If you don’t know how big Facebook is then you must have been living under a rock! The world’s biggest social media platform, currently boasting in excess of 1.7 billion active users in 2016’s second quarter, is a force to be reckoned with in multifaceted aspects. The platform’s success stems from the user’s ability to share comments, pictures and videos, as well as more recently in its tenure, advertise services or products. However, not to rest on their laurels, Facebook’s CEOs are now taking on another sector to find continued success: the eCommerce market.
What Are Facebooks Intentions?
The Facebook Marketplace feature was unveiled recently, and so far has been attracting some interesting levels of attention.
Marketplace allows Facebook users to treat it as an eCommerce store of sorts, where they can buy and sell items directly with one another in the same way as users can on eBay or Amazon, for example. And there’s also Facebook’s ticket feature which was also unveiled a matter of days after the release of Marketplace.
In mid-October Facebook’s American users were greeted with the new aspect of the platform that users can now directly purchase meals from a host of select restaurant pages who are part of Facebook’s new order feature. Furthermore, Facebook announced its U.S. users can now buy tickets to a show or a film, as well as local activities, through their new order service.
And in a further step, Facebook also announced that its users in the U.S. will be able to subscribe to regular services, spas, gyms, and beauty salons, to name a few, via its new feature.
If Facebook wants to take hold of the eCommerce market and engage with its 1.7 billion users effectively, it needed to find a way of tying it all together and this is where the new “recommendation” option comes in. This provides a way for users to recommend good shops, restaurants and places to go. This option sees users asking Facebook friends for recommendations on a service or a restaurant, and the reviews/suggestions people’s friends post up will then be available to see as a pushpin on a map, therefore giving users the chance to discover services more easily.
The idea is to make Facebook more useful for its users in day-to-day life. So with this in mind, the application of ticket sales, bookings and purchases, as well as its Marketplace, Facebook is aiming to be crowned the largest eCommerce platform on the planet along with the title of world’s biggest social media platform. And with the existing base of 1.7 billion users, Facebook has a great foundation in which to successfully implement its eCommerce ambitions.
Are Facebook Using Original Ideas?
This is a slightly leading question because outside of the western world, China’s social media big player WeChat has rolled out features that are strikingly similar to Facebook’s “new features”.
WeChat amalgamated its social media platform with its eCommerce channel from an early stage, after the Chinese social media giant recognised the untapped advantages that integrating a selection of real world services to social media platforms offered. WeChat’s eCommerce channel has developed further than what Facebook is also rolling out at present, as it allows users to go that one step further and book plane tickets, order taxis, book a stay in hotels, call out gas engineers, or even hire nannies! They can also make financial payments through its app, so there’s almost nothing the platform can’t offer its users.
Alipay, China’s largest e-transfer service, has been called upon on Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat and Douban for a number of years now, which has served them well, whereas Facebook’s only just started small amount transfer functions in the past five months, since June.
Furthermore, these Chinese platforms don’t only use the services of Alipay for small amount transfers, they’ve also implemented the services of e-transfers for big transactions so that users can pay for their hotels, or buy their plane tickets, for example.
Setting themselves apart from the rest
While China is that one step ahead, Facebook is still the leader on this front in North America. So, with the new addition of the recommendation feature, Facebook is now able to collect and create a database of service and restaurant reviews on a massive scale, so big that it will be more comprehensive than Google’s, Yahoo’s or Yelp’s.
In today’s world, data is almost priceless, and the data with the highest value is knowing what people buy and want as well as knowing how people think. So, by gaining data from the Marketplace and recommendation features, Facebook’s reigning in the potential to form the biggest and most valuable database of human preferences and behaviour the planet has ever seen.
The data being gathered would be a godsend for the ad industry for increased sales, as well as, more significantly, governments and corporations with the aim of monitoring user behaviour and preferences for their own benefit.
A ‘one app for all’ style service is a convenient prospect, but there’s still the apprehension that an app set up in this way could be too overwhelming, making it overly complex and messy. Another riding factor that would need to be addressed is the security of personal info on such an app. So, defending data from a hack or being compromised would, itself, be compromised. However, the big social media players need to consider if the pros will overshadow the cons.