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Why Facebook Believes It's Ready for Commerce

Benji Shomair
Director of Product Marketing, Pages

In the past year, Facebook has introduced a series of tools within Messenger and Pages (the sites Facebook set up for brands and businesses) that allow businesses to communicate one-to-one with customers and even process transactions. eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser spoke with Benji Shomair, director of product marketing for Pages at Facebook, about these changes.

eMarketer: How have consumer expectations around shopping and loyalty changed?

Benji Shomair: People are heralding the shopping season that just ended as the first true mobile shopping season. And that’s a reflection of changes in consumer expectations. Consumers really value the ability to reach retailers wherever they are, at any time, at any place.

“Something like 60% to 70% overall time spent on mobile is in just four to five apps, and it’s a totally different four to five apps for each person.”

eMarketer: How does Facebook’s strategy with Pages and Messenger fit into this understanding of accessibility?

Shomair: Consumer behavior on mobile is incredibly concentrated in-app. Something like 60% to 70% overall time spent on mobile is in just four to five apps, and it’s a totally different four to five apps for each person. A mobile website is only going to help you access so much of the opportunity. You can build your own app, but it’s hard and expensive, and it’s relatively unlikely that many people are going to use your app because app usage is so concentrated.

So within that context, we think that this change in consumer behavior and expectations has created a real challenge for businesses. And that’s where we think Facebook can really help, with a Facebook Page being a home for that business where people are already spending their time, and Facebook Messenger a way to communicate with people in the way that they’re already interacting in a mobile setting.

eMarketer: Do you see Messenger as unique in what it can offer as a channel?

Shomair: Without a doubt. Messenger is a one-point reaction. It’s personal. It’s intimate. And so I think it’s a unique opportunity for businesses to interact with people both where they’re already spending their time and having these meaningful conversations, but also in this context of one-to-one. It fits this broader theme of on-the-go accessibility.

Messenger also has additional context. [For example], “You bought this jacket already, would you like it in a different color?” Or, “Hey, you were browsing for this and it was out of stock, now it’s back in stock, would that be of value to you?”

eMarketer: In September, you introduced badges for Pages that give visitors the option to message them. (Badges are a check mark that indicate to the user that the Page is a verified business.) Have you seen a difference between the performance of Pages that have badges and those that don’t?

Shomair: We have. When we surfaced the badge on a Page, we saw an increase in the number of messages that business got. But we also saw—and actually we had not anticipated this—an increase in the speed of the business response. We saw a number of organizations that really focused on trying to receive a badge.

“If a Page responded to 90% of the messages within five minutes, we gave it that badge.”

When we initially made the announcement, a badge was automatically given to a Page. You couldn’t choose to put it there. If a Page responded to 90% of the messages within five minutes, we gave it that badge. And we did that on purpose because we really wanted the badge to have meaning and to provide strong signals to the consumer that, if you went to this page, you will get a quick response with a very high level of confidence.

We subsequently rolled out in December the ability for the Page itself to choose a badge. So we still will automatically put a badge on your Page if you cross that threshold responsiveness [as defined by the business].

eMarketer: Are there other ways that you’ve been surprised in the way that retailers and consumers are using the messages?

Shomair: One of the most exciting things that we’ve seen is that a lot of the outreach with Messenger and Pages is pre-transaction. So in the messaging ecosystem, when people are thinking about making the transaction, they’re finding this channel is a really valuable way to help with their questions, clarifications and availability.

eMarketer: In September you introduced private replies for public comments on Pages. What does this address?

Shomair: A lot of times, comments actually were more akin to service inquiries. And in some cases, those service inquiries were actually probably more appropriately dealt with in a one-to-one setting. Until September, there wasn’t a forum for you as a Page owner to easily take that into a private setting.

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