Facebook acquisition strengthens their eCommerce muscle

On March 13th, 2015, the online shopping engine, The Find, ceased operations and announced they had been acquired by Facebook. The Find entered the eCommerce space in 2006 and provided online shoppers with discovery shopping by brands or trends, a visually appealing format, and a search database with over 500 million products from over 500,000 online merchants. The Find’s shopping experience provided consumers with relevant product information based on local inventory data submitted by retailers in the format of a product feed. Similar to Google’s Local Inventory ad, consumers leveraged The Find to locate specific products available near them.

This latest Facebook acquisition leaves the shopping engine community with one less platform for retailers to manage. Or does it? Call it a correlation, but the timings of The Find’s departure and the introduction of Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ad program were very close together. Communications from The Find to its retail partners included wording that hinted at complimentary product offerings:

“Even though our business relationship will be formally ending, we would like to explore how your company can leverage your existing product catalog on Facebook. In specific, Facebook's Product Ads enables marketers to showcase relevant products from their catalog to engage new and existing customers from the 1.39 Billion people who use Facebook every month.”

Prior to the acquisition, Facebook’s paid advertising model was historically a manual process. Campaign creation was managed within their interface, while dynamic creative required third-party management. In the weeks leading up to the acquisition, the Dynamic Product Ad was introduced. Here, retailers could leverage product feeds to dynamically populate creative versions and configure targeting parameters within Facebook’s Power Editor. What’s interesting about the timing of this introduction is that Facebook didn’t accept product catalogs until the week prior to the announcement of The Find’s acquisition.

This acquisition is a testament to the ever-changing digital landscape. As a whole, the eCommerce industry is experiencing shifts in the CSE channel. In the early 2000s, there was an explosion of shopping platforms to which consumers would naturally gravitate for all their online shopping needs. Over time, however, users of these engines have switched to programs with more seamless shopping experiences. This shift has created a massive consolidation of demand, which is forcing the engine community into positions where they are forced to evolve, be purchased or die. Examples of evolution include Polyvore, Alibaba and Google. We’ve seen acquisition and sunset of The Find, Shopping.com and Pronto. Shopzilla, a major player in the CSE space over the past 10 years, was acquired by eBay Commerce Network and is including display-driven, programmatic solutions to diversify their revenue streams.

Programs like Google Shopping and Amazon Prime have drawn consumers away from fragmented shopping engines. These programs represent great strides forward in eCommerce, forever impacting demand in the CSE space. With engines like Amazon leading the way on gathering, interpreting and activating against transactional shopping data, other engines are left scurrying to determine a value proposition to call their own. Through all of this tumultuous change within the eCommerce industry, we have seen the emergence of paid search, product listing ad, display retargeting and email marketing from engines in the CSE channel.

While The Find has ceased operation, the retail community will see traces of The Find’s capabilities emerge in Facebook’s advertising models as time goes on. At the core of The Find’s value proposition was an interpretation and understanding of location, inventory and consumer intent data. This value was created and powered using a structured data application. Here, Facebook saw an opportunity to enhance its eCommerce capabilities to better compete with Google using this technology. With the purchase of the find, Facebook’s advanced capabilities are expected to include local commerce, mobile shopping, and enhanced relevancy and targeting.

Applying structured data is a core foundation to eCommerce success and is a key offering at iProspect. For more information on our Structured Data practice and how we leverage data to drive performance, we invite you to reach out and continue the conversation.