Facebook Deals: One step closer to full social commerce integration

Facebook launches Facebook Deals to get into the geo-location service fray for businesses. Are they late to the game on purpose or are they planning something bigger?
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

The fairly recent launch of Facebook Deals and it's integration with Facebook Places for mobile is far from a new concept in the world of geo-social apps and tools. Foursquare and others have been doing this for awhile, allowing businesses to use their mobile apps as virtual touch points that turn into somewhat direct revenue. The beauty of it for Facebook is that by default they will always have a bigger built-in customer base than any third party app so they can basically camp out and wait to see what works for solutions like GoWalla and Foursquare, and what doesn't…with very little risk.

Towards the end of December I wrote a post called "Social Media 2011: Virtual doorsteps and why your website may not matter as much" where I basically described a theoretical situation that touted the potential of Facebook's ability to dominate ecommerce if Facebook had a fluid system in place for large brands and companies to integrate with. The response from readers was fairly mixed. Some were almost offended that that I'd question the value of their company's online store hosted at their own domain. Some thought Facebook might be able to do this but that it may only make up for a tiny percentage of revenue, others saw it as a possibility with big potential but needed to see more of a lean in that direction from Facebook.

Some of the most popular  businesses and retailers are already on board to utilize Deals not only for their own revenue, but also to help non-profits and other charities. Here are a few examples.

24 Hour Fitness: Donating $1 to Kaboom to support children's health for everyone who checks in to its fitness clubs.

American Eagle Outfitters: Offering 20 percent off.

Chipotle: Giving its Facebook guests two entrees for the price of one.

Gap: Giving blue jeans to the first 10,000 customers to claim their deal.

Golden State Warriors: Inviting those who check in to an exclusive event with a basketball player on the NBA team from Oakland, Calif.

Harrah's: Offering a complimentary nightclub admission, buffet or other gift to people who stop by any of its 10 Las Vegas resorts.

JCPenney: Giving $10 off any $50 purchase.

Lululemon: Sharing the gift of yoga by giving guests a pass to a local yoga studio.

Macy's: Offering 20 percent off select merchandise.

McDonald's: Giving $1 per customer to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

North Face: Donating $1 to the National Park Foundation for every person who checks in at a North Face store or National Park.

Facebook Deals to me is just another step in the direction of eventually tapping the monolithic jugular of online business revenue for Facebook. The social network knows this because they know they have the hottest global investment in the world flocking to them for free (people worldwide). As of January 31 it is also up and running folks in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. They can take their time and do things right, assuming they are actually building a longer term social commerce plan or platform.

I had posted a question about this on Quora and only got a couple responses, but responses did at least echo other feedback I've heard on the issue. Most of the people I've talked to, ranging in age from 15 to 40 years old,  started to show some response patterns that *appear* to correlate with their respective age groups and demographics. The younger ones, closer to the "Facebook Generation", seem to be more relaxed and open about the idea of doing much of their shopping within Facebook as long as it's easy, streamlined, relevant and secure. Teenagers specifically were hoping that they could eventually shop on their phones and iPod touches and iPads without even leaving Facebook. Older generations seem to have an emotional attachment to the 'old internet' where bringing people to a company's website to do their shopping has been the primary objective for retail businesses online.

Do you think Facebook Deals is just Facebook being slow to the gate with the geo-location craze figuring out how businesses can make money off of the idea, OR is it just the beginning of a broader effort to own this particular online space?

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