The new feature is the latest step in the company’s ongoing efforts to try to scale the Facebook Pay service. This time, it’s targeting an especially tough nut to crack in the area of peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, where it hopes to get more eyes on its service by wrapping it up as a kind of birthday gift.
“What we’re doing is we’re creating a delightful experience around it, where that birthday gift is going to be themed with wrapping paper, and then the user will open it up and receive their gift on Messenger,” Meron Colbeci, head of Consumer Product Management at Facebook, told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster.
Colbeci spoke about how the new feature is just the latest step on a path that will eventually see Facebook Pay expand into every facet of the Facebook experience. The end game with Facebook Pay, he said, is to go everywhere its users interact and help them to “close the loop” without ever needing to leave Facebook.
“We’re trying to go where our users want us to go,” Colbeci stated. “So, when someone is talking about dinner last night, they can say, ‘Hey, do you mind paying me back?’ We have a way to enable that transaction right there and then.”
It might be a delightful enough idea, but skeptical consumers will take some convincing. Webster pointed out the idea of sending birthday gifts sounds a lot like the old Facebook Gifts feature that launched in 2012, allowing users to send an actual, physical gift and post a digital gift card on their timeline at the same time.
For whatever reason, Facebook Gifts never really took off, and Facebook Pay is yet to set the world alight either. Despite debuting in 2019, the service has struggled to gain much traction and to date is used by only a fraction of the social media giant’s users.
One of the biggest obstacles Facebook has is winning over people’s trust. When it comes to consumer confidence, Facebook has a bit of an image problem. Colbeci conceded it’s a tough challenge for the company, explaining it needs to understand in a deeper way what customers are worried about.
“Frankly, Facebook needs to do some work in order to gain people’s trust,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is to address those points in the experience, in what we allow ourselves to do and don’t allow ourselves to do, to create an environment where people over time feel comfortable using us as a payment service and a financial service.”
“This is reflected in the way we talk to users, in our data policies and in a lot of different areas, and we’re trying to address those concerns as we encounter them,” he added.
Facebook Pay is going up against a huge number of better-established competitors too, both inside its own ecosystem and across the wider web. The likes of Venmo, PayPal, Cash App, Google Pay and Apple Pay all have a much bigger user base that Facebook Pay will struggle to attract.
Colbeci agreed P2P payments is a very competitive space. But he said that alone shouldn’t deter the company from trying to create an experience for its users that it thinks is delightful and superior.
“We feel like we have a shot at convincing users that this is a great experience and that we can gain their trust,” he said.
Facebook has already taken a few shots against those heavy hitters. In July, it said it will bring Facebook Pay as a payment option to additional platforms, starting with Shopify in August. Prior to that, it announced a 0% revenue sharing structure until 2023 that’s designed to make it look like a more tempting proposition for merchants.
The birthday gifts feature in Messenger will create another entry point into the Facebook payment experience, specifically for P2P payments. Millions of people use Facebook each day to send birthday greetings to one another. Indeed, Facebook is often what notifies or alerts people to the fact that it’s somebody’s birthday. And at the same time, a lot of people regularly Facebook Pay to send each other cash gifts.
“So, we thought it would be great if we could connect those two things together,” Colbeci explained.
Facebook has a strong advantage in that most of its users’ entire network of friends, family and colleagues will already be there, either on Facebook itself or Messenger, or most likely both, Colbeci added.
“So, you can find them quickly and easily,” he said. “It’s fast, it’s instant and best of all is it’s free. The money lands in your account immediately, and that’s totally free.”
By encouraging users to send birthday gifts, Colbeci said he believes more users will come to realize those advantages.
“It can expose the experience to people who don’t necessarily know about it, so absolutely there’s potential to acquire more users with this,” he said.
Facebook Pay’s immediate ambition is to become the most convenient tool for people to make payments across the entire Facebook surface, including Instagram and WhatsApp.
“We want to enable that,” Colbeci said. “We want people to be able to do that securely without having to enter their credentials each time, and then be able to go back and see all of their transactions in one place.”
Colbeci was careful not to frame Facebook Pay’s ambitions as an attempt to build a kind of “super app” for payments though, at least not yet.
“When I think about utility and where we can provide that utility, creating a super app in and of itself is not necessarily the goal,” he said. “It really comes back to us just going to where our users want us to go. If it ends up looking like a super app, then maybe that’s where we’ll go. If so, great, but if not, that’s also great.”