20/01/2023 - 11 minute read

The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Catalog Ads for Car Dealers in 2023

A profile picture of Gary Lewis Cheetham, the founder of GL Digital Automotive Marketing, smiling outside a car dealership

Written by

Gary Lewis Cheetham

Automotive marketing specialist from Manchester, UK

A header image for the blog post The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Catalog Ads for Car Dealers in 2023 from GL Digital Automotive Marketing

Table of Contents

In this article, I’ll be showing you exactly how to set up a successful advertising campaign using Facebook catalogue ads for your car dealership. I’ll share our data proven ad system which we deliver for our clients, so that you can mirror that success for yourself.

This is a comprehensive guide that will walk you through the steps, in detail, for setting up and running a successful catalog ad campaign within Facebook for your dealership. Whether you’ve never attempted to advertise your dealership and stock through a Facebook ad, or it’s something you’ve been doing for years, after reading this guide you’ll have all the knowledge required to run a catalog ad campaign successfully.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the best types of ad copy and targeting options to make sure your ads get in front of, and appeal to, the right audience in your local area.

Who wrote “The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Catalog Ads for Car Dealers for 2023?”

I’m Gary at GL Digital, and my marketing specialism is specific to the automotive trade. My background in the industry brings something very unique to the way I approach supporting dealerships with their marketing needs.

I was raised within the car industry, having helped my dad with his own auto business from being a teenager. In 2020, I founded GL Digital with the aim of helping dealerships realise their potential through specific marketing strategies to not only advertise stock, but also to increase inventory.

Who would benefit from reading “The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Catalog Ads for Car Dealers for 2023?”

This article is for you if you’re leading marketing and online advertising for a second hand car dealership with stock of more than 50 units. It’s also for you if you’re tired of using advertising platforms that don’t work, don’t deliver the results you’re after, and want to make sure you’re getting your stock in front of local, highly driven customers.

What are Facebook catalogue ads for car dealerships?

Facebook catalogue ads are an ad format offered by Facebook, where Facebook pulls examples of your stock and displays car images alongside your selected ad copy, all targeted at people shopping for cars in your local area. For dealerships looking to increase sales enquiries, we believe catalogue catalogue ads are the way forward.

If you want Facebook’s definition, “a catalogue is a container that holds information about the items that you want to advertise or sell across Facebook and Instagram.”

You’ll have undoubtedly seen catalogue ads when using Facebook for personal or business use, perhaps when scoping out the competition. Here are some examples of what catalogue ads look like, taken from real, successful advertising campaigns we’ve run for our clients:

A screenshot of some Facebook ads we are running for a car dealership client
A screenshot of some Facebook ads we are running for a car dealership client

How successful are Facebook catalogue ads for car dealerships?

The process for setting up Facebook catalogue ads can be lengthy and complex, but in the end dealerships find that it’s absolutely worth it. There are a few different ways to go about setting up your catalogue ads, but we’ve found the most effective way of running a campaign of this type.

The GL Digital team has created bespoke software that crawls your website twice each day (this can be customised to occur more or less frequently depending on your preferences), providing Facebook with an updated inventory status and minimising the work for our clients. It’s still possible to create catalogs if you skip this step.

Here’s exactly what you need to do to get up and running with your own catalogue ads. You can also view all of this information on Facebook’s website.

Set up a Facebook page first

Before we dive in, to run Facebook Catalog ads you’ll first need to make sure that you have an updated Facebook Business Page for your dealership, as well as an ad manager account. If you need to take a step back and complete these actions first, you can find directions for these processes below:

You can read our guide on how to set up and optimise a Facebook page for car dealers.

How to set up a Facebook Business Page

How to create a Facebook Ad Account

Assuming you’ve already got an ad account all set up, we can go through the steps for creating your catalogue ads.

Step 1: How to Create Your Catalog

The first part of this step requires you to navigate to the Commerce Section of your ad account. This is where you need to be in order to start creating your catalog.

The next part of this step depends on whether or not you’ve created a catalog previously.

For the sake of this article, let’s assume you haven’t. In this case, you’ll need to click "Add Catalogue".

A screenshot of the add catalogue button in the Facebook commerce manager

You will then see a prompt to select the type of inventory you’d like to advertise on Facebook before clicking Next. Dealerships will need to select the Auto option.

A screenshot of different types of inventory ads you can pick on Facebook when creating a catalogue

The next part can get a little bit confusing. This is where you select how you want to add items from your stock to your catalogue. There are a few ways this can be done, but the best way to do it is to select Upload Product Info. This will allow you to upload a CSV that holds all the information about your stock into Commerce Manager.

Next, select the Business Manager account that owns the catalogue. Bear in mind that you need to be the business admin for this step to work.

Here, you’ll need to choose a name for your catalogue and finally, click Create.

That’s the end of the first step. Congratulations, you have successfully created your first catalogue. Now you need to populate it with your inventory.

Step 2: How to Create and Upload Your Vehicle Feed

This is the step in which you tell Facebook what you want to advertise by supplying a list of your stock. To do this, you’ll need to create a data feed file which includes all the stock items that you want to advertise. You can list all of your vehicles within the same feed if you want to, but you can also organise your stock into grouped feeds, such as luxury vehicles, sports cars, and so on.

A screenshot of the catalogue in Facebook commerce manager

This is how we set up the data source in the Facebook commerce manager. The feed is a CSV file that is updated daily by our crawler software, and then Facebook downloads the CSV and updates the catalog from this information.

To create your data feed file, navigate to the Data Sources section of your catalogue. Once here, select Add Items.

A screenshot of the data sources menu in Facebook commerce manager

A drop down may appear, in which case you should then select Add Multiple Items.

Then, select Data Feed > Next.

A screenshot of the data feed and manual options when creating a Facebook catalogue

You will now see Is Your Spreadsheet or file ready?

A screenshot of the create a new data feed options when creating a Facebook catalogue

You’ll need to select No, I need a Facebook Template, and then Next.

From here, choose Download Template. This will allow you to select from a variety of relevant product categories for a custom template, which is the recommended approach for populating your catalogue. There is already an included option for vehicles, so this is the format you should choose.

Once you’ve downloaded the template, you’ll have it ready in CSV format. Now you can add in all your vehicle stock and prepare to upload.

Creating a Catalogue Feed Follow Facebook Data Specifications

In order to fill in your template, you’ll need to open the CSV you just downloaded in a program like Excel. Next, open the data feed specifications within a new tab or a new window — this makes it easier to check these as you work through completing your template.

Now you need to check your template. The header row should not be changed, because it is formatted with names and other details that Facebook requires so that it can read your data. You may notice that some words are in American English — even if your business is based in the UK, you need to make sure you don’t change this as it’s the way Facebook reads the information within the file, and will not affect the way your ads appear. Here’s an example of what the required fields for vehicles include.

Make sure to delete any rows that provide example information, and replace it with accurate information about your stock. You’ll see that in some fields you can add free text, while others call for specific information — to avoid errors, make sure you don't veer from this format.

Once you have added all the required information about your stock, save your CSV file in a place you can easily find it. Now you can upload it.

To complete the upload, drag and drop your saved CSV file into the required field within Commerce Manger and select Next.

Now you’ll need to check your data feed’s settings. If any changes are required, select the Edit (pencil) icon. Finally, choose Save feed and upload.

The process should now be done in most cases, but if your file has any naming issues, those would now be listed for you to see. You might see that a field is spelled incorrectly or that you need to make other adjustments for the file to work. Complete these changes and then choose Upload.

Step 3: How do I Create Vehicle Sets?

The next step is to create appropriate vehicle sets. This part is down to your preferences and how you want to categorise your catalogue, but for example you can create separate sets for sports cars, SUVs, vehicle manufacturers, price, and so on.

A screenshot of vehicle sets options in the Facebook commerce manager

To create your vehicle sets, you’ll need to navigate your way to the catalog in question, then select Sets.

Next, choose Create set. The next step can look different within various industries, but because you’ll be adding vehicles you will be asked to use filters to create your set. Choose a name for your set (e.g. SUVs), opt to use filters or manually select your items. When you’re all done, click Create.

Step 4: How do I Connect a Pixel or SDK?

Once your catalog is set up, you’ll need to make sure you connect a pixel so that you can run your ads. This will allow Facebook to pull items from your catalog through your website and present them to people who have previously searched your stock on your website. If you’re currently advertising your dealership on Facebook (or have done so in the past), you’ll (hopefully) already have a pixel set up. If not, you’ll need to do so now.

First, you’ll need to implement a pixel or SDK, then connect it to your catalogue.

For a complete guide on how to set up your Meta pixel and conversion tracking, check our Ultimate Guide to the Meta Pixel and Conversion Tracking for Car Dealerships.

Here is what your catalogue will look like from Commerce Manager:

Now you’ve done all the work required to set up your catalogue and connect everything. The next step is to set up your catalogue ad campaign. This next portion is the same as how you would set up any Facebook ad campaign, so if you’re already familiar with the platform then it will seem similar at this stage.

If you’re a complete novice to running ads on Facebook, you’ll want to look at the basics on how to set up an ad campaign through Ads Manager. If you are already familiar with the process, read on to see our approach for setting up a campaign successfully in the catalogue format.

Firstly, you’ll need to write some eye-catching and punchy text for the main body of your ad’s copy. Something like the below is ideal:

You’ll also need to select your targeting options to make sure you’re getting your catalogue ads in front of the right people. We find the best success through capturing broad audiences, without any specific demographics, interests or behaviours set.

Here’s an example of how to do this:

A screenshot of targeting options when setting up Facebook ads for a car dealership

You also need to choose where within Facebook and its associated platforms you want the ads placed. It’s important that you choose the manual option and select the specific places you want the ads to appear, because many of the default locations are proven not to perform. The GL Digital team only chooses Feed and Marketplace ads, as other areas and Instagram have proven to be ineffective through our testing and data.

A screenshot of the placements we choose when setting up Facebook  catalog ads for a car dealership

Here you can see exactly what our ad setup looks like and the overall campaign structure.

An example of Facebook catalog ad setup for a car dealership

From the customer perspective, interacting with an ad is simple and straightforward. We set up all of our catalogue ads so that a tailored form is presented to the customer enabling them to easily reach out to you. This allows Facebook to drop a hot lead directly in your lap.

Setting up the form on Facebook for a Facebook catalog ad for your car dealership

Here’s what the form journey looks like.

Firstly, the customer needs to add their contact and personal information to the form. In our experience,the fewer pieces of information you ask for, the better the completion rate. Asking less of the customer helps to ensure they don’t get bored or distracted during the process and abandon the form.

A screenshot of the first step of a Form on Facebook example for a car dealership catalog ads

Then we ask for just a small amount of further information about the customer’s car buying intentions:

A screenshot of the second step of a Form on Facebook example for a car dealership catalog ads

Lastly, the customer must accept the terms and conditions to proceed:

A screenshot of the final step of a Form on Facebook example for a car dealership catalog ads

You can then access leads from customers like this within your Facebook Ad account for your sales team to follow up with.

How to successfully run a catalogue ad campaign for your dealership

Now that you have an inside look at exactly how we built our car dealership catalogue ads, we want to share some of the tips and tricks we have learned along the way to help you run your campaigns in the most effective way. Below is our top advice for how to successfully run a catalogue ad campaign:

  1. We find that catalogue ads work best for dealers with stock levels over 50 units. Otherwise, you might find that customers make an inquiry on an ad that’s displaying, perhaps, a Volkswagen Passat through the catalogue. When the sales department pursues the lead, in many cases, the customer says they’re actually looking for a different make and model of car, for instance a Ford Focus. For dealerships with limited stock supply, the chances are that they may not actually stock that car, and then the dealership has lost that lead.

  2. Always put your cars in the catalogue listing a monthly price or finance option. This should be generated using your dealership’s finance base rate. We find this works better than a lump cash price, because customers that want to finance vehicles are worth more to dealerships. However, if you follow this route, it’s vital that you include your FCA disclosure message in every single ad so that you remain compliant with credit regulations. You will also need to set the special ad category to “credit” within the Facebook campaign settings to avoid having your ads banned.

  3. We have found £30 per day to be the optimal budget for catalog ads. However, once the campaign has been running long enough to show you relevant performance data, you should judge its performance and optimise the budget over time..

  4. Be flexible in your expectations and know that not all dealerships will have the same results. We find the expected cost per lead can vary anywhere between £4 (typically dealerships that stock a variety of manufacturers) to £20 (typically dealerships only selling one make of car, such as a specialist Ford or BMW dealership).

  5. Casting a wide geographical net on these ads is a waste of your time and money. Data from Click Dealer has shown us that 90% of sales happen from customers living within 30 miles of the dealership, so we recommend local targeting only.

  6. We only run ads on Facebook targeting a broad audience, since Apple rolled out iOS14.5 on its mobile devices, it’s no longer possible to target detailed demographics on Facebook e.g age, sex and interests.

  7. We recommend A/B testing the Facebook Form against the form on your website to see which performs better in terms of cost per lead.

  8. We find that creating a bespoke landing page with a chatbot-style lead generation experience for each client delivers the best results. Our testing has shown that this consistently outperforms the Facebook Form.

Conclusion to the article “Ultimate Guide to Facebook Catalog Ads for Car Dealers for 2023”

Our results from real campaigns for our clients show that the Facebook catalogue ad format is the most successful for the auto industry. By following the steps and advice in this guide, you’ll be able to build your own campaign for your dealership.

If your dealership has over 50 items of stock and isn’t running this type of ads, you’re behind the competition. Start putting your catalogue ad campaign together now, or get in touch with the team at GL Digital today to discuss how we can run it for you.

About the author

A profile picture of Gary Lewis Cheetham, the founder of GL Digital Automotive Marketing, smiling outside a car dealership

Gary Lewis Cheetham is an automotive marketing specialist, born and raised in Oldham, Greater Manchester. Gary Lewis Cheetham is the founder of GL Digital Automotive Marketing. He spent his teenage years working at the family dealership after school, learning the ropes of the car trade from the inside out.

After moving on to working in marketing, Gary Lewis founded GL Digital in 2020 when he noticed a need for direct-to-consumer marketing platforms within the auto industry. He now strives every day to help independent dealers in the UK and US realise their potential. Gary also loves Formula 1 and motorsport.

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