Is Facebook Encouraging Its Users to Become Online Shoppers?

In Customer Experience, Technology by Julia Eisler

Is Facebook Encouraging Their Users to Become Online Shoppers?

Last September Facebook launched a service called Facebook Gifts which gives users the opportunity to give gifts to their friends directly through Facebook in honor of special events. Initially offering this service for occasions such as birthdays or engagements, stuff that could be determined based on information given by the user directly to Facebook, this service has progressively expanded to include other events, like scoring a new job or having a baby.

Why bring this up now? Well, today is my best friend, Jessica's, birthday (shout-out to you, Jess! Happy birthday!), and so naturally Facebook reminded me. The top right corner of my Facebook newsfeed features Jess's profile picture along with the message, "Jessica [Last name]'s birthday is today. Give her a Starbucks gift card." I disregarded this message because I've already gotten her presents so I don't need Facebook to try to convince me to buy her more. Plus, Starbucks? C'mon now, while I shop there regularly I don't even think she even drinks Starbucks products (she definitely doesn't "like" their page on Facebook). Everything else on the internet utilizes targeted advertising, so why should this be any different? Why not suggest I purchase something targeted toward her "likes"? I would be more inclined to make the purchase if I thought it'd be something she'd appreciate.

After ignoring the ‘gifts' message I headed over to Jess's profile page to publicly wish her a happy birthday and BAM. Right under her profile picture, the same message appears. Still pushing me to send her that Starbucks gift card. The only difference is that this time the gift suggestion appears with a price range of $5-$25 listed below it.

Beyond birthdays though, which granted is information we're required to submit to Facebook to create an account, Facebook now recommends we give gifts for other celebratory occasions. Score the job of your dreams and want to brag about it on Facebook? Just know, anyone who likes/comments on the status update will be greeted with the gift button. Pregnant? Just had a baby? Congrats! Why not go on a shopping spree at Target, courtesy of one of your Facebook friends!

Alright, fine. These are all occasions worth celebrating and that warrant gift giving, but is Facebook taking their gifts program a little too far? Last Valentine's Day my Facebook sidebar kept showing pictures of different guys that I'm friends with (and with whom I interact with regularly on the social networking site) and kept suggesting I send them $5 champagne gummy bears. Uh, excuse me. What? No I will not send them $5 champagne gummy bears! Despite how intriguing they sound, I wouldn't even buy myself $5 champagne gummy bears.

While the gummy bears and a myriad of other products sold through the Facebook Gifts service would be delivered to recipient's home, over half of the program's "featured gifts" are digital, and eliminate the home delivery part of the online shopping experience. Deemed "Instant Gratification" gifts, products that don't need to be shipped include gift cards to many major retailers/restaurants. Ranging from Netflix to Barnes and Noble and from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. to Morton's the Steakhouse, these companies and many others sell gift cards through the service that can get sent directly to your friend's inbox.

Research has shown that despite all of the efforts that Facebook has made to promote their gifts program (such as identifying key words in posted statuses to identify celebratory occasions) it doesn't appear as though this service is providing any sort of substantial revenue for Facebook.

Have you used or would you use Facebook Gifts to send a celebratory present to a friend? Why would someone use this program as opposed to delivering a gift in person or through the regular old USPS?

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<Image: rutty – flikr>