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独辟蹊径: 看Facebook“广告+支付”的另类发展模式

美国当地时间4月18日,Facebook年度开发者盛会F8正式在加利福尼亚圣何塞McEnery会议中心举行。按照Facebook此前发布的议程,本次F8大会为期两天,涉及主题不仅涵盖了Instagram、Messenger、Oculus、WhatsApp等Facebook旗下的应用程序,还关注了人工智能、虚拟现实、增强现实等前沿科技。

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。

由社交媒体转型广告平台

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。

(单位:亿美元)

(单位:亿美元)

尽管Facebook的广告业务发展前景一片大好,但其背后却存在着巨大的隐患。以社交起家的Facebook在近年来面对Google等广告行业巨头的竞争时(Google在去年的广告收入为780亿美元,几乎为Facebook的三倍),时常显得捉襟见肘。去年,Facebook就爆发了广告库存危机,使得其股价在短期内大幅下滑。在主营业务面临如此困境的情况下,支付业务似乎成为了Facebook实现长远发展的救命稻草。

发展中的彷徨

尽管一再受挫,但Facebook一直没有放弃发展支付业务。此前,Facebook曾上线开心农场(Farmville)、模拟小镇(CityVille)等游戏应用程序,并为其开通了支付功能,试水支付市场。新颖的游戏内容帮助Facebook取得了巨大的成功,据统计,FarmVille的用户数量超过9000万,成为Facebook中最受欢迎的应用程序,并带来了巨额的支付业务收入。"游戏+支付"模式的成功似乎让Facebook看到了支付产业发展的光明前途,但同时,Facebook也意识到,这次支付业务发展的成功是建立在游戏程序"光鲜亮丽"的外表之上的,一旦将支付功能分离出来,建立成类似支付宝这样独立的支付平台,能否获得成功还是一个未知数。

同时,Facebook还参考了阿里巴巴"电商平台+支付"的发展模式,扎克伯格曾计划在Facebook社交平台上建立一个巨大的电商平台,用户可以在进行社交活动的同时在线购物,试图将粉丝变成产品买家。然而,Facebook的"粉丝经济"战略似乎并不成功,多项调查显示,大部分用户明确表示拒绝在社交平台上进行购物,同时,商家的财务数据也印证了,在Facebook平台上进行商品宣传的投资回报率极低。

今年二月份,Facebook首席运营官Sheryl Sandberg在谈到2016年公司的收入情况时表示,广告业务仍是Facebook在未来几年的发展重心,特别是产品层面的广告业务。这似乎已经宣布了Facebook放弃了"电商转型计划",将此前的"电商平台+支付"内部发展模式转变构建"广告+支付"内外部结合型的生态系统。公司计划通过在平台上发布个性化的产品广告,引导Facebook的用户到相应产品的官方网站进行下单购买。

Facebook的该项战略可谓及其明智,毕竟,广告业务可是它的看家本领,若为了迎合支付业务,强行涉足自己并不熟悉电商领域,则属于以己之短攻彼之长,毫无胜算。这样,Facebook就可以专心进行支付技术的研发,同时,其坐拥全球数十亿粉丝的社交平台也将成为全球各大品牌进行宣传所必将争夺"前沿阵地"。

用户价值才是核心

作为全球最大的社交平台,庞大的用户群为Facebook开展各项业务带来了难以估量的价值。进一步深挖用户数据,抢占用户时间无疑还将成为公司在未来发展支付业务的核心战略。

目前,通过对用户在平台上活动的搜集整理,Facebook已经获得了丰富的用户数据,包括收入、婚姻状况、出生地、家庭状况等多个方面。通过对数据进行分析,Facebook就可以有针对性地向用户推送相应的产品广告。

此外,Facebook还对广告推送的内容和形式做了创新,上线了动态广告等新功能,提高关注度。例如,在平台的CityGuides板块,用户可以通过选择相应的城市,第一时间获得相关的路况信息,并且还可以进行酒店预定等操作进行旅游活动安排。数据显示,动态广告的模式有效地提高了商家的营业效益,市场知名度提高超过20%。

自去年下半年以来,Facebook旗下的Instagram也接连不断地为商家推出了多种新型产品广告模式,并且不断扩大接入的品牌数量。Instagram负责人Kate Spade表示,对于社交平台来说,从客户获得产品信息到做出购买决定的这一过程是及其重要的,如何简化操作,缩短购买时间将是公司在下一阶段的研发目标之一。

需要强调的是,不论是在Facebook还是Instagram平台的用户,都无法在相应平台内部完成购买,而是需要通过广告登陆产品品牌的官方网站进行购买操作。

"广告+支付"模式

随着Facebook逐渐扩大其广告业务的市场份额,更多的品牌有机会在该社交平台上推广自己的产品和服务。上个月,Facebook曾宣布与Amazon进行合作,尝试对广告形式进行创新。

此外,除了一般的广告模式,视频广告已经成为了Facebook广告业务中新的增长点。2016年第四季度财务报告显示,Facebook的视频广告业务实现两位是涨幅,其中,帮助摩托罗拉新产品市场销售额提高3.5%。

目前,超过90%的Facebook用户都选择使用移动设备进行访问。然而,当用户被商家的广告所吸引,进行产品购买时,却存在着一个十分严重的问题。

支付失败,多次的支付失败。

不论是由于移动设备自身硬件的原因,还是网络不稳定的原因,如果支付失败就意味着点击量无法转换为销售额,那么之前所进行的一系列铺垫都毫无意义。这就是为什么尽管Facebook的广告业务已经超过269亿美元,但费率却常年保持在低水平的重要原因。

目前看来,开发更为先进的支付系统是Facebook实现进一步发展的首要任务。但需要注意的是,Facebook并不需要建立类似阿里巴巴及其支付宝那样完善的内部支付体系,因为它毕竟还是一家社交平台,支付业务收入也仅仅占总收入的7.53%。它需要做的仅仅是开发出一套能够保障用户在点击产品页面后,能够快捷、顺利地完成支付的程序,这就是Facebook开展支付业务的真正方向。

同时,需要强调的是,Facebook不必要将支付业务做到支付宝那样的高度,并不代表支付业务对它的发展不重要。实际上,支付业务为Facebook带来的价值甚至要超过它主营的广告业务。优质的付款体验将吸引更多用户通过平台进行在线购物,增加广告点击量,从而为商家创造更多的价值。此外,更多的品牌将选择接入Facebook平台进行产品宣传,促进平台广告业务进一步发展。

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。

美国有一句谚语,牵马到河易强马饮水难。毫无疑问,Facebook已经着手在旗下平台推出了支付功能,但能否找准公司在支付产业中的准确定位,真正解决目前存在的问题还尚未可知。

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.

Not payments.

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.

What’s Next

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.


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