’s advertising product has (thankfully) moved on a whole lot in the last couple of years, to the point that it’s possible to accurately target customers and prospective customers with messages that really resonate, tailored to their interests, specific demographics, their behaviour on your site, and even whether they ‘look’ like (or display the same preferences to) existing customers.  

Enter customer lifecycle marketing

customer lifecycle marketingEffective advertising is really down to one thing: getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time. 

An extremely useful model to use when planning a Facebook advertising strategy that will have maximum impact is the customer lifecycle.  After all, the message you deliver to a customer you’re trying to acquire (who’s likely never heard of you before) should be completely different to someone you’re trying to coax into a repeat purchase.

This blog post is the first in a series that will take a detailed look at each stage of the customer lifecycle, suggesting which targeting options might come in useful at each step, and exploring how to use brilliant ad creative to lure people in, as well as a few good and bad examples.

Facebook ads for customer acquisition

So you wanna give prospects a helping hand discovering your brand using Facebook? With over 1.23 billion monthly active users, 945 million mobile users, and 757 million daily users, chances are there are some potential customers out there in that vast Facebook expanse. The only problem is tracking them down and getting them to click.

This blog post will cover targeting best practice for customer acquisition, as well as discussing some general hints and tips concerning Facebook ad creative.

But first, what makes a successful customer acquisition campaign? How will you know if Facebook is even worth the effort? Careful planning and monitoring is essential:

  • Define your goals and key metrics. We know that customer acquisition is the name of the game here. But it’s also important to define measurable metrics that contribute to reaching this goal. Although ‘acquiring a customer’ (i.e. Facebook being the source of a customer’s first visit to your site) is the obvious metric to track, you might also want to consider other micro-conversions (someone ‘liking’ your Facebook page, signing up to your newsletter, creating an account) that may lead to them being a full on customer later (indeed, the next blog post in this series will take a look at Facebook ads for customer activation).

  • Ensure you’re tracking everything properly. Use UTM links to track the success of your campaigns (you can create them using this nifty tool from Google).  These links can include your source (Facebook), medium (newsfeed/sidebar ads) and campaign (AW 2014). If you’re experimenting with different types of targeting (like those set out later in this post, for example) or different images and copy, ensure that you include extra differentiators so that you can accurately measure the performance of each.

  • Consider the bigger picture. When you’re busy testing out ad variations and increasingly sophisticated forms of targeting within the Facebook platform, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger customer acquisition picture. As with other PPC platforms, you’ll pay more per click the more targeted your Facebook ads become, so be sure to benchmark the cost of customer acquisition through Facebook against other acquisition channels to make sure you’re allocating your advertising spend in the best way possible.

  • Think long term too. We all know that repeat custom is where the money lies in ecommerce. Do your Facebook ads bring in high lifetime value ‘hero’ customers? Or just one-off bargain-hunting purchasers? This is important to consider, especially if you’re advertising a sale or promotion, or a lucrative introductory offer.

Stage one: Tracking down the right people

shutterstock_202223128So how do you cut through the hubbub on Facebook to track down people likely to become customers?

As part of your overall marketing strategy you’ve likely put some effort into defining a target market (or target markets) for your online store. Fleshing these out into buyer personas is a blog post in itself (HubSpot has covered the topic here), but is an incredibly useful activity because it encourages you to think about your potential customers’ lives outside of your brand: their interests, aspirations, routines, and more. This has particular relevance to Facebook, where people come to socialise and where poorly-targeted ads can, at best, go ignored and, at worst, be intrusive and create negative sentiment.

Here are some suggestions for tactics that you may want to test out in your quest to gain new customers.

Use basic demographic targeting to create a smaller pool of prospects

Some argue that when it comes to acquiring new customers and increasing brand awareness, being too specific about the demographics that you target can be counter-productive and result in you missing valuable prospects. While this is true to some extent, basic demographic targeting enables you to start to narrow your audience down a little (also lessening the potential for wasted budget). Facebook enables you to target people by:

  • Location (country, state, city, postcode)

  • Basic demographic information (age, gender, relationship status, education, workplace)

Above and beyond the obvious (only showing ads to, for example, women if you’re promoting your womenswear brand, or UK residents if the UK is the only country you deliver to), demographic targeting can be useful if you’re trying to raise brand awareness in a particular group.

For example, you might be a fashion brand for young people running a ‘15% off for students’ campaign to raise awareness of your brand amongst the student community - using Facebook targeting, you could target the student demographic as a whole, but you could be even more granular by creating different ads for different universities.

Facebook-1Indeed, the ad I got served from TalkTalk above would have resonated quite well had I still been a student (I wish). Poorly executed maybe, but full marks for effort.

Likewise, if you're targeting different countries with your ads, don't serve one blanket ad across the campaign - location targeting enables you to create different localised ads so that you can personalise important aspects like currency (as people are likely to equate different currencies with high international shipping fees and cumbersome returns policies). The ads on the left are a good example of this done poorly, with prices in dollars and euros.


Target people who like similar brands to yours

On top of basic demographics, Facebook also enables you to target ads by ‘interest’, and part of this includes targeting by pages users have liked. You’re likely to be aware of brands with a similar product proposition to you, whether they’re a direct competitor, or they just target a similar demographic of people. Targeting ads at fans of these brands gets you in front of people who you know are likely to be interested in your products too.

Create lookalike audiences of your current customers

Facebook now enables you to target people who ‘look like’ your current fans and customers. In other words, you provide a list of email addresses, and Facebook does all the hard work tracking down users with similar behaviours and preferences. As with targeting similar brands, these are people who are likely to be part of a tribe that associates with your brand. Pretty neat, huh? There’s more information about it here, but you can target people who look like:

  • Those in your customer database (or indeed, high value segments of your customer database)

  • Those who have already liked your Facebook page

Get crazy-targeted with Facebook Partner Categories

Facebook has teamed up with various third-party data firms (both on and offline) to give advertisers the opportunity to target people in an incredibly specific way. While before you could target general groups of people (such as small business owners, early tech adopters etc.), you can now target people based on criteria as specific as:

  • High-end retail buyers

  • Likely to buy a new BMW

  • Sweets & snack buyers

  • Healthy & fit

  • Online buyers (hooray!)

  • Children’s Products Buyers

All of these categories are available in Facebook’s Power Editor, and increase the chance of your ads getting in front of the right person (the trade off, however, is that you’re likely to pay more per click).

Stage two: creating the right ads to get the right people clicking

Getting your targeting right is only half the story; creating ads that people want to click is just as important. Here are some best practice guidelines for creating attention-grabbing, highly clickable Facebook ads for customer acquisition.


If you’re a lesser known retailer, ensure that the copy you use doesn’t assume or imply any prior awareness of your brand.
For example, I found the copy in this ad from sofa.com - ‘Did you know we also do beds?’ - a little jarring as someone who has never come into contact with the brand before, because it assumes a certain amount of familiarity with the brand that I didn’t have.

If you’re a relatively new kid on the block, or are targeting people unlikely to be aware of your brand, ensure that the copy and creative you use in your ad makes it obvious what you’re all about. 

For example, monthly beauty subscription service Birchbox’s Facebook ads leaves anyone seeing it in little doubt about what the company does: the headline ‘Monthly Beauty Box’ makes it clear what the proposition is, the image showcases the kinds of products on offer, the copy is sharp (but still has character) and the call to action is strong.

On the other side of the coin, if you’re a big brand like Abercrombie & Fitch, there’s less of a need to introduce yourself; you can advertise specific products without the worry of giving the wrong impression about the breadth of your product range.



Although this may not be appropriate for all online retailers, including price in your ads can be a good way of getting quality clicks through to your website, as it tends to qualify out those who aren’t likely to purchase because of price. This may be particularly appropriate in cases when you’re targeting a potentially cost-conscious demographic, or if you are selling a product on the basis of it being a lower price than consumers would expect (like MADE.COM below). As always, testing is key, and it may be worth testing two variations (with and without price) to see which delivers more customers.


Promoting content instead of commerce 

This is an awfully tricky one to get right when it comes to customer acquisition (less so at the customer activation and retention stage). Undoubtedly, great promoted content can be more compelling than a generic “I’m trying to sell you stuff” ad in the context of the Facebook newsfeed, and for well-known brands like ALLSAINTS below, promoting content like a September lookbook (particularly if the content in question is directly shoppable) can be a great way getting people onto your website, ready to buy.

If you’re going down the route of promoting content like blog posts and lookbooks at prospects who haven’t heard of you for sure, ensure that the content is closely tied to your product offering, is easily ‘shoppable’ and that visitors are presented with a strong call to action when they visit your site, whether that’s to buy now, or complete a micro conversion like signing up to you mailing list, or following your social accounts.   

Time to get cracking!

With so many options for targeting prospects, there’s no longer any excuse for rubbishy, non targeted Facebook ads. Context is key: before you hit the ‘go live’ button on any campaign, put yourself in the position of someone likely to be served that ad. Does every aspect of the ad - from its placement on Facebook (newsfeed vs right hand sidebar) to its copy to the image you use - make sense?

Want to find out how to create amazing ads for customer activation and retention? Read part two of this series!


Topics: Ecommerce social media, Ecommerce marketing tips, Ecommerce customer acquisition

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