Following its launch in the U.S. 2 years ago, Facebook has just launched its Messenger app peer-to-peer payments functionality in the UK. For now, the payments, which are completely free with no fees attached, can only be made between individuals, rather than between an individual and company. Nonetheless, it can be taken as almost a given that Facebook’s longer-term incentive to establishing a native payments processing platform within Messenger is part of its longer term social commerce strategy. It can be expected that in the foreseeable future, vendors advertising products and services on Facebook will also be able to ask for and receive payment from clients within the social media platform and/or Messenger.
However, for now at least, Facebook’s first steps into the world of financial services will be limited to personal transactions between friends. Messenger payments require both sender and receiver to have linked their debit cards to the app and can be up to a value of £2500 per transaction or a maximum of £10,000 over 30 days. It’s also being provided as a free service for now with Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus stating the social media giant’s incentive to take incur a small cost on each transfer as “because we want to increase the utility of Messenger.”
Taking steps to allay what the immediate suspicion of what the real motivation behind such generosity might be, Marcus also reassured potential users of the new payments service that Facebook would not be using banking data or any other signals generated to gather data or target advertising. Payments are PIN-protected and transactions encrypted for security.
While it would be nice to think that Facebook’s sole incentive is in providing users of Messenger with added value, the payments processing development is more realistically part of the arms race between the tech giants. Financial services and payments are of significant interest to Apple and Google also, to name but two of the biggest tech names Facebook appear to have stolen a march on with Messenger payments.
Social commerce is also critical to Facebook and other social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest succeeding in continuing to demonstrate strong growth in revenues. Advertising revenues are still growing for social media platforms but growth rates are inevitably slowing. ‘Buy now’ buttons and shoppable videos that users can click on have been introduced across all of the major social media platforms this years. These functionalities are allowing brands to sell directly within the social platforms, rather than simply using them as advertising platforms. In-house payments processing is another step towards social media giants like Facebook developing social commerce revenues as their next high-growth vertical.