At this time, Facebook already stores our email address, political beliefs, photos, gender, places we visit, and who we are in contact with.
Now, with the start of Facebook’s new Gift service, the site wants us to put in our credit card details so that it can effectively become an online store. The Gifts service has been undergoing testing and now is being tested on US users, just in time for Christmas.
The Gifts service will allow Facebook users to pay for all sorts of physical and digital gifts that they can buy for their friends. Some examples are Starbucks gift cards, iTunes gift cards, GUND teddy bears and products from many other retailers. This is just one of several efforts that Facebook is trying to monetize its Web presence.
The new service is an aggressive move by the social media website to monetize its business and to please investors. The initial public offering for Facebook did not go well, and investors want to see Facebook making money. The site also is increasing its mobile advertising and also is targeting advertising more based upon users’ browsing habits when they are not on Facebook.
Facebook’s stock is up about 49% from its low point earlier this year, and some stock analysts are starting to issue bullish projects on the firm.
Facebook has come up with its own tracking, shipping and inventory systems to run the Gift service. The company does not say how much it is earning from each Gift sale, but merchants that have a similar set up with Amazon give it about a 15% cut of each sale.
Facebook obviously has a massive audience, so now it needs to leverage that position to make as much as possible from targeted advertising. The challenge for Facebook is to monetize its billion users without scaring them off. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to try to transform Instagram into a property that makes money. Facebook bought the company for one billion dollars in 2012.