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‘Collections’ Test Hints at Bigger Strategy to Turn Likes into Sales

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This week, Facebook began testing a new variety of Page posts that marks its latest move toward expanding social commerce opportunities within the platform. Dubbed “Collections,” the new feature gives brands the ability to share product images which can be Liked, Wanted or Collected – and eventually purchased – by fans.

Facebook Collections rolls out with the help of several partner retailers, including Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus, Pottery Barn, Fab.com and Victoria’s Secret. Launch partners can post product “Collections,” which contain vibrant images and the option for users to “Like,” “Want,” or “Collect” the items therein. As part of the test, individuals are only being served one of these options for now.

Each photo also includes pricing information, and a link from which users can purchase the item from the retailer’s website. Of important note is that users cannot yet shop directly from Facebook.

The roll-out of Facebook Collections makes rumors of a Facebook “Want button” – which first emerged this July – a tangible reality for retailers. At that time, Facebook did not confirm the implications of the test, and as TechCrunch notes, the rumored Want social plugin is unrelated to Collections. Still, the inclusion of either feature could provide Facebook – and brands investing there – with the missing link needed to tie social engagement to sales.

Here’s what Facebook Collections means for brands—

[1] Facebook dives into social shopping – again. Facebook is no stranger to social shopping (see: Deals, Stores and now Gifts), and Collections is its latest attempt to socialize purchase intent among fan’s networks. Of particular interest is how retailers will be able to use data from Collections to better target ads, push messaging (via Post Targeting) or offer deals and other promotions.

[2] Visual content, validated.  Brands are already sharing vibrant photos across Facebook and other digital platforms – and with great results. Images often see much higher engagement levels than other types of posts, so it makes sense that Facebook Collections operates as a visual catalog –with the bonus opportunity to eventually purchase, of course.

[3] A Pinterest rival in the making? While this makes for a good headline, it remains unclear if Collections will emulate the Pinterest model when it comes to organizing visual inspiration. Currently, collected items populate a user’s Product or Wishlist page (depending on if they are served Collect/Like vs. Want), but there is no way to organize items by topic or category. There is also no way to bring in content not already available as part of a Facebook Collection. What is similar, however, is the ability to “bookmark” items and append personalized commentary to the post.

[4] For most non-retail brands, this is non-news – for now. The current offering will cater to a small subset of retailer pages. As part of the test, Facebook is not charging partner brands nor taking a cut of sales, according to CNET. That said, Collections (along with Facebook’s other commerce initiatives) will be worth keeping tabs on. As our Matt Wurst remarked in Internet Retailer, “Facebook is a huge platform where seemingly everyone is, but not everyone is our target audience. So we have to figure out how to use these tools, like Collections, to better connect with our audience.”

At 1 billion users, Facebook remains the world’s largest social network by a long-shot, but it has yet to launch a breakout commerce offering that would help marketers justify their investment in the platform and produce sizeable revenue stream for the company. Recent enhancements like Collections and Gifts (announced in September) indicate that Facebook is putting some real muscle behind making F-commerce a reality.

Karri Wells, Senior Community Manager, and Matt Wurst, Director of Communities at 360i, contributed to this article.