Facebook May Be Poised to Push the E-Commerce Button
Facebook's transformation to an e-commerce hub might begin with something as simple as a "Want" button. "E-Commerce is important to Facebook, and if it wants to establish itself as a virtual marketplace for consumers and brands to meet and make connections, it will have to continue to develop new features," said Gabe Donnini, data solutions engineer at Chitika.
Facebook is rumored to be testing a Want button that would be similar in look and function to its now ubiquitous Like button. The feature was spotted by developer Tom Waddington, who published the button's code on his blog.
Such buttons already exist -- but they have been developed by third-party brands to serve retailers eager to maximize exposure on Facebook's Timeline. One example is a button developed by a company called "Want." It counts among its users The Sharper Image, Ron Jon, and DNA Footwear.
That is not what this new Want button is -- at least as it is portrayed on Waddington's site. Rather, it seems as though it would be a native Facebook feature, not requiring special opt-in from consumers to install or use.
Certainly a Want button follows the Facebook model of providing short but powerful prompts to users to take personal actions, such as Like or Comment, said Rich Hanley, director of Quinnipiac University's graduate journalism program.
In general, "Facebook is testing many different applications designed to monetize the experience of social media," he told the E-Commerce Times.
For its part, Facebook said that it had nothing new to announce but acknowledged that it is always testing new features.
A Step to E-Commerce
A Facebook Want button would expand the social networking site's e-commerce presence, Gabe Donnini, data solutions engineer at Chitika, told the E-Commerce Times.
"It will allow Facebook and sites within the Facebook platform to distinguish between products and services that users already have and that users want to purchase," he said.
That would lead to a number of scenarios for brands, including better targeted advertising options on Facebook and -- if consumers should adopt the Want button with the same fervor that they did the Like button -- perhaps increased sales.
"The introduction of a Want button would be the first Facebook feature that will truly give advertisers [insights] into consumer intent if it plays out correctly," Donnini said.
It will also be a stepping stone to more e-commerce-related initiatives, he predicted. "E-Commerce is important to Facebook, and if it wants to establish itself as a virtual marketplace for consumers and brands to meet and make connections, it will have to continue to develop new features."
The Want button could offer a slew of benefits to both Facebook and brands beyond outright sales, said Charles Palmer, executive director of the Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University.
"The button could be another tool for collecting user demographics," he told the E-Commerce Times.
It could also be used to rate product marketing strategies and monitor product placement penetration, Palmer said.
A Universal Wish List
For consumers, the benefit of a Want button is obvious, said David Hogue, VP of experience design at Fluid. "What Facebook is doing is giving its users an easy tool to create a universal wish list," he told the E-Commerce Times.
Such online wish lists exist, of course, but they don't have the centralization of Facebook. Also, other wish lists can be cumbersome to generate, Hogue said, requiring users to cut and paste links to retailers' websites.
"Facebook would take the friction out of that process," he said.
It would also make the process of informing friends and families of gift suggestions less obnoxious, he added.
"A lot of people feel awkward saying to a friend or family member, 'I know you are planning to give me a birthday present so here is what I would like,'" Hogue noted.
A Facebook wish list, though, would simply be part of the general social media landscape, he observed, situated alongside the user's general status updates.