Yesterday, Facebook launched Facebook Gifts, a new social gifting service that allows users to send physical gifts to their friends, the result of Facebook’s May acquisition of mobile e-commerce app Karma for $80 million. [Facebook used to have a Gift Shop application that allowed users to send virtual gifts in the form of images, but that was discontinued in August 2010.]
“Every day, millions of people share special moments with their friends on Facebook by saying “Happy Birthday,” “Congratulations,” or simply, “I’m thinking of you.” Now there is another way to celebrate those moments. Starting today, you can give real gifts to your friends on Facebook using Gifts.” announced Facebook on Thursday on its website. “You can post your gift to your friend’s timeline or send it privately. Your friend can then unwrap a preview of the gift and it will show up on their doorstep a few days later.”
What’s particularly cool about this feature is that you can send gifts from birthday reminders, or from your friend’s timeline – so it’s seamless to wish someone a Happy Birthday on Facebook, send the gift and voila! – you’re done. Your friend is notified of the gift, and they put in their own shipping information, so you don’t have to know it when you buy the gift. The gift recipient can also choose to change the size, color or flavor of the gift, or even choose another gift instead. You can opt to pay for the gift either before or after the recipient has accepted the gift.
I’m assuming that (if it’s not already happening) eventually the gifts that are suggested to the purchaser will be based on the recipient’s preferences, Likes, Interests, relationships and other profile history, making it much easier to select a gift and much more likely that returns and complaints are significantly reduced.
Facebook has currently partnered with over 100 retailers to offer a large selection of gifts that includes stuffed animals, cupcakes, toys, coffee mugs, Starbucks gift cards and more, receiving a percentage of every gift purchase, and generating a possible significant and alternative revenue stream to its ad platform.
According to some security experts, the new service might encourage users to expose information like their home addresses, birth date, clothing or shoe size that could pose security and privacy risks. An article titled Facebook Gifts could encourage users to expose more private information by Lucian Constantin on Computerworld describes some of the security threats that may be of concern:
“The amount of private data users are sharing on social networking sites already exceeds all security precautions,” said Bogdan Botezatu, a senior e-threat analyst at antivirus vendor Bitdefender. “Making it so much easier for the user to add a number of addresses they can receive parcels at (including probably work or school addresses) would make it even easier for real-life criminals to gather information about a potential victim.”
According to Mr. Botezatu, home addresses combined with other information commonly shared by users on Facebook like vacation dates, pictures of houses or news about recent high-value purchases, could make it very easy for burglars to select potential victims and plan raids. However, the fact is that people already share a great deal of information online across a variety of websites and e-commerce transactions, the difference here is that the information will be going to a single platform.
For most marketers however, the ability to reconcile a user’s social profile data with a phone number and physical address provides a huge opportunity, and will allow companies to enable, improve and enhance online-offline targeting by targeting their customers on Facebook through phone number- and email address-matching.
The Holy Grail for most companies (and marketers in particular) today is the battle for the Customer’s Identity – a 360-degree view of the customer, their profile data, their behavioral data and their transactional data, over their lifetime.
Today, the battle for a customer’s identity rages between Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook for that data, and each has their own strength in a particular area – Google know search data, Apple has tablet, mobile and apps, Amazon has transactions, and Facebook has behavioral data to the nth degree. If Facebook can solve the equation for collecting a user’s transactional data and history including a user’s physical address and combine that with behavioral data, it will pose a serious threat to the other players in this battle.
According to Facebook, the new Facebook Gifts service will be rolled out gradually to users starting with those in the U.S.
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