Driving Sales with Facebook Ads: Practical Tips for Store Owners

Facebook ads are a key driver of sales for many online stores. In fact, some Hertwill dropshipping stores are pulling in over €100,000 annually just from Facebook ads. Inspired by this success, we created a guide specifically for small online store owners to help them run thriving Facebook ad campaigns 💡

This blog post leverages our broad experience with working with hundreds of online stores. Also, before starting Hertwill, my role as head of e-commerce for an Estonian book retailer involved a heavy focus on digital marketing. It’s important to note that this guide does not cover basic steps, such as setting up your online store with Facebook. For Shopify, see the guide at Shopify’s Facebook and Instagram page. For WooCommerce, check the guide at Facebook’s Business Help Center,

What to keep in mind?

  • These tips don’t guarantee success; it’s more about suggesting “have you tried this? It might work.” You’ll need to experiment to see what works for your store.
  • This blog post doesn’t cover the complex world of attribution.
  • Traffic to your store doesn’t matter if the store doesn’t look appealing, sells subpar products, isn’t optimized for conversions.
  • Facebook Ads often do not provide the best ROI for online stores; Google Search Ads frequently offer higher ROI, mainly because users searching on Google already have an intent to purchase. But don’t get me wrong, Facebook ads still have a definite place in every e-commerce toolkit.
  • A healthy online store should bring in traffic and customers from various channels, so you’re not left vulnerable when Facebook makes an unexpected change or closes your ads account (not that uncommon).

Practical Tips for Maximising Sales with Facebook Ads

    1. Build your social media presence before running ads. Having engaging content and a solid base of followers on your Facebook page and/or Instagram account is crucial. Ads tend to be less successful for stores with only a few followers. For example, one store that partnered with Hertwill burned through a few hundred Euros on Facebook ads while having no posts besides an updated profile picture, and only 4 followers on their Facebook page and 2 on their Instagram account. If customers were to check these accounts, it probably wouldn’t appear legitimate. We recommend encouraging your family, friends, and colleagues to follow your account to reach the first few hundred followers. This involves more than just inviting them to like your page; ask them in group chats, at the office, or in a bar. Interestingly, friends and family can sometimes become your first customers. Additionally, boosting organic posts for engagement and then inviting those who engaged to follow your account can be an effective strategy. Of course, you can run ads to get followers, but my recommendation is not to opt for the cheapest followers. Instead, aim for followers who are likely to be your customers and who will find your content engaging. For instance, you might be able to get likes for 0.02€ each from Georgia, but if your store targets the German market, this approach wouldn’t make sense. Furthermore, while numerous sites offer to sell Facebook likes, I strongly recommend avoiding these options, as I don’t think that practices that fall into grey areas or unethical territory are reasonable.
    2. Utilize the Facebook Conversion API. The Facebook Conversion API allows advertisers to send their marketing data, such as website and app actions, directly to Facebook, improving ad targeting and potentially lowering advertising costs. Facebook Conversion API is especially must in a post cookies world. You can find Conversion API guide for Shopify stores here and for WooCommerce stores here (WooCommerce guide is meant for PixelYourSite plugin which is the plugin Meta itself recommend for WordPress sites).
    3. Keep your ad account structure simple. Ideally, you should maintain only 1-2 campaigns unless you’re targeting different countries or objectives (e.g., one campaign for page likes and another for sales). It may also be beneficial to create separate campaigns for distinct demographic segments, such as one targeting women with ads like “Handmade Winter Boots for Women” and another for men, “Handmade Winter Boots for Men.”
    4. When starting a new campaign, choose the manual option instead of the automated option that Facebook recommends.In fact, Facebook’s own marketing advisors suggest selecting the manual option for improved outcomes.
    5. When launching a new campaign, in most cases, it’s advisable to enable Advantage Campaign Budget. This feature allows Facebook to distribute your budget across active ad sets to optimize outcomes based on your performance goals. Essentially, you won’t set separate budgets for each ad set; instead, you’ll have one overall budget for the campaign.
    6. Conversion campaigns for sales with catalog ads are crucial for online stores aiming to increase sales. Setting sales as the objective and using catalog ads often yield the best results for established stores, as our experience shows that catalog ads usually outperform manually created ads. However, the text accompanying catalog ads is vitally important. Tailoring texts for different product segments, even within catalog ads, is advisable—for example, Slippers and Hiking Boots should have distinct copy. Additionally, incorporating reviews in catalog ads can also significantly enhance their effectiveness.
    7. Conversion campaigns using catalog ads combined with remarketing often yield the best ROI. From our collaboration with hundreds of stores, we’ve noticed that first-time visitors, especially to new and relatively unknown stores, rarely make a purchase. This underscores the importance of remarketing. However, it’s essential to ensure that your remarketing group is not too small; being exposed to your ad 10 times can be counterproductive. Remarketing campaigns on Facebook are most effective when you already have some traffic. Don’t hesitate to extend the retargeting window to include visitors  even from the last 90-120 days, and don’t exclude recent purchasers—they might buy again. Additionally, incorporating individuals who have engaged with your Facebook or Instagram accounts, along with website visitors, has proven successful for some. To set up an effective campaign, follow these simple steps:
      1. Create a new sales campaign, enable “Use a catalog” and “Advantage campaign budget,” and then set your budget in the campaign settings.
      2. In the Ad Set settings, set the goal to either ‘Maximize Conversion Value’ or ‘Maximize Conversions’ and choose ‘Purchase’ as the Conversion Event.
      3. Select the product set you wish to use in this Ad Set. For example, if you sell shoes, you can include all your products or focus on a subset, like slippers, and have a separate ad set and separate ads for each product subset
      4. For Audience type, select “Retarget ads to people who interacted with your products on and off Facebook.” Set ‘Viewed or added to cart but not purchased’ for a period of 30-120 days, adjusting the duration based on your site’s traffic volume.  The fewer visitors you have, the longer the period.
      5. Create an ad, and make sure to invest effort in copywriting. Using reviews is highly recommended for enhancing its impact
    8. For some new online stores, a combination of Traffic ads and Remarketing for conversions has proven more effective in the early phases. In simple steps:
      1. Start with a Traffic campaign aimed at landing page views for your target market, but keep the target group broad, avoiding narrowing it down with excessive demographic or behavioral parameters. We often see merchants starting their first campaign with a very narrow target group from the beginning, which can negatively affect the results.
      2. Follow up with a Sales campaign targeting visitors from the last 90-120 days, using catalog ads.
    9. Lookalike audiences allow you to target a similar group of people to those who have, for example, made a purchase in your store. This is advisable when your store is more mature and experiences daily purchases. Generate a lookalike audience and launch a sales campaign to engage them. In the early days, consider creating a lookalike from your website visitors. I recently read a take from a digital marketer who argued that audience targeting, including lookalike audiences, is outdated and overly specific for 2022, suggesting a broader audience approach instead. While I agree with the broad strategy, I still believe lookalike audiences are worth testing, as we’ve seen some stores achieve great results with them. Anyways, do as follows.
      1. When creating an ad set, first select “Create a Custom Audience” and choose “Website.” Next, ensure “All Website Visitors” is selected, with retention set to 60-90 days.
      2. After generating your website visitor audience, use it to create a lookalike audience by selecting “Create a Lookalike Audience.” Next, name the lookalike audience, verify the target country, choose the size of the new lookalike audience, and you’re set.
      3. Launch a sales campaign targeting the lookalike audience and assess its effectiveness.
    10. More on targeting and budgets. I can’t give a precise recommendation on how much money you should spend on Facebook ads per month, as it greatly depends on your budget and the market you’re operating in, but generally speaking, more is better 🙂 At the very least, you should have some budget to spend. Often, we see merchants rely on their intuition to set a very precise target for their ads, then start with a low budget and try to get their campaigns running, aiming directly at the most precise expected customer profile. I would recommend doing the exact opposite: keep the target group a bit broader and set the budget higher for the learning phase, then (if necessary) lower the budget later. This approach allows Facebook more freedom to learn what brings results and what doesn’t, enabling a quicker exit from the learning phase. And when you start to reduce the budget, Facebook will have a better understanding of how to achieve your objectives. But again, it all depends on your overall budget. Keep in mind that there is always a learning phase, as explained by Meta: “The learning phase is the period when the delivery system still has a lot to learn about an ad set.” In simple terms, when you launch a new campaign, it won’t achieve its maximum effect immediately, and if you shut it down after just two days, it’s hard to conclude whether it was effective or not. However, while Meta advises advertisers to see the learning phase through to completion, it’s wise to approach this suggestion with caution. Understand that an ad set failing to generate conversions or suffering from a high Cost Per Purchase isn’t guaranteed to improve performance simply by reaching Active status from Learning status.
    11. Learn and optimize. It’s common for merchants to launch Facebook ads with a certain budget, only to check back in a month or two and find that the ads didn’t perform as expected, resulting in wasted money. It’s crucial, especially in the beginning, to monitor your ads at least once a week to assess their performance. This should be done both in the Facebook Ads Manager and Google Analytics. I recommend scheduling this as a weekly task in your calendar. If your campaign has just started, avoid making drastic changes immediately, as it is still in the learning phase. However, if after 1.5 to 2 weeks you see no results, don’t hesitate to make bold changes. Generally, you should also feel free to add new visuals and test new copy continuously.
    12. Take the results that Facebook shows you in the ad manager with a grain of salt. They are not 100% accurate, not even 90%. But in this guide, we won’t delve into the complex world of attribution. My advice would be to simply use Facebook’s own data to compare which ads, visuals, and messages perform better, while monitoring overall ad spend and incoming sales and margins at the same time. We’ve seen some set up simple Google Sheets to track their ad spend on Facebook, Google, etc., and revenue and earned margins, but even this might be overkill in the beginning. In short: don’t get too caught up in the details at the start of your e-commerce journey.

Copy and Visuals

Copy and visuals are critical components of effective advertising. The primary goal of most ads is to interrupt the scrolling, even if only for a moment, and this can be achieved through striking visuals, compelling copy, and perhaps even music. I want to emphasize the importance of ad text. Too many merchants run Facebook ads with poor text—either meaningless, overly generic, or riddled with spelling mistakes. Therefore, it’s crucial to invest time in creating both impactful visuals and well-crafted copy for your ads, ensuring they align with your store’s products and the ad’s landing page. When operating a new online store and targeting a niche market, you’re not competing with giants like Zalando or About. Being cherished by a select few can be more valuable, so I urge you to be bold. It’s okay if not everyone likes your copy or if it doesn’t resonate with them. If your products are exceptional, your ads should reflect that quality—just be cautious with using ‘awesome’ too frequently. Dare to be bold and a bit unconventional – experiment with different approaches!

    1. Collect your ad text and visuals somewhere, at least the best-performing ones – e.g., Google Sheets. You’ll use them across different channels, and it’s nice to have one spot to copy-paste from.
    2. Browse Facebook Ad Library to get ideas and see what your competitors are doing. Focus especially on ads that have been running for a long time; there’s a good chance these are the most successful ones.
    3. Explore what top industry experts are recommending by reviewing collections of the best ads. I highly recommend Karola Karlson’s blog post, which showcases the top 200 Facebook ad examples. Karlson is the former marketing and branding manager at Bolt.
    4. Try different things – you think you know what works, but you’re probably wrong. Whenever Facebook offers to insert multiple headlines or primary texts, use that opportunity, but also be reasonable. If your budgets are low, don’t create hundreds of variations. The same goes for having too many different ad sets, not only ads and texts in the ads. Producing a large number of ads and ad sets while having limited budgets means the delivery system gains less insight into each individual ad and ad set compared to when you create a smaller number of them.
    5. Dynamic Creative is great for testing multiple creatives at the same time. Some have run a dynamic creative campaign to see what works best and then taken the best-performing creatives to a so-called “winner ad”. Some pros recommend using dynamic creative so you test one variable (target audience, videos, images, headlines, ad copies) in each ad set, but it might be overkill in the early phase.
    6. Use AI tools like ChatGPT or DallE for help, but please, please, please don’t use just generic AI content. I will throw up if I see one more time an ad text (or headline on a website) that starts with “Elevate your style..”.
    7. User-generated content and reviews rule. According to a Stackla report, user-generated content is 8.7 times more impactful than influencer content. And user-generated reviews, photos, videos, blog posts, comments, shares, and likes are seen as three times more authentic than brand-created content. It’s more convincing if your customers say how good your products are instead of you telling them. If you already have user-generated content and have approval, use it everywhere. If you don’t and are just starting your online business, follow up on every order and ask the customer if they are happy with it. If you get positive feedback, ask if you can use it. If the feedback is not favorable, at least you learned something. In the early days of our shoe store, Saapavabrik, we wrote to every customer asking if they were satisfied and, in case they were, asked if we could use their comment in the store, ads, and social media. Some of this feedback we’ve used as content for more than 2 years, and it still works. There are many solutions that enable automating the post-purchase experience, including asking for reviews, but asking them with a regular person-to-person email works better.
    8. If you have a great review, try it as text in an ad, but you can also try placing it on a background and using it as a visual and accompanying it with a text that says something like “What our customers say about us”. We saw one store make a successful carousel ad where there were 10 positive reviews in a row – showing what clients say about them. The most successful ads we’ve seen often include customer reviews.
    9. If you sell products provided by Hertwill, you also have access to reviews from real customers for some products, which you can use until you have your own reviews. You’ll find the reviews in the product pages when you check out products on our catalog.
    10. Questions often work – e.g., if you sell boots manufactured in Europe, try copy that says “Would you prefer boots that are manufactured here locally by local craftsmen or overseas? We prefer local, and hence all our boots are made here in Europe”.
    11. Highlight obvious values or even those required by law (e.g., guarantees, returns, etc.) – many users don’t know this, and it could be the necessary last nudge to convince them to make a purchase.
    12. Carousel ads format works great, although a bit time-consuming to create. For example, we recently created a carousel ad for our own Saapavabrik shoe store that showcases the top 10 shoes we sell, and the primary text accompanying the ad says “Here are our top 10 bestsellers”. Carousel ads might also be a good way to showcase different categories or brands you offer.
    13. If you are new in the market with your store, you can also try using ad copy that says something along the lines that your store is now open or better “store x is now in Sweden (or whatever your target country is). Even when your store isn’t anywhere else, it makes your store look like a bigger player than it really is.
    14. If you are offering some brands that are already a bit known in the market you are targeting, promote these brands in ads, as they are familiar to people and they apply some familiarity also then to your store.
    15. If you sell European brands that Hertwill offers, please use the strengths and unique values that these brands have, don’t advertise them just as regular products. If they are made in Europe, tell that in your ads. If they have won some awards, mention that. If they are unknown brands themselves but have collaborated with bigger brands or influencers, use that. Remember, you are not selling only a product, but a story.
    16. Rhymes work – it sounds silly, but if you come up with a good rhyme, try it; they stand out in the feed. Richard Shotton talks about the power of rhymes in marketing in his book “The Illusion of Choice,” and one example he brings is a slogan from the beginning of the 20th century in the US during the influenza pandemic which is still remembered: “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases.”
    17. Offers and discounts also work on Facebook ads. Although we are not big fans of discounts and are not doing any in our test store, Saapavabrik, they often work. You can also try remarketing for visitors or people who have added items to the shopping cart that the code “XXXX” will give X% discount or free shipping.
    18. Video still rules – if you have the skill, try to create some videos. Or even if you don’t have the skill, still, take some time and go play around with some video creation tool (Facebook has an internal simple video creation tool you can try, although the results might be sketchy). Sometimes, even just moving text on a picture can be enough and draws people’s attention while scrolling. Or what we have seen some do, is just generate a short clip where just products run in sequence, e.g., they take 511 boots and just make a short clip where all the colors of the model run past in sequence.
      • We’ve seen that work is a video where someone unpacks an order or does a very short review of the product.
      • If you have a friend, better an influencer, offer them a free product in exchange for a video. Again, if you have a great video, you might be able to use it for a very long time and across different channels, not only Facebook.
    19. To our surprise, we have seen more success when ad visuals present products, not models with products. It isn’t always so, and the data here might change, but something to keep in mind.
    20. If you are no designer (as I am), I’ve found Canva to be the easiest way to make some slight changes or create some simple visuals (e.g., add some value proposition on a regular product picture like “Made in Europe”). They also have simple and quick tutorials.
    21. If you sell products provided by Hertwill, we will also share some marketing photos and videos done by professionals, which you can use for ads, social media, and your website.
    22. If you create an ad, Facebook automatically turns on some enhancements like music, text overlays, etc. Be careful with them – the results might sometimes not be what you want, as they might test some things that you would never like for your brand to test. But again, it might be reasonable to turn them on initially for some ads and see if they deliver better results.
    23. If you find something that works, don’t be afraid to run some of the same ads (visuals and copy) for years. Once you find messages that work better, use them so much and for so long that you get sick of them. And then use them even more. When you’re sick of these messages, the first real customers will start to understand; some will even begin to remember. For instance, if the distinguishing value proposition is “All our bags are handmade in Europe,” it should be present in every ad, post, newsletter, and transactional email, even if it is a side note. Of course, this should also be reflected in the online store where you start taking customers from the ads. We have an investor-backed growth-hacker mentor who starts every other LinkedIn post with, “I’ve scaled my own startup to €13M in 2 years”. It’s nauseating, but the message sticks, as you can see me mentioning here. Once you find effective text or visual content, you can coast on it for a long time. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t update visuals and copy regularly.
    24. Also, keep in mind where you are taking visitors with your ads. In some cases, it might make sense to take them to a category page or a specific product page instead of the homepage.


One last thing, these tips are not intended to guarantee results but rather to offer ideas for you to try, based on our real-life experiences and those of our partner online stores. Ultimately, you must discover what works best for your business. We hope these tips help you on the road to building a successful online business. And hopefully, you’ll choose Hertwill as your partner on this journey.

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