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December 12, 2017
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Similar to the Like button, clicking Want publishes a notification to the user’sNewsfeed with an option to add comments. Source: business2community.com.

Like it. Want it. Buy it.

And so the story goes for Facebook Collections.

In a substantial e-commerce push, Facebook Inc. is currently testing its new Facebook Collections feature on its social media platform. Retailers will be able to add "Want" and "Collect" buttons to product images on their Facebook pages, while nudging fans to add favoured products to a Wishlist or collect images in a Products folder. Facebook Collections then makes these Wants, Collects and Likes known to Facebook friends through Timeline and Newsfeed. Facebook users will also be offered the opportunity to buy the desired products from the retailer's own website. 

Facebook Collection E Commerce
Source: Business2community.com.

Image-based social purchasing isn't new to the online world; established websites such as Pinterest and The Fancy have already zeroed in this approach. With this in mind, does Facebook Collections bring anything to the e-retail game that isn't already out there? 

One of Facebook's biggest advantages is that Collections will be leveraging Facebook's existing social platform, which as of October 2012, has one billion active monthly users. According to research firm comScore Inc., Facebook users spend an average of 405 minutes per month on Facebook. To brands, this translates into six to seven hours each month that fans could be "shopping" whilst on the Facebook platform - in other words, generous access to potential buyers.

Facebook's user frequency is even more marked when compared against the average time spent by users of the Pinterest platform. The image-based online platform makes it easy for users to "Pin" products, share with others and ultimately purchase online (sound familiar?) was found to be used by members for approximately 89 minutes on average per month.

Facebook Collections, then, isn't simply a portal for product introduction and purchasing; its network structure allows for brands to self-advertise which, thanks to the sharing nature of Facebook, translates into friend-to-friend product recommendation. Sharing products with Facebook friends is a natural social activity, and through Facebook Collections users can now take a curatorial approach to what they share.

Since October 8, Facebook has begun testing the Collections feature with seven brands: Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Wayfair, Victoria's Secret, Smith Optics, Pottery Barn and Fab.com - a spectrum of the type of retailers that might be interested in using the feature. Erin Bury, managing editor at emerging tech-publication BetaKit.com, explains why she has a positive outlook for Facebook Collections to The Genteel: "For retailers, whether bargain brand or haute couture, Facebook Collections really doesn't have a downside. Since Facebook doesn't charge for the feature or take an affiliate fee when someone purchases one of the featured items from a retailer's website, brands won't incur any charges for using Facebook Collections…. Once it launches to all Facebook users, it will likely be another great way to get consumers sharing Pinterest-style images with their friends, and ultimately buying those items." 

That being said, Facebook Collections might also grant Facebook and participating brands access to "Collect" data, "Want" data, and purchase data - ultimately allowing for consumer market analysis.

Akin to other online shopping outlets, Facebook Collections does, however, pose a threat to the overall retail experience and to the brands that rely on it the most. Luxury brands - such as Chanel and Hermès, for example - thrive on intimate one-on-one relationships with customers. Trying on a Chanel suit or holding a Hermès leather accessory is a tactile, excitement-filled experience that is more fulfilling than browsing a website and clicking "Buy". It has a feeling of exclusivity and splendor that cannot be recreated in the virtual world. High-end brands that build their platforms around experiential shopping and extravagance should stay away from the Facebook Collections feature.

However, with an extremely high user base and global popularity, Facebook has the potential to dominate the curate-and-buy social market. And with Facebook shares steadily dropping - down to US$19 from its US$38 per share IPO price in May 2012 - Facebook Collections might be the feature that restores the market's faith. 

That being said, Facebook Collections might also grant Facebook and participating brands access to "Collect" data, "Want" data, and purchase data - ultimately allowing for consumer market analysis. This isn't the first time Facebook has attempted to collect member data; Facebook Beacon - a great failure - published many users' third-party website activities onto their Facebook profiles. Facebook members and privacy advocates backlashed against Beacon, causing Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook Inc., to pull it and apologise for its intrusive nature. But is the stunning photography and curatorship feature of Facebook Collections an alluring disguise that allows this pilot project, Facebook Beacon, to evolve into Facebook's second, more sensible, attempt at collecting user-data? 

Although looking at beautiful images and sharing desired products with online buddies seems innocent, its sweetness almost tastes bitter. "Want" and "Collect" at your own risk. 

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