Facebook’s (Third) Foray Into eCommerce Might Just Work

Facebook’s (Third) Foray Into eCommerce Might Just Work

Facebook eCommerce has been a difficult hill to climb for the social network, but this time it might just work.

Last week, Facebook announced that they would be testing a new ‘Buy’ button for a small selection of U.S. businesses. Although everyone referenced this move as a veritable ‘game changer’, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Facebook eCommerce is the next push the company is making. After all, they’ve tried it twice before.

The Storied History

In 2009, Facebook decided to experiment with a little something we most likely do not remember called Credits. Credits – sold at a 10:1 fixed rate against the U.S. Dollar – were a way for the network to introduce the world to a Facebook currency. The only problem was that no one was rushing out to stands like these (see below) to buy Credits. After all, they could only be used on Facebook and no one was really using Facebook for business at that point. (At least, not the average business, since the idea of Facebook for Business was just getting off the ground.)

Facebook Credits for sale at a Target in Colorado.

“Facebook Credits in Target” by pmsyyz is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

By June of 2012, Facebook Credits were refunded to users in the form of their own currencies, and the experiment was over. Then came the Gift Shop.

Plenty of people are now familiar with Facebook Gifts. After all, we see things like Starbucks gift cards being offered to us when a friend’s birthday comes around. But before Gifts were launched in 2012, Facebook experimented with the Facebook Gift Shop, which was a short-lived Facebook eCommerce experiment that shut down in August of 2010. Facebook launched the tangential Gifts section a couple of years later in the hopes that they could revitalize this (money making) aspect of their business.

To date, Facebook eCommerce quite simply has not worked. But the network has gone through some changes lately that might change their fates with the new ‘Buy’ button.

What Has Changed?

Quite frankly, the biggest change that will contribute to the potential success of the ‘Buy’ button are lowered expectations from Facebook users. Now, what exactly do I mean by that?

When Facebook started expanding at the unprecedented rate that took it to its ballooned IPO, the company developed a very bad habit. They tried to do everything at the same time. Now, this isn’t entirely their fault. The rate at which the Facebook audience was growing meant that people were expecting more and more – both on a personal and a professional level. In trying to keep up with demand, Facebook rolled out several experimental features that failed with their intended audience.

It has taken several years for Facebook advertising to start yielding results, and that is due in large part to Facebook abruptly transitioning into a (purely) pay-to-play model, and marketers and agencies (myself included) pushing clients to begin leveraging the potential that exists with Facebook advertising (with regards to reach and targeting).

With that, Facebook has become as much of a hangout for businesses as it has for individuals. And coming back to the point about lowered expectations, those individuals are now perusing Facebook with the expectation that their News Feed will be saturated in ads, brand posts and, coming soon, actual product placements. For all those outspoken users who will ‘boycott’ Facebook for this foray into eCommerce, there will be no shortage of people who will likely click on that ‘Buy’ button for a product or two. And Facebook has learned from its mistakes and is now taking things much slower.

Facebook 'Buy' button stands a chance to succeed.

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Used under license.

Why It Doesn’t Matter What We Think

Facebook has reached a critical mass. This means that no matter what tiny, loud minority of users decide to ‘boycott’ the network because of its ‘over-capitalistic tendencies’, it will continue to grow and continue to produce products and roll out features that cater to businesses. And guess what – people will use them.

Though Facebook stumbled famously coming out of the gate, they have the right idea when it comes to growth now and this third (and most expected) run at Facebook eCommerce will likely yield some strong results. Though Facebook is not looking to become Amazon, a synergy between social networking, product reviews and eCommerce has a ton of potential.

92% of people trust their peers when it comes to product and brand reviews. And if you could tack on a ‘Buy Now’ button at the end of a review for a product that I researched and never require me to leave Facebook or put in pesky credit card information each time I want to buy something, I’ll be all the more likely to make that impulse purchase when I see a friend’s review popping up.

Do you think you would start buying products from brands directly on Facebook?

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Corey Padveen is a data-oriented marketing professional with a focus on statistical analyses of human behavior. This specialization has led him to speak and present at dozens of conferences around the world, to write for a variety of reputable online and print publications, and recently, to publish ‘Marketing to Millennials For Dummies’ as part of the world-renowned ‘For Dummies’ series. He regularly shares real world examples and findings from his research, and discusses how members of society are evolving as consumers, communicators, and a global network as a whole.
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