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Facebook planning online shopping expansion in 2011

28 December 2010 - 20:49 by Mike Price

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Social networking site Facebook, has initiated talks with many major e-commerce firms, in what could be the first step in a permanent change to the way consumers shop for and buy goods online.

Various bigwigs from within Mark Zuckerberg's company have been in contact with over 20 major retailers in recent weeks, according to an interview with Facebooks's David Fisch, published by Bloomberg.

Facebook is going to offer its users a way to carry out safe shopping online from within their social networking profile, but the social shopping experience will be more than just a glorified checkout service. Instead users will be able to share reviews and their purchase histories with their friends via the site, with real-time updates enabled and Facebook integration into existing retailers, allowing for unified shopping.

Of course Facebook will benefit financially from this arrangement as it will be able to analyse the habits of its users and pass these back to retailers at a price, allowing for targeted advertising and ideally an improved experience for those seeking safe shopping online in the future.

Facebook already offers some online shopping services and in December it is estimated that those retailers which use its e-commerce tools to sell to users, were making a combined total of around 75 pence every second.

Compared to eBay's throughput rate of around £1300 a second, this is still small, but given that over half a billion people sign into Facebook each day, the potential market is massive.

A spokesperson for Forrester Research explained that although Facebook remains separate from online retailers at the moment, these developments show it is putting in place the groundwork for a significant change in its operation.

Facebook is popular but it has many detractors who complain that it does not protect the privacy of the individual. This would surely have to be addressed in order to give consumers confidence in it as a retail outlet.