Facebook AdvertiseThe holy grail of marketing is almost in reach for Facebook.

Facebook has learned a lot about its users since its beginnings back in 2004. Now with over 2 billion users, it knows how the advertising it shows will affect them when they stop scrolling and go shopping in the real world.

Martin Barthel, head of global retail and e-commerce strategy at Facebook said the company had recently started closing in on the gap on what it knows about users online and off-line behaviour.

Facebook’s recent partnerships with some US retailers have made use of technology such as geolocation tracking, data from public Wi-Fi networks and beacon technology. This enables them to be able to track when a smartphone-carrying user has gone into an advertiser’s physical store.

When this data is combined with those retailers who send Facebook in-store transaction data gathered from loyalty schemes or by credit card companies, it allows you to measure who saw your ad on Facebook, who came into your store and ultimately who bought something in the store.

Barthel commented, “You can measure the entire customer journey, which is the holy grail of marketing.”

This technology has been around for just under a year, but it faced many challenges which slowed down its progress, such as retailers managing customer data with different systems to Facebook, making it difficult to build data pipelines across to them.

By making use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, Facebook is also getting better at targeting users with products they might be interested in.

Thanks to AI, the data collected by Facebook and advertisers can now automatically determine which individuals will be most interested in a particular product. Whereas before, companies would identify a group of people they want to advertise to, such as men in their 30s, who live in London, and Facebook would target users that fit that profile.

Barthel commented on this saying “Suddenly, your products are starting to search for the right people.”

Instagram, Facebooks smaller sibling is now also looking to get involved in the retail space. The image-based app has been a powerful promotion tool so far and now it is looking for new ways for companies to do business on the platform.

Of Instagram’s 800 million users, 80% are connected to a business by choice. This behaviour gives an indication of how people actually want to shop online.

Chief Operating Officer at Instagram, Marne Levine commented on this behaviour saying, “E-commerce has been straight to the buy button but that’s not realistic of how people actually do it,”

Users now might follow a brand on Instagram for months before actually buying something. That’s why brands need to attempt to keep potential shoppers interested with engaging posts and stories.

Instagram’s new “save post” feature illustrates how the shopper journey has changed, as one-third of the content saved via users are from business accounts. This shows that users are employing the new feature as a wish-list of products that they might end up purchasing.

Because of this, Instagram is now starting to work on features that allow for business transactions to take place directly through the app, rather than customers having to leave to go to brands’ own website.