I was so excited to read Jason Del Ray’s article in re/code about what it’s like to shop using the Facebook “Buy” button. He lays out the process of how he was served with an ad in his News Feed and completed the transaction without ever leaving the Facebook platform. How cool is that? Given the amount of time that people spend on Facebook everyday, on laptops and more importantly mobiles, this is a powerful experience.
One of the biggest challenges for a commerce platform is to get people to visit. Facebook already has the covered. It’s all about people. It’s only logical for them to try and leverage that position and give people what they want.
Products are now presented, even pushed, to consumers where they spend their time, rather than consumers always seeking products out on their own. This is what we call Pervasive Commerce. In this new phase, every interaction with a consumer online or in the physical world is an opportunity to sell products and services. It’s different from traditional advertising in that the ads presented will be context-aware.
Facebook’s “Buy” button is just one element of this social commerce experience. In his article, Del Ray doesn’t specify if the ad was actually relevant to him, in the sense that if that was a brand that he had shopped before or expressed any interest during his other online browsing sessions. That’s the next step for Facebook – to serve ads that are relevant and personalized, backed by data science expertise.
In the evolution of the pervasive commerce experience, personalization and customization will be essential to success. Facebook’s recent acquisition of TheFind should help them achieve some of this sophistication and targeted delivery of ads through Custom Audiences and the like.
Is Facebook the only non-ecommerce company that will become an ecommerce company in this new day and age? Probably not. Every company that has people data can incorporate Product Intelligence to become an ecommerce destination. Nextflix, for instance.
Netflix approached big data in the most effective way possible. They have by far the broadest and deepest database of films and television shows in the world. They not only built the database, but also made it actionable by tagging each piece of content with several attributes, resulting in the formation of 76,897 micro-genres.
Netflix transformed the way that we think about access to entertainment by putting the power in the hands of the consumer. You can watch whatever you want, whenever you want, in a way that is convenient to you. This phenomena needs to be paralleled in every field that has a consumer angle to it. Personalization is powered by learning algorithms. The more Netflix learns about you, the better it gets at making recommendations, a practice that helps them in retaining viewership.
By getting into television production and introducing the world to the concept of “binge-watching”, Netflix has also shown the potential to break into new industries on the basis of domain expertise.
An already practicing product intelligence company in the domain of entertainment, Netflix is fully capable of eventually venturing into ecommerce. One way of doing this would be through shoppable video. With the press of a button on their remote or phone, subscribers will be able to save items that they like on the screen to be bought later. It would be another way of engaging and delivering beyond consumer expectations. Is Netflix the sleeping ecommerce giant? Just as Amazon followed Netflix with a streaming entertainment service, will Netflix now compete with Amazon in reverse and become a channel for commerce?
Companies are recognizing the fact that the products we buy need to become a part of the daily flow of our lives, and not something that we seek out as a separate activity. When you first signed up for Facebook back in 2004, did you think that you would ever use it for anything else other than catching up with old friends?
This is a huge revolution. It’s the future and it’s coming faster than you think.
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