Sizzle/Fizzle

Robots Sizzle, Tax Reform Fizzles And Facebook Raises Eyebrows With Its Timing

Fizzle of the Week: Timing

Spring has finally arrived across the United States, and love is in the air.

Even on Facebook.

The social media giant had lots of things to announce this week at F8: new features, like the “clear history” button; upgrades, like the video chat enhancements coming to Instagram and Snapchat and redesigns, like the great streamlining of Messenger. But there was one announcement that managed to stand out.

The launch of the Oculus Rift Go. (No, just kidding.)

Although we are hardcore virtual reality (VR) fans, the announcement of a $200 VR console might have been the highlight of the day had not Facebook revealed that it’s getting into the dating game.

“One in three marriages in the U.S. start online,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in his presentation at F8 this week. “[But] today, we haven’t even built any features to help people find partners. There are 200 million people on Facebook who list themselves as single, so clearly there is something to do here. And if we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps the most meaningful one of all.”

Facebook wants to help those 200 million singles make a connection with a program that is now colloquially being called FaceDate, slated to roll out next year.

The new dating platform will allow users to create a profile (that will be invisible to their friends and family; Facebook will not match anyone with someone they’ve already friended) and browse the profiles of others. Those profiles will feature full-page photos that users can directly comment on to start a conversation — an element familiar to anyone who has used the Hinge dating site.

It will also only include first names and a messaging system that will allow potential soulmates to digitally whisper sweet nothings to each other via a dedicated inbox rather than Messenger.

What does it mean, exactly, for Facebook to use its data to play matchmaker? According to the company: “Potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.”

That ability to discover is called the “Unlock” feature, and it seems to be the element of Facebook’s entry into digital dating that is more uniquely their own. Unlocking allows Dating for Facebook users to make their profile visible to other attendees of an event or a group of which they’re a part. Facebook hopes to be able to point out who else at the bar is single and ready to mingle.

Plenty of shade has been thrown at Facebook since the announcement — mostly from its competitors who saw their stock prices plunge following Facebook’s announcement. IAC — the parent firm of Match and Tinder — couldn’t help but make a crack about U.S.-Russian relations in their Twitter response to the news, and the team at Hinge all but directly accused Facebook of ripping them off.

As of yet, we have no verdict to offer (sizzle or fizzle-wise) when it comes to Facebook’s foray into the world of dating. It’s too early to tell since no product has been released. Facebook, after all, more or less started as an informal dating service 15 years ago as a way for students from elite colleges to meet up and maybe hook up.

The platform evolved quickly away from there, but to this day, among the early pieces of data a Facebook user can add is their relationship status, and one of everyone’s favorite rituals is flipping their Facebook status from “In a Relationship” to “Engaged” — to sometimes “It’s Complicated.”

To this day a lot of relationships do in fact start on Facebook, though not all of them are the best idea. According to some counts, 35 percent of all extramarital affairs start on Facebook. We imagine the social media giant would like to up its legitimate relationship stats some. Given the company’s international reach and 2 billion members, it could work; it might even become a monetizable subscription service from which they can launch a host of apps.

Two hundred million singles times $15 a month is a lot of zeros and decimal points — not to mention the anchor for making reservations for date night, booking trips for the engagement weekend and the showers and bachelorette weekends to follow.

Or maybe not. People may not be looking for Facebook to make them a match (find them a find, catch them a catch) and this may be next fall’s favorite fizzle.

Only time will tell.

Speaking of time, Facebook’s timing here feels a bit … off, as Mandy Ginsberg, Match Group’s CEO, pointed out in a statement.

“We’re flattered that Facebook is coming into our space — and sees the global opportunities that we do — as Tinder continues to skyrocket. We’re surprised at the timing, given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory.”

Coming off a massive scandal involving accidently allowing 85 million users’ data to end up in the hands of a political consulting company that probably ought not have had it, Facebook has promised repeatedly to better protect user data and be far more sensitive about user privacy. Mark Zuckerberg said so during his testimony in front of both houses of Congress and reiterated it before he began his remarks on the new “clear history” button.

It seems like it might not be the best time — while also promising a newfound commitment to customer privacy — to announce that your next line of business will be getting involved in users’ love lives.

Romantic connections may be the most meaningful, but the data around them is often the most private. Facebook’s entry into the most private customer data there is?

The timing here seems to be something of a fizzle.

 

Sizzle

May Day: No distress call here when it comes to commerce amid a national holiday.  Alipay reports a huge bump in May Day (read, too: Labor Day) spend among Chinese tourists’ in-store during their travels overseas. Three days — April 29 to May 1 — can mean a lot, when the average total spend also climbs 59 percent year over year, boosted by millennials.

Robots: Want some circuits with that pepperoni? Nothing spells efficiency when it comes to making pizza just the way you like it, and Costco is enlisting robots to make its pizza, with uniformity, and an eye (robotic eye though it may be) on quality. It’s a leap, but one that is being made from handmade to, well, machine-made.

Single Buy Button: Sizzles because this single gets a double, in the form of Visa and Mastercard. Both payments giants have given vocal support to the concept of — and development of — the universal buy button. Shared payments functionality for MasterPass and Visa Checkout, with Discover and Amex onboard too? Consumers rejoice: You have nothing to lose but the clutter at the close of the transaction.

Fizzle

Tax Reform: Trumpeting Trump-isms aside, tax reform may turn out to be a fizzle, after all, as corporations may hold on to cash rather than spend it to hire or invest in the economy at large. That comes against the backdrop of trade wars and other macro issues.  The Association for Finance Professionals says that treasurers may be slow to part ways with what is building up in the coffers.

Smartphone shipments: Fizzle on China restrictions, down 2.9 percent for the first quarter. Drilling down a bit, it seems that consumers are less willing to spend big bucks for higher-end phones. That means a bit of a double whammy, and the shipments show it.

Big Banks, Big (Switching) Problems: The biggest of the banks are the ones facing switching problems, at least when it comes to SMBs. Data from FIS shows that smaller firms are finding greater satisfaction from relationships with community and regional players. The trends are prevalent in both the U.S. and the U.K.

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