Facebook will soon start looking more and more like an online shopping mall.
The social network said Monday that it is adding a new mobile “shopping” tab where you can buy clothes, electronics and other items without ever leaving Facebook’s confines.
The company is also rolling out new ad formats that let customers buy things directly from retailers’ pages and making its “buy” buttons more widely available.
For example, click on a shirt featured in a Target ad and the site will immediately direct to Target’s shopping page where you can select the color and size of the outfit and buy it right then and there.
Like many of Facebook’s most recent efforts, the goal is to cut down on slow loading speeds and corral more user activity into the social network’s streamlined walled garden rather than directing users off into the messy outside web.
Facebook is hoping that the smoother experience will make mobile shopping more attractive to web surfers, who still do most of their shopping on desktop despite spending an increasing portion of their Internet time on smartphones. Research firm eMarketer estimates that only about 2% of e-commerce sales come from mobile.
“For people, the mobile shopping experience is often difficult to navigate,” Facebook wrote in Monday’s announcement. “Customers can experience slow load times and too many steps on the way to checkout. This is bad for people and bad for marketers.”
Facebook first began testing the new shopping features with a limited number of retailers back in July. According to a company survey, nearly half of its 1.5 billion users come to the site actively looking for products, which they most often find in their News Feed, brand pages or in individual groups.
Mobile advertising is Facebook’s fastest growing revenue area by far; last quarter it accounted for 76% of the social network’s $3.8 billion total ads revenue.
But because of the screen constraints and the way people typically use their smartphones, it’s traditionally been hard to push mobile ads for anything other than branding purposes — that is, to impress upon you a positive association with a particular company.
Facebook has been fervently trying to change that with ads that place more emphasis on prodding users into taking action — whether it be buying a product, signing up for a company newsletter or downloading an app. In general, it’s doing this by absorbing features that would’ve previously required loading a separate page for an advertiser website.
It’s not the only social network trying to break into the shopping game. Rivals Twitter and Pinterest have also launched e-commerce platforms of their own and Facebook-owned Instagram is also pushing its own version of “buy” buttons.