With its mid-March acquisition of the personalized commerce search application TheFind, Facebook showed it’s getting serious about connecting people to products as much as to each other.
TheFind melded search data to location-based purchase data to better hone product suggestions, so it’s telling that Facebook acquired TheFind and immediate shuttered it, absorbing its technology and much of its talent.
Facebook’s purchase of TheFind is a significant step forward in its quest for social commerce domination. When combined with its recent announcements of dynamic product ads and friend-to-friend payments, it’s clear that Facebook is ready to make a serious splash in retail.
We can only hypothesize what Facebook plans to do with TheFind’s team and technology, but using past as prologue, here are five areas where the purchase makes a ton of sense for Facebook:
TheFind’s Glimpse product connected to a user’s Facebook account to recommend products based on the user’s Facebook likes. Facebook can now work directly with TheFind’s dev team to tweak its algorithm and help Facebook users discover products they will love.
Combining TheFind’s product information data base with FaceBook’s audience data should allow Facebook to create intricately targeted advertisements. Facebook has already created a great user experience with horizontal scrolling that allows multiple products per ad; TheFind should empower Facebook to surface the products users are most likely to buy.
Structured Data Processing
Facebook already announced it will allow retailers to use their Google Shopping data feed to create Facebook Product Ads, but that’s a grand claim — processing and organizing structured data is a huge challenge. TheFind already has the infrastructure to crawl and index over 500 million products, which will allow Google to go directly to the source of the product information.
Fashion has always been the most lucrative vertical in retail, and it’s one of the stronger verticals for both TheFind & Facebook. Combining forces should allow Facebook to actually create fashion demand while Amazon & Google are stuck fulfilling existing demand. With Amazon in ongoing talks to purchase Net-A-Porter for $2.2 billion, the battle between Google, Amazon, & Facebook to create fashion demand is just getting started.
Mobile & Local
This space is wide open with opportunity, as both Google and Amazon have so far proven unable to crack local commerce or local product search from an advertising standpoint in any transformative way. Meanwhile, eBay Local (formerly Milo) has been relegated to the sidelines. With Facebook's acquiring TheFind and melding it with Facebook’s rich trove of check-in and location data, it’s safe to assume the social media giant is chasing opportunity to change how advertisers target local purchase-oriented retail shoppers at home and on the move.
It's going to be an uphill battle for Facebook to convince major retailers to sync local inventory and segmented customer purchase history in order to better target ads on the platform, but managing to do so will create a consumer-facing marketing platform that reaches targeting buying personas and their audience lookalikes on multiple devices. Once you add geotargeted or geofence-based campaigns, the result is an arguably peerless advertising platform.
And if Facebook should pull this off, Google will be challenged. In a recent survey of 1,500 US browsers, we found that 44.6% of consumers go to Amazon directly when they know they want to buy something online, compared to 39.1% who head to Google.
The prospect of Facebook entering the retail advertising space for both purchase intent and consideration stage creates a direct threat to the share of advertising dollars that Google Adwords and Google Shopping get from retailers. That’s what makes TheFind acquisition potentially the biggest game-changer of all.