Facebook’s Plans for Mobile Payments under Wraps, but Sneak Peeks Emerge

February 3, 2015         By: Steven Anderson

You’ve got to hand it to Facebook for playing the dichotomy; its entire stock in trade is openness of information and getting people to put up posts voluntarily describing every single tiny fact about their day, but when it comes to what Facebook has in mind for its own operations, it can keep quiet better than the Great Stone Face of Nathaniel Hawthorne fame.

But recent remarks from the company from earnings reports, interviews and beyond have coalesced together to form a potential picture of just where Facebook is planning to go with mobile payments, and the idea may just be a more unusual one than expected.

A recent interview between David Marcus—vice president of Facebook Messenger—and The Next Web got to talking about Facebook Messenger, and the role that it could play in Facebook’s plans.

This is a point that got a lot of people taking notice, because Marcus formerly served as president of PayPal. Having that kind of experience behind you makes particular sense if you’re planning to branch out into mobile payments, because let’s face it, Apple Pay or no Apple Pay, PayPal is a name to conjure with in mobile payment circles.

And indeed, Facebook has given some hints into the future of mobile payment and Facebook before; back in September, Facebook let us know that the “Buy” button that will at some point be integrated into the operation will come from recent payment processor startup Stripe, and be backed up by other partnerships as well, including that of PayPal.

Not bad, of course, but what has Facebook said lately here? Not much, really, but there are some signs. Buy on Facebook, for example, has reportedly been involved in some tests in the United States, and the early word suggests that it’s been smooth so far.

The idea of Facebook and mobile payments makes sense. After all, we’re talking here about an organization that’s routinely used for marketing, to encourage people to buy stuff whether it’s a new Ford or a sandwich at the corner deli.

So adding a “buy” button to Facebook really does only make sense; a key component of marketing might well be described with the old cliché about striking while the iron is hot. It’s called a “call to action,” and it specifically requires some kind of phraseology like “buy it now!” or “hurry up and call!” or any of a hundred phrases similar to that in which you basically ask your target outright for the sale.

The idea here is to get the target so excited about the product in question that they would cheerfully slap down cash, like Fry in the “Attack of the Killer App” episode of “Futurama” where he’s buying an EyePhone along with the now-immortal phrase “Shut up and take my money!”

A “Buy” button in Facebook, meanwhile, would almost serve as the “Shut Up and Take My Money” button, allowing marketing buzz to immediately translate into sales, where applicable.

Of course, it wouldn’t always work that way. Some people prefer to think about purchases before making them, to see how they fit into an overall budget. Others, meanwhile, would be very susceptible to this breed of impulse-buy marketing, so such a tactic would be of limited effect, though almost certainly some effect.

But that’s where we are right now. Facebook is going increasingly mobile, a reasonable point in light of the fact that a lot more people are going mobile in general, and the desktop and laptop alike have been declining of late in light of that fact.

Facebook is also looking to incorporate more payment options into its operation, which would by extension make these mobile payments. While perhaps not as versatile as, say, Apple Pay—being able to use a smartphone as a wallet is no mean feat—Facebook’s mobile payments may turn out to be a lot more self-contained.

Instead of buying things in stores, you buy things on Facebook, regardless of where you happen to be at the time. An unusual way to think of it, perhaps, but certainly not out of line.