Since the start of the pandemic, small businesses have increasingly digitized their operations--but it hasn't exactly been the panacea they've hoped for.
Apple's launch of iOS 14.5 in 2021 rolled out an App Tracking Transparency feature, which requires apps to request permission before they can use third-party cookies to track users online. While this was a win for privacy advocates, it was largely seen negatively among businesses that advertise on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, as it curtailed businesses' ability to target potential customers.
Facebook's parent company suggests it has a solution: better access to first-party data. Meta, today, is announcing the launch of a new suite of digital tools through its free Meta Business Suite platform, aimed at helping small businesses better connect with new and existing customers online and convert them. The tools include a quote request option on Instagram, filtering of Instant Forms (onsite paid ads that prompt viewers to input their contact information) that may help businesses to pursue leads that are the best fit for their business, and the ability for businesses to send exclusive content via Messenger to customers who opt in via Instant Forms. Businesses will also be able to download leads from Meta Business Suite into their own CRM system.
"With these new capabilities, you can create a really customized form [through a paid advertisement] to automatically ask potential customers about their needs," says Rich Rao, Meta's VP of small business. For example, a hair salon might ask a customer to choose what kind of service they want when inputting their information through an ad. The goal is to decrease customer drop-off by providing businesses with more information about who is responding to their ads--so those businesses can more efficiently connect with and convert those potential customers. "We think this can fundamentally change the economics for businesses," Rao adds.
Over the past year, reduced access to user data due to iOS 14.5 has made it more challenging and expensive for businesses to target customers through paid social media advertising. This change has been especially hard on small businesses that don't exactly have the big budgets to spend on broadly targeted social advertising. That's according to founders like Hans Schrei and Luis Gramajo, the entrepreneurs behind the Austin-based baked goods company Wunderkeks, who spoke with Inc.com in March. What's more, the proliferation of direct-to-consumer brands on social media has also made it harder for businesses to stand out through paid social advertising, Outdoor Voices and Try Your Best founder Ty Haney also said in March.
Meta's new tools may help small businesses acquire better first-party data, which can help them develop longer, stronger relationships with their customers--but getting customers to notice their ads in the first place will likely remain a challenge.