此外，扎克伯格还对自己在去年F8大会上"吹过的牛"向数十亿Facebook的用户做了圆满的答复。作为本次会议的重头戏，Facebook首先推出了三款AR软件，其中包括一款AR平台Camera Effects，两款AR工具AR Studio和Frame Studio。同时，Facebook还推出了VR社交平台Facebook Spaces, 但该平台目前还只有测试版本。此外，月活跃用户数量超过12亿的聊天平台Messenger也已经升级到了2.0版本，人工智能将作为其核心技术。
Facebook在本次F8大会上发布的多项创新科技无一不深刻的体现了公司"用互联网连接世界"的发展愿景。但令人疑惑的是，尽管Facebook在AR、VR、AI等领域的创新产品在本次会议大放异彩，但却唯独少了支付类产品的身影。要知道，Facebook一直以来致力于与PayPal PYPL、Visa、MasterCard MA、American Express等国际支付巨头共同开发移动支付业务。去年， Messenger就已经上线了移动支付功能。无需借助外部网站，用户仅需要在Messenger程序内连接银行卡账户，就可以进行境内的转账操作。此后，Facebook又与国际汇款转账服务平台TransferWise深度合作，将境内转账功能拓展到国际汇款服务，使得Messenger的用户可以在程序内进行跨境交易。此外，公司旗下社交软件WhatsApp又宣布将于今年在印度推出移动支付服务，并且已经在当地开启了人才招聘计划。因此，对于支付产品缺席本次F8大会，不禁令人心生疑惑。
自成立至今，Facebook俨然已经成了"社交平台"的代名词。然而其实在这13年的发展历程中，特别是Facebook上市以来这5年，它的社交属性却在不断减弱，而它的另一项业务 - 广告业务-却在不断发展壮大。数据显示，Facebook已经成为仅次于Google的世界第二大广告平台。2016年，公司实现营收276亿美元，其中广告收入几乎贡献了全部的营收，并且保持了强势增长的态势，相比之下，支付收入占比则小的可怜，而且呈现下跌趋势。
去年年底，Facebook为旗下的独立聊天应用Messenger增加了移动支付功能，使得用户可以直接在app内完成支付，而不必再跳转到第三方网站。在旧金山TechCrunch Disrupt大会上，Facebook即时讯息产品副总裁大David Marcus表示，Facebook Messenger已经上线了超过3万个聊天机器人。不过，有关支付业务预计将不会为Facebook带来可观的收益。他表示，公司正在通过研究Messenger的支付功能以增加广告收入。
If you want to know how and where a company will strategically spend its time, money and efforts, then look no further than how it makes its money. So, tomorrow when Facebook’s Developer Conference, dubbed F8, kicks off, don’t be surprised if payments isn’t the star of the show.
Named after Facebook’s infamous dusk-to-dawn, eight-hour Hackathons, F8 is an annual confab intended to give developers a look at new tools that will help them reach and engage the 1.9 billion and 1.2 billion unique people who now visit Facebook every month and every day, respectively.
Over those two days, it seems a near certainty that those developers will hear more about the things that Mark Zuckerberg laid out in his F8 keynote last year: how to make video more plentiful and engaging, how to use AI to make user experiences more meaningful and personalized, how to use AR/VR to create new user experiences and what Facebook is doing to give the 4 billion people in the world who don’t have internet access today the chance to get it inexpensively.
From Social Network to Advertising Network
Facebook may still be described by its users as a social network, but it’s far from that — 13 years after it was launched and five years since it went public. Facebook is a gigantic advertising platform, the second largest in the world behind Google. Facebook’s total 2016 revenue, at $27.6 billion, was almost entirely the result of selling ads to brands that wanted to get their message in front of its massive and highly engaged user base. (By way of comparison, Google’s ad revenue was $79 billion in 2016.)
Payments accounted for a relatively paltry $753 million in revenue by comparison, down from the $849 million the year before. The decline of 11 percent year over year didn’t exactly blow much of a hole in Facebook’s bottom line or dampen investor interest.
What would — and has in years past — is falling short on Facebook’s ability to feed the ad beast. When Facebook announced that it was dangerously close to running out of ad inventory on its platform last fall, its share price dropped sharply. That’s because the market rightfully pegs Facebook’s biggest adversary as Google and its competitive playing field as advertising.
That didn’t stop everyone — and maybe even Facebook at one point — from thinking that Facebook wanted to be a payments platform. Once upon a time and back when “FarmVille” and“CityVille” were the rage, payments drove an interesting revenue stream for Facebook. Millions of people buying chickens and cherry trees for their FarmVille farms, in turn, sparked a payments ambition — remember Facebook credits? But once gaming moved to apps, Facebook lost those eyeballs and that revenue stream and, appropriately, any interest in creating a new form of currency for the Facebook platform.
Its vision of turning Facebook into a giant shopping mall where people would shop and pay on the Facebook platform never materialized either. Remember Payvment and the social commerce movement? The notion that brands could launch Facebook storefronts and turn hundreds of millions of Facebook fans into buyers flopped, too. Consumers didn’t want to shop on their social network, and those storefront operators — even those with tens of thousands of fans — found that unless they bought ads that directed people to those storefronts.
But if one needed any further proof that “getting into” and monetizing payments inside of Facebook was an experiment that has long outlived its strategic purpose, one need to look no further than Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s response to an analyst question about buy buttons during February’s Q4 2016 earnings call.
“The core of our focus is still very much focused on ads and how we can do ads at the product level,” was her answer.
A strategy that means that Facebook has moved away from thinking of itself as the place where commerce happens and payment is monetized inside of its ecosystem — but as an ecosystem that builds contextual and targeted ad-driven experiences that engage its users and direct them off Facebook to the brand’s website to buy.
Because advertising — and not payments — is how Facebook makes it money. And their own website is where brands want their users to conduct business.
Facebook and Its Massive Ad Engine
Platforms — the ones that scale and survive — figure out ways to build and monetize their platform assets. Facebook’s assets are its users, the data they share about themselves and the time that they spend soaking up content in their news feeds.
Facebook enriches that data set — which is already pretty valuable — with information from data aggregators. Data on users’ income, marital status, loans, mortgages, credit cards, how much their house is worth, where they were born, where they went to school, how many kids they have and their ages, what kind of car they drive, where they work and the town in which they live (and much more) is mashed up with information Facebook gets from sites that its users visit that have the Facebook sharing button and what those users are looking at and clicking on. Facebook can then offer advertisers more than 1,300 attributes to reach a very relevant set of eyeballs.
In the Belly of the Facebook Ad Beast
Over the past several years, Facebook has innovated on how those brands can grab their targeted user’s attention. Dynamic ads on Facebook allow brands to present a carousel of their products from their product catalogue inside a user’s news feed. Facebook’s newly launched travel CityGuides give users information on what’s happening in cities like Boston and allow them to book hotel rooms and make other travel arrangements. Facebook reports that for brands using these dynamic formats, recall increases 20 percent and awareness by as much 11 percent.
Shopping on Instagram offers brands a way to engage with users and show them new and/or curated products. Launched last fall as a trial, last month, that trial was expanded from its 20 pilot set of brands to many more brands. Kate Spade said that their customers loved the ability to seamlessly move from information to inspiration to purchase; one pilot retailer reported a 33 percent lift in conversions.
And in every case — via dynamic ads or Canvas or Shopping on Facebook — those conversions and sales lifts were measured by users who clicked through those ad experiences and off Facebook to the brand’s own websites to complete the purchase.
The opportunity for brands to engage with Facebook will expand as soon as Facebook expands the reach of its ad exchange — the Facebook Audience Network, or FAN — beyond Facebook and innovates the formats in which brands can promote their products and services on its platform.
Video is another area of growth for Facebook — and another direct hit to Google’s YouTube. Facebook has said that it will focus its efforts, at least right now, on the 90-second spots that include advertising after 20 seconds has been watched. Those ads will also allow consumers to punch out to brand websites to make a buy. Video ads were cited as a success story in Facebook’s Q4 earnings call, as driving double-digit increases in brand recall and brand awareness for the launch of Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch and Nielsen data reported and a 3.5 percent lift in sales for Motorola when used in support of a new product launch.
More than 90 percent of Facebook’s users access it via mobile devices that direct those users to a mobile website. And we all know what happens when users end up on merchant sites via their mobile devices to make a purchase.
Checkout fail, a large number of times.
And that failure to convert a click to a sale is one of the reasons why Facebook ad rates are so low.
Payments and payments innovators can help.
What should be clear is that Facebook’s interest isn’t to payment-enable Facebook and commerce inside of its ecosystems, because payments isn’t how Facebook makes its money.
But it could make more of it if it found a way to streamline the checkout process once users clicked off a product page and onto the website of the brand.
And that’s where payments and the payments ecosystem can help – and the opportunity for the payments ecosystems as gigantic as the advertising opportunity that Facebook is enabling on its platform. Optimizing the payments experience for the brands that Facebook users interact with will help Facebook create even more value for the brands that turn to them to generate their leads. It will also increase the value of the Facebook advertising platform by more closely correlating clicks to sales — and giving Facebook the ammo it needs to increase the rates that it charges advertisers.
Facebook has proven that it can lead the horse to water. Now it’s up to the payments ecosystem to get it to drink.