Facebook will end a program that allowed users to send physical goods to one another through the social network as part of a bigger effort to focus on virtual ones such as gift cards.
The switch comes less than a year after Facebook launched Facebook Gifts as a tool to allow users to send their friends teddy bears, flower arrangements and cookie baskets from its online marketplace to celebrate their birthdays, weddings, job promotions or other occasions. The fact that 80 percent of the items sold through its gifts service were gift cards prompted the change.
"We're really making the decision based on user feedback," Lee Linden, Facebook's head of the Gifts program, told All Things Digital. "The physical stuff is interesting for sure, but our goal is to build stuff that's really great for the majority of people who are using it."
Facebook further told CNET that the move will cut down on delivery and management costs. The physical gift launch was seen by some as a potential threat to major e-commerce players like Amazon and eBay.
The Facebook gift shop will expand its offering of gift cards from brands and retailers. In some cases, some merchants that were only offering physical goods on the site will now take digital codes for payment.
Facebook will also allow members to purchase gift cards in variable denominations for the first time. Starbucks, for example, currently offers three amount options for gift cards: $5.00, $10 and $25. Other popular gift card options includes Fandango for movies, Facebook Games, SpaFinder and Netflix.
The company also plans to make Facebook Card — a prepaid credit card introduced earlier this year that consumers can use to pay at select merchants — available as tender at more stores. Several tech bloggers continue to call for a retail-neutral Facebook Card that consumers can load with money as a gift to be spent at any retailer. Having a card with different amounts set for different places complicates the offering.
How would you rate the opportunity for direct physical gift purchases on social networks in the future?