If you live in the UK and use Facebook regularly, you may have noticed a new type of ad appearing. Over the last few weeks the social networking giant has been rolling out the direct response units that have been available in the US since last year. Essentially they allow a consumer to quickly & easily enter their postal details in order to receive a sample of a product, whether that be a sim card, a test drive or a Marmite flavoured bar.
Whilst this is interesting in its own right, showing how Facebook is determined to make strong inroads into brands’ marketing budgets, by delivering absolutely definable ROI, it also highlights another potentially interesting revenue channel for them.
When it first launched, one of Facebook’s only revenue streams was its gifting service: this was the product that allowed users to send their friends virtual flowers, chocolates, drinks, etc…, often for a charge of a dollar or so. It highlighted the fact that people were happy to trust the site with their financial details as well as giving them their own currency, something that Farmville’s makers have built a rather nice business on and which could come in handy for Facebook going forward.
Since then, of all Facebook’s achievements I think its greatest has to be its success at doing something that so many others, such as OpenID and MSN Passport, have tried and failed to do: that is, to create what is, to all intents and purposes, a universal log-in. Facebook connect is now used by thousands of other sites, even including competitors like MySpace, and means that people can connect the disparate strands of their digital life with one click.
So, people can buy things with one click. And all their details are stored in one place including, potentially their postal address. Sound like any other sites you can think of?
Facebook hasn’t had a great experience with commerce, but I’m sure that they learnt a lot from the Beacon debacle. And so, with what is, to all intents & purposes, a one-click payment system now available to them, what’s to stop Facebook trying again?
The rise of Blippy has shown there are plenty of people happy to post their purchases online, so with the organic impressions that Facebook brings, and their new focus on privacy, the way is clear for them to do something that Amazon has never been able to do & socialise shopping.
Cash till image by Jessica Rabbit’s Flickr.