Facebook Tinkers With M-Commerce Tools

Facebook on Monday added several new features designed to encourage m-commerce. One of them, Canvas, aims to improve mobile ad delivery.

It isn’t that people flat-out dislike ads on Facebook — controls are available to keep the ads in check and on target. However, Facebook’s ad delivery service has suffered from the derailing effect of the redirect.

Canvas is designed to plug the conversion leak.

Just a Sketch for Now

When consumers come across a compelling ad in their News Feed, they now have to wait for their browsers to launch a new tab and then for the assets from the merchant’s website to squirt out of their wavering WiFi, or drip out of their mobile broadband connection.

With Canvas, however, the content is native and specific to the associated Facebook ad. A click produces a fast-loading assortment of the merchant’s products, which they peruse before deciding whether to head to the company’s website to make a purchase. It’s that sort of service that turns whims into wins for merchants.

Facebook Canvas

Canvas is just one of several new tools that could be critical to Facebook’s mobile commerce push. Despite the continued uptick in mobile shopping on Facebook, the experience could be better, admitted Matt Idema, Facebook’s VP of monetization product marketing.

“What we’re doing — with proven products like carousel ads and new products we’re testing — is making it easier for people to discover products on mobile and businesses to drive sales,” he said.

It may sound good in theory. But beyond speed, Facebook will have to deliver on presentation, noted Karma Martell, president ofKarmaCom.

“Facebook does not have a stellar reputation for understanding user experience, despite its adoption numbers,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “That aside, this makes perfect sense for Facebook to offer to all the boutique etailers out there.”

Ease of use will be critical, noted brand consultantEvan Carmichael.

“Most entrepreneurs aren’t programmers,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “They are experts in their products and services, and use Facebook as a means to an end. If it’s too complicated to set up, then they won’t get the mass adoption.”

Mobile Moves

Canvas follows Carousel — an ad format Facebook introduced last year — which packs more content into posts.

Tools like Canvas and Carousel are game-changers for Facebook, according to Carmichael.

“It’s where YouTube is going with their interactive cards too,” he said, “and wherever you can take friction out of the buying process, reduce the number of steps, make it easier … you make more sales. It’s a no-brainer.”

For many merchants, Facebook’s mobile commerce improvements may be too little too late. The company’s efforts up to now haven’t made much of a dent, said KarmaCom’s Martell, and the usefulness of a tool like Canvas is limited.

“As for the larger etailers, I can see using it for special sales, but what large brand wants to drive traffic to Facebook instead of their own website?” she asked.

Facebook just can’t compete outright with big-box portals Amazon and Alibaba — e-commerce in general just “isn’t its core value proposition,” said Martell.

“However, as an alternative hybrid of eBay and Etsy — allowing individual users to sell a few items — there is potential,” she said.

However, “even that activity may have to live in another section,” suggested Martell, “as users may balk at what could seem like ceaseless hawking of wares.”

There’s another way that Facebook already has been serving merchants, according to Carmichael.

“A lot of entrepreneurs are already opting to have a Facebook page before they even launch their own website,” he noted, “and the more Facebook makes it easy to run all the aspects of marketing a business, the more adoption Facebook will get.”

Quinten Plummer is a longtime technology reporter and an avid PC gamer who explored local news for a few years, covering law enforcement and government beats, before returning to writing about things run by ones and zeros and the people who make them. If it pushes pixels or improves lives, he wants to learn all he can about it.

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