"On Facebook we've seen that people are coming to our platform not only to connect with friends and family but also with products and brands. In fact, a survey suggested that nearly half of people come to Facebook to actively look for products, with a majority of them discovering new products in News Feed, Pages, and Groups."
So begins the latest pitch from Zuckerberg and Co., this time focused on showcasing improvements to the on-platform buying process for Facebook users. The gist of Facebook's push is familiar - more people are using mobile phones to connect with brands, yet often brand mobile experiences are frustrating, as many businesses haven't yet been able to optimize their mobile shopping experience. But Facebook has, their mobile offerings work faster and are more in-tune with rising user expectations than most. So why not use Facebook as your hub for your online business efforts? I mean, everybody's already on Facebook anyway, right?
"For people, the mobile shopping experience is often difficult to navigate. Customers can experience slow load times and too many steps on the way to checkout. This is bad for people and bad for marketers."
It's always interesting to see Facebook take this angle, portraying itself as something of a savior for both buyers and sellers by providing functionality that better connects the two than they'd ever be able to achieve alone. And maybe Facebook's right. Maybe, given the ubiquity of Facebook, it makes sense for brands to put more focus on the platform and utilize the efficiencies of Facebook's ever-improving on-platform buying options - even if it means building more reliance on 'borrowed land'.
Facebook can certainly make a strong case in this regard, and in a new blog post, The Social Network has outlined the various efforts it's undertaking to better connect people and brands - looking at both the options they have in place now, and those that are in experimental stage and coming sometime soon. Essentially, it's a blueprint for how Facebook plans to dominate online shopping - here's how it works.
First off, Facebook highlights the success they've seen with their carousel ads format:
"Last year we introduced the carousel format for Facebook ads, which lets advertisers showcase multiple product images and links in one ad. Based on our preliminary testing, advertisers have seen carousel link ads drive 30-50% lower cost-per-conversion. We've also brought carousel to Instagram ads and have recently made video available for this format."
Carousel ads are certainly an interesting option, and one which is likely to become more beneficial the users get more accustomed to them. And clearly they're already seeing success - if you've not considered Facebook's Carousel Ads for your business, it may be worth looking into - particularly as the offering is now available for Instagram also.
Facebook next highlights one of it's new offerings called 'Canvas', which is currently in testing phase. The first version of Canvas was showcased at the Cannes Lions Festival back in June, an immersive ad format that's effectively a branded website within Facebook.
Now, Facebook is looking to expand Canvas, giving advertisers a "fast-loading, full-screen experience where they can browse through a variety of products, before going to the retailer's website to purchase."
The process aims to streamline the buying process, giving users more reason to stay on Facebook for longer, rather than bouncing off to non-optimized mobile websites.
Facebook is continuing to push ahead with testing of its on-platform 'buy' button, which would further streamline the sales process for users. Clicking the 'buy' button will eventually enable shoppers to make a purchase directly from a business without ever leaving Facebook.
The recently announced update to mobile Pages, with more prominent call to action buttons and new page sections, including a 'Shop' option, form the next element of Facebook's shopping takeover.
"With over one billion people visiting Pages every month, people are already turning to Pages to learn more about businesses. That's why we're adding more ways for Page owners to showcase their products to people, including a recently announced Shop section. Businesses can choose to have this section link to their own retail websites, or they can test a way for people to buy directly on their Pages."
The upgrades to Pages will make it easier again for brands to create an entire, on-platform shopping experience - which is all part of Facebook's wider aim, to make Facebook the core of your online existence in all aspects, from connecting with family and friends to consuming content, and now to shopping. And while it still has some way to go towards achieving this ambition, the final note of today's blog post underlines that push, showcasing their latest addition to the Facebook shopping landscape - a new 'Shopping' feed in your Facebook 'Favorites' tab.
Facebook's new shopping feed aims to highlight products listed on Facebook that you're likely to be interested in, based on your connections, Likes and interests. As noted, the new 'Shopping' listing will be available via your Favorites tab.
The listing will highlight products that are being sold via the 'Shop' section on Pages - though Facebook also notes that "over time we'll explore incorporating additional content into this experience, such as items listed for sale in Facebook Groups". The eventual aim will be to create individualized streams of shopping recommendations based on Facebook's massive amounts of targeted user data - potentially, if done right, making it the most accurate personal shopping interest feed available, and the place to be for retailers looking to reach targeted audiences online.
Worth noting too, the search field in the third screenshot above - as noted by TechCrunch, adding a search field into their shopping tab "could potentially give Facebook new opportunities for keyword-based advertising", making it an even more encompassing eCommerce option - and more of a threat to both Google and Amazon.
While there's still a few things that would need to come together to make this Facebook shopping eco-system work, the building blocks are laid out, and grouped together like this, they form quite a package - audience, offering and functionality. Given estimates from Goldman Sachs that consumer spending via mobile will jump from $204 billion in 2014 to $626 billion by 2018, there's little doubt that better facilitation of mobile shopping is the key to winning in eCommerce, something all platforms are acutely aware of. And Facebook, given its focus on improving the mobile user experience, and its unmatched audience reach and data, is best placed to capitalize on this. People are already there, they're already accustomed to the Facebook experience. It makes sense to reach them where they are, rather than work to filter them off to another location - right?
Playbuzz Founder Shaul Olmert recently noted that:
"[online] publishers can't hope to be McDonald's anymore. Loyal customers won't enter through storefronts. Publishers need to become Coca-Cola, ubiquitous and readily accessible everywhere. It's less about driving people back to your owned properties and much more about reaching people wherever they are."
Could the same logic be applied to retailers? If so, Facebook is definitely in the drivers' seat.
However you look at it, the incorporation of these new, on-platform shopping options should have all other eCommerce players concerned - if these additions work out as Facebook is anticipating, they have the potential to change the game for online retail.