Facebook will let companies map online browsing to real-world sales

The feature is part of a broader analytics push

Retailers who want to know what brought people to shop in their physical retail stores have a new tool to try. Facebook has revised its analytics tools for businesses to show how user behavior online translates into brick-and-mortar purchases.

The new capability entered open beta Tuesday as part of updates Facebook made to its Analytics product for developers. Previously called Analytics for Apps, it’s designed to be an all-in-one tool for helping businesses understand user behavior across mobile apps, websites, Messenger bots and the big blue social network.

Facebook already offered businesses a set of different analytics for measuring user behavior, but this launch brings the tools into one service. In order to use the purchase tracking service, companies have to upload their transaction data to Facebook’s servers, which is then used to determine how purchasing matches up with online activity.

Connecting online and offline behavior is something that retailers have been looking for as advertising and commerce have increasingly moved online.

“This is really interesting because it connects [information about consumers] from the store to online,” Gartner Research Vice President Brian Blau said. “I think that’s going to be interesting to retailers who what to understand demographics — who’s coming onto their store, who isn’t, and how effective [retailers are] being in their messaging.”

Facebook’s support for in-store sales appears similar to Google’s AdWords store visit conversions feature. That tool gives a limited set of advertisers the ability to see if the advertisements they run through Google’s network lead to in-person sales.

One of the benefits Facebook has over other advertising providers is that the social network can track users wherever they log in. That makes it a more appealing target for advertisers.

“Because people often log into Facebook on different devices and channels, we understand when different devices and channels are used by the same person,” Facebook said in an emailed statement.

Facebook refused to say how it determines users’ location for the sake of these analytics, and also wouldn’t say how users could opt out of being tracked.

Measuring user behavior offline dovetails nicely with Facebook’s other tools, which are designed to help companies track their users in aggregate across a variety of digital platforms. The Analytics tool received a number of additional features Tuesday as part of the F8 developer conference in San Jose.

Analytics from Pages, which companies can use to track users’ interactions with brand profiles, have now been integrated into the rest of the measurement service. That integration also means it’s possible for businesses to see things like what percentage of users who like a post go on to make an online purchase.

Facebook has built a new automated insights feature into the Analytics service that automatically detects and highlights anomalies in companies’ data. For example, the service will highlight changes in users purchases after an app update. Right now, it’s available in open beta.

Companies can also set up their own custom dashboards to combine all the metrics they consider to be important.

The new Analytics service has another benefit: it’s free. Facebook stands to make money when businesses purchase the myriad types of advertisements that the company sells.