Facebook to add 'Buy' button as social media giant expands into mobile commerce

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 12:41am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 October, 2015, 12:41am

Facebook is not content to just be everyone’s favourite social media mobile app. Now, it also wants to facilitate mobile e-commerce via its Facebook advertisements as an increasing number of consumers turn to mobile shopping.

The social media giant announced this week that it would be testing a new full-screen advertising format in its Canvas feature, which originally allowed users to browse swipe through different products from retailers in a Facebook advertisement. With the new format, users will be able to select different products by retailers and see the items’ full details, such as photographs, price and colour choices, without leaving the Facebook app.

A ‘Buy’ button on Canvas advertisements will take them directly to the retailer’s website to complete the purchase.

Other new Facebook features that are being tested include a ‘Shop’ section in retailers’ Facebook pages, where retailers can showcase products to followers and even enable them to make a direct purchase via the Facebook app. Another feature, a dedicated ‘Shopping’ section in the app, will let users browse through and purchase retailers’ products.

These new mobile shopping features are currently in the testing stage in the US, and have yet to roll out worldwide – although that looks to become a likely possibility as numbers for mobile commerce continues to skyrocket. A Goldman Sachs report indicated that half of all global e-commerce spending will come from mobile commerce by 2018. With no doubt, no Internet companies can afford to ignore the huge potential of internet market in China, already the world's largest.

Facebook’s shift into the space of mobile commerce, also often known as "m-commerce", is preceded by Instagram, which Facebook acquired for US$1 billion in 2012. Instagram has already rolled out similar advertisement formats allowing retailers to post slideshows of their products with an embedded ‘buy now’ button which redirects users to the product listing on the advertiser’s website.

Mobile commerce is experiencing strong growth in the Asia Pacific region, according to an e-commerce survey by Visa earlier this year. Results show that Hong Kong consumers are more likely to make mobile purchases, with mobile shopping increasing from 22 per cent to 35 per cent since 2012.

With such promising numbers, it is no surprise that Instagram allowed any advertiser to run ads on its Hong Kong platform starting from September, with companies like P&G Vidal Sassoon and Sony Mobile HK among the first companies to launch advertisements in the Asian market.

China has also seen rapid growth with a 36 per cent rise in mobile shopping among consumers in the last year, thanks to a growing smartphone penetration rate and e-commerce companies such as and Taobao who have popularized mobile shopping in China.