Facebook’s recent earnings call was noteworthy to those who follow the social network’s commerce path in that its “Gifts” program was not mentioned in a review of its various revenue-generating efforts. In the weeks leading up to the call, Facebook CFO David Ebersman said that gifts’ contribution to revenue had been “very small” for 2012 and would likely remain so in 2013.
The voice of Facebook’s partners provides some insight into the anemic start to Gifts, which launched in various stages through the latter part of 2012. One of the launch partners, 1-800-FLOWERS, a “digital commerce” veteran with more than 20 years of market experience, said Facebook’s Gifts has not lived up to its expectations. Facebook is responding by sending out more frequent reminders to its members even when those pokes seem awkwardly presented (i.e. when watching a video or engaging in a real-time chat).
Aside from issues with its presentation to its members, Gifts is a non-starter to many merchants because Facebook will not share order capture details (name, address, email) with the merchant or buyers’ credit card information. Such a policy gives Facebook the appearance of being totally self serving in its Gifts program wanting only to amass buyer behavior information and credit card numbers to add to its growing pile of big data. Facebook is laboring under the false impression that it is able to impose limitations on what information it shares with its merchant partners because Apple and Amazon have succeeded in that practice.
Some pundits believe Facebook’s expansion of its mobile efforts will provide a shot in the arm for this social commerce experiment. The truth is, until Zuck and company realize the company’s value is more as a conduit for commerce than as a destination Facebook will limp along in its efforts to build a viable commerce revenue stream. While they’re at it, if they want to improve their standing with brands and marketers, a glance in the mirror by Facebook’s leadership, with the realization they have neither sold millions upon millions of mobile devices nor books should result in a re-calibration of their commerce vision.