It can be hard keeping up with the virtual Jonses. First your old roommate gets a new tractor for his farm, then your mom gets a missile launcher and your best friend just got a baby whale. Don’t stress it. Facebook’s new Buy with Friends program is going to help you keep up by offering you a chance to purchase everything your friends bought and you might even get a discount.
Deb Liu of Facebook Commerce Product Marketing announced the roll out of the new program at the Inside Social Apps InFocus 2011 Conference.
Buy with Friends is an attempt to make social commerce more social and it could be both a boon and a bust, depending on which side of the dollar you’re on.
The whole process is one of suggestive selling. Your roommate buys that tractor in Farmville, so you get a notice offering you the same tractor at 40% off. Facebook has now considerably upped the chances of you buying the virtual object and that’s not virtual money that is falling into their pocket.
Early reports say that players will have the option of sending or not sending notifications. Liu remarked that in testing, “more than 50 percent of users elected to share a purchase.” But being on the sharing end isn’t annoying. The trouble comes on the receiving end when you’re bombarded with notices asking you to buy, buy, buy.
In order to facilitate the shopping push, Facebook is working on a feature that will allow you to purchase more credits without leaving the game. This feature, which has been used by poker sites for ages, should lead to higher revenues as it encourages impulse buying.
In addition to the annoyance factor, there’s also the issue of games that don’t use Facebook credits as their base form of currency. As All Things Digital pointed out, having to exchange real money for in-game cash, which has to then be turned into Facebook credits is too cumbersome. For social commerce to truly take off, the majority of developers need to use the same type of currency and that’s exactly what Facebook is counting on.
What do you think of the new Buy with Friends program? Is it a nice feature that will encourage the growth of the virtual goods market, or a blatant marketing push that players will ignore rather than annoy their friends?