Darlene Thomas works at Facebook and is an expert in the mobile ecommerce space, her expertise lies in the growth of new online market opportunities, and scaling them fast! Darlene has worked directly with 200+ of the biggest eCom companies currently running advertising with Facebook (all the main brands you see every day).

Her job is to improve conversion rates, marketing performance and scale within the mobile environment. Expect a lot from this session, from: optimising your custom journey, to making the most out of your paid traffic, to Facebook’s most useful tools to scale and optimise fast!

Speech by Darlene Thomas | Client Partner, Facebook

Darlene Thomas Speech Transcript

First of all, thank you all for sticking around. This is a strong group.

You won’t regret it because I’ve written down the account IDs of everybody that left. And I’m gonna disable their e-commerce ads even if they dip into my industry.

You’ve already gotten your ROI here.

Some of you were here for my panel earlier. I’m actually gonna dive a little bit deeper into what it means to run e-commerce campaigns on Facebook.

But first of all, I want to tell you why I actually deserve your attention today.

My name is Darlene Thomas. I’m a client partner at Facebook. I’ve been at Facebook for 5 years now.

So I’ve been through the buying “likes” phase, all the way through custom audiences and pixel implementation.

But I’ve solely worked on e-commerce companies supporting direct businesses, as well as a couple partnerships with venture capitalist firms like LDR and Andreessen Horowitz. So I’ve worked with their portfolio companies as a whole.

Digital Disruptors

And then most recently, I actually transferred into this team called Digital Disruptors. We solely focus on people that are disrupting the industry in which they’re in, right?

So, if you think of like the larger scale customers like Uber disrupting taxis, Airbnb disrupting the hotel industry, we work particularly now with partners that have that sort of business model.

What I want to focus on today is mobile, for the most part, because I feel like that’s the most important consumer trend if you’re gonna start an e-commerce company.

And I want to talk through some of the strategies and tactics that you should be thinking about today to get ahead of yourself if you’re going to start an e-commerce company.

Facebook Family Apps

First, let’s take a look at where Facebook’s family of apps is. This is arguably the number one discovery platform in the world for good reason.

We give you 1.9 billion users now on the blue app. A billion users on Whatsapp, a billion on messenger. And most recently, we announced that we’re up to 700 million on Instagram.

There’s a lot of room to play around with here. But we have a saying at Facebook that says that we’re only 1% finished. And, that’s true when we talk about wanting to connect the world.

We literally want to connect every single person on earth to every other single person on earth. That includes your ex-girlfriends, your ex-boyfriends. So, get ready for that.

But that’s where we’re actually heading towards on our products. And in doing so, we’ve collected a lot of data, obviously.

One thing that we’re learning is that the shift to mobile is happening faster than any other consumer trend that we’ve seen in our time. It’s actually a key place for people worldwide to connect with each other, share news and information, express their opinions.

But it’s also a place for people to discover new products. And that’s happening more and more on mobile devices.

Mobile World

And if you think about this mobile world, today I can wear a watch on my hand that is twice as fast and has twice the memory as the Cray-2, which was the world’s most powerful supercomputer in the 1980s when I was growing up.

So, if you think about the phenomenon there, although I do wear an MVMT watch, so as not to upset my partners, there is like a crazy reality behind the technology that we’re experiencing in the mobile world.

And we used to talk about the mobile web as a kind of like a cut-down version of the real desktop-based web. But today, the opposite is the case.

I mean, if you look at the next generation of internet users, they might not ever know what a desktop computer looks like, which is lunacy if you ask me.

But, what’s just as incredible as the scale of mobile, is the speed in which it’s taking over the world.

Amount of Time People Spend On Mobile

If you look at television over 60 years ago, before it could claim to be in a billion households, Smartphones hit a billion users in just 5 years, juice on that.

But what I love about mobile is it’s actually adding like an incremental amount of time spent on digital.

Before mobile, as you can see, computers helped a little bit but we were always dealing with this problem of scarcity. Like we’re going to hit a ceiling in terms of where impressions lie with traditional channels like television.

Mobile is actually increasing the amount of time people are spending on digital.

If we look at 2011, we know that people spent 9 hours of their time on digital per day. But now we’re talking more like 11 hours.

So, it’s actually offering marketers more of an opportunity and more impressions to connect with people.

And because people are increasingly connected on mobile, the way that we communicate to our customers as businesses is also changing.

Future of Communication

So, I want to talk a little bit about the future of communication. And you heard Roland and I touch on this a little bit in our panel, about how to use Messenger in order to communicate and sell to new prospects.

And, I think the most important thing here is there’s this expectation of immediate communication.

As attention spans tighten, so do our customer service teams that we have to have and hire for our e-commerce partners.

And, I call this like the Snapchat phenomenon because that’s the app that introduced like the 10-second audition to everybody in the world. Now, we’re actually scaling it throughout all digital media because it’s what consumers expect us to do.

There was an interesting case study that we ran that 72% of the 34-year-old’s in the UK say they cannot leave their home without their mobile phone.

I guarantee you there isn’t a person in this room that doesn’t have their mobile phone on them because it’s such a scary feeling.

Coincidentally 72% say that they like to be connected to the internet wherever they are.

The result is just that people are constantly connected. And this is especially true for young people.

In a survey of millennials that Facebook commissioned in 2014, we found that millennials were the most likely group to go back to their homes if they forgot their phone, no matter where they were.

So, if anybody has teenagers in the group, you understand what that means.

Messaging Apps

And this goes beyond just our family of apps. So if anybody is a Mary Meeker fan in the room like I am, and you read her most recent internet trends report, she did say that 6 out of the 10 top downloaded apps are all messaging apps.

That trend continues to grow as people in countries with less connectivity are flocking to find low data usage ways to communicate with each other.

My favourite slide. Behind me, we’ve made this graphic for you to understand. So if you look at this, the yellow dots are the adoption of smartphones in the world.

Started it in Europe on purpose this time. And you could see that it’s growing. So this is actually data taken over the last 30 years.

And in the US, as I mentioned earlier, people on average have 3 devices now.

So, pretty soon you’re actually gonna see blue dots appear on the map and what those are, are pages messaging people.

So you could see that the trend follows the trend of people adopting smartphones.

Yeah, I see people smiling. Thank you because this shit took me a long time to do.

And then you could see the blue circles. Those are specifically businesses communicating with people about products.

So one step further there, the importance here is that messaging with people is gonna be the next trend that people have not started at adopting yet today.

So if you’re gonna staff up an e-commerce business, you definitely want people that are there to answer questions for your customers, for your perspective customers.

Messenger Bot

As messaging has grown though, between individuals, it’s also growing rapidly between businesses in a way that’s shaping the way people expect messages.

I have a few examples here. So you could see the Everlane created this awesome bot experience, where if you were to purchase a product you can actually track your package, order in different colours different sizes, transact right there in Messenger.

And some people have asked, what is a good example of building a Messenger bot, and this is probably it.

This is all automated. So that you don’t have to ask your customer service team to stay until midnight.

But this is probably my favourite integration of Messenger bots so far.

The shopping experience is becoming more and more demanding I’d say. And we’ve proven that messaging is good for business.

So, 67% of people say that they’ll message more with businesses over the next 2 years. But more importantly, over half of the people we surveyed, who message with a business say that they’re more likely to buy from a business that they can chat with.

That translates to LTV, right?

So you’re not having to buy people over again as long as you service them correctly.

Consumer Habit

But there’s other evidence as to how important this new consumer habit has become. So just look at the phone in your pocket.

If some of you remember 5 years ago, the hot phone was like the Motorola Razor because people were demanding for phones to get smaller and smaller and sleeker.

And recently, it’s been the opposite.

So now the phones are getting larger and larger and coined the term phablets because people are consuming more media, watching more video, expecting a little bit crisper images.

And then my personal favourite thing that they’re doing more is shopping on these devices. So, they can see like full web pages of products.

Messaging to Imagery

I’m gonna switch over from messaging to imagery, right? Because imagery is becoming important as the phones get bigger.

So, we’re gonna do a little experiment here. We’ve done a study with MIT that we only need to see an image for 13 milliseconds in order to identify it.

Eyes up here. I’m gonna show you an image for 13 milliseconds and you can see if you can identify it.

Show of hands, who knew what that was?

That’s almost all of you, right?

So, it wasn’t difficult to see that there was a VW camper van, a little dinged up. If I’d written a list of attributes on that slide, you’d probably have no idea what I was trying to describe.

But because it was an image, it was easy for you to consume.

The study with MIT also concluded that the human brain processes images at 60,000 times faster than words.

What does this mean for marketers, right?

If you guys are trying to dip into e-commerce that means that we’re, in the past, as affiliate marketers copy in offers have been very important.

The opposite is mostly important for e-commerce partners, where a crisp image or video of the product is really gonna convert new customers for you.

Right now, I advise all my partners to use Instagram as a springboard for testing because it is the app within our family of apps that were built on the premise of rich beautiful imagery.

Instagram As A Springboard For Testing

And it’s generally a place to like find inspiration.

So I have a partner that I work with that will send like a bag of products to influencers for free, in exchange for photos, right?

Kind of a cool and free way to get your first set of photo assets because photography is expensive and videography is even more expensive.

I would say that if you’re trying to start a business, you can scour Instagram for a young up-and-coming photographer. And get them to just curate and send you some photos that will convert.

Introducing Instagram Stories

Down the line, you’re also gonna have to think about things like Instagram Stories, which we’re happy to say that we’ve globally rolled out the optimisation for website conversions for.

But this is one of the fastest growing placements in the Facebook family of apps.

And at the same time, Instagram is proving to be like a hugely effective place for people to connect with new brands through the use of our consumer apps built on Instagram.

Hopefully, some of you have heard about Hyperlapse, which you can see Lowe’s taking advantage of in the middle of the slide here.

But they have run this really successful campaign and getting people to convert on their website, by hyperlapsing a home project.

We also have launched carousel ads, as you can see in the Banana Republic example here.

And then photos are still, for my book of business, the most successful converters on Instagram and there’s a reason why. That is because we are still frequency capping photos on it, or sorry, ads on Instagram right now.

And photos are the cheapest placement and it actually like offers some perspective about the product you’re buying.

So having a photo on Instagram, the most common denominator to convert is actually having the focal point via product. So as you can see on the ad here on the left, the sunglasses are what you should expect to convert.

Success Story: Zalando

I want to also share a success story with you. This is Cara Delevingne for Zalando, which is a German company. So I thought it would be extra relevant.

But we ran a case study with Zalando to launch their new line of clothing here in Germany. It was a 35-point lift in ad recall. It was a pretty impressive metric to achieve for them running exclusively on Instagram.

I also love that this campaign scaled 300 videos across different target groups. So they obviously have deeper pockets than I’m asking you guys to test out with.

But it did have an effect on the results.

And as you grow, you’ll actually have learning’s after you test and iterate with video that will allow you to do things like this.

But using video with Cara Delevingne was a really successful launch for them. And they’ve since, actually globalised that campaign.

Now that you know a little bit about the background about the products that we have at your disposal on mobile, let’s talk about a little playbook that I wrote for you guys for a success strategy.

Mobile Strategy

So step one, get a mobile strategy. This is not the most obvious thing.

I think we live in a world where we’re still sitting on CPC, last click, desktop, Google Analytics measurement because those are easy tools and they’re free tools.

But mobile website optimisation is arguably the most important thing that you can do as new e-commerce clients. There are a few reasons why.

Once somebody leaves the Facebook experience, once we send that traffic to your website, if a site doesn’t load within 3-5 seconds we’re gonna lose them. And you get a bounce rate.

And then our algorithm will penalise you.

So for those of you that know how the oCPM algorithm works, there are both negative and positive components to how we score an ad set or a campaign.

The positive ones are things like click-through rates. Like comments, social context. That’s good conversion rate, right?

How many people that I actually sent to your site go through and make a purchase.

There are also things like shares that will get your score boosts it up.

Negative Feedback

On the negative side, there’s negative feedback. So there’s a couple ways that people can express that.

One is by x-ing out your ad or bouncing back before a page load. So, those are the things you want to avoid.

What can you do to actually like, message people into the idea of going to your site?

Well, one thing is taking advantage of some of the organic products that we’ve launched this year. We’ve actually updated pages to help businesses communicate in a mobile world.

So understandable that it’s not the easiest task in the world to have a mobile optimised website that will render effectively on different screen sizes and within different data access levels.

Anywhere from like 2G all the way up to LTE to Wi-Fi connection.

Pages For a Mobile World

So definitely use the tools that we give to you. We renovated pages this year to actually accommodate for different types of businesses and e-commerce is one of them.

You get a clear call-to-action at the front of the page. And you can add things like a like a shop feature or have a product catalogue listed on your page.

And you should certainly set all those things up because frankly, there are free tools that you can use for your business.

We’ve actually added this feature for people to communicate directly with you for new products as well. And I wanted to give you guys a preview of what that looks like.

This keeps freezing. There we go.

So having somebody message your business directly and be able to get information about a product is really revolutionary. I mean, you don’t have another platform at-scale that allows you to do this, right?

Unless you build a chat live feature on your website and then staff your team up. This is kind of impossible at this point.

Showcase Products

What I love about it, is you can actually upload all of your products feed on to our pages now for this shop feature to which you can go as far as to add the cart without a Shopify integration here.

And then after this step, we obviously lead the person to your website for payment information. But these are all tools that you can use if you don’t have a very talented mobile website designer at your disposal.


This second thing I want to talk about is personalisation. So we touched on this a little bit earlier.

The most successful partners that are working with us in Silicon Valley are people that have an algorithm on their end and collect data to personalise a shopping feed for people.

Or determine the next decisions on how to expand their product line.

So I’ll give you 2 examples. We’ll talk about a company I manage called Stitch Fix first.

Example 1: Stitch Fix

So Stitch Fix, you go through a 63 question quiz about your style and your body type before they actually allow you to convert, which seems like a lot. It took about 35 minutes for me to do it.

But that allows them to actually nail it on the first try. They have a very meticulous mobile optimisation engine that will study where people drop off.

They also employ a company called Sail-Through that algorithmically will return emails to people, depending on their user behaviour, their open rate, click-through rate.

There’s an algorithm in everything.

But more importantly, when you send items back that you don’t like, they actually remind you to come back and give feedback. So that way their stylist can learn more about you and that you stay on for a longer time to be a subscriber.

So that’s one example. They’re just like a data company that sells fashion basically.

Example 2: Wish

The other one that I mentioned earlier is Wish.

Wish is one of the largest digital media spenders in the world. And they go as far as to scrape data from their family of apps, which clients are unaware that actually exists to introduce products into the feed of their new apps or sorry, the current app.

And Maria was joking around earlier about them using ads to put crack pipes on the feed. But that’s just how good they are at recognising what people like, is they can actually predict that you want to crack buy it before you know that you want a crack pipe.

So Wish is also something that I would recommend you downloading as an example of a clean conversion funnel. They’ve made it really easy to purchase and also easy to come back as they save all of your credit card information.

So personalisation is the second trend that we’ve identified in e-commerce.

Hyperlocal Targeting

Here’s the example of Cara Delevingne from Zalando that I was alluding to earlier. And this is personalisation at the introductory level, right?

So they ran different iterations of these videos on both feed and Instagram, tested them to see which one performs better and they found that there wasn’t really an answer.

But there was common denominators of video A performing against audience A.

They studied all that. And they actually had the global launch was curated towards the audience.

As you can see, personalisation is important amongst like all steps of the funnel from introduction and ad creation. Starting at ideation of the video, all the way down to converting at the end of the funnel on your website.

Storytelling on Ecommerce

We also talked a lot about storytelling on e-commerce. So, we know that our brains are programmed to remember stories better than their program, remember statistics.

And we want to use this in our advertising strategy somehow. So we came up with sequencing strategies that have worked.

My industry manager always says “Don’t try and kiss someone on the first date.”

That’s like that’s my analogy to sequencing.

Some of our partners have found really great success working with influencers initially to introduce their brand to the world and allowing people to get to know them.

There is a little bit of work that you have to do on the brand equity side, which I know is not music to everybody’s ears but it definitely is important.

It’ll also save you down the line if you become successful and copycats emerge.

People will be loyal to your brand and they’ll comment on copycats like, “Hey, get out of here, why are you trying to kill Snapchat, Facebook. It’s not fair.”

The sequencing product was actually launched last year in which now you can schedule ads and retarget people that have viewed 3 seconds to completion of a video, with a static ad or another video ad to tell a story.


I also want to talk about speed. So this is a lot, right?

You have to get the video, you have to sequence it, you have to feature your product, and you have to have good products and customer service and messenger.

But then you also have to tell the story fast because people’s attention spans are shrinking.

And we know that people are moving faster than businesses now. The percentage of time spent in media versus the percentage of advertising spend on digital is actually the largest gap, if you compare it to other channels.

We know that that’s where the opportunity is. And the fast movers here are the ones that are going to be rewarded.

Feed = Speed

When we say feed equals speed, if you think about how fast you scroll through feed now, we know that people will either consume or bypass a story within 1.8 seconds on mobile feed and that number goes up slightly to 2.6 seconds on desktop mobile.

But what does that mean for you as marketers?

That means that we’re going to have to come up with stories that are that are fast, that have a hook, that are sound off. They feature the product and that ask for people to go to your website and actually buy the stuff that you’re selling, right?

Trying to fly through these.

We’ve also done a study to find that only takes a quarter of a second to recall mobile newsfeed content. So that’s like the VW wagon that I showed you guys earlier that you saw in less than a second.

We know that when people are on mobile devices, they will remember you in less than a second as well.

And the younger you get, the faster your ability gets to actually consume data on mobile devices.

Don’t even want to think about how fast the next generation is going to be because of all the iPad babysitters that I see these days. And kids are gonna be able to predict what’s on feed before it actually shows up.

3-second Audition

So the 5th element or strategy that I wanted to share with you today is called the 3-second audition.

We know a video ad value is generated very quickly. And we know that because we did we partnered with Nielsen for a study here to figure out when people can recall a brand that was new to them.

So we did not use like Coke or Pepsi or something that everyone already knows for this study.

But we found that within three seconds, there is like an exponential rate that people will remember your products. And within 10 seconds, it starts to plateau.

Then we did this experiment with a handful of advertisers. We were like, “Okay, how much information can we get into 10 seconds or less that’ll be effective towards a conversion?

Creative Considerations

Longer duration views can be earned but the value of that tapers off after a while. Here’s what we learned.

Like if we could do, if I could just leave you guys with one slide, this would probably it because people that are in the e-commerce space tend to actually overcomplicate creative considerations.

The 4 things that you have to do when you’re creating creative are: Capture attention quickly; Design for sound off; Frame your visual story correctly. Do not make 16×9 video and put it on Facebook. And then, Play More is essentially a way to tell you to test and iterate and continue to learn.

Capture Attention Quickly

So let’s talk about capturing attention quickly. Start with your captivating moment.

I always advise my partners to get a product shot within the first 2 seconds here because I don’t want people to consume the video for 3 seconds and dilute your retargeting audiences if they’re not serious about actually being interested in the product, right?

So that has residual benefits towards it if you put the product in early.

I also advise to get the logo in there if you’re a new product. MVMT watches is my favourite example of this.

We have about 10 – 15 watch companies that will just copy every single design they do at this point because they’re doing well. You do have to work on brand recognition early on just in case your business becomes a success.

And it’s not expensive to make a video to test.

So as you can see here it just takes a little bit of animation coupled with your logo and a call-to-action in order to run a successful campaign on Facebook.

 Design For Sound Off

The second element of creating creative is actually designing for sound off.

So, we’re actually testing some ways to advertise with sound on because we realised it’s really hard for marketers, especially those that are familiar with a video to create effective creative with the sound off.

But until then, we’re kind of stuck in this limbo of sound off.

So things like just using music in the background, like hand motions within the feed. And if you have to talk, using subtitles are going to be best practices to make video a success.

I love these text overlays that are not subtitles because they pop and I’m easy to read on a mobile device.

A commonly made mistake is that because creative is curated and made on a desktop or on a large screen and then presented to the CEO on a large screen, you don’t realise how small the text looks on a mobile device.

So always test your creative on a mobile device first.

There’s some really cheap, like $5.99 consumer apps that make it easy to build stuff like this.

My favourite one is called VidLab. And they make it easy for you to just like create flyovers, put price bubbles or add music in the background so that you can test for a very in a very cost-effective way.

Facebook Automated Captions

It’s a great example of how to make noise without sound here, in terms of adding subtitles.

So we found that subtitles were so effective. We actually built our product in order to do this.

If you do have a video that you want to run with or talk over, we have a product in Power Editor that you can use to add the subtitles.

Frame Your Visual Story

Arguably the most important thing here is framing your visual story.

So, I wanted to put a side-by-side up here to show you guys the difference between a 16×9 story and a square story.

The most important thing is that within the 16×9, you’re always going to be competing with Renee Doyle.

Currently, Facebook does not serve two add impressions in a row. So, inevitably, your advertisement is gonna be followed by one of my friends probably saying something that’s more interesting to me.

Whereas with this square format, or more recently, we introduced 2×3 which is vertical video, it’s a complete screen takeover.

So, you’re more easily able to capture the attention of your prospective new customer.

Now, I’ve worked with some production teams here that tell me like, “Okay Darlene, but we can only shoot one video and we have to put it on YouTube, which is 16×9 as well as TV that’s 16×9.

And, we found that if you just position your camera differently, like a little further back and have some gray space to cut out, that you can use them the video for multiple channels.

Play More

Lastly, there’s this concept of playing more. You have to experiment to learn.

And I know the margins become tighter when you’re shipping a physical product because you’re probably sitting in debt from ordering it. But testing and reiterating it is very important on Facebook.

Some pieces of advice there, keep the audiences open and test for at least 4 days.

The reason that I’m telling you this is because our oCPM algorithm does take 3-4 days to learn. And that’s at a rate of about 25 conversions per ad set right.

So, if you’re not getting that volume of purchases on your website, you’re really not giving our delivery algorithm enough space to learn and be able to deliver effectively.

Those are, I’d say like my 2 bits of information there. And remember that there’s no recipe for creativity.

Sometimes the oddest things work on Facebook. Everybody said fidgets spinners today. I’m kind of tired of that example.

For the women in the audience, I’m sure you’ve seen the pre-heels ad rolling through your feed these days. And that’s another good example of a square formatted video that’s doing well.

Test Different Concepts

But testing different concepts, there’s always like a safe way to do that on Facebook.

I want to finish with one of my favourite stories and with a challenge.

So it’s a story about this remarkable guy called Pat Weaver. And Pat was an ad man who joined Y&R in New York and was running their entire radio operation by the age of 29.

He was purchased by the American tobacco company. In order to revitalise Lucky Strike and within 3 years, it was the number-one cigarette brand in America.

And then, he enlisted in the navy in 1942 and spent some time in the war in the Pacific. But in 1947, he rejoined Y&R at age 39.

And was appointed to be an executive on the board, running the company.

The thing is that like 2 years later, he joined NBC. And then, this is where the story gets a little interesting.

In the late 40s was this era of something called the soap opera, which is a 30-minute radio sponsored spot. And that was standard, 30 minutes was a standard commercial.

It had been popularised by a Colgate. But when TV came along and kind of took over the radio, advertisers took the 30-minute format, which was pioneered by Weaver and nobody was used to that.

Like everything, all the pricing models were built for 30 minutes. And all of the creative agencies knew how to create 30-minute videos and this was kind of revolutionary.

This is one of the only examples I can access of a 30-second TV spot.

During the time of this change, the entire US advertising market was worth only $12.3 million. But by 1955, when the 30-second spot actually came to light, it had grown to over a billion in annual billings.

30-second TV Spot

Why am I giving you all a history lesson right now?

Pat’s foresight, in my opinion, and his understanding of people, created this awesome revolution and sparked like a new art form for advertisers.

And the 30-second TV spot is still around in the 20th century but it’s kind of like jazz and Andy Warhol’s era.

And it changed television and cinema forever.

But the lesson that I’m trying to teach everybody here is that, without fear of contradiction, mobile’s going to reward the Pat Weaver’s of today.

So I would like to encourage you all to think like Pat Weaver did back in the mid centuries.

I hope that you’ve all gotten a sense of where Facebook’s taking this journey for e-commerce. And that you’ve learned at least something today.

I’d like to thank you all for sticking with us for the presentations today.

Thank you.