Facebook takes on Amazon with dedicated shopping feed

Facebook is testing new ad features that it claims will enable one-click shopping from within its News Feed

Facebook is testing a new way to let users shop for clothes and other products directly from their News Feeds, in an effort to move further into e-commerce and compete with Amazon’s retail offerings.

The service, which is part of Facebook’s new ad experience called Canvas, means that a user can click on an ad from a clothing shop, for example, and see an expanded list of products which they can then buy right on the spot.

When the user has selected the item they want to buy, they will either be redirected to the retailer’s website to complete the purchase, or be offered the option to buy the item without leaving Facebook by clicking the “Buy” button in the ad in their News Feed.

Facebook released this example of a "buy" button in July

“When people click on products from ads in their News Feed, the mobile websites they’re directed to often take a while to load and aren’t optimised, increasing the chance that people will drop off,” said Facebook in a blog post.

Facebook is also setting up a dedicated shopping section, based on its existing Pages feature, that will act as a “single place for people to more easily discover, share, and purchase products.”

Brands will be able to turn their Pages into virtual storefronts, where they can showcase their products. Facebook said businesses could choose whether to have this section link to their own retail websites, or allow people to buy directly from their Facebook Pages.

These Pages will then appear in a dedicated shopping section within Facebook’s mobile app, allowing users to browse among numerous brands and select items to buy.

“We’re looking to give people an easier way to find products that will be interesting to them on mobile, make shopping easier and help businesses drive sales,” Emma Rodgers, Facebook’s head of product marketing for commerce, told Reuters.

Facebook said that none of the credit or debit card information people share with Facebook when completing a transaction would be shared with other advertisers, and people can select whether or not they’d like to save payment information for future purchases.

Facebook has a wealth of data about users’ online behaviour, but until now it has not tracked any purchasing behaviour.

Jack Kent, senior analyst at IHS Technology, said the introduction of commerce in its app will deepen its understanding of the consumer, which will drive its developments in its ad offering, AR experience and messaging apps.

The new service could also help to drive mobile purchases, which currently make up less than 2 per cent of all retail sales, according to research firm eMarketer.

The firm expects Facebook to take in $12.52bn in worldwide mobile ad revenue in 2015, a jump of 68.7 per cent over last year. In 2014, Facebook captured $7.42 billion in worldwide mobile ad revenue.

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