NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Facebook is looking for some new fans: It wants to help small business owners up their ecommerce game.
The social media giant announced Thursday that it’s testing a new Buy button feature with “a few” small and medium-sized businesses across the country.
The button is available on the mobile and desktop version of Facebook and lets customers purchase products directly from businesses. Businesses partnering with Facebook on this test can embed the button on their Page posts or in Facebook ads.
Just how few are we talking? Right now, very. A Facebook spokesman said the exact number can be counted using one hand. They declined to identify the specific businesses but the picture included in the announcement showed that one is a watch company, Modify Watches, in San Francisco.
Though the test is small for now, if successful, it could be a major win for small businesses.
Facebook said there are 30 million active small business pages worldwide.
“This represents a tremendous opportunity for savvy small businesses to generate sales in real time,” said Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group. “This is an opportunity for innovation.”
It’s not the first time Facebook has tested ecommerce ideas. In 2012, the company tried out Facebook Gifts, which ended less than a year later.
This particular trial comes after conversations with business owners and marketers about their business challenges. A lot of small businesses are sharp when it comes to mobile and digital (almost 19 million small business owners manage their page via mobile, according to Facebook) but many don’t have the ecommerce platform to sell their products. This option is specifically designed to solve that problem.
When a customer clicks the Buy button, they’ll be prompted to make a transaction, all without leaving the page. Processing is handled by a third party, so information isn’t shared directly with Facebook (unless a user chooses to store their credentials on the site) or with the merchant. The third party will only share information pertinent to fulfillment (i.e. shipping address).
Right now, the feature is completely free for businesses, and Facebook has no plans to monetize it at the moment. The intention is twofold: See how people react to seeing it on the social media site, and how successful retailers are in driving ecommerce business.
“This could be so incredibly successful if businesses think about it as a new opportunity,” said Solis.
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