About a month ago, Facebook announced that it's testing a "Buy" call-to-action button on ads and Page posts, which enables users to purchase products directly from businesses right from their News Feeds. The test is limited to a handful of small and medium-sized businesses for the time being, but it's entirely possible that this could be the biggest and most important move into e-commerce that Facebook has ever made.
Do you expect the Buy button to make a significant impact on mobile conversions? Let us know in the comments.
Facebook seems to think it's a pretty significant one. It even killed off its Gifts offering, presumably turning its e-commerce focus to this. Given that Facebook's ad business must compete with the likes of Google and others that offer product listing ads, it's high time that advertisers have a way to get "buy" clicks from Facebook users.
Scot Wingo, CEO of e-commerce product provider ChannelAdvisor, sees Facebook's new efforts as particularly significant for businesses selling online. He recently wrote a series of blog posts about the Buy button and its implications. You can find links to all three posts here. Facebook has dabbled in e-commerce various times in the past, but Wingo thinks the buy button is "a step in the right direction."
"The key driver is that we face a mobile problem in the e-commerce industry," Wingo tells WebProNews. "Retailers have been investing millions and tens of millions of dollars in improving their mobile sites, creating innovative mobile apps and the problem persists. The reason why is simple - the smartphone form factor, nobody wants to enter their bill to, ship to and payment information. This creates a big problem for all retailers in e-commerce, because as mobile traffic surges, they are effectively losing share to those mobile apps that don't require data entry, such as eBay and Amazon that are ranked the top 2 e-commerce apps."
For Facebook, he says, "Solving this conversion problem is key to gaining share of retailers’ advertising dollars."
As Facebook continues to build out Graph Search, the social network is bound to become an even more powerful channel for selling.
"Social networks are redefining the discovery phase of the consumer’s path to purchase," Wingo says. "It allows folks to reach out to their network when looking for something specific. The social graph also has influence and this is where the concept of recommendations gets really interesting. Product recommendations get more targeted with the information about a Facebook users likes and interests."
Facebook recently introduced interest-based ad targeting, which enables advertisers to target users based on other sites they've visited. With regards to e-commerce via the Buy button, Wingo says this is "where recommendations get really interesting."
Facebook having solved mobile, while struggling with ecommerce is a theme in Wingo's blog series. Asked if he believes Facebook will be the easiest way for people to sell products via mobile moving forward, he says, "I think we are in inning three of e-commerce and the top of inning one in mobile commerce."
Still, there's no denying Facebook's incredibly large user base offers a great deal of potential, especially combined with its targeting capabilities.
"It’s really too early to call any winners," he continues. "We believe that we will soon see an explosion of new ways to buy on mobile. For example, in China this conversion problem doesn't exist there. Payment systems are already integrated with social platforms and even more interesting is the integration of messaging and commerce. Brands are now able to insert themselves into chat/messaging conversions, allowing consumers to discuss an item and make a purchase on the spot through these chat applications."
"With these types of innovations, it will be interesting to watch the next wave of innovation from the key players," he says.
On Facebook's recent earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg said 12 billion messages are sent per day using Facebook. The company has since made it so that mobile users have to use the Messenger app.
Wingo walks through the step by step process of the checkout experience using the Buy button in his blog series. He says overall he was pleasantly surprised about how easy it was to use.
"It is well thought out and works on any device type," he notes. "The real trick for retailers is helping consumers discover products and determine which products work best for Facebook."
Facebook hasn't given us a timetable on when to expect the Buy button to roll out more broadly. It is, after all, in testing. It's hard to imagine a scenario, however, in which this doesn't become a widely available option for advertisers.
In the meantime, email marketing appears to be working pretty well for mobile commerce.
Will you use the Facebook "Buy" button when it becomes available to you? Let us know.
Image via Facebook