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Interview: Tracy Yaverbaun - Using Facebook to drive sales

Facebook’s Tracy Yaverbaun explains why the social network can be a platform to drive sales after all.

Tracy Yaverbaun

Tracy Yaverbaun

“Experimentation is key - you have to be willing to try.” After seven years at Facebook, director of retail, luxury and fashion partnerships Tracy Yaverbaun has seen a lot of experimentation. From Facebook Stores, to an obsession with generating ‘likes’, to mobile first, retailers’ relationship with the site has changed but it is still integral to any business’s social strategy.

Some 26 million people access Facebook every day in the UK (22 million of them on mobiles). More than half of internet users in the UK come back to Facebook every day, and on average people check in via their mobiles 14 times a day.

However, retailers have struggled to see how Facebook can be used to drive this huge audience to increase sales. Yaverbaun works with retailers to overcome this challenge and is beginning to see attitudes towards the platform shift as results are generated. “Social cannot be thought of as a sprinkle on the top of everything else,” she says. “Customers’ time is spent more and more on mobile and on feeds, and the objective of the retailer or brand should be to engage with them in the most meaningful way possible. Businesses that have that as the core of what they do are the ones we work best with.”

Two tools that Yaverbaun says have been a huge success are Custom and Lookalike Audiences. Custom Audiences allows brands to understand their own customer base on Facebook. Retailers can cross-reference their own customer data with Facebook data and only deliver a message (for example a Sale post) to active customers. She says this tool typically generates an eight-time return on ad spend.

Lookalike Audiences is similar but looks at the behaviours and attributes of current customers and matches them with Facebook ‘clones’, people with similar interests who retailers can then target.

Facebook has also launched Website Custom Audiences in the UK, which allows retailers to cross-reference people who are visiting their website - but not necessarily shopping - with Facebook data. As Yaverbaun points out: “You can send an email to an account that someone may check once a week or post a message to Facebook which someone is checking 14 times a day.”

Yaverbaun’s team is split into ecommerce (pure-plays), multichannel (including luxury and fashion) and grocery, and works with fashion retailers including eBay, Marks & Spencer, Burberry, Michael Kors, All Saints and Asos. The last of these has historically been seen as an innovator on Facebook, previously launching a Facebook Store (which closed in late 2012) and multiple cross-channel social campaigns, although in the past year or so Asos’s activity has slowed down.

Yaverbaun says this is down to the development on mobile. “Asos pulled back slightly to consider how best to work with the platform as the Facebook strategy changed with a big shift to mobile. Asos is trying to do two things - deliver the right message, at the right time to the right people on their mobile, but also to drive commerce from that. We are currently developing the 2.0 version of Facebook and Asos, which should start to see results in the second half of this year.”

The big question is: can Facebook drive sales? Yaverbaun believes it can, but it’s not only the strategy behind a campaign that must be in place, but equally as important is the analysis of the results produced.

“Measuring Facebook activity began with businesses counting the number of ‘likes’, because they were very clear numbers that people could digest,” she explains. “However, it’s not necessarily the best measurement. Anytime there is an evolution we use the old metrics to define the new medium - we did the same with radio to TV and then TV to digital.

“We used typical display metrics to define social and it doesn’t translate. A business needs a clear objective - whether it’s driving sales, awareness, footfall, or improved return on investment against search.”

Yaverbaun advises using Facebook Insights tools combined with Google Analytics on a website to give a clear picture of traffic, consumer and the results. Because of the user data that Facebook has, Yaverbaun adds the accuracy of targeting is on average 98% as opposed to the industry standard of 68%. Facebook plans to make the targeting tools even more effective and to introduce offline conversion measurements to help brands understand how Facebook can drive sales in store.

It also plans to roll out Premium Video (currently only available in the US) next month. Retailers can promote an autoplay 15- to 30-second video on Facebook after which a carousel will appear to prompt users to scroll through to the next video. Facebook believes this will be an attractive proposition in the run-up to Christmas.

As more advertising opportunities become available and the measurements indicate a clear return on investment, Facebook looks set to be a strong advertising channel for the future. Yaverbaun concludes: “As a business there are three things you want: acquire customers, grow sales via those customers and retain those customers. With a clear objective Facebook can help you do all three.”

Yaverbaun gives examples of retailers’ Facebook wins:


Something to share: M&S used Facebook to refine and extend its Leading Ladies campaign

Marks & Spencer
“Last September, M&S launched its Leading Ladies campaign with 10 distinctive British women, including Ellie Goulding and Helen Mirren. They wanted to launch a video on Facebook and YouTube before launching the TV ad to reach all women in the UK for 24 hours. Facebook tested the top three or four of the leading ladies with the Facebook community, and model Katie Piper was by far the most popular. Off the back of this M&S led the campaign on Facebook with Katie Piper and it was by far the most successful video that had ever been run on Facebook in terms of reach. Out of everybody that engaged, M&S created custom clusters by type (ie who they had engaged with/the demographic). When it came to the next season and driving sales, they had specific target groups to drive different messages to. It’s something you can’t do on TV.”

Michael Kors

Michael Kors: #JetSetGo

Michael Kors
“Michael Kors is an emerging brand that has seen the opportunity to use social to drive customers in store. The brand launched a new high-end sneaker range with a campaign called Jet Set Go. It wanted to create buzz and awareness around the launch, so launched on Facebook exclusively first among its target audience (women aged 15 to 35 in the US) - a new, younger, trendier Michael Kors customer. At the time the brand had about 1 million fans across the US. It wanted to grow its customer base, but the main objective was to raise awareness and ultimately drive sales in store. Four months ahead of launching, it put it out on Facebook only. The brand reached 36 million people in its target audience, driving a 16% increase in awareness. The shoes sold out in store and online before it went to official launch and Michael Kors attributes that success to Facebook.”


Readers' comments (1)

  • Nice article. The big question for us though has been can Facebook drive sales through solely investing in cont
    ent on our page. Our conclusion thus far, is no. In fact organic views of interesting content is around 1% (one percent!) of likes, unless 1. the interesting content is a picture of a cat or 2. we pay Facebook a reasonable sum of money. The former generates engagement however not sales, The latter does generate sales but then the question is whether the investment in time and money would not have been better spent on more traditional promotional channels ranging from print to simply discounting.

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