Facebook vs. Amazon

Can Facebook Challenge Amazon
for eCommerce Supremacy?

Listen to the audio version of this article below.

Amazon Changed Everything

I’ve been in eCommerce since 2000 — an eternity in the digital world. I look back fondly on the days when you just had to be better than the other guy. It usually involved a tweak: product packaging for added value, SEO and AdWords bids to drive traffic, or checkout processes to reduce friction in the conversion funnel. We took pride in being small enough to pivot quickly to stay near the top.

Then this bookseller called Amazon came along and changed everything. At first they offered low prices and fast delivery. Now they offer something that makes most eCommerce companies cringe — EVERYTHING! It used to be that Google was the first place shoppers would go to find the products they want. Now they go directly to Amazon and, unless you’re selling on Amazon, your potential customers may never know you exist.

Going Mobile

The mobile society we live in today is continuing to change the way we shop. It’s still difficult for many eCommerce companies to get conversions on mobile devices.

  • Users want to complete the process in as few steps as necessary
  • It’s difficult to type on mobile devices, so stored information is important
  • As good as mobile sites are becoming, it is hard to beat the experience of a well-built native app

Most experts will tell you that you need to build an app for your store. For companies like Target and Lowe’s, that is sound advice. Here’s why it’s not practical for most eCommerce companies:

  • Infrequent purchases — There are things that I’ll buy once every few years. I’m not giving up precious storage on my iPhone to get an app for that.
  • Immature market — Yes, I still think eCommerce apps have a long way to go. There is still room for best practices to be developed and jumping from app to app with different conversion paths makes purchasing a frustrating experience.
  • It’s too easy to build a bad app — With all of the tools out there and API’s, almost anyone can build an app, but they rarely build a good app. I’d rather visit a mobile website than use most of the horrid eCommerce apps out there today.

This gives Amazon an even stronger stranglehold on the eCommerce market. One app to download. One app to understand. One app to update. One app to buy almost anything we can imagine.

Can anyone compete or do we just submit to our eCommerce overlord, Amazon?

Facebook and eCommerce?

We’ve known for a while now that Facebook has been toying with eCommerce. Let me paint a quick picture:

  • Facebook has been accepting various forms of payments from advertisers. These payment methods are stored for future use.
  • Facebook is using this same payment system to allow quick and easy friend-to-friend payments through Messenger.
Facebook Messenger Payments
  • Facebook launched Businesses on Messenger during F8 this year allowing consumers to receive transactional messages about purchases through messenger and communicate directly with businesses.
Businesses on Messenger
  • Facebook Product ads allow businesses to upload their product catalog to Facebook. Now individual products and related products can be used to retarget to customers
Multi-product Ad on Facebook
  • Facebook has been experimenting with a “Buy” button on Ads since last July that allows consumers to purchase a product they saw on another website without leaving the Facebook app.
“Buy” button on a Facebook Ad

All of these components together lead to the beginning of what could be strong eCommerce competition for Amazon.

What Facebook Needs

I love the idea of retargeting combined with a “buy” button. I find a product on a site, come across it again in a Facebook Ad, tap the buy button and complete the purchase without leaving the app.

The problem is this requires me to have visited another website with the intent to buy. In order for Facebook to be a true eCommerce hub, people need to begin the shopping process on Facebook. To pull that off, they’ll need a few key components:

  • A central location for products — A stand-alone Facebook Shopping app
  • A practical way for users to find products (search) — Facebook has made major changes to its search feature in the past few months. Including a product category will be important for discovery.

Next up: Pinterest

Pinterest already has the catalog and search capabilities in place. A buy button is reportedly in the works.

Your Thoughts

So, what do you think? Does Facebook have a shot at knocking Amazon off the top of the eCommerce food chain?

Listen to the audio on Soundcloud