Earlier this week, Facebook announced it will track the spatial behavior of signed-in users via GPS. This is meant to measure local foot traffic that’s influenced by ads, and it will have a considerable impact on offline attribution given Facebook’s scale ($1.3B mobile users).
The short version: FB will track users to determine when ads were successful in driving store visits. Building from its Local Awareness ads, this will include more prominent store locators that surface the closest locations. So map clicks will join the existing “call” button.
This attempts to bring Facebook to more of a local search utility. Indeed, closest locations and call buttons are all reminiscent of Google Local Extensions. The question is whether or not the user intent is there… will Facebook train the world to think of it as a search utility. I’m skeptical.
Beyond that, the more passive attribution components of this move are huge. And it will go beyond just spatial tracking to the store threshold. Facebook will likely layer in more conversion tracking through orbiting efforts around payments and conversational commerce (via Messenger).
Meanwhile, the direct GPS tracking is essentially a better version of what it was doing before: extrapolation. It associated lifts in local purchase behavior with ad-exposed control groups. This involved things like census and credit card data (via Datalogix), tied to its own user data.
For more on what it means, below is our prediction from last December that Facebook would make this exact move. I didn’t think it would happen this soon, but such is the way of innovation cycles. To calibrate sanity levels the rest of my 2016 predictions are here.