Is Facebook trying to become the world’s largest e-commerce platform?

Can Facebook successfully use its large user base to become the world’s largest e-commerce market? Has Facebook copied Chinese social media platforms? What will Facebook do once its created its massive database on human behavior and preferences?

By Yao Ying

Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform, having more than 1.7 billion active users in 2016’s second quarter. Facebook’s success has been rooted in its ability to allow users to post comments, pictures, videos, as well as advertise products or services. Nonetheless, Facebook’s CEOs aren’t yet satisfied with their achievements, leading them to corner the e-commerce market.

Is Facebook cornering the E-commerce market?

Facebook released its Marketplace feature earlier this month, and it has been making waves. The Marketplace feature will allow Facebook users to directly buy and sell items with one another, just as users can do on Amazon or Ebay. Accordingly, a couple days after the launch of the Marketplace, Facebook’s ticket feature was rolled out.

On October 19, Facebook announced on its official blog that its American users can now directly purchase meals on select restaurant pages, which used Facebook’s new order feature. Additionally, Facebook announced that its American users will be also able to purchase movie or performance tickets and tickets for local activities, through their new order service.

Facebook also stated that users will be able to subscribe to regular services such as gyms, beauty salons or spas, through its new feature.

In order to effectively engage its 1.7 billion users with its new e-commerce features, Facebook will introduce a new “recommendation” option, which allows users to recommend good restaurants, venues and shops. This option will allow users to ask their Facebook friend’s for recommendations on restaurants or services, and the suggestions that their friends post will appear as a pushpin on a map, allowing users to find services easily.

Facebook’s head of advertising, Andrew Bosworth, wants to “make Facebook more useful in your everyday life”. Therefore, through the implementation of ticket sales, bookings and its Marketplace, Facebook is striving to become the world’s largest e-commerce platform, as well as the world’s largest social media platform.

Accordingly, if Facebook can successfully implement its e-commerce ambitions on its social media platform, it could utilize its 1.7 billion user base to become the world’s largest service provider.

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Facebook’s new “Booking & Ordering” feature.

Photo by the official Facebook blog

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 The new “Recommendation” feature

Photo by the official Facebook blog

Is Facebook copying China’s Wechat?

If Facebook’s “new features” sound familiar, it is because they’ve already been implemented by China’s social media giant WeChat.

WeChat fused its social media platform with its e-commerce platform early on, as the Chinese social media giant saw the advantage of integrating a variety of real world services onto social media networks. Its e-commerce platform is also more comprehensive than Facebook’s, as it allows people to order taxis, book plane tickets, rent hotels, hire nannies or plumbers, as well as allow people to make financial payments, through its app.

Accordingly, China’s largest e-transfer service Alipay has been implemented on Chinese social media platforms, such as WeChat and Douban for several years now. Unlike its North American counterpart Facebook, which only came out with small amount transfer functions this June.

Additionally, Chinese platforms such as WeChat and Douban, don’t only use Alipay for small amount transfers, but also use the e-transfer service for large transactions, such as purchasing plane tickets or renting a hotel.

Is Facebook creating the world’s largest database on human behavior?

However, within North America, Facebook can still be considered as a pioneer of social media and e-commerce integration. Since its recommendation feature is allowing the platform to tap into its huge user base, in order to create a database of service and restaurant reviews that is larger than those of Google, Yahoo or Yelp.

Subsequently, Facebook’s trailblazing is allowing it to garner more active users, from rival social media and e-commerce apps, such as Google, Yelp and other takeaway apps.

Data is worth its weight in gold, and the most valuable data is; what people want, what people buy, and how people think. Therefore, through the implementation of its recommendation and Marketplace features, Facebook has the potential to create the largest and most valuable database of human behavior and preferences.

Such data would be highly sought after, not only by advertising companies who seek to increase their profits, but also by governments and large institutions, who seek to monitor user behavior and preferences to further their own agendas.

The creation of an “one-stop” app has its conveniences, as it allows people to perform all their tasks on one platform. However, some people are afraid that such an app will end up becoming too complex and messy, as it would trade ease of use, for comprehensiveness.

Moreover, there are also fears that if an “one-stop” app is hacked or compromised, users may have a lot to lose. Nevertheless, despite the potential vulnerabilities of “one-stop” apps, large platforms like Facebook believe the pros outweigh the cons.