18 Jul 2014
By Selena Larson
Facebook wants to make it easier for you to buy things.
On Thursday, the company announced it’s testing a new way for people to buy stuff through ads and page posts with a new buy button, allowing users to purchase products and services without leaving Facebook. The company said in a blog post that the test is limited to “a few small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S.”
It’s not the first time Facebook has tried to tackle payments. It has launched and killed a number of features wanting your money, including both virtual and physical gift shops that let you buy presents for your friends through Facebook, instead letting users send digital gift cards to one another. Last year it introduced a donate button as a way for people to give money through their favourite charities’ Facebook pages.
Anticipating mistrust from users regarding data privacy and security, Facebook said that no credit or debit card information shared with Facebook will be shared with other advertisers, and people can choose whether they want Facebook to save payment information to buy more stuff in the future. Users who have second thoughts about saving their credit card to Facebook can delete saved payment information after making a purchase.
Which Social App Will Win At Payments?
Facebook isn’t the first company to attempt to make e-commerce a natural fit for a social network. Twitter’s efforts have largely failed, after partnering with companies for tweet-to-buy features like AmericanExpress, Starbucks, and Amazon.
Even ephemeral messaging service Snapchat wants to facilitate transactions. According to a report from TechCrunch, Snapchat has filed two trademarks for payment software that could become a revenue source in the future.
Pairing your credit card with your social identity makes sense for buying stuff on the Internet, but whether or not people trust Facebook or any other social media company with payment information remains to be seen. When browsing Twitter or Facebook, it’s likely people aren’t looking to shop—instead, we use these platforms to connect with people.
The onus is on these companies to convince users they’re a place for both chatting and shopping. Otherwise, the buy button might go the way of virtual gifts—another experiment in payments that failed.