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Facebook to shake up eCommerce

Whether you ‘like’ it or not, Facebook could be about to introduce one of the biggest changes to eCommerce since the introduction of the Amazon Marketplace.

A few days ago, Facebook published a short news item on the Facebook for business blog telling the world that they are testing a new way for people to buy products directly on Facebook.

Today we’re beginning to test a new feature to help businesses drive sales through Facebook in News Feed and on Pages.
With this feature, people on desktop or mobile can click the “Buy” call-to-action button on ads and Page posts to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook.

Let me get one thing straight – I’m no fan of Facebook. I think Zuck and Co. have created the world’s most intelligent photo album and birthday reminder app and somehow convinced the entire world that Facebook is just about as important as your left ventricle. And thats before we even talk about the subject of privacy or how they intentionally set out to make some people sad. C’mon Facebook stop making people feel bad!
Lets discard those ‘ethical’ objections for a moment and consider the what a Buy button in Facebook means for eCommerce.

It’s huge. Absolutely, monstrously huge.

Facebook has a level of influence and reach which few others can equal on the planet. Facebook along with Google, Amazon and Apple have a huge amount of leverage over how people spend their money online. Until this announcement, Facebook’s influence was mainly indirect. It looks like that’s all about to change and very soon we’ll see Facebook go head to head to compete with Amazon in consumer eCommerce.

The concept of a Buy button appearing in a Facebook news feed is clearly an irresistible concept to the Facebook top brass. And with good reason too. Like it or loath it, for many people, Facebook is the web. Once you start to blend personal recommendations from your Facebook friends and nudge a little Buy button in there next to them you have a very compelling win-win proposition for just about everyone involved in the selling process. Friends get to do what the do best on Facebook – shout about what they like. You in turn get to purchase things you know your friends like from a trusted source. Sellers get a brand new and potentially massive channel for new sales. Let’s also assume Facebook are going to take a healthy % of the sales price for their trouble too. The only one who should be worried here at all should be Amazon and what this might do to their sales.

I’ve always felt that Amazon have neglected the social aspect of the online shopping experience. Product reviews look pretty much the same as they did a decade ago. One might argue that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I don’t think thats the case here. I think Amazon are afraid to make any major innovations in how they present product reviews and recommendations simply because they don’t really understand social. Which is no surprise really considering they’re first and foremost an eCommerce business. But think about what a huge lost opportunity that is. As a group of buyers, Amazon customers must be one of the biggest networks in the world. Just about anyone who has ever purchased anything online has purchased something from Amazon. Amazon could have developed and nurtured a social aspect to the shopping experience directly on amazon.com by letting customers connect with each other through Amazon.com.

I’m much more likely to buy that Star Wars Directors Cut if I can see that my Star Wars nerd friends have purchased it and given it a glowing review. It might now be too late for Amazon to even embark down this road as Facebook look to be just about there.

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before we hear about Facebook’s latest experiment to make us click the buy button.

And you think I’m joking.

About Colm: He has been building web stuff since the web was a wee lad. Colm built his first blog with WordPress around 2007 and has been hooked ever since. When not knee deep in hooks and filters you'll probably find him running around a mountain or making pizza.
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