Facebook appears to finally be taking its first tentative public steps towards establishing itself as an e-commerce channel. In a bid to boost in-network sales, supplement its healthy advertising revenue and build investors’ confidence, the social network has developed a “Want” button to sit alongside its longstanding “Like” button.
The feature is part of a brand new system for retailers called “Collections”. While in the past, online businesses have been able to showcase their products through images on their timelines, Facebook is now hoping to help close the gap between “Likes” and actual sales. Users can click “Want” on products they are interested in, and a wish list, or “Collection”, is automatically generated comprising of those items. Other Facebook users will then see these Collections in their News Feeds, and will be able to browse and engage with the content.
So far, so Pinterest, right? Well, partly. While Facebook have taken a leaf out of the book of visual editorial apps such as Pinterest, LoveIt and Bazaart in terms of layout, they are actively facilitating conversions by including a “Collect” button which will link directly to a sale. The “Collect” button moves the venture beyond the “lifestyle porn” appeal of Pinterest and turns Facebook into more of an interactive social catalogue.
A number of companies are already hoping to generate sales by participating in the pilot run of Collections, from lingerie house Victoria’s Secret to the high end department store Neiman Marcus. It has not yet been disclosed how much Facebook stands to gain in shares of sales for these referrals.
The Collection project is just one aspect of a greater focus on e-commerce at Facebook (or “F-commerce”, if you’re partial to buzzwords). Another recently unveiled feature lets users buy real world gifts for their friends and family, while Mark Zuckerberg has already spoken publicly about the prominent role that integrated mobile advertising will play in the network’s strategy going forward.
This sudden push on developing revenue streams would certainly corroborate Zuckerberg’s insistence at TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this year that Facebook would turn itself around following its disappointing initial public offering. The network lost $157 million in the second quarter this year, as opposed to a net income of approximately $240 million in the second quarter last year.
But far from dwelling on defeat, the team at Facebook are keen to prove to investors that they are still an industry leader, and they have high hopes for this newest endeavour. And who knows, the Want button may evolve to be a natural successor to the Like button, which has been clicked on a staggering 1.1 trillion times since its debut in 2010. With current trends indicating that online shopping is becoming a ubiquitous part of everyday life, perhaps it won’t be long before we’re buying our toothpaste and cornflakes via Facebook.