Even in the era of Ecommerce growth, 92% of retail purchases still happen offline (though the pandemic has propelled the Ecommerce industry forward at a much faster rate). Still, there’s a way for merchants to tie in their offline sales with online marketing efforts. Using the Facebook API conversions tracker, you can analyze the effectiveness of your Facebook ad campaigns, even when those conversions were made the good old-fashioned way: in-person.
What is Facebook Offline Conversions API?
API stands for application programming interface. With that in mind, the Facebook offline conversions API is a type of software that tracks consumer actions which occur off the web.
NOTE: Facebook Offline Conversions API used to be called Server-Side API.
Why is it important to track consumer actions that happen in person? In short, it’s so retail stores that advertise on Facebook can measure the effectiveness of their campaigns, even when the conversions occur offline. In a totally online experience, marketers use browser pixels to track customer actions; but when offline interactions fuse with online advertisement, understanding the effects of your campaigns becomes trickier.
The Facebook API conversions tool uses something called server events to track your customer’s behaviors. In Facebook land, an event is simply a particular action that a customer takes. Online events (or browser pixel events) may include adding something to their cart or checking the location of your store. Meanwhile, offline events (or server events) may include in-store visits or phone calls.
Server events process similarly to browser pixel events. This means marketers can have a streamlined process of measurement, reporting and — ultimately — marketing optimization, regardless of where their conversions occur.
Why Facebook Marketers Should Care About Tracking Offline Conversions
While the majority of shoppers still take to the streets to do their shopping, that doesn’t mean they’re ignoring the online sphere. In fact, a reported 81% of consumers perform online research before heading to the store and finalizing their purchase offline. On the contrary, just 10% of people who perform online research before making a purchase end up converting online.
If anything, this just goes to show how relevant the interpersonal experience of retail still is, even if it happens to work in tandem with online marketing efforts.
Researching online before purchasing offline is so big that there’s actually a name for it: The ROBO Economy.
According to Bazaarvoice, The ROBO Economy is the backbone of the modern-day retail industry. Their study revealed that 82% of smartphone users perform research on their mobile device before completing a transaction in store. So what happens after all that research? For every buck consumers spend online, they spend $5 in store. That’s some serious multiplication.
In addition to increased returns, the Facebook API conversions tool allows retailers to:
- Personalize their creative messaging for both in-store and online shoppers in a way that best suits their needs.
- Optimize future ad campaigns for maximum performance, based on prior campaign data.
- Use audience insights to hone in on targeting efforts.
If that doesn’t motivate you to consider harmonizing your offline conversions with your online advertising, I don’t know what will.
Who It Works Best For
The Facebook offline conversions API works best for businesses who rely on in-person transactions while simultaneously using online marketing, specifically through Facebook.
A great example is an auto repair chain. If they want to see which offline conversions they can attribute to their online campaigns, they can use the Facebook API conversions tool to do so. Who saw or clicked on their ad, performed research and then made a phone call to book an appointment and bring their vehicle in for service?
Let’s take a look at a real-world example, too.
Michael Kors used Facebook ads (both link ads and carousel ads). Their main goal was to drive traffic, literally, to their storefront locations. Using the Facebook offline conversions API, they were able to quantify their campaign’s impact. Overall, the results were impressive: a 33% boost in attributed return on ad spend (ROAS), 31% increase in attributed transactions and 25% raise in attributed revenue.
While having Bella Hadid as the face of the company may have helped the company’s efforts, there’s no denying that the numbers speak for themselves.
Here’s What You Need to Get Started
Ready to take on the Facebook API conversions journey? There are a few prerequisites you should have in place, including:
- Business Manager and Facebook Ad Account: The Business Manager platform helps you integrate your Facebook marketing efforts throughout the various parts of your business. It also allows you to include external partners, like contract workers, in the mix. If you don’t have one set up yet, you can create a Business Manager here. You’ll also need a Facebook Ad account to tie in your campaigns with your offline conversions. Create a Facebook Ad account here.
- Facebook App: Because the Facebook API conversions tool uses Facebook Marketing API endpoints, you need the social media app to get started. Make sure your app is managed by your business. If you need to create the app, you can follow the app development guidelines here.
- Facebook Pixel: Because you need to track server events, you need the Facebook pixel to get started. Facebook recommends using the same pixel for both your website and server events. You can learn more about tracking conversions with the Facebook pixel here.
- Offline Event Customer Data Sets: You can’t integrate server events with your online ad campaigns without offline data. This means you’ll need some info from your customers, like name, email, purchases, appointments and other conversion data. To allow Facebook to access this information, you can import transaction history from a file, POS system or simply copy-and-pasting the data. Make sure the data includes event time, event name, value of offline conversion and currency type. You can choose from 17 events you’d like to identify.
- Server Connection: Make sure you’re an admin on your company’s Business Manager. Secure your server connection by creating an access token (more on that below!).
How to Implement API
Once you have all the prerequisites in order, you can begin implementing your Facebook offline conversions API.
Facebook for Developers has a full guide on how to use web code to properly implement and manage the API. This includes sending requests, managing dropped events, noting event transaction time and sending batch requests.
If you don’t want to use the API, there are a couple of other ways you can measure offline events. The first is with Facebook’s Offline Events Manager. Another option is to use Facebook partner integrations with a compatible POS (more on that later!).
However, the API is the most popular option. Below are some additional notes on how to optimize your API for offline conversion tracking.
Don’t Forget to Verify Your Events
Notifying Facebook of which offline events you want to track is only part of the picture. After you send your events, you must confirm that the platform has received them. Here’s how to verify your events:
- Head to your Business Manager. Click through to the Pixels page.
- See the tab that says View? Change it from All to Server. You’ll see what number of events have gone through successfully.
- Next, look at the higher-level tab that says Overview. Change it to Breakdown. Now, you’ll be able to view the breakdown of all your successfully sent events.
It shouldn’t take long to verify your events. If they take longer than 20 minutes to verify after you send the requests, you may have to try again.
You can also use the Test Events tool in your Events Manager. To find it, go to:
Events Manager > Data Sources > Your Pixel > Test Events > Server
The Test Events tool will generate a Test ID for you. You can implement this code using the method laid out here.
Moral of the story: Always make sure you’ve verified your events were sent successfully. That way, you can rest assured knowing your tracked offline conversions are accurate.
Know These Facebook API Conversions Parameters
When it comes to implementing your API, you need to know some required and optional coding parameters to maximize your experience. Here’s a list from Facebook for Developers:
Got a Bug? Here’s How to Fix It
In certain circumstances, the API may return error codes. To debug the software, go to the Graph API Explorer. Here, you can make a Post request to find more information about the particular error (whether or not the event is valid).
If you have a Facebook representative, you can always contact them regarding error codes, especially if you receive one of the following messages:
- “Application does not have the capability to make this API call.”
- “This pixel is not authorized to report server events.”
How Usable & Accurate is Facebook Offline Conversions API?
The short answer: At its core, Facebook Offline Conversions API will always be an estimate. But the more information you provide, the more accurate your analyses will be.
The long answer: The Facebook offline conversions API isn’t for everyone. To receive offline event matches, retailers must be in a position to provide in-depth customer data to Facebook. The more information you provide, the more accurate the offline conversion tracking will be. Those who go beyond email address, phone number and name by providing info like gender, ZIP code and date of birth will be better off.
It’s typically more difficult for brick-and-mortar merchants to acquire more detailed customer data. Many businesses get around this hurdle by utilizing loyalty programs like mobile apps, in-store credit cards and discount-rich newsletters.
Facebook partner integrations broaden the scope of who can make use of Facebook’s offline conversion tracking capabilities. For businesses who are already in cahoots with IBM, Square, Invoca and other companies, offline conversion tracking is a seamless affair.
More Success Stories of Facebook API Conversions Tracking
We already know that the Facebook Offline Conversions API worked for Michael Kors, but what about other businesses? We dug into the details and found some interesting results.
Lee Buick GMC used Facebook offline conversions during a multi-phase ad campaign. In the end, they increased their ROAS by 23X. In total, customers made 24 offline purchases, giving the company $18,436 in profit.
American Vision Windows used the Facebook API conversions system in tandem with mobile video ads. The results were wild: a 16X ROAS, more than $250,000 in revenue, 58 purchases and 88 appointments.
Clinique UK used the Facebook offline conversions API to assess the in-store impact of its Facebook video ads. After the six-month campaign, the brand saw a 6.5% lift in in-store sales and a 22% lift in online sales (talk about bringing home the bread!). Overall, Clinique UK estimates to have influenced 1.8 million people over the course of their campaign.
You may be a small business whose results differ from these success stories, but it’s possible the Facebook offline conversions API could help your business grow at a healthy rate and improve your ROAS by a notable margin.
The Bottom Line is Your Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, your brand’s awareness, sentiment and — most importantly — revenue are on the line. As we delve into the latter half of 2020, we realize that the last few months of the pandemic were not a dream. The US Bureau of Labor tells us that more than 20% of Americans in the workforce are employed in the retail and hospitality industries. Small brick-and-mortar businesses, particularly ones that opened after the Great Recession, are experiencing a moment of fragility. It only makes sense that these business owners would want to maximize their profits without wildly increasing costs. In the end, anything that improves ROAS is a smart move.
Tools like the Facebook offline conversions API serve as both a crutch for retailers in their time of need and a guide in thriving moments. With the ability to analyze the behavior of your customer base and the effects of your online campaigns, you can optimize your advertising and shopping experiences to better suit your audience.
I can only hope this guide on how and why to use the Facebook API conversions will help propel your brick-and-mortar business forth.