Is Facebook Planning an eCommerce Take Over?
Why are these plans more secretive than everything else?
Nothing has been a bigger surprise in the past few years than the fact that Facebook and Instagram haven’t moved extensively into eCommerce. After witnessing the runway success of the Alibaba group, any company could be forgiven for wanting a piece of the pie. Aside from a couple of forays integrating their advertising products with new shopping facilities - Facebook and Instagram have been relatively quiet when it comes to online shopping. But could that all be changing?
Instagram is developing a standalone shopping application
Although Instagram and Facebook have been massive platforms for directing users through the eCommerce sites, it has barely been 18 months since they’ve started adding eCommerce products to their existing capabilities. But now that they have had moderate successes with features like shoppable links in stories and posts - are they looking to launch an eCommerce only product? A recent article from the Verge suggested that Instagram are looking to build a separate shopping app. Although Instagram declined to comment - insiders say that they are in the process of building this.
Facebook is testing live video shopping
The last two years have not been a particularly good time for anyone working in the Facebook PR department - so it is no wonder that they are testing products and features, one country at a time with a meagre fanfare. Recent reports show that Facebook has been testing live video shopping feature in Thailand. The idea of this feature is that users will be able to purchase products that they see in a live-stream, with the merchant making a payment request via messenger. For the most part, this development takes advantage of Facebook’s huge influencer market, but if this is something they are rolling out, it is likely that they are already thinking about ways in which they can take a piece of the market share that is typically reserved for companies like Alibaba and Amazon.
WhatsApp releases “WhatsApp pay” in India
When you look at each of the distinct and minor ways in which Facebook is moving more into retail and shopping, you may not tie them up with each other - but every step has been designed with the ambition of becoming a global player to compete against the biggest eCommerce companies. WhatsApp pay, which was rolled out in India last year, gives its users the opportunity to transfer across bank accounts instantly. This service is facilitated by the Indian government’s secure Unified Payment Interface payment system. Not only is this a way for Facebook to move from its social capabilities to actually useful and convenient utilities for day to day life, but it also provides them with valuable data about how people are spending their money.
Although the “Facebook Marketplace” is a great move for the company to start testing the waters, the social media giant didn’t particularly help themselves with its execution, which led to them receiving some fairly negative press. One of the main issues for the UK market was that initially, no one could get rid of annoying marketplace notifications, which led to several articles entitled “how to get rid of annoying marketplace notifications”. But despite the way this Facebook product has been portrayed in the media – Facebook marketplaces is one of their more successful products. Since its launch in 2016, Facebook marketplace is now able to boast a staggering 800 million users. One of the benefits of Facebook marketplace to the user is the fact that it uses Facebook’s proprietary AI technology to automatically categorize products based on the description. This makes the search tool impressively functional.
But in 2019, Facebook is set to take this a lot further. As an article in Forbes cites, Facebook are testing ways to give users product recommendations using this tech. Facebook users could potentially upload a picture of a room and then get product recommendations based on certain measurable metrics within the image, like sizes etc.
Connecting the dots
A lot of people mistakenly think that Facebook is lacking when it comes to eCommerce markets, but only a handful really apprehend that they are actually incredibly ahead. As global markets see a shift from traditional advertising to influencer advertising, standard shopping platforms like Alibaba might lose ground if they don’t adapt. By taking slow and steady steps to increase the ways in which users can shop for products, for example: directly from live feeds and influencer’s content - they are carving out an entire new market to dominate.