The lowly product catalog is now having its day in the sun.
Buy buttons are transforming product images on social networks into purchasing moments, and new automated ad tools are turning some kinds of product-based online ad campaigns into quick chores.
Marketing automation firm SocialWire — just rebranded as Manifest — adds to this trend with the announcement this week at VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat conference of its new automated ad tool for product catalogs.
The self-service tool moves the company beyond the managed ad service it has been offering for Facebook, Twitter, and Google Shopping. The tool pulls the best performing products in an online catalog and creates ads, but only for Facebook at this point — the News Feed on desktop and mobile, as well as the desktop’s right rail of ads. A social network’s buy button can be integrated with the product ads.
The company says its predictive marketing engine determines which products will most appeal to which Facebook audiences. There is also a dynamic optimization that continually prunes the ad campaign toward the best-performing ads.
In fact, here’s a silent animation of this Darwinian process:
The blue circles are the products that are getting the most responses, while the red ones are underperforming. Over a few screens, the red dots die away as the platform emphasizes the winners.
CEO Bob Buch, ex-VP of business development for AOL and Digg, told me that the predictive marketing and optimization engines allow Manifest’s new tool to emphasize discovery of new products so retailers can find new customers, instead of simply retargeting existing customers.
“People think of product ads as retargeting,” he said. “Wait till someone looks at a pair of jeans, and then you [later] show them a pair of jeans.”
Instead, he said, Manifest uses a retailer’s data to show ads that target “lookalike” customer profiles with products purchased by similar customer types.
Last week, ecommerce provider Bigcommerce introduced its Product Ad tool that allows a store hosted on its platform to semi-automatically turn its product catalog into ads for Facebook or Twitter. It also automatically optimizes ad campaigns, based on the best-performing ones.
Buch said Manifest’s predictive marketing provides “a more [enterprise-level] advanced tech to test and validate” compared to Bigcommerce’s tool, in addition to working with any online product catalog that offers a product feed.
The San Francisco-based company said its first generation, managed service-only platform has optimized more than 14 million products into four billion ads and generated over $70 million in revenue for the likes of Neiman Marcus, Gilt, Living Social, Choxi, and One Kings Lane. Manifest’s pricing is based on ad spend.
As for the name change, Buch told me that SocialWire was misleading to clients, since the company emphasis is product ads, not social media.