The shocking Brexit vote has markets, investors, entrepreneurs and financial experts scratching their respective heads and peering into the future with a mixture of terror and wonder at what could possibly come next. Predictably, most news coverage this upcoming week will be focused on defining the world’s “biggest loser.”
And in fact such wholesale epistemic uncertainty is not merely infecting the experts. Today, all across the U.K. (while there still is one), people are frantically Googling the following:
We tried to think of a joke here, but the sheer volume of possible sarcastic responses to that fact have overwhelmed our processing capacity. We will simply leave our response to that being today's top question with one of our own:
"Really? The EU was founded in 1993."
But while counting up and quantifying carnage was likely the financial sector's primary occupation for the last several weeks, we thought on a Saturday morning it might just be fun to focus on something you’re probably planning to check right after reading this: Facebook.
Last week, without flash — and in at least one case totally in the background (but importantly visible) — Facebook's evolution from social media network to mobile activity hub made some great leaps forward.
So, tired of thinking sad thoughts about the Brexit? Here are some happy ones about Facebook – that big social network turned advertising platform that attracts 1.5 billion people every month to stalk their friends, watch videos and, they hope, start to buy stuff.
Facebook Makes It Easy For Retailers To Paint On Their Canvas
Facebook’s big jump into the news cycle this week was its decision to open up Facebook Canvas for retailers and other marketers on the site, instead of just advertisers. The HTML5 format allows retailers to create more detailed digital interactions with consumers that can simultaneously incorporate a mix of media, including audio, video, text and images.
These features, when deployed by their current users base, tend to be stickier than the more limited advertising displays retailers are limited to now. Consumers tend to view them longer and go on to purchase from them more often, so the obvious boon to the merchants of the world is pretty obvious.
However, the feature presents an interesting opportunity. Merchants and retailers, with this integration, are increasingly able to use in-house tools to build things that resemble virtual stores within Facebook vs. a simple ad. Merchants aren't trying to lure customers to their own digital outposts so much as they are building up shop in an ecosystem with 1.5 billion visitors a month.
It's not quite a marketplace just yet, since the final transaction where the payment happens isn't a tap away (again, yet).
But an ecosystem designed to enable commerce such that the consumers within it basically have no reason to leave?
Right down to the digital cutting edge of the customer service force?
Well, about that ...
Building Ever Better Bots
When Facebook first rolled out the big bot push during its developer conference a few months back, the world reacted with an almost even mix of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because, done right, it could be an eCommerce game changer. Some were even enthusiastically predicting the end of the app ecosystem as we know it. Others noted that there are a lot of ways for AI-based communication to go wrong, and they predicted that consumers were going to have be warmed up gradually to the idea of interacting with thinking machines.
About two months into the bot era, it seems that certainly the method is gaining traction, as an ever increasing number of mainline retailers are Messenger incorporating bots into their eCommerce programs, though certainly the wholesale abandonment of the app economy has not been observed as of yet.
But interesting additions showed up in the bot eCommerce economy this week that perhaps offered insight into how Facebook and its portfolio of brands is hoping to become the world’s largest digital meet-up.
American Express announced the launch of its bot which is purposed around giving members new ways to keep connected to their cards and their various rewards and perks via Facebook. That connection comes via real-time notifications on balances, benefits and services related to individual purchased items — all delivered via Facebook Messenger.
The messages will also seek to help customers streamline purchases — e.g., restaurant recommendations paired with hotel reservations and updates on where and how to use Centurion Lounge privileges.
One rather creative use of the Messenger platform comes from augmented reality firm ModiFace, which has integrated its simulation technology into a Facebook chatbot that is designed to sell lipstick.
Using the ModiFace AR bot, shoppers can upload a picture of themselves for a “beauty chat” on Messenger. That selfie can then be modified so that users get a preview of how a particular shade of lipstick would likely look on their face.
So users can now browse stock, watch videos, read consumer reviews, send money to friends and even try on lipstick.
Why would anyone ever want to leave Facebook?
Well, what if you want to get caught up on C-SPAN?
Still Facebook actually. Well, this week anyway.
Who Won The House Sit-In For A Gun Control Vote? Facebook
Oddly unsurprising given the political climate of late, House Democrats grabbed headlines when they took to the floor of the House and refused to leave until a debate and vote on gun control was held.
Debate didn't happen. Signs were made, songs were sung, shouting matches were engaged in and ultimately nothing very substantial changed except that House Republicans and Democrats may have broken new ground in hating each other even more. At the end, the winner on the politics was probably a jump ball.
But Facebook asserted its might, and pretty commandingly.
The 25 hour sit-in was not a first of its kind. House Republicans tried something similar in the summer of 2008 over the energy bill. Then-speaker Nancy Pelosi switched off the lights and the C-SPAN cameras in the chamber and went home for the summer.
Current Speaker Paul Ryan tried to do something similar. House Members overruled him with a big assist from Facebook, whose new streaming video capacity allowed members to publicly stream all 25 hours of fiery, teary speeches.
And even if you didn't watch it on Facebook, you probably did see it on C-SPAN, which aired all 25 hours of footage, all with "courtesy of Facebook" appearing below the video.
So what's the moral of the story this week, other than that it is probably a good time to shop on Amazon.uk?
Watch out for Facebook, as it rapidly building one of the most potentially powerful walled gardens in mobile. Users already spend a lot of their time on Facebook, but Facebook is on a steady mission to keep expanding its reach.