You may have missed it, but Facebook recently launched a new gift-giving service called Facebook Gifts that allows people to easily send presents to friends via the social network. The move makes sense for Facebook, coming at a time when the company continues to test out new opportunities for monetization. Since about 20 percent of all online page views are already taking place on Facebook according to Hitwise by Experian, Facebook is betting on the fact that its 1 billion+ members also want to do their shopping all in one place.
Facebook already has access to all your friend’s birthdays and addresses, so why not give an actual gift this year instead of just lamely writing “Happy Birthday! XOXO” on their wall?
Here’s how it works: simply log into your account and click on the link above, then select which friend you want to send a gift to, pick the gift (primarily generic choices like flowers, cupcakes, candy, and giftcards) and add a note. Your friend then receives a Facebook notice that a gift has been received, asking them to indicate where they would like it to be sent. Easy, breezy, no?
Well here is where the fun stops. While the new service is kinda cool and people may use it to send small gifts like cards and flowers, the launch may be an indication that Facebook is flailing in attempt to find new ways to build revenue streams beyond it’s stagnant display business. Thank goodness for Facebook’s recent introduction of FBX that allows ad networks and DSPs to bring their own ad targeting data into the social network so that advertisers benefit from the serving up of more relevant ads to consumers, influenced by campaign performance outside of Facebook.
One major barrier to this service taking off is that people just don’t view Facebook as a place to shop. According to Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research, “Facebook is such a nominal source of sales right now. According to all of our data, any social network links are not terribly effective.”
In response to Facebook’s new service, Amazon announced just this week, the launch of its new gift-giving service called Friends & Family Gifting. Though its partnership with MasterCard, the leading Internet retailer lets people sign-in using Facebook Connect and pulls in the birthdays of your friends, and lets you know if they already have an Amazon wishlist you can start from, all for your shopping convenience.
Since people already view Amazon.com as the primary source for finding gifts online, this move is a natural fit for the company who aims to give a social spin to shopping. According to Tim Peterson’s article in AdWeek, Amazon has one feature that Facebook’s gift-giving service lacks. While both Amazon and Facebook can analyze users’ profile information to recommend gift ideas, Amazon’s service also lets users manually compile Wish Lists of presents they’d like or their friends would like. If someone’s Facebook friend has also connected his Facebook account with Amazon, they can view that friend’s Wish List when their birthday pops up to facilitate the present-purchasing process.
While the Amazon integration with Facebook is a bit clunky in appearance, the functionality it provides directly fills the void that Facebook Gifts aimed to achieve: to give consumers a way to not only connect with friends, but to streamline the gift-giving experience across time-zones and continents with a click of the mouse. I guess now it’s time for me to start checking people off my holiday gift list.