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How Do Facebook Dynamic Ads and Facebook Catalogs Work?

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Facebook marketing is an amazing platform for many businesses because of its enormous reach, variety of ad formats and advanced targeting features. 

One of the best tools you’ll find in Facebook’s ad suite as an e-commerce store is running Facebook dynamic ads from a catalog. 

What we often find, however, is that there’s a lot of confusion around the subject, so we want to clear it up. 

In this article we’ll go over what exactly Facebook catalog ads and Facebook dynamic ads are, how they work and what the difference is between the two. 

Once you understand this, we hope it’ll help you run your Facebook ads more effectively by understanding when to use the format for optimal success. 

What are Facebook Catalogs? 

A Facebook catalog is a kind of database that you upload to Facebook with information about your selection of e-commerce products. 

Like the name suggests, it’s a catalog of products that you can then advertise on the platform using Facebook ads. 

You can either manually set up, and update, your Facebook Catalog or you can set it to automatically mirror all the products on your website using a catalog feed.

For businesses with a few products, you can get away with manual catalogs. For larger e-commerce stores though, you definitely want to automate the process. 

For our guide on how to quickly and easily set up a Facebook catalog, click here. 

What are Facebook Dynamic Ads? 

Facebook dynamic ads, also sometimes called catalog ads, are a format of Facebook ads that dynamically show products from your Facebook Catalog to users based on a machine learning algorithm. 

The algorithm uses data from your website’s Facebook Pixel, and other demographic data Facebook has collected about its users, to try and show them the most relevant products out of your catalog. 

For instance, if a user goes onto your website and looks at a specific product, the dynamic ads will try and remarket the same products to them. 

The main benefit of running ads this way is that it allows you to easily advertise a huge catalog of products.
When you have an e-commerce store with thousands upon thousands of products, manually creating ads for each and every product quickly becomes impossible.
That’s where dynamic ads shine.

For our guide on how to quickly and easily set up Facebook dynamic ads, click here.

Facebook Dynamic Ads for Remarketing vs for Cold Audiences

The two main uses we’ve found for Facebook dynamic ads are running them either as part of a remarketing strategy to people who’ve already visited your e-commerce store or to cold audiences to try and generate data on which of your products work best on the platform. 

For remarketing, dynamic ads can work incredibly well as part of a cart abandonment strategy. 

You can dynamically show them the specific items they forgot in their cart from your catalog – which can dramatically increase conversion rates. 

For cold audiences, dynamic ads can be a bit hit-or-miss in that sometimes they work amazingly, and other times they don’t work at all. 

It’s all highly dependent on how much data Facebook can pull about your audience, which is not always obvious on the backend of their site. 

How do Facebook Dynamic Ads Work? 

As we touched on briefly, dynamic ads use Facebook’s proprietary machine learning algorithms to try and show the most relevant products from your Facebook catalog to consumers. 

It does this by using data from Facebook itself, and your website’s Facebook Pixel, to try and match customers with the products from your catalog they’d be most interested in. 

The easiest way to make this work is as part of a remarketing strategy – showing consumers products you know they’ve shown interest in before to hopefully spur purchase or repurchase. 

They can still work for cold audiences, but this is highly dependent on factors beyond your control such as how much data they have on any given consumer (and how accurate it is). 

When to Use Facebook Dynamic Ads 

The two best use-cases we’ve found for Facebook dynamic ads are remarketing and cart abandonment, and for gauging cold audiences. 

What we mean by the first point is that it’s easiest to make them work for remarketing, because you have a better idea of who the ads will target.
Since it’s remarketing to existing customers, you’ll know roughly which of your products they’re interested in, or even specific products they’ve bought or looked at. 

As we mentioned, it’s also great for cart abandonment because you can dynamically pull in the abandoned cart items into an ad. 

For cold audiences, it can be a bit hit-or-miss, but where they shine is in trying to determine which products work best on the platform and which audiences to focus on. 

If you have no data to work from, dynamic ads can be great for using a “shotgun approach” to see what sticks, because running them is infinitely easier than running a thousand different A/B tests to see what works. 

When Not to Use Facebook Dynamic Ads

The main downside of Facebook dynamic ads is their hit-or-miss nature. If you want to run ads that reliably generate returns, the best option is still to tailor your messaging to specific groups of customers using specific products. 

So, if you have a particular product or section of products that you know perform well for you, we recommend taking them out of the dynamic catalog and setting up manual campaigns instead. 

If you don’t know which works best, as we mentioned before, dynamic ads are a great way of testing your catalog out and seeing what works best. 


We hope this gave you some insight into how Facebook catalogs and dynamic ads work, and how best you can apply them to boost your Facebook marketing strategy. 

Like with many areas of digital marketing, it’s largely a matter of trial and error.
Don’t fret though, you will develop a better idea of what works for your specific industry as you go along, and eventually have way more hits than misses running Facebook ads. 


If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, check out more e-commerce marketing content on the inSyte blog or listen to the inSyte Podcast.

This article was brought to you by Syte.

We’re a specialist e-commerce digital marketing agency dedicated to driving up your bottom line. We have tons of experience running Facebook ads, including dynamic ads, across many different industries.

If you want to discuss how we can leverage our experience to boost your Facebook ads strategy, feel free to reach out with the form below or check out our case studies page to see what we’ve been able to do for our clients. 

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