Will Facebook become the first major social retailer?
For what seems like eons, Facebook has been trying to create tools for retailers to sell directly from the social media site—which boasts around one-and-a-half billion daily users who linger on the site to chat and check in with friends and acquaintances.
What users don’t do on the site, at least en masse, is direct shop. This is something Facebook is hoping to change with its newest retail tool—classic e-commerce shops that live within Facebook pages.
Basically, retailers now have the ability to post full-featured product galleries, should their followers be in the shopping mood while perusing birthday notices and baby photos.
It’s a savvy (and probably necessary) move for the social media company, which currently relies on advertising revenue and has been losing younger users to less ubiquitous platforms in recent years. According to eMarketer, online commerce is forecasted to reach around $350 billion this year.
In 2014, the site integrated a “buy” button for users looking to shop directly off the site. And BuzzFeed, which broke the news of Facebook’s new micro shops, relayed that the company is reportedly working on a virtual Messenger assistant that will “help people research and buy products.”
The e-comm shops are free to try for retailers—at least for now. All bets are off when it comes to Facebook’s ever-changing policies (and algorithm), so it’s possible this may become a pay-to-play feature in the future. BuzzFeed writer Alex Kantrowitz noted, “Given the size of the commerce pie, the temptation to circle back and monetize will be there.”
Will the feature lure users into spending on Facebook? Reactions online are mixed.
“No—simply no,” Tom Redd, global vice president of strategic communications at SAP, told Forbes.com. “People will review and learn with the tool, but after they see how Facebook is going deeper into their lives and personal data as they shop via Facebook, it will stop. Even Millennials will start to say no more. Once the scams with shopping on Facebook hit and the lack of security shows, it will all come to a screeching halt.”
But considering that about 13 percent of our time on mobile apps is spent staring at a Facebook product (according to Forrester Research), it seems foolish to count Facebook out of the big retail game this early.