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Facebook Launches Booking on Pages with Third Party Providers

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This morning Facebook announced, among other things, the addition of new “call to action” buttons to Pages for local businesses. These buttons make it possible to book appointments or order food directly from Facebook Pages. It’s a big deal — although these things always remain to be seen in practice — and helps make Facebook a great deal more “useful” for both business owners and consumers.

This should be seen in the larger push by Facebook into (local) commerce and CRM for busiensses and local discovery for consumers — with Marketplace and Events (the new app) and ads and analytics that connect online and offline. Facebook is slowly evolving into an all-encompassing platform for consumer and business interactions.

Accordingly, Facebook believes it’s the only solution that local businesses need to reach and engage mobile consumers:

We built Pages to be the mobile solution for your business—a place where people can discover, interact and communicate with your business anytime, anywhere and on any device. We’ll keep adding new features designed to help you grow your business and succeed in a mobile- first world.

The missing piece is a viable local search capability — although the company pointed out to me that you can do category searches today on Facebook. While it works for some categories, overall it’s quite weak.

Facebook local search

The booking/ordering/request a quote functionality is provided by an ecosystem of partners that Facebook intends to continue to develop and grow:

  • Booking/ordering: Booker, BookingBug, Front Desk, HomeAdvisor, MyTime, Pingup, Schedulicity, Setster and Simplybook.me.
  • Event tickets: EventBrite and Ticketmaster
  • Movie tickets: Fandango
  • Request a quote: Porch, TalkLocal

Local business owners need to have a relationship with one of these providers to enable the functionality on their Pages. Accordingly, in many cases, it will drive sign-ups (e.g., for Porch and MyTime).

Will this capability on Facebook transform these booking companies into commodity services? Will it now put pressure on marketing services providers and agencies to enable booking on Pages for SMBs? My tendency would be to say to both. However, it’s unclear at this point.

What is clear is that Facebook has just consolidated online booking on its site/app and changed the space in a way that nobody (not even Google) has been able to do. Others offering comparable capabilities, including the providers above, will need to respond with a better, deeper, richer user experience to avoid being marginalized.

Also today, Facebook is offering a new and improved Events experience in its app — though its Events app is better. And it’s offering enhanced social discovery:

When you write a Facebook post looking for advice on local places or services, you’ll have the option to turn on Recommendations for that post. If you turn on the feature, your friends can comment on your post with suggestions, and you’ll see all of them mapped out and saved in one place. You can also go to your Recommendations bookmark on Facebook to ask a new question or help your friends.

Users can include business Pages in their comments/recommendations, which becomes another discovery mechanism. However recommended businesses can only be accessed through individual networks; there’s no public discovery at this point.

This is where a more robust local search capability comes into play for Facebook. All these features are weaker without one. And if Facebook were to build — either as a “Places” app or within Facebook itself — a better search capability it would really be able to break things wide open in local.

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