Shopify Audiences: What You Need to Know

Published by Rob Watts


If you’re in the world of advertising, specifically on Facebook & Instagram, then the last 12-18 months of pain and discomfort due to Apple’s iOS14 updates may have taken its toll on your reporting figures (and health). It’s been a tough ride, but as marketers, it’s in our best nature to adapt and overcome all challenges thrown at us. 

The challenges meant we had to shift focus completely away from looking at ROAS figures, to instead channelling our efforts and strategies around the average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (LTV) figures in order to help overall profitability, revenue and reduce customer acquisition costs.

The one we want to focus on here is reducing customer acquisition costs. It’s not just the heating bills that have gone up! The overall costs of advertising to your audiences on Facebook have risen too, and not only is it getting more expensive, but it’s also getting harder to narrow down and target your ideal audiences because of various privacy laws and Facebook updates to their ‘Interests’ and ‘Behaviours’ demographic data.

Shopify recently announced an effective new service that will be exclusive to all Shopify Plus merchants. Shopify Audiences is a brand new audience-building tool that will connect current Plus merchants to high-intent buyers, improving the chances of converting store visitors to customers, while getting a better return on your ad spend‌.

Sounds great, right? Let’s take a deeper look… 

How do Shopify Audiences work?

Shopify Plus merchants will be able to select specific products within their offering that they want to sell more of, the tool then uses a shared network of data combined with machine learning to build out a list of high-intent consumers who are most likely to purchase from your store.

The data used is taken from orders placed over a rolling 90-day period from opted in stores that match intent. This data, once exported, is then anonymised and can be uploaded to your Ads Manager as a custom audience with your past purchases already excluded.


What are the key benefits of Shopify Audiences?

One of the major benefits and overall aim of the tool is to improve the top of the funnel/prospecting campaigns by saving spend when acquiring new customers and helping to deliver a better return on that ad spend, but it doesn’t end there. The algorithm that the tool uses will also improve over time, helping to provide brand new, high-quality audiences that are relevant to your business/selected products long term.

And although Shopify does suggest you target this list specifically with your best prospecting/top of the funnel ads, you can also look to build out lookalike audiences of this same audience provided, but we’ll loop back around on lookalikes later. 

Another benefit of the tool, and a word that gives most marketers shivers, is privacy. Because the tool is being integrated within Shopify Plus, customer information is stored internally within the platform and is hashed and aggregated securely.

The personal data that is attached to buyers cannot be accessed, even when this is exported to ad platforms since all data is encrypted and delivered securely from platform to platform.

There’s more too.. customers’ opt-out preferences can be managed within the admin section of Shopify Plus for peace of mind.

Who can use Shopify Audiences?

Unfortunately for UK-based merchants, it is only available to the US & Canada who are on Shopify Plus. However, we do expect this to roll out globally very soon. 

You can check if you’re eligible here.

How do I get started with Shopify Audiences?

If you’re eligible, the first thing you need to do is install the Shopify Audiences app on your store:

  1. Log into your Shopify Admin and go to the apps section
  2. Click customise your store at the top of the page, search for Shopify Audiences and hit install.
  3. Once you’re in the app, you can start to set up audiences.
  4. Turn on data contribution, agreeing to the terms and conditions.
  5. Hit connect your Facebook ads account
  6. Enter your Facebook account details and then hit continue
  7. Accept all the terms and conditions for Facebook Custom Audiences

Then it’s time to get building those audiences.

  1. Log into your Shopify Admin and go to the apps section
  2. Hit the Shopify Audience app
  3. Hit create audience
  4. Select the product you want to base your audience on
  5. Give your audience a name and select export audience

It’s as easy as that. It’s now down to your ads to do the heavy lifting.

Final thoughts

From what we currently know, this could be a very powerful tool for paid marketers, especially when the gates are opened to allow more platforms to get involved. And as more and more merchants sign up, the stronger the data gets.

However, there are a few caveats worth noting:

  1. Audience sizes seem to be limited to around 1-2 million, so scaling may be an issue on a larger scale
  2. Lookalike audiences may not work as well as owned data audiences, as these audiences have had no link with your store or products yet, meaning there is no real way of assigning value to these buyers
  3. It’s still early days, and it’s being slowly rolled out for a reason. Be patient with it and test, test, test!

If you want to find out more about Shopify Audiences or need help to set it up, get in touch with our team of Shopify Plus experts today!

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