Facebook begins testing ‘Collections’ posts again with more retailers

Facebook today began the second phase of testing a new “Collections” feature that lets pages post about their products and lets users save items they want, a spokesperson tells us.

Collections posts are similar to photo albums but with more features specific to retailers. Collections include large images that users can hover over to learn more about the products featured in them. There are buttons to add items to a wishlist and share the activity with friends. There’s also a link to visit the retailer’s website and buy the item.

The social network is trying to find the ideal language for the feature and is testing different words with different groups of users. Users will be able to “want,” “save,” “add,” “collect” or “wishlist” products depending what cohort they are in.

“The goal of this test is to understand how people are interacting with and sharing items from a Collection in their News Feeds,” a spokesperson says.

For now Collections only appear on desktop, not mobile.


Facebook removes Collections feature after test, prepares for full launch

Facebook hasn’t given up on Collections — the test feature that looked similar to Pinterest and allowed users to “want” or “collect” products that pages posted — but it temporarily removed all posts and activity related to it.

TechCrunch noticed that Collections were no longer visible on pages or users’ Timelines and confirmed with Facebook that the initial test period for the product is over, but the feature hasn’t been killed. The social network is looking to improve the product and create a mobile component, so it decided to shut down the existing version in the meantime.

“Product development on Collections has not stopped,” Facebook told TechCrunch. “Instead we have completed our initial test of Collections and are now analyzing the data to inform product development. For many of the product tests we do, we periodically pause the test to assess how to best progress with the product’s rollout.”

With Collections, Facebook worked with Michael Kors, Pottery Barn, Wayfair, Victoria’s Secret, Neiman Marcus, Smith Optics and Fab.com to test several variations of the feature. Collections posts featured large images that users could hover over and take an action. For some users that action was “Want,” though others saw “Collect” or “Like.” Clicking one of these buttons would save items to a section of users’ Timelines, either called “Products” or “Wishlist” depending which cohort users were in. Facebook also tested whether these lists should be visible to friends only or friends of friends.

When users browsed a collection, there were links directing users to buy the items from the retailer’s website. Collection posts also include native Facebook features such as Like, share, and comment. The social network is likely looking at all of these signals to understand engagement and purchase behavior.

This year Facebook has begun taking a vertical-by-vertical approach to developing products for marketers. Collections is an example of something seemingly developed with retailers and e-commerce sites specifically in mind.

While Collections is still being developed, retailers can work with third parties to offer similar functionality with Open Graph and News Feed apps. ShopIgniter, for instance, gives companies the option to create customizable interactive posts, including product collections, video showcases and limited-time storefronts with exclusive offers. See an example below.

Facebook’s new vertical by vertical approach to building marketing solutions

Facebook’s latest Collections posts with “Want” and “Collect” buttons for users to add products to wishlists on their Timelines are a promising new opportunity for retailers. It reflects the social network’s new approach to building marketing products that serve specific verticals.

At the IAB Mixx Conference in New York last week, Facebook Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson spoke about how the company has reorganized its teams to focus on different business categories.

“From a solutions perspective, the most important thing to do is understand what a marketer wants to achieve and tailor solutions and find out what they need to do that,” she said. “We’re increasingly doing that by vertical, which has been a shift for us.”

Facebook has sales and marketing staff dedicated to retail, e-commerce, automotive, CPG/beverage, entertainment, travel, mobile/finance, tech/socialcom and gaming, according to listings on its Careers page over the past year. Everson leads the sales side, and Facebook Director of Global Vertical Marketing Michael Fox oversees the marketing side.

Everson noted that this model is similar to other professional services firms which organize by vertical. She said Facebook aspires to play an advisory role for brands and other advertisers so it needs to understand the objectives in each market. For example, mobile carriers care most about branding, new customers and churn. “I need all my people working on those accounts to know that cold,” she said.

With a better grasp of the unique opportunities and challenges of different verticals, Facebook can develop more effective marketing products. For instance, offers and collections address retailers’ needs. The new mobile app ads allow mobile developers to precisely reach their target audience. Facebook Exchange is a strong direct response channel for travel companies, e-commerce sites and others.

Everson suggested that more solutions were on the way, but made it clear that Facebook is learning along with its partners and advertisers.

“We are a very new platform,” she said. “None of us in our careers have ever seen a platform with 950 million users.”

When a reporter asked about GM pulling its ad spend, Everson confirmed that the auto company is still not advertising on Facebook but the two companies are “working incredibly closely.” She said Facebook has a team in Detroit meeting with GM every week. Until Facebook can deliver results for GM, Everson says, she doesn’t want them to spend money on advertising.

“When they spend, I want them shouting from the mountain tops that we’re their best marketing partners and they can’t live without us.”

In addition to creating value by vertical, Everson said Facebook is looking to build marketing and advertising products that cover each stage of the purchase funnel. Facebook Exchange brings in a new retargeting opportunity and Custom Audience targeting allows businesses to reach different groups of consumers based on CRM data. And with more direct contact with advertisers across industries, Facebook is learning what businesses want and framing its new efforts in familiar terms rather than constantly introducing new vocabulary.

“We’re now speaking in marketers’ language,” Everson said.

Facebook tests ‘Collections’ posts with Want and Collect buttons for retailers

Facebook has begun testing a new feature called “Collections,” which allows retailers to post product photos with “Want” or “Collect” buttons, as well as links to buy from their sites.

TechCrunch reports that seven retailers are testing the feature: Michael Kors, Pottery Barn, Wayfair, Victoria’s Secret, Neiman Marcus, Smith Optics and Fab.com.

The feature uses large images that users can hover over and click either “Want,” “Collect” or “Like.” TechCrunch says Facebook is testing variations of the feature to determine which button users respond to best. Each button saves items to a section of users’ Timelines, either called “Products” or “Wishlist.” Facebook is testing whether these collections should be visible to friends only or friends of friends.

When users browse a collection, there are links directing users to buy the items from the retailer’s website. It is possible there will be a way to distinguish already purchased items from a user’s products list. Collection posts also include native Facebook features such as Like, share, and comment.

TechCrunch reports that collection posts only show up for a page’s fans, though we have been able to view some collections on pages that we have not Liked. See examples from Michael Kors, Pottery Barn and Wayfair, but note that the links may not work for non-fans.

With the company recently announcing the new Gifts product, this is another way Facebook could eventually expand its business model through purchases of physical goods. Currently, though, Facebook is not taking a percentage of purchases made after clicking on collections links. TechCrunch says it is not charging retailers to use the feature, but it is still in beta. We may see the social network take a similar approach to what it has done with Offers, which started with select partners and then rolled out more widely for free, but now require page owners to buy ads to promote the offer.

This new feature is familiar in design to competitor Pinterest, though this is not the first time Facebook has updated it’s design to look more like pinboards. The functionality is also similar to a version of Facebook Questions we saw being tested in August. Collections are limited offerings compared to Pinterest at this testing stage, but they fulfill a similar consumer desire to browse, discover and share products they are interested in. On Pinterest, however, users can add their own content and save items they find all over the web. It’s unclear whether Facebook will create an option for individual users to create their own collections or if the vision is for this to be a pages-only feature. Pinterest also has the option for users to browse items by category, which could be useful if Facebook allows more pages to begin posting collections.

Although some users are now seeing a “Want” button, the feature announced today seems to be different from the Want plugin we saw Facebook testing in the past. That product seemed to be for publishers to implement on their own websites, not on their Facebook pages. Ultimately these might be combined in some way so that users can have a single wishlist for items they discover on Facebook, the web and in apps.

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