Facebook tests retail tools

10 October 2012

NEW YORK: Facebook, the social network, has joined forces with retailers including Victoria's Secret, the lingerie chain, and Neiman Marcus, the department store group, to test new commercial features.

Earlier this week, Facebook launched a "Want" button allowing users to click on images of products and add them to a "wishlist", which can be viewed by their friends, and their friends' contacts.

But the social media platform has also developed a "Collect" option that enables members to gather together these pictures in a "Products" folder, where access is restricted to their friends.

This service, known as "Collections", builds on the existing "Like" button that consumers select to become fans of brands and firms. It also uses a similar system to Pinterest, the content-sharing platform.

"We've seen that businesses often use pages to share information about their products through photo albums," Facebook said, as reported by the Financial Times.

"Collections can be discovered in News Feed, and people will be able to engage with these Collections and share things they are interested in with their friends. People can click through and buy these items off of Facebook."

Other operators taking part in the trial programme are Pottery Barn, the homewares expert, and Fab.com, the design site. A date for the full roll out of the service has not yet been announced.

Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W Baird, the wealth management group, told TechCrunch that Facebook could charge fees for successful referrals to third party online retailers or for promoting products.

"Ecommerce is one of the best ways to monetize the internet," he told Reuters. "Thinking about how large they are as a platform and how engaged people are, there are lots of levers they haven't pulled yet in terms of monetization."

According to RichRelevance, the ecommerce services firm, social networks have accounted for just 1.3% of traffic to internet retail sites in the US over 2012 to date, with Facebook delivering 86% of this total.

The organisation also reported that of the individuals who ultimately went on to make purchases, Facebook members logged an average expenditure of $94, compared with $169 for Pinterest users.

Data sourced from Financial Times/TechCrunch; additional content by Warc staff