More than 1.5 billion people are active on Facebook at least once per month, according to the company’s official press page, and more than one billion sign on to the website or mobile app at least once per day. Facebook attracts individuals as well as business owners and consumers, fostering a community that has commercial potential well beyond its already impressive functionality.
In fact, Kimberlee Morrison of the Social Times suggests that Facebook might move into the social commerce space in the near future. As Morrison notes, Facebook has all the infrastructure necessary for such a shift, especially with its latest developments in communication and branding.
A Social Media Platform With a Diversified Purpose
Facebook launched as a platform through which college kids could keep in touch, share stories, and reconnect. During its infancy, Facebook only opened itself to people with university-affiliated email addresses, so its population consisted primarily of teens and young adults who were working toward their bachelor’s degrees.
It then opened its doors to the general public, expanding itself into a full-scale social media destination for the masses. People pounced on the opportunity to keep their friends and relatives updated on their latest life events, but Facebook quietly worked in the background to expand its reach even further.
Today, Facebook isn’t just for stylized photographs of restaurant meals or quick political quips. It’s a full-scale commercial engine, bringing together businesses, consumers, and anyone who wants to connect. Furthermore, it has created a simple but effective way for businesses to take advantage of paid advertising and other opportunities.
Why not social commerce? As Morrison points out, Facebook has a robust messaging tool whereby businesses can connect with consumers, answer questions, solve problems, and improve their customer service reputations. Additionally, it already facilitates the sale of goods and services. While actual purchases take place outside Facebook, it wouldn’t take much for Zuckerberg and company to build in an e-commerce tool that would allow in-app purchases and other social commerce functionality.
Indeed, recent reports suggest that commercial activity has grown on Facebook, while personal sharing has diminished. While Facebook doesn’t necessarily want to move away from its original, core purpose, it has never shied away from developing the site’s commercial aspects.
Creating a New Commercial Layer
Facebook’s built-in metrics enable complete control over a business’s activity on the platform.
Writing for Tech Pinions, Jan Dawson eloquently describes the foundation that Facebook has created — one that could easily lead to social commerce functionality in the future. At the top of the list is an effective and precise tool for measuring activity on Facebook.
By creating an e-commerce component of the site, Facebook could extend those same valuable metrics to buyers and sellers. Although Amazon, eBay, and other heavy hitters in this space have significant market share, Facebook’s existing infrastructure could make it a strong competitor.
Enhancing Communication Between Buyers and Sellers
If Facebook were to go the e-commerce route, it would take a completely different approach to this industry than other websites, such as Amazon. Most e-commerce websites start out with that core purpose. They build product pages, categories, and search functions that enable shoppers to find products they might like.
Facebook, conversely, would approach it from the opposite direction. Specifically, the application already has a fluid, intuitive interface for sharing conversations and communicating with others. Many sites struggle with the communication aspect of e-commerce, but Facebook already has it down pat.
This could mean greater interest among both buyers and sellers. As consumers become more savvy and skeptical about their purchases, transparency becomes increasingly important. Facebook is an incredibly open platform, allowing people to interact with permission from one another and permitting businesses to participate in personal conversations.
Supercharging Marketing Strategies
Some might argue that Facebook was built for marketing. Businesses can learn just about anything they want to know about their customers, from the products they buy to the demographics to which they belong.
As Dawson points out in her Tech Pinions piece, Facebook already offers a structurally sound foundation for marketing, whether businesses want to examine signals about their target markets or spread their advertising messages.
According to Andrew Tonner of the Motley Fool, Facebook’s primary asset for e-commerce potential lies in its ability to specifically target consumers — not with content, in this case, but with products they might want to buy.
Supply and Demand: A Pool of Consumers Waiting to Buy
Some companies have already started the process to start selling directly to their customers on Facebook. Ticketmaster and Eventbrite are two frontrunners in the process of using Facebook as a sales platform to reach their customers where they hang out. For some companies, this move will make sense since most of their customers spend so much time on the social platform. Only time will tell to see how truly successful this move is.