Facebook wants to know if its massive user base wants to buy products on-the-fly. The company announced this week that it is testing a new program for small- and medium-sized businesses that would allow merchants to sell directly via Facebook.
If you’re a Facebook user, you’ve probably already seen plenty of “recommended posts” in your timeline—these are paid posts that include a link to a page at the advertiser’s site. This is actually how I discovered Plated and signed up for free trial.
In the test, which Facebook said includes less than five merchants, Facebook users may see a suggested post that includes a deal and a buy button. Facebook has revealed little else, but it did say all payment information is secure and users will be able to save their cards for future purchases.
There’s a great deal of speculation about the service, but based on social trends and related service types, I’m learning toward this being a tool for offering deals and steals (ala Groupon). Some have reported the service is currently free, but I doubt that would be for long. Facebook, after all, is in business to make money. I’d expect that Facebook would collect the money and charge a transaction fee, which would include fees incurred in credit card acceptance.
As a Facebook user, I’m not sure how I feel about products popping up in my feeds. The majority of suggested posts I’ve received have nothing to do with my interests. I’m not using Facebook to buy, but rather to connect and research. Then again, Plated got me for a month…
From a business perspective, this type of service may be a great way for the little guys to target people they might otherwise not be able to afford. It could also be an ideal way for small shops and restaurants to reach a more local audience more affordable than, say, physical mailings and Groupon offers. If Facebook goes the route of charging per sale, that can be a win-win. I would also expect, though, that initial costs or listing fees would apply, even if just to weed out hordes of products and services that would never sell.
What do you think? Would a service like this be a good way to gain more traction in the emarketplace? Is the typical Facebook user keen on grabbing deals this way? I’d love to hear what both users and business owners have to say.