Earlier this month, Facebook began testing a new “Buy Button” feature that was designed to drive business sales through news feeds and pages. While this addition could revolutionize the way businesses and consumers interact on Facebook, it carries many inherent challenges as well.
One of the most important aspects of the buy button is that it effectively shifts the conversion point for businesses onto Facebook itself, virtually eliminating the need for exterior sites, and streamlining the purchasing process. Users will likely prefer this system as it will allow them to remain on a platform that they’re very comfortable and familiar with while shopping. Many businesses support the idea because it lowers the number of steps consumers must make between discovery and purchasing, but there is a catch. Directing users to a company website allows marketers to carefully control their shopping experience. There, Product information, price, features, and even reviews can be viewed in the most efficient way possible for conversion. By shifting the process onto an online marketplace or social media site, marketers lose a considerable amount of control. In addition to this, consumers may be distracted by advertisements, unrelated content, and even competing products. The loss of control over the buying process will undoubtedly sacrifice some quality.
Businesses can still benefit from this feature. It’s ad-based concept offers a purchasing experience that greatly differs from other marketplaces. With the new buy button, users don’t actively search for products. Instead, the products come to them, but there is a major drawback. While browsing may facilitate more impulse purchases, consumers are unlikely to buy important and expensive items so readily. Users are typically more invested in those purchases, and spend more time and effort on their decision to buy those items. Facebook ads rarely provide much information on products, and aren’t really ideal for standing alone in the buying process. The ads are more suited for gaining attention, and directing users to a point of purchase that can provide as much information as they need to make a buying decision. One clear solution to these problems would be to include a link to more information and product reviews in addition to the buy button in the ad. Facebook is an ideal platform for this, as it already allows companies to set up pages for information.
Social media has long been one of the holy grails of marketing, since users freely give information when setting up profiles. For marketers, the idea of integrating an online marketplace with Facebook is a dream come true, since it may allow them to tailor their methods to users profile information and purchase history. This would give them a remarkable insight into their target segments. The information collected by Facebook could be very valuable to marketers, but marketers aren’t the only ones that will see value in that data. This option will effectively paint an enormous target on Facebook for hackers and cyber criminals. With companies like P.F. Chang’s, Michaels, Sally Beauty, Neiman Marcus, AOL, Adobe, Snapchat, and even eBay all being infiltrated by hackers this year, the danger is very real.
This ensures that one of the biggest challenges for Facebook is to convince users to give up their credit card information, which may be difficult, particularly in the wake of their recent user manipulation scandal. Facebook endured public outrage and a considerable loss in user trust when it revealed that it had been manipulating feeds to influence users positively and negatively. Data collected by this new buy button feature must be carefully controlled and protected to avoid further public backlash.
The new buy button has a great deal of potential, but many view this move with skepticism. Facebook has tried similar features before with their Gifts system, but has had little success. The buy button has much more marketing flexibility and potential for businesses to utilize it for conversion, but the ad-based browsing method of ecommerce is relatively unproven, especially for a platform that hosts over 1.2 billion people each month. That’s about 16% of the world’s population. It offers as many challenges as opportunities, but could catapult Facebook into a whole new world of ecommerce if consumers and businesses embrace the feature. Only time will tell if users buy into the new feature, or if it simply pushes their buttons.