Building the Next Era of Personalized Experiences, by Facebook’s Dan Levy

By Dan Levy, vice president, ads & business products, Facebook.

During my dozen years at Facebook, I have focused on our single mission: Building meaningful connections between people and businesses. To achieve it, we had to get a few big things right: First, leading the shift from desktop to mobile. Then, setting the standard for personalized ads so businesses could reach the right customers. And during the pandemic, helping millions of businesses keep their doors open and millions more open them virtually for the first time.

So many creators and businesses innovated their way out of so many challenges and I get motivated every time I learn how integral we are to their success. Like the owner of Fubert, a Belgian ice cream store that started a delivery business during Covid. He told us he wouldn’t have been able to “stay afloat without the ability to create personalized ads with Facebook.” There are so many others like him.

Now, as parts of the world reopen, businesses are confronting a permanent shift in people’s behaviour: a migration to e-commerce that might have taken a decade exploded within a year. This, combined with growing technologies to meet people’s privacy expectations, is a generational opportunity for our industry to innovate once again. We must develop new ways for businesses to reach customers and to give people more control over how their personal information is used in advertising. To make this opportunity a reality, we’re focused on product innovations in four areas:

1. Privacy-enhancing technologies

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” That famous marketing truism from the 19th century held well into the 21st, which was fine if you were a big business with a big budget, but not if you were the neighbourhood tailor. You needed a better way. That’s what the internet and data-driven marketing delivered, enabling a small business to reach its specific audience with personalized messages for far less money.

Now, often with little more than a phone and a Facebook or Instagram account— people can chase a dream and more than ever are: The pace of new business creation in the US hit a record high in 2020.

Facebook helped lead the shift to personalized advertising, and now we want to show that personalization and privacy are not at odds.

That’s why we are developing privacy-enhancing technologies to help minimize the amount of personal information we process, while still allowing us to show relevant ads and measure ad effectiveness. These technologies will be an essential foundation for digital advertising in the future, much like the microchip is for computer processing. But in order for these technologies to work and benefit all businesses, it will require collaboration across the industry, as will other privacy standards and practices. It’s why Facebook is part of several collaborations like the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM), the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and World Federation of Advertisers (WFA).

2. Product and business discovery

Two hundred million businesses use our free tools, like a Facebook Page or Instagram account to share company updates. Ten million pay for advertising. No matter how they use Facebook, we’re reimagining discovery and relevance for people, creators, and businesses alike.

For example, we are:

  • Testing a new experience in News Feed where people can tap to browse content from businesses on topics such as beauty, fitness, or clothing, and explore content from related businesses.
  • Using context to make smarter recommendations about which ads to show, so if you’re watching a travel video, we could show ads for hotels and flights.
  • Making it easier for people to build communities around businesses that align with their values. Since the pandemic started, 3.5 million people in the US have joined new Groups supporting Black-owned small businesses and we’ll soon begin a limited US test enabling a small business badge to be placed on ads.

3. Commerce

One in three shoppers globally say they plan to spend less time in-store even after the pandemic is over, and almost three-quarters say they get shopping ideas from Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or WhatsApp.

We’re also seeing more than one billion people visit Marketplace each month and Shops have over 300 million monthly visitors even though we just launched it last year. And just a few weeks ago, we announced that Shops are extending to Marketplace in the US and WhatsApp in certain countries and developing Augmented Reality (AR) ads that encourage people to “try-on” products of interest.

In short, Facebook and Instagram are fast becoming a destination to buy and sell and over the coming years, we are building a modern commerce system to meet that demand across ads, community tools, messaging, Shops and payments. It is all in service of creating a personalized, seamless customer journey, in which it is easier to discover a product, learn about it, decide to buy it, pay for it, and find it on your doorstep.

4. Business tools beyond marketing

For businesses, time is as important as their budget. We want the best minute and dollar they spend each day to be on Facebook, and that requires more than just better tools to buy ads and post updates. We think we can help to solve all kinds of business needs whether that’s customer relationship management (CRM), business messaging tools or hiring through Facebook Jobs.

We also keep pushing to develop products and tools giving businesses what they need while requiring fewer clicks and choices, and less day-to-day management. We are :

  • Helping businesses run their business across our apps easily with Facebook Business Suite.
  • Giving businesses new time-saving tools to get inspiration for, plan and manage posts, Stories and ads.
  • Enhancing the capabilities of our Unified Inbox and making it easier to message customers across the Facebook family of apps from a single interface.
  • Expanding our Messenger API for Instagram as customers increasingly rely on messaging instead of phone calls.

Although our products are changing to meet fast-evolving needs, the mission is the same: Building meaningful connections between people and businesses. We’re building a new era of personalized experiences—in which people have more control, choice and transparency over their identifiable data than ever before and people, businesses, and creators have new opportunities and ways to connect, grow, and prosper.