- Loyalty program. Facebook knows it lacks the check-in and review volume it needs to make Graph Search more useful than existing tools like Yelp and Foursquare, so a loyalty program could help seed that kind of information and benefit both Facebook and retailers.
- In April 2012, Facebook acquired Tagtile, a mobile loyalty program that rewards fans after they check in to a retailer. This may have been a typical aqui-hire, but with Facebook posting jobs like this Sales/Marketing Tool Engineer (mentioning CRM, gamification and business apps on the Open Graph), it seems like they're at least considering the myriad of options they have in the space.
- If implemented, a loyalty program could also track offline revenue from consumers who saw ad content on Facebook, then made an in-store purchase. They're already experimenting with this through a partnership with Datalogix (which has purchasing data from about 70 million households via retailer loyalty card programs) and initial results have been very strong -- averaging $3 return for every $1 spent. The ability to demonstrate an impact on offline sales would be huge.
- Facebook also snapped up some patents from Verizon last year, including the ability to "determine the location of a portable device in a shopping environment" and others that hint at the ability to serve up content based on your location. Stroll by a thrift shop and get a ping from Facebook letting you know that your friend Megan was there last week AND there's a 20% off sale? Maybe so...
- F-Commerce, part deux. No, not an update to the Facebook "storefronts" that either failed miserably or were wildly successful, depending on which reports you read. Facebook just launched a conversion-tracking feature that gives advertisers the ability to track things like registrations and shopping cart checkouts. This is a direct way for Facebook to show ROI to advertisers and will likely drive the cost of advertising on Facebook up.
- Expect to see the ability to purchase products from Graph Search results to roll out as soon as Facebook can perfect the functionality (possible affiliate structure, fulfillment responsibilities, etc.). Facebook's launch of Gifts was in part to keep people on site for longer (increase ad revenue), but also to get people comfortable with giving their credit card information to Facebook. Once it has that information, if it enables an Amazon-like one-click purchase feature, the possibilities are astounding.
- It's likely that we'll see the return of Collections, which could be used to collect items or things you've found in Graph Search results. Collection information could eventually be used by advertisers to directly target collectors. If advertisers aren't sold on the ability to target people who like their brand, it's quite possible that they'll be swayed to throw down some cash when they can see that users are virtually "collecting" their products.
- Facebook's late 2012 acquisition of Threadsy (think Klout for Facebook), while possibly a standard aqui-hire, could also hint at Facebook's desire to get into the influencer identification game. One of the most frustrating things in influencer identification is that you can't really nail down if the influencers are actually influential in driving sales or if they just spread the information and others influence sales. Well, Facebook could close the loop on that one.
There's a lot to be seen about how the product will develop as the beta test continues, but as it stands now, it's wholly dependent on Facebook users liking and interacting with things on Facebook and adding tons of information and context to their actions. Frankly, that's a lot of work, especially if curators are already doing those things on other sites. Open Graph applications could make that information sharing very seamless and could make Graph Search extremely important. However, with that seamless sharing comes increasing privacy concerns from many users as well as a general frustration with many of Facebook's newer monetization efforts. Recent reports say that Facebook lost roughly 1.4M users in December. Is Graph Search a tool that can bring them back? Or will it just drive more people away?
What predictions do you have for Facebook's next products and features? Are they ultimately working toward a phone or an OS? Or will they continue in their race with Google to perfect personalized search?
Courtney has over six years of experience creating digital strategies for brands, building online communities and pulling actionable insights from social and web data. Her work includes agency and client-side roles in B2B and B2C markets spanning industries ranging from franchised IT services to international fast fashion retail. Follow her digital marketing blog and tweets @celivingston
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