Facebook Ads for Ecommerce (Part 2): How to Craft Amazing Ads for Customer Activation and Retention

Posted by Hannah Stacey 30 Sep 14

Welcome to the final installment of this, our thrilling two parter on creating tip top Facebook ads through the customer lifecycle!

customer lifecycle marketingAs the major social networks continue to build out their advertising offerings, significant advances have been made in the targeting options available to advertisers, empowering them to tailor their ads to catch the right people with the right message at the right time.

The task of creating a marketing machine that effectively entices prospects down the path to becoming loyal customers is undoubtedly a tricky, but completely worthwhile, activity: repeat customers usually account for 40% of total revenue and drive 3-7 times the revenue per visit as one-time buyers (Source: Adobe Digital Index Report).

In case you missed it, our previous post covered how to create irresistibly clickable ads for customer acquisition, arguing that there’s no longer any excuse for taking a scattergun approach to tracking down potential new customers with crappy, untargeted ads.

From acquisition to activation and retention

In this post we’ll travel further down the conversion funnel, talking about creating Facebook ads that will inspire those who are already engaged with your brand into action. These prospects might be:

  1. Customers who have already made a micro conversion who you want to encourage to make a purchase. This could include people who have:
    • ‘Liked’ your page on Facebook

    • Signed up to your newsletter/creating an account (basically any action that involves them providing an email address/phone number/Facebook ID)

  2. Single-purchase customers who you would like to encourage to make a second purchase

  3. Repeat customers who you would like to encourage to make further purchases

  4. Loyal/’hero’ customers who you would like to maintain (the definition of a ‘loyal’ customer varies depending on your sales cycle, but is usually defined as someone who has made [x] transactions, has been a customer for more than [y] months and who has performed a transaction in last [z] months - you also might want to take into account lifetime value - you should be able to segment these using your analytics software).

It’s in the area of customer activation and retention that Facebook’s recent enhancements to its advertising product have really served to benefit ecommerce marketers. The rest of this post will go through some of the different ways you can use Facebook ads to these ends, but first I’ll cover some general best practice.


This is something that a lot of Facebook advertisers often overlook. When you’re creating a whole bunch of ads targeted at a whole host of different demographics, it can be easy to lose sight of context; to fail to consider the real people behind the ad groups.

Particularly when it comes to copy, it's vital to take a step back and ensure that each ad you write makes sense for the person seeing it: that it doesn’t assume a level of familiarity that doesn’t exist, that it isn’t likely to annoy or confuse those who see it.

A particular bug bear of mine is student discount offers: I frequently get ads about them in my newsfeed when I’m not a student, and am not listed as one; they're just an unwelcome reminder that I’m old and decrepit and make me feel indignant towards the brand in question.


When you're in the business of customer activation and retention, action is key: after all, the ultimate goal is getting people onto your site buying stuff. Ideally the copy you use should include a call to action, but you should also make use of the ‘Shop Now’ CTA button that Facebook now lets you embed in ads.


As always, eye-catching, high quality product imagery is a must for luring customers onto your site from Facebook (see a nice example from Schuh to the left). It’s important to start out any ad campaign testing a number of images to see which resonates most in terms of getting people onto your site - luckily Facebook lets you upload up to 6 per campaign and automatically optimises for the most successful.

Now let's take a look at some of the specific targeting options Facebook offers that are useful for activating and retaining customers. 

Target people who have already ‘liked’ your page

At the very basic end of the targeting spectrum, Facebook lets you target ads specifically at those who have already liked your page. Now you shouldn’t underestimate the significance of a page ‘like’ - these are guys who have actively set out to publicly associate themselves with your brand and said that they want to receive your updates (unless, of course, you’ve run some sort of competition or promotion that people can’t enter unless they ‘like’ your page - now banned by Facebook, and generally a pretty bad marketing tactic as competitions don’t tend to attract valuable repeat customers).

Trouble is, the organic reach of your posts is dwindling, so to ensure fans of your page see your updates (and click through to your site) you’ll have to promote them. Here is some best practice for post promotion if customer activation is your goal:

  • Only promote content that links to your website (obvs).

  • Use Facebook Ad Manager rather than simply clicking the ‘boost post’ button, as the latter won’t let you target only fans of your page.

  • Ensure that the content you’re promoting is shoppable (i.e. leads to a category or product page, or is at most a click away). If you’re promoting something like a blog post or video then ideally it should be an easy step from this to making a purchase (for some great examples of shoppable content, check out this post).

So, what kind of stuff might you want to think about promoting? Here are a couple of examples. You may want to use promoted posts to showcase a new range of products - below are two nice examples from boohoo.com and H&M.

You may also wish to use promoted posts to encourage page fans to complete another micro conversion that will enable you to find out more information about them. For example, the post below from House of Fraser encourages Facebook fans to enter a competition that involves providing an email address - which in turn provides the brand with another customer touch point.  

Target people who are on your system but haven’t ‘liked’ your brand on Facebook

Facebook now lets advertisers create ‘custom’ audiences. This essentially lets you track down an existing audience on Facebook using their email address, phone number, Facebook user ID or mobile advertiser ID (for more on the process of creating Custom Audiences, read this great post from Jeff Rajeck).

One way of using this feature from a customer activation perspective is to target your mailing list.

Why is this useful? You can only send a certain number of emails before people start to get a bit cheesed off with you and hit unsubscribe; Facebook ads are a less intrusive way of conveying information, and they provide a nice complementary brand touchpoint.

For example, I belong to the Wool and the Gang mailing list. I’m already interested in their brand enough that I’ve signed up to receive their email updates, but I may not have gotten around to 'liking' them on Facebook. Here is a really nice example of an ad trying to get me to check out their latest sale. Note that I haven’t ‘liked’ their page, but as I’m part of the mailing list, it’s still assumed that I don’t need a grand introduction to what they’re all about - that I’m already part of the ‘gang’.

Target specific customer segments using Custom Audiences

Now we’ve hit the big time. If you’re using an ecommerce analytics platform like Ometria, you’ll be able to segment your customers based on various criteria: their lifetime value, whether they’re a one-off or repeat purchaser, whether they’re at risk of lapsing; even the kinds of products that they tend to be interested in.

Combine this with Facebook’s Custom Audiences functionality and you’ve got a seriously powerful means of reaching existing customers and account-holders with messages that are highly tailored to their specific stage in the buying cycle. For example, you could create segments and ads to:

  • Cross-sell: group customers that have bought a specific type of product (i.e. a computer) and advertise related products at them (i.e. antivirus software, mice etc.).

  • Act as replenishment reminders: use the average time to repurchase of a profitable product (not suitable for things likely to be a one-off purchase), and create ads that will serve as a reminder to those who have bought it when it’s likely to be running out.

  • Target certain product interests: segment your audience based on the products they tend to buy (or the product category they last bought from) and advertise similar items to them.

  • Target different tiers of AOV: segment your customers according to their average order value - target big spenders and bargain hunters with products in a relevant price range.

  • Re-activate lapsing customers: identify any customer (particularly those who have a high lifetime value) that is in danger of disappearing forever and try to re-activate them, perhaps through offering a discount or free p&p (depending on your business, of course).

For more information, read this document from Facebook on the creation and management of custom audiences.

Retarget people who have checked out your site

The targeting options that I’ve covered so far are dependent on customers and prospects taking fairly decisive action with regards to associating with your brand - whether that be ‘liking’ your Facebook page, providing their email address to sign up to a mailing list or create an account, or actually make a purchase.

But these people probably only make up a small part of the overall number of people ending up on your website - what of the rest?

Thanks to the Facebook Exchange (FBX), you can now target these guys as well, through its cookie-based real-time bidding ad system. Accessed through an approved demand side platform (DSP), you can target people based on their behaviour on your site (and the real-time nature means you can be incredibly quick off the mark). In terms of the buying cycle it’s best for what’s called ‘demand fulfillment’ - i.e. giving shoppers the nudge that they need to make a purchase, reactivating them after they’ve left your website.

There are two common cases in which retargeting ads triggered through FBX are used for customer activation:

  • Browsing abandonment: Those who have visited a category or product page on your site and left, for whatever reason

  • Basket abandonment: Those who have added something to their shopping cart on your site and have got cold feet at the last minute.

Your DSP will be able to give you more information about how you can use Facebook exchange - more on approved ones here.

To give you a few examples, I visited a long list of online stores, checking out various product pages and adding items to my basket, and then waited in quiet dread as I signed into Facebook to see what would happen. Ebay targeted me with an ad for the large chicken coop that I left in my basket within 6 hours of me leaving, and Moo.com advertised its 25% off sale with pictures of some cards that I’d recently browsed. Likewise, within minutes Avenue 32 were serving me sidebar ads of a skirt I viewed on the website.


A quick word of warning!

Hopefully this blog post series has inspired you to get more creative about the way in which you target customers and potential customers on Facebook throughout their journey with your brand. However, it’s important to remember that people don’t visit Facebook simply to be advertised at. Facebook itself is clamping down on the amount of content it will show from brands (evident in the decreasing reach of organic posts), and it ultimately has to create a balance between satisfying advertisers and users.

While it may be tempting to blast people (particularly those who have shown an interest in your brand) from all angles with emails and ads, it’s important to be wary of creeping out or annoying your customers. As is always the case, creating a meticulous plan of action, implementing it and then testing and tweaking it is the only way of finding out what’s best.  

Check out the first post in this series on creating irresistibly clickable Facebook ads for customer acquisition 
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Topics: Ecommerce social media, Ecommerce customer retention

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