Facebook (FB) - Get Report is making it easier for marketers to decipher how effective online ads are at boosting in-store visits and offline sales in a move that is win-win for retailers, customers and Facebook alike.
The social media giant announced this week that it is adding new tools to help retailers figure out how ads on the platform impact in-store traffic and sales. It will allow marketers to optimize their Facebook advertising efforts and see real-time results, gaining insights into those who purchase and allowing marketers to tweak their strategies to improve effectiveness.
It has also rolled out a native store locator to help people find nearby locations if they want to buy. The new tools are three-fold: a store locator, a store visits tracker and an offline conversions API (an application-programming interface, or a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing software applications and tools).
The maneuver could give Facebook, already a growing advertising behemoth, a boost.
"Facebook wants more users to use it and more businesses to use it, and so this is a logical way to kind of connect the two in a pretty practical fashion," said Scott Kessler, analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence.
These new offerings are designed to address a handful of pain points.
Facebook has made a push to get more small businesses on the platform, an effort that draws associated advertising. The task becomes a bit more challenging when the intent is not to drive online sales or brand awareness, but instead to push people to visit physical locations and stores -- and track the success of such efforts.
Moreover, the process for consumers to locate the nearest store locations and find out operating hours can be clumsy, whether it entails using Yelp (YELP) - Get Report , Google or a map. Facebook's tools are designed to enable store locations to get more involvedin the process and allow them to connect and communicate directly with would-be customers.
"This sounds pretty compelling, even though obviously it's a relatively focused initiative," said Kessler. "We'll see if store owners and operators respond, and frankly, if there's a benefit to them as well as to would-be shoppers."
"As Facebook has gotten bigger and implemented more content and functionality, it increasingly has also taken on those characteristics of being the doorway or the window to the internet, and this is yet another way that they're facilitating that perception," said Kessler.
In addition, it's a major way to leverage mobile, which is a place where more and more consumers are browsing, but not necessarily where they're buying. In a Facebook for Business blog post, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company points out the contrast: while people use mobile in 45% of all their shopping journeys, which includes research all the way through final purchase, more than 90% of all retail sales still take place in-store.
Facebook shares were relatively flat Wednesday, up 0.04% to $114.99 in midday trading.
Earlier this week, activist short-seller Andrew Left of Citron Research told CNBC he was shorting Facebook, which he claims is "losing an extensive amount of relevancy."
TheStreet's Jim Cramer, who owns Facebook and Alphabet in his Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio, says that's not the case. "We couldn't disagree more," he wrote in a post on Monday. "Facebook is not only a Goliath in its industry, but in the early innings of its growth story and monetization potential."