Will Facebook’s New Offers Product Appeal to Merchants?

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Facebook rolled out its rehashed deals play Offers to businesses on Friday after three months in private tests with a handful of partners. The self-service platform allows businesses to create and distribute deals free of charge on a merchant’s brand pages as well as in users’ news feeds.

The social network’s massive scale has already posed some issues for small businesses — a hotel in Australia claimed over the weekend that an offer which it ran on Facebook reached over 3 million people in less than five days. Facebook has seen little success in the hyperlocal space to date, but the company appears to be making a big push in the SMB market in the run-up to its highly anticipated IPO later this month.

Jake Cohen, founding team member at Privy said it’s interesting to see Facebook reapproach the offers space after the company’s unsuccessful bid last year, but that the play was likely too self-serve to really appeal to merchants: “After talking to some of our customers who saw and engaged with the offers functionality, the response between them all was the same: easy to use, but not a ton of value there,” Cohen told Street Fight. “With no transaction online, it is unclear what it will do aside from simply be posted on the site. Business owners don’t want different activities/strategies on Facebook, their website, Foursquare and other platforms — they want one controlled panel so they can communicate with their staff clearly and understand how the combined efforts are working. You need a different service than just Facebook Offers for that.”

Scoutmob co-founder Michael Tavani, agreed: “We feel that local merchants just aren’t ready to create their own deals and get their staff up to speed. We have to account manage and hand-hold these local merchants a lot in order to put out offers that are compelling and run smoothly when consumers walk-in. Self-serve in today’s day in age with local merchants will not work. LivingSocial Instant & Foursquare’s Offers have shown that to some extent.

Tavani said that as big as Facebook’s reach is, the company isn’t the best platform for all types of businesses. “I’m not convinced that consumers want to hear (unfiltered) from their HVAC guy or local pizza place or real estate agent on Facebook,” said Tavani. “There seems to be a trend away from a cluttered feed and most of these local businesses don’t have the compelling content (or the bandwidth) to keep the conversation interesting to consumers. Facebook will not be all things to all people, and I think local is so hard to pull off really well that just a huge reach alone won’t solve the problem.  They’ll get beat by more focused local players.

Meanwhile, Nimble Commerce CEO Prashant Nedungadi was a little more positive about the service’s prospects, calling it “a smart solution for small businesses looking to go beyond a simple ‘like’ relationship with customers.” He suggested that the move fits the next phase of the offers/couponing industry in connecting supply with demand.

Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight


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