Facebook’s Shopping Feed Is a Mess

Facebook’s dedicated shopping feed is available to a small group of users; it is still in an early experimental state. And rightly so. TechCrunch is reporting on the mess that is the current incarnation of the shopping feed at Facebook:

Random is the right way to describe Facebook’s attempted invasion of Amazon’s turf. With skimpy product selection, no reviews and limited browsing options, Facebook’s dedicated feed of products is not a great way to shop. At least not yet. But this is only Facebook’s first attempt. It brings with it a ton of knowledge about you and its position as where people spend the most time online.

For now, it’s best at helping you track down something cool you saw in your News Feed. To succeed in shopping, Facebook will need to leverage its unique dataset to offer curation other services can’t match. That way, it won’t need to index every product on earth. Just the ones you’ll actually Like. (..)

If Facebook can absorb shopping and make it a common activity inside its walled garden, brands will fill the social network with pretty products and the ad dollars to promote them.

Interestingly, the last paragraph describes what Zalando is building with its new platform. Part of Zalando’s platform are customizable brand pages and advertising services. (German, English PDF documents by Zalando) This is especially interesting as Zalando is experimenting with mobile apps, which naturally will be going more into facebookish feed territory with respect to their user interfaces.

At this point it seems like a retailer like Zalando will more likely be able to deliver a ‘social’ user experience, at least for its category (here: fashion), than Facebook, which looks like it has a long way to go to even figure out what problem exactly it wants to solve in e-commerce. More from TechCrunch:

Stumbling upon an item shared by a friend or in an ad can fit naturally into the social experience. Browsing and searching specifically for things to buy is a very new trick to teach 1.55 billion old dogs. (..)

facebookshopping

The products are laid out in a two-wide masonry grid very similar to Pinterest. Each includes which shop sells it, a photo, a title for the product, the current price (with an optional striked-out former price), and buttons to Save the item to your profile or Share it with friends. The random nature of the products Facebook shows here make browsing the near-infinite scrolling feed seem aimless. It’s hard not to feel like a pawn of consumerism when scanning the random collection of items for something to buy. (..)

Tapping through a product provides more photos, product details, size and quantity options, shipping and return policies, and a Buy button. In some cases, you’ll be shuttled out to the retailer’s website to complete the purchase, while some products can be bought seamlessly with your payment details on file with Facebook. Retailers get to decide where the payments happens, but the latter is much more convenient. (..)

The shipping costs are hidden until checkout, so you’ll find some retailers click-baiting users with $15 shirts that require another $15 to deliver. And without reviews, it’s tough to tell the quality of some of the obscure brands and retailers you’ll find in the Shopping feed.

This is interesting. Remember how Amaze solved that problem:

Amaze is right now working solely with Zalando. This essentially means that every item one can see on Amaze can be bought on Zalando and only on Zalando through Amaze. From one perspective Amaze is an alternative user interface for Zalando. From a revenue perspective it is the modern -mobile app- aquivalent to traditional affiliate partners.

One reason to confine the service to one retailer according to Lacher is that this way Amaze can offer one click shopping no matter what item and how many items people buy.

It would maybe make sense for Facebook to confine the shopping feed to one or two big online retailers and accordingly to their item categories. To contrast the current situation, imagine a partnership between Facebook and Zalando for example. But Facebook seems to be determined (and arrogant enough?) to try to do it all at once by themselves.

Hence the wrong direction, via TechCrunch:

In essence, Facebook should try to be the expert shop clerk or the stylish friend rather than the shopping mall itself. We are busy, impatient, and indecisive. Don’t give us a million products to choose from. Just tell us what’s really special. Facebook could win at shopping by relying on and understanding its greatest resource: the humanity of the people who use it.

It is a complex problem. And reach alone won’t be enough. It is still an open question how this discovery layer will evolve.

Read the whole report at TechCrunch.

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