Facebook is pushing harder into local shopping.
From deciding where to eat, to booking your next hair appointment, to buying movie tickets at the local theatre, Facebook wants to eventually control, or be involved with, every decision you make when it comes to local commerce.
You probably use a bunch of different services for those things now, services like Yelp or Foursquare or Google. But Facebook figures it can do those things better by layering on your social connections and identity, and adding in the fact that a lot of small businesses are already using Facebook.
“There’s a fundamental motivating question which is what we’ve been focused on for a while now,” said Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of ads and Pages, “which is ‘How can we make Facebook more useful in your everyday life?’”
In other words: Why use a bunch of different apps when you can just use one? That’s the thinking.
So the company is rolling out updates on Wednesday to improve these kinds of scenarios for its user base. Here’s a laundry list of the updates.
- You can now order food directly from a restaurant’s Facebook page, so long as that restaurant uses a third-party ordering service, like Delivery.com or Slice.
- You can also make appointments through a company’s page, which means you could use Facebook to set up a dinner reservation or make a salon appointment. Retailers that want to offer appointment bookings have to use a third-party service like HomeAdvisor or MyTime.
- Facebook is getting into ticketing. You can now buy tickets from Eventbrite, Ticketmaster or Fandango through a company’s Facebook Page. (This has been a long time coming but is finally here.) You can then store the ticket — presented as a unique QR code — on your Facebook account until you need it at the event.
- When you write a post asking for a recommendation, like for a good restaurant or barbershop in a city you’re visiting, Facebook can detect you’re asking a question and let your friends respond with recommendations on a communal map. That way you can see all the recommendations in one place, and where they’re located.
All of these changes are in line with the kind of stuff Facebook is already pushing to users and advertisers, like the ability for marketers to advertise for a specific retail location or measure foot traffic for people driven into their store.
It’s also a pretty direct affront to Google and the efforts that tech giant has made around local search.
It doesn’t cost retailers or small businesses any money to use these services. But that’s okay with Facebook, because it ultimately wants to own these interactions and know where you shop and eat and travel.
That’s valuable information, and perfect for the kind of targeted advertising that’s turned Facebook into a multi-billion dollar business. It can’t track that info nearly as easily if you’re interacting with local business on some other website or service.
Most of these updates will start to roll out to U.S. users beginning Wednesday. So while you might not notice them right away, the news is less about an imminent change to Facebook and more about what’s possible for Facebook moving forward.
“The problem is bigger than what we’re launching today or what we’re announcing today,” Bosworth told reporters last week at a briefing. “What we’re really trying to do here is give you guys a flavor of what’s to come.”