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Keeping Up With Facebook: What Are Custom Audiences?

Custom Audiences are critical for retargeting your most valuable audiences on Facebook. As privacy concerns mount and third-party cookies phase out, it’s also more important than ever for retail marketers to build Custom Audiences using first-party data. Retail marketers can create Custom Audiences based on customer emails or phone numbers, website traffic, app activity, and Facebook engagement. 

In this installment of Keeping Up With Facebook, we break down what Custom Audiences are and how retail marketers can leverage these retargeting lists in a privacy-focused future.

Release Date: 

Facebook launched Custom Audiences in 2012 and has gradually expanded the ad targeting option. Initially, retail marketers could only use Custom Audiences to target their customers on Facebook, using an email or phone number identifier. In 2013, Facebook expanded the targeting option to include website visitors and app users. Finally, in 2016, retail marketers could target audiences based on their engagement with the retailer’s Facebook or Instagram business profile.

What It Is:

Custom Audiences are a valuable retargeting and nurture tactic for Facebook and Instagram Advertising. Currently, Facebook offers four types of Custom Audiences:

  • Website – Using the Facebook pixel, marketers can retarget shoppers who have visited their website on Facebook. You can set retargeting parameters to include past customers, shoppers who reached a certain product page, or shoppers who added to cart.
  • App Activity – Retail marketers can retarget their app users on Facebook, after registering their app with the Facebook SDK.
  • Customer List – One of the most commonly used custom audiences, customer lists are email or phone number lists that retail marketers provide to Facebook. Facebook matches these lists to existing Facebook users and retargets ads to those individuals. 
  • Engagement – Engagement custom audiences target users who have taken an action on a retailer’s Facebook content,  like following the retailer’s page or viewing a video.

Retail marketers can also exclude certain audiences from these lists. A marketer can exclude existing customers if they want to target site visitors who haven’t made a purchase. Marketers can also limit targeting by date range. For example, they can target users who have visited the retailer’s site in the last 30 days and exclude all others.

Which Channels:

This feature is available on both Facebook and Instagram Advertising. 

What It Means for Your Business:

Custom Audiences are an important tool for retargeting known users on Facebook including site visitors, followers, and past customers. Retail marketers can develop a campaign with the goal of increasing repeat purchases from existing customers, or nurturing site visitors toward a purchase.

For example, marketers may want to build a Custom Audience for shoppers who added items to their cart but did not purchase in the last 14 days. Marketers can retarget those shoppers on Facebook with exclusive deals or messaging that will encourage them to return to the site and complete the purchase.

Customer List Custom Audiences, in particular, are critical for retail marketers on Facebook because they leverage first-party data. In the wake of the iOS 14.5 update it’s more difficult to track and retarget shoppers across web properties if retailers do not have that first-party data. While third-party retargeting is still possible and impactful on Facebook, its granularity and reach is more limited because some Facebook users have opted out of tracking.

These retargeting lists are also critical for building lookalike audiences on Facebook, which are key for prospecting new shoppers. Focusing on specific characteristics in your list, like age, geographic location, or interests, Facebook can target similar audiences on its platform. That allows retail marketers to reach new prospects and grow their brand awareness and sales among new shoppers. Retailers cannot build an effective prospecting strategy on Facebook without first building targeted Custom Audiences.

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