Can Mobile Offers Save Facebook?

Posted on November 20th 2012

Can Mobile Offers Save Facebook?


In an earlier article, I gave Mark Zuckerberg one pathway to monetizing their mobile app through Social Shopping.  Today, I am offering a second pathway; Facebook Mobile Offers.  Here's how I see it working:

You are out shopping  when you look down at your phone and see that you've received a Facebook Mobile Offer to a nearby store that you love, and the offer is for the exact item that you've been researching online.  You've been wanting to buy it but just couldn't justify it, but now that you're getting a great deal on it, you walk into the store and redeem the offer.  The retailer sells the item to you and Facebook gets a cut of the deal for performing the service of driving you into the store at the right time with the right offer.

So how does technology make it work?  Facebook already tracks your online behavior so they know what you want, and by using location services enabled on your phone or an agreement with your wireless carrierFacebook knows where you are.  So they know what you like (based on your Facebook "likes"), they know what product you obsess over (based on tracking your browsing), and they know when you are in proximity to them (based on location services).  In this situation, the price of the item seems to be the only barrier to purchase and it seems like Facebook is in a great position to take advantage of the Retail Perfect Storm, when you are near a product you want and you get a deal to good to pass up.  And hey, while you're there, you may even do a little more shopping now that you saved so much money with your great deal.

All of the technology to perform this type of service is already available to firms that own or sell brands.  The difficulty for retailers and brands is creating enough engagement to get their hands on enough data to be able to make real-time offers that are valuable to their potential customers.  Facebook is in a unique position to provide this infrastructure of engagement and data; to analyze your "likes", online browsing behavior, network of friends and physical location, all to deliver you real-time offers that will drive purchase behavior.

My question is why haven't they already done this?  As I said in my previous article on Social Shopping; before Facebook went public, they could afford to be just a social network, too cool to be caught up in being about selling things.  Now that Facebook is public, it’s time to focus on its new mandate; maximize shareholder equity.


Eric Vachon

Trusted adviser to Fortune 1000 firms in the areas of Social, Portal, BI, MDM, SOA, ECM, Mobile, and more. While I work for Perficient, the opinions I express are my own.
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Andrew Samuelsen
Posted on November 20th 2012 at 3:46PM

Great post on a great idea - it is however already implemented in some more straightforward ways. People who run offers through our platform are provided a QR code they can put in their store, on their product packaging, in print, or any of the kabillion good locations for QR codes. When scanned a guest is taken to a special mobile version of their offer.

How we differ is: we don't take a cut. You sign up for Big Like, you can offer mobile coupons. Check it out:

Posted on November 20th 2012 at 4:04PM

Hi Andrew, you have a valuable service, but this service would be different.  The idea here is to use analytics to target very specific offers to customers based on their browsing history and brand "likes" at the time a customer is actually near your store thus driving them into the store to purchase the item that they have been researching online.  It is very different then offering mobile coupons to the masses or offering point-of-sale coupons to the masses.  Each service has an appropriate use case, this one is just different.

Eilidh MacRae
Posted on November 20th 2012 at 4:34PM

Really interesting idea! I do love it. But I am just wondering how this will work in terms of stock? Say you're out shopping and you get an offer on your phone just as you walk past the shop and talk yourself into the purchase. Going through the usual thought process, you finally convince yourself your life would be incomplete with out it. You then go in to find out that particular branch doesn't stock the item or your size. You will be a little annoyed no? 


Posted on November 20th 2012 at 4:47PM

Eilidh, great point.  The good news is that most large retailers have inventory tracking data that they can use along with a rules engine to ensure that this doesn't happen, and all still in real-time.

Posted on November 21st 2012 at 3:16PM

How would facebook differentiate between likes on items I already have or don't have? Are they implementing a want button for products?

Posted on November 24th 2012 at 1:55PM

Great question, mcgannonma.  They could have a "want" button, but that would diminish the value of the iconic "like" button. Instead, if you "liked" an item you already owned and you received a mobile offer for that item it would be easy to add an "already purchased" button in the mobile offer thus triggering the application to send an alternative mobile offer in that product ecosystem (for example, an iPhone speaker dock if you already own an iPhone) or an alternative offer outside of the product ecosystem that you may be more likely to redeem based on your browsing habits.

Posted on September 22nd 2013 at 4:34AM

Great point to discuss Eric. Its a business strategy that always work.. afterall its all about user comfort. ;)