Facebook this week began testing a new feature dubbed “Autofill with Facebook” that aims to simplify mobile purchases by filling in customers’ credit card information for them, thus eliminating the need to type it in each time.
“Autofill with Facebook gives people the option to use their payment information already stored on Facebook to populate the payment form when they make a purchase in a mobile app,” Facebook spokesperson Tera Randall told the E-Commerce Times. “The app then processes and completes the payment.”
The feature “is designed to make it easier and faster for people to make a purchase in a mobile app by simply pre-populating your payment information,” Randall added.
During the test period, which began Monday evening, the feature will show up only to Facebook users who have already provided credit card information to the social network — in other words, those who have made in-game purchases or bought gifts for friends.
Facebook has partnered with PayPal, Braintree and Stripe as financial partners on the service, which is initially available only on the e-commerce iOS apps JackThreads and Mosaic.
Ironing Out the Wrinkles
Autofill with Facebook isn’t a move to compete with PayPal and credit card companies, but to complement payment services by adding a layer for convenience, much the way Facebook, Google and Amazon have created a single login that works across a network of websites.
“Facebook is not interested in being a payments company,” Jordan McKee, an analyst at Yankee Group, told the E-Commerce Times. “Instead, it is aiming to be the entity that irons out bumps in the payment process — something it is well-positioned to do.
“With Autofill, Facebook will act as the lubricant that makes the commerce experience more seamless, providing a number of benefits to all stakeholders,” McKee added.
Partners in the deal ensure that Facebook will succeed in Autofill with Facebook, McKee pointed out.
“Facebook doesn’t care about payments, it cares about reaping the benefits that come from making the payment experience better,” he explained.
‘Strategic Smarts and Ambition’
As for those benefits to Facebook, there are potentially many.
For example, “Autofill admits them to the online payments world,” Brian Carter, author of the books Facebook Marketing and The Like Economy, told the E-Commerce Times.
“This is another example of the strategic smarts and ambition of Zuck,” Carter said. “One gets the sense that he wants to be a major competitor for everything online.”
‘The Potential to Be Lucrative’
There could be significant financial benefits as well.
“This approach has the potential to be lucrative for Facebook in that it will help plug the mobile conversion gap,” McKee suggested. “If Facebook can prove to its partner merchants that an ad on its site led to a purchase, the validity of its platform can easily be proven. Ideally, this will help convince other companies to advertise with Facebook as well.”
Taking it a step farther, Facebook will also gain transaction data, which McKee believes has considerable value. “Facebook can leverage transaction data with what it already knows about us for precision ad targeting. This will increase the relevance and placement of ads on Facebook.”
The Security Factor
While many mobile customers will appreciate the Autofill function, security issues still lurk in the back of every consumer’s mind. Yet while privacy concerns have been an ongoing issue for Facebook, it has a good track record where security is concerned.
“Facebook has been relatively incident-free when it comes to security breaches,” said McKee. “However, this is more a problem of consumer perception. Will consumers feel comfortable storing their payment credentials with a social media platform?
“Facebook is already approaching ‘big brother’ status, and this takes it one step further,” he added. “To succeed, Facebook must provide visibility into what it plans to do with transaction data.”
‘It’s a No-Brainer’
The convenience factor, meanwhile, could be a compelling one for consumers.
“It’s no-brainer useful to mobile users — who wants to enter their credit card on a mobile phone more than once?” said Carter. “It could be more secure than mobile payment alternatives.”
If Facebook gets past its hurdles, it will also succeed in building strengths in areas where it has been lacking to date.
“Right now Facebook isn’t super strong at the conversion side of e-commerce,” Carter noted. “Autofill will give them a lot of data about purchases, which might help them remedy that.”