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8/15/2014
12:51 PM
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Facebook Will Track Shopping Habits

Facebook plans to track your actions between devices and share with advertisers when an ad leads to a purchase. Here's why one expert says you shouldn't worry.

Eavesdropping On A New Level
Eavesdropping On A New Level
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

More than 60% of adults in the US use at least two devices every day, and more than 40% start an activity on one device and finish it on another, according to a study commissioned by Facebook with market research agency GfK.

Facebook plans to capitalize on the multi-device trend, announcing this week that it will track users' actions between devices and share with advertisers when an ad or promotion leads to a purchase. Facebook can track and link activity on various devices since users must log in first to use the service.

"Imagine seeing an ad for a product on your mobile phone while in line at the bank. Do you immediately make a purchase on your phone? Probably not," Facebook said in the announcement. "But perhaps you go back to your office later that day and buy on your desktop computer."

[Know your options. Read Facebook Ads: Users Offered More Control.]

While these new insights on your shopping habits will give marketers valuable information to make more informed advertising decisions, it does not pose any threat to users' privacy, said Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter Group. The information Facebook shares is neither personal nor personally identifiable, she explained.

"Facebook may share with an advertiser that I'm a middle-aged woman living in New York City, for example, but I'm still a needle in a haystack. It's not going to say, 'My name is Rebecca Lieb and this is my phone number' -- just that a person saw an ad on an iPhone and made a purchase on a desktop," Lieb said.

Measuring users' activity across devices gives marketers insight into how and where their ad campaigns are performing, Facebook said. The social network analyzed recent campaigns and found that of the people who showed interest in a mobile Facebook ad in the US, nearly one-third converted on desktop within 28 days. Facebook also found that people who showed interest in a mobile ad before converting were more likely to do so on a different device as time passed.  

Facebook is the first company to offer this type of information to marketers, which gives the social network a leg up on advertising behemoths like Google, according to Lieb. "This data will help marketers spend better and more thoughtfully and increase their confidence in spending on Facebook because other platforms aren't yet offering this service," she said.

Marketers can find the new cross-device conversions for campaigns within your Facebook Ad Reports. Click Edit Columns and select Cross-Device on the left-hand menu to view it.

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 3:18:52 PM
Re: Shopping

@daniel I was surprised Google hasn't done this already, too. I'd wager they'll have something similar to offer advertisers and marketers soon.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 3:17:09 PM
Re: Shopping
@stotheco you're spot-on. people may complain about facebook and its privacy implications, but in the end, they're the one giving up this information. Facebook is a free service, so there is some quid-pro-quo, but how much you give up is up to you.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 3:14:45 PM
Re: Shopping
@progman2000 you're smart :-)
jastroff
IW Pick
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
8/18/2014 | 1:10:16 PM
Re: Shopping
Yet another reason only to look at pictures of dogs and cats posted on Facebook
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
8/18/2014 | 3:24:28 AM
Re: Shopping
Stotheco, 

This is not about the personal data, photos, and things that people graciously choose to share with the world on Facebook.Tracking shopping habits doesn't involve any personal information. No one knows it's you the one purchasing X thing at X time on X Website on X device. You are a number there. 

Once the CEO of an eCommerce company explained and showed me how it really works, what kind of information the software gets, how it gets it, how it shows on a screen, and how it is actually used by a marketing department to better target products. Since then, I have seen these tracking shopping habits in a different light. I could understand it better and know that it doesn't intrude in your privacy. 

The result of tracking shopping habits is to show people better and more personalized advertising for increasing the chances of a purchase. So, instead of showing you things you would never buy you start seeing things that you actually like, need, or want. 

Another thing to think about is that if Facebook would be intruding in your privacy it wouldn't be happily announcing it publicly. 

-Susan
zaious
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zaious,
User Rank: Ninja
8/18/2014 | 12:34:28 AM
Re: Shopping
@stotheco: the information you mentioned are from past (school, etc.). The key infromation is what you are buying recently or planning to buy. If you buy an iPad or Glaxy Tab - you are likely to buy a sleeve. If you are looking for Hawaii vactions, you are likely to buy tikets and book hotels. A famliy's puchase pattern can indicate that they are going to have a baby. We are, simply, exposed!
stotheco
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stotheco,
User Rank: Ninja
8/17/2014 | 2:52:58 PM
Re: Shopping
The thing about Facebook is that people are willingly giving them all this information. The photos, personal info like names, school, birthday, and whatnot-- Facebook doesn't need to do much digging because it's all there.
stotheco
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stotheco,
User Rank: Ninja
8/17/2014 | 2:52:16 PM
Re: Shopping
No surprise that Facebook is turning to this to monetize. Considering how ads and sponsored posts haven't really taken off on a grander scale, this will perhaps give them a boost in income.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
8/16/2014 | 5:36:43 PM
Re: Shopping
@Daniel I agree. Its kind of "following the suit". I believe the success belongs to those who are courageous enough to take the initiative and in that sense FB is taking the lead. We expect other market joints to follow the suit sooner or later.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
8/16/2014 | 5:34:16 PM
Re: Shopping
@Thomas I agree with you. I feel in someway its the interfering with the privacy of an individual. This is one thing FB is banking on profits but can you feel what all others they are doing with your data behind closed doors.
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