Last week, Facebook entered the gift card market with the Facebook Card — a new addition to Facebook Gifts. Unlike other gift card options offered by Gifts, this is a plastic card that can be used at Target, Sephora, Jamba Juice, and Olive Garden. Noah Mallin, vice president of social media for brand agency Digitas, thinks that the Facebook Card could be a very powerful way that brands learn more about users’ spending habits, and it could also revolutionize mobile ads.
Facebook has had gift cards before, but those have mainly been for applications and games such as FarmVille that took Facebook Credits or other forms of payment through the social network. Within Facebook Gifts, users can purchase electronic gift cards from Starbucks, Hulu, iTunes, and a variety of other outlets for friends.
Now through the Facebook Card, user can purchase amounts of up to $100 from Target, Sephora, Olive Garden, or Jamba Juice, and have those amounts loaded onto physical cards, mailed to their friends once they submitted their addresses. Users can then track their account balances from their Facebook mobile applications.
This is major for brands (well, right now, only the aforementioned four) because it gives them more data about users’ purchasing behavior.
Last month, Facebook went after Yelp with graph search. Now Mallin feels that the Facebook Card might be a competitor to Amazon, which has begun targeting ads based on users’ buying history:
It was a really interesting way for them to get closer to something Amazon is doing, but from the opposite direction … (Amazon has) all of this rich data that it can use for targeting parameters. Facebook, on the other hand, has this amazing open graph data, but it doesn’t have data that’s as rich as what Amazon has when it comes to what people actually buy — purchase data. It’s edging closer to that. Some of the new ad products that it has, where you’re able to actually track conversions, are getting closer to that, but this is a huge opening in its Gifts program to make that a bigger part of what Facebook is actually able to target on — both within Facebook and outside of Facebook.
Mallin touched on Facebook’s conversion tracking offering, which allows brands to see how users viewing Facebook ads led to sales on their websites. He sees the card as a better way to gain insight into how and when Facebook users spend money. For investors, it’s a way to show that Facebook can drive real-life sales. Brands would know at which locations Facebook Cards were used.
Mallin also talked with AllFacebook about how the Facebook Card could be huge for mobile advertising. If a user checks into a place near a Jamba Juice, and they’ve got enough on their Facebook Card for a smoothie, that would be a prime time for Jamba Juice to target that user with a mobile ad, Mallin said:
The ability to serve mobile ads that are really contextual and relevant is going to become more and more important for Facebook. Having the understanding that somebody checked in someplace, and then they spent money in that same place, that’s huge for them. Having that data to be able to use as targeting parameters for their advertisers suddenly takes their platform to another level.
Readers: Have you purchased or received a Facebook Card yet?