June 13, 2014, 11:13 AM

Facebook plans to launch a new e-commerce-focused ad unit

The social network will soon let advertisers feature multiple products in a single ad, helping them improve click rates, Facebook executive Nicolas Franchet said yesterday at IRCE. In a test of the new ad format, web merchant Zulily said the new ad format improved its cost per acquisition by 18%.

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Facebook Inc. is giving e-retailers a new way to highlight several products at once in a single ad that appears in the news feed, Nicolas Franchet, the social network’s head of retail, e-commerce, global vertical marketing, announced Thursday at the 10th annual Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

The social network developed the ad unit, which is called a Multiproduct ad, to improve e-retailers’ ability to remarket to shoppers on Facebook, he said. That’s because e-retailers can’t always know the exact product that will drive a shopper to click from Facebook to an e-commerce site. Letting online merchants highlight several different products should increase the likelihood a consumer will click.

“Think of it the same way you show different products in the ‘you may also like’ section of your site,” he said. “It’s a natural extension of that.” Facebook expects to make the new ad format available within a few weeks.

Children's gear e-retailer Zulily Inc., which participated in a test of the ad unit, found the ads reduced the retailer’s cost per acquisition by 18%, said David Atchison, the merchant’s senior vice president, marketing. Zulily is No. 55 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

The rollout of the new ad unit continues Facebook’s efforts to foster product discovery and drive the social network’s users to click and buy. “We’re very focused on ROI,” said Franchet.

However, Facebook’s challenge when it comes to advertising is that consumers aren’t on the social network to shop, he said. But retailers have found success using Facebook to foster product discovery and for remarketing, he said. “Given that people spend 20% of their time on Facebook, it’s an ideal place to reach them,” he said.

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