Facebook eyes e-commerce with new buy button

July 18, 2014

Facebook has begun testing a button that will allow users logged-in to the social media site to purchase products without ever having to leave its website or app.

Facebook has begun testing a button that will allow users logged-in to the social media site to purchase products without ever having to leave its website or app. 

Facebook and Twitter are eyeing e-commerce
Facebook’s most recent foray into e-commerce comes on the heels of an apparent Twitter experimentation with buy buttons, reported by Re/code. Facebook’s button will appear on posts and ads and, for the time being, will be tested through small to medium-sized business only. This will give users the chance to shop directly through their news feed, rather than leave Facebook for a retailer’s own website. 

According to Forbes Twitter hired Ticketmaster’s Nathan Hubbard away from the e-commerce ticketing agency recently in order to direct the company’s own push into the e-commerce market. Twitter also recently partnered with Amazon to allow users to add items to their virtual shopping cart by replying to tweets with a hashtag. 

In January Re/code had uncovered a mock-up of a Twitter buy button used by shopping app Fancy to pitch an e-commerce drive. While neither company has commented on the appearance of buy buttons within tweets, it appears Twitter will likely soon provide the capability to purchase products through user posts. 

Facebook has, in the past, attempted to enter the e-commerce market. It will again attempt to breakthrough into the booming online retail sector, though the company’s previous experiments failed. 

“Not so long ago, people assumed that Facebook would be best suited for building awareness and engagement, not for influencing conversion or sales,” said eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“With this step, Facebook is becoming even more firmly established as a major player in direct response advertising, and though this test is still only a test, it’s a definite sign that Facebook wants to restart its efforts to become an e-commerce company as well.”

Timing is everything 
Facebook’s most recent crack at the market comes as it expands rapidly. The growth has been so significant it is shifting global commercial real estate trends as traditional retailers shrink in size and e-commerce companies buy up logistics facilities, explained 

“By 2017, online sales could account for more than one-tenth of all US retail sales, up from 6.2% in 2013,” said Adam Mullen, head of supply of chain services at CBRE, a commercial real estate services firm. 

However, in the mobile market at least, social media has not made the largest of dents. Surprisingly, websites such as Facebook and Twitter lag behind e-mail marketing in pushing consumers to purchase products on their mobile devices, according to a report compiled by Custora, an e-commerce marketing analytics platform.

It stated that social media was behind only 0.6 percent of mobile e-commerce transactions in 2013, as opposed to 26.7 percent for e-mail marketing. 

And now Facebook will attempt to alter this trend of social media incapacity in terms of e-commerce, through the introduction of their buy button. Tech Crunch explained that the key to e-commerce is getting customers through a series of tedious webpages in order to complete the final order. If Facebook is successful in its efforts to penetrate the e-commerce market it will eliminate several of these steps. 

With Facebook consumers won’t have to stumble through the respective obstacles of searching a website for an item, and then entering payment information on the checkout page. The products will come to the customer, whose card will presumably already be saved through the website. 

The company, sometimes heavy-handed in its data collection, has promised complete security in terms of user payment information, reported the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  

Additionally, Facebook has been vague on whether or not it will begin charging businesses to sell products through the website, according to Tech Crunch. 

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