Facebook trials more money-making options for retailers with ‘Want’ and ‘Buy’ buttons

9 Oct 2012

Facebook is reportedly testing a new feature called Facebook Collections that will allow users to highlight products they like on a wish list and even go on to purchase them on retailers’ websites.

First spotted by TechCrunch, the new feature is being tested with seven retail partners: Pottery Barn, Fab.com, Wayfair, Victoria’s Secret, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus and Smith Optics.

Facebook pages for these brands can create posts called ‘Collections’, which will include images of products that, as well as liking and commenting on, users will be able to ‘Want’, ‘Collect’ and ‘Buy’.

How it works

According to the report, there are three different versions of Facebook Collections being tested. With one, there is a ‘Want’ button that adds the product to a new section called ‘Wishlist’ on users’ Timelines. This list will be visible to friends and friends of friends.

With the second model, users click a ‘Collect’ button to save items to a section called ‘Products’ that will be visible to friends only, while a third version uses a special ‘Like’ button that adds products to the same section only this will also be visible to friends of friends.

Via either their wish list or products list, users will then be able to click a ‘Buy’ button to make off-site purchases.

How it makes money

For retailers, the benefits of Facebook Collections are obvious, but what’s in it for Facebook? TechCrunch says the social network will not be charging affiliate fees on click-throughs, nor will it charge retailers to create collections.

However, as collections will only be viewable by a page’s fans, retailers involved will be driven to generate more likes in order to reach a wider audience with this potentially revenue-boosting service. This in turn could lead to increased spending on Facebook advertising, and that’s where Facebook will cash in.

Will it work?

Though a less direct revenue model than recently launched Facebook Gifts, the new service represents yet another string to Facebook’s e-commerce bow – a weapon it is gradually reinforcing.

TechCrunch reports that the service is available to all users while Facebook tests which of the three versions works best with its core retail partners, but it appears that the first Collections post from Pottery Barn has been removed.

Many are comparing Facebook Collections to Pinterest because it gives users the ability to create collections of images. However, though product wish lists are common on the image-pinning network, they are not the epitome of the service provided.

The key to Pinterest is the fact that users can pin anything – whether it’s a product they want to buy or just an image that they like. What Facebook Collections does is hone in on the commercial potential of pinning and introduces this to its vast 1bn-strong user base. It’s certainly not a bad idea.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.