By now, everyone is used to seeing ads that match their online behavior. Facebook is now going to take this step further, targeting users according to what brick-and-mortar stores they visit. Currently, the feature is still in the testing phase, but you can expect to see such ads soon across Facebook and Instagram.

The move comes as an attempt to help marketers gain more value from the offline behavior of their customers and prospects. Advertisers will be able to use the capability to select more specific customer audiences for ad targeting.

How Does It Work?

To be able to utilize the targeting option, brands must have multiple locations enabled. They can create a custom audience of people who have visited their stores in up to the past 30 days.

Facebook uses information from users who have Facebook location services enabled. Then it combines this with background signals from WiFi and Bluetooth to determine if users are actually at the business. You cannot use the information to see who is visiting your store — everything is anonymized.

Benefits for Businesses

Businesses will be able to use this new type of targeting in several ways. For instance, they may be able to benefit during the holidays and other times when they tend to see increased sales or foot traffic, such as during the back-to-school period or in the run up to an event. In these situations, such targeting can be especially effective when combined with other demographic targeting.

Another way to use the feature is to target users with similar characteristics as those who visited your stores. Finally, you can use targeting to exclude visitors to your store from ads, in an effort to attract new people.

Competition with Snapchat

Facebook is competing with Snapchat for a younger audience and to keep current users coming back to its platform more often. This became obvious ever since Facebook released its Snapchat clones. This ad targeting is another move from Facebook to attack one of its greatest competitors.

Snapchat has been using Snap to Store measurement to inform businesses how many people visited their store or restaurant after viewing an ad. It also acquired Placed back in June to improve the measurement of ads leading to sales in stores.

Facebook’s new ad targeting method goes one step beyond what Snapchat is doing. It reverses the normal tactic of targeting according to online activity to gain sales offline by beginning with offline activities. With Placed, Snapchat likely has the capability to do the same, although it has not announced any intentions to do so.

Opting Out?

Although users cannot opt out of location targeting, it is still possible for them to hide ads based on their retail store visits. Bear in mind, the ability to block certain ads applies to all types of ads, which means these ads will be no different to any others in terms of who will see them.

As retail store targeting is still in testing phase, it is only available to limited advertisers at this time. To find out if it is available to you, look for the option “Store Visits” when you create a custom audience.