July 17, 2014, 5:19 PM

Facebook tests a Buy button on ads and posts

The Buy button will allow consumers to order directly from the social network and help e-retailers drive sales via the news feed and on their Facebook pages.

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Facebook Inc. hopes its users are ready to buy directly on the social network.

Facebook today announced it is testing a Buy button with a few small- and medium-sized U.S. businesses. The button will enable the social network’s desktop and mobile users to click the button on ads and page posts to purchase a product directly from a business without leaving the social network.

The test appears to be a natural evolution from call-to-action buttons that Facebook rolled out earlier this year that let marketers add either a Shop Now, Learn More, Sign Up, Book Now or Download button to their ads. But while those buttons took users off the social network, the Buy button will let consumers complete their transactions on Facebook, much like shoppers can do on shopping-focused social networks like OpenSky.

Facebook says it has taken steps to help make the payment experience “safe and secure.” “None of the credit or debit card information people share with Facebook when completing a transaction will be shared with other advertisers, and people can select whether or not they’d like to save payment information for future purchases,” the social network writes in a blog post.

The rollout of a Buy button marks Facebook’s latest attempt to drive e-commerce sales on its platform. For example, the social network in 2012 launched the Facebook Gifts service, which let shoppers buy physical gifts for their friends. However, the social network shuttered the program after less than a year because of consumers’ lack of interest in buying their friends tangible gifts via the social network. (Consumers can still buy gift cards on the social network.)

At least one analyst thinks the Buy Button will meet a similar result.

A few people may use it, but ultimately it's the wrong place for that kind of behavior,” says Nate Elliott, vice president, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

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