The Facebook Pixel for beginners

It’s common knowledge that one of the most effective ways of selling goods online these days is with the combination of a Shopify store and Facebook adverts but for a beginner it can be a daunting task understanding the complexities of marketing and the technical requirements of setting up your store with the required code.

Fortunately things have quickly moved on with the technical side and there are a number of ways of setting up your Pixel for use with Shopify.

So what is the Pixel?

The term ‘Pixel’ refers to times gone by (actually, not that long ago in real terms but an age in the rapidly moving world of e-commerce) where you had to install an actual Pixel - short for Picture Element – Pix-El as a piece of invisible code within your store. Facebook was able to detect this additional piece of code together with the place in the purchase flow where it was located and, if a person was logged into Facebook at the time, attribute that particular action to that particular Facebook user.

Great! So now we have a way of being able to identify people and their actions on our store within the Facebook platform and to use the tools that they provide to set about creating adverts to display to them.

Using interests, activities, likes and dislikes of Facebook users we are also able to drill down the targeting of our adverts to people most likely to respond to our products and message.

These days we are very unlikely to actually use a real Pixel but rather a piece of javascript code that talks directly to Facebook and reports back defined events to them such as viewing a product or making a purchase. The benefits of this method are that we can put a lot more intelligence to what we do and can be a lot more flexible and specific about just what we pass and when we pass it. With advertising, better data makes for a better result and better return on your investment.

It’s a common misconception that the “Pixel” is somehow intelligent and acts like a real person making decisions about what to pass and even mistakes when it does. The reality is a lot simpler. All the “Pixel” does is to report information to Facebook when a series of defined events happen.

Facebook set these out as its “Standard Events” which include things like when someone viewed a product, added a product to cart, made a purchase or even subscribed to a newsletter. These events are common across all stores and cannot be changed.

The real intelligence is provided within Facebook by its database and algorithms. All of the information is stored, whether that is regarding a Facebook user and their habits, interests and actions, your Shopify store, Products, and a whole lot more information.

When you create adverts, audiences, conversions, retargets and all the good things needed to make money from the Facebook platform you are defining a series of rules which Facebook can apply to the data that is has collected from not just your store but from all stores and places within Facebook itself.

It’s a VERY powerful tool!

The Pixel on your store records events which Facebook then stores. For example, you can then create an audience of everybody that added a product to cart but did not make a purchase.

The Facebook algorithm is also able to make intelligent decisions based on this information. For example, you are able to optimise delivery of an advert to be shown to people who are most likely to make a purchase.

Another common misconception is that optimising an advert for Purchase does not mean you will pay every time someone makes a purchase. It means that you are asking Facebook to try and work out who is most likely to take that action – in this case purchase – and display your adverts to them.

Fortunately there now are a number of ways of making the technical process of installing the correct code on your store a simple process. For the more adventuruous amongst you it is still possible to manually install the code required onto your theme. Also, Shopify themselves have the ability to simply add your Pixel ID into your store although this is for basic requirements and will not support Dynamic Product Ads (DPA). For more complex or bespoke requirements there are apps such as Pixel Perfect which take care of the whole process from beginner to the most complex advanced solutions.