MENLO PARK, CA: Facebook has announced yet another ad format – Product Ads – which will rival Google's fast-growing Shopping campaigns, and add weight to the shift away from text and towards visual communications on the web.

In a blog post, the social network said its new product was designed "to help businesses promote multiple products or their entire product catalogue, across all the devices their customers use".

Marketers have the option of uploading catalogues and creating campaigns that target products at specific users themselves, or letting Facebook automatically choose the most relevant products to feature.

Ads can be targeted at those consumers who have visited a business's website or app, or can reach people based on details such as their interests and location.

Other claimed benefits include the system's ability to turn off ads for specific products when they are out of stock.

The recent quarterly Global Digital Advertising Report from the Adobe Digital Index showed spending on shopping ads had grown by 53% from Q3 to Q4 2014, and was up by 47% year on year.

Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst for the Adobe Digital Index, predicted that shopping ads could constitute 30% of paid clicks by the fourth quarter of 2015.

She added that while Google Shopping campaigns are currently focused on the retail industry, similar image-heavy messaging could work well in other sectors, such as travel and hotels.

Facebook's Product Ads have already been tested by two retailers, both of which were enthusiastic about the results achieved.

Target, one of these firms, reported a 20% increase in conversion compared to other Facebook ads. It said that performance levels had also been especially strong with people shopping on mobile devices, "where we're seeing two times the conversion rate".

On its part, Shutterfly, the photo-sharing and gifting site, claimed a more than 20% increase in clickthrough rates.

Data sourced from Facebook; additional content by Warc staff