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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
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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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User Rank: Ninja
8/16/2014 | 12:25:47 PM
Re: Shopping
I certainly can see how this would be valuable to marketers, and it's just something else that Facebook can offer to its advertisers that perhaps no other company can do. 

Google should be able to do this as well – surprising that they aren't already. But maybe with this Facebook announcement, they will also release a similar product for marketers. 
User Rank: Ninja
8/15/2014 | 10:42:08 PM
Re: Shopping
Facebook knows so much about me and communicates it so well to ebay that I hardly have to think about what I want to buy - it's all there waiting for me as soon as I log in, with comments and recommendations. Don't worry about the NSA, they're amateurs compared to this crew.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/15/2014 | 7:21:38 PM
Re: Shopping
>Facebook can track and link activity on various devices since users must log in first to use the service.

This is why you should log out of Facebook.
User Rank: Ninja
8/15/2014 | 4:38:53 PM
Re: Shopping
I don't trust the phrase "Don't Worry" with anything Facebook does...
User Rank: Author
8/15/2014 | 2:52:50 PM
Re: Shopping
Ditto, @Laurie. Companies should find this information useful when designing websites, apps, and processes. Obviously they can fit a lot more info on a desktop vs. tablet, on a tablet vs. a smartphone, and having to cope with the incorrect display is frustrating (viewing non-smartphone optimized sites on my iPhone drives me to distraction!). 
User Rank: Author
8/15/2014 | 1:25:36 PM
I am much more likely to shop on my tablet than my phone, simply because I find the larger screen more convenient for shopping. Will FB data shine much more light on that trend?
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