DUBAI: Smaller businesses can now compete with market leaders thanks to digital marketing tools which allow them to target consumers as never before and to measure the effectiveness of those communications, a Facebook executive has said.

"All businesses need to reach new and prospective customers," Brian Boland,vice-president for Ads Product Marketing at Facebook, told Gulf News, as he explained that data partnerships were no longer the preserve of big brands.

He said one of the tools available, Facebook's Custom Audiences which allows marketers to use their own contact lists to reach consumers, had seen a 75% increase between the second and third quarters in the number of marketers using it.

Techcrunch recently outlined how the updated Custom Audiences measurement could identify those shoppers who had visited a physical store thanks to an online ad. Boland said this was the first time such measurement had been done at scale, linking "digital exposure to in-store sales for anyone with a CRM system".

He expected that 2014 would see more changes in consumer behaviour which would force the advertising landscape to evolve accordingly.

"Digital advertising strategies will focus on strengthening the impact of mobile, greatly improving the relevance of ads for people through targeting, learning how to fully embrace customer engagement and re-imagining the art of brand building," he said.

In fact, the increasing reliance on mobile was creating a situation where a brand's online strategy was effectively synonymous with mobile strategy. "Branding is about people – connecting with them, engaging them, influencing them – and hopefully in some ways even inspiring them," he stated. "And mobile is the conduit through which this is all now happening."

Over the longer term, Boland thought digital platforms were changing the way brands engaged with consumers to such extent that the term social media would eventually fall out of use with marketers focused on core objectives such as in-store or online sales.

Data sourced from Gulf News, Techcrunch; additional content by Warc staff