Don’t Poke your dinner.
Facebook announced a slew of new features today (Oct. 19) that allow users to get advice from friends on things to do in their cities and upcoming events. But it also introduced new ways to avoid talking to other humans: You can now book movie tickets, make appointments, and order food from the Facebook pages of US businesses.
The social network has partnered with Delivery.com, a food-delivery startup operating in about 40 US cities, to provide any restaurant with the ability to take orders on their Facebook pages. A spokesperson for Facebook told Quartz that the company has built a new tool for displaying menus and ordering information inside Facebook pages. Any business that’s currently signed up for Delivery.com will see its delivery-ordering information automatically added to their Facebook page.
Customers can pay with a credit card they have on file with Facebook, and they don’t need Delivery.com accounts. Customer service issues that fall beyond the remit of the restaurant (payment issues, for example), will still be handled by Delivery.com.
Facebook told Quartz that it won’t be taking a cut from businesses or Delivery.com to offer this (already quite low-margin) service to the roughly 160 million-odd Americans that use Facebook. It’s just doing this to make businesses’ Facebook pages more useful.
Utility means a lot for Facebook, whose revenue derives almost entirely from advertisements. The longer users are on Facebook, whether they’re liking a friend’s post, watching a news video, or ordering dinner from the local Chinese restaurant, the more likely they are to see (and possibly click on) advertisements.
Facebook may be looking to imitate the successes of messaging apps like China’s WeChat and Japan’s Line, which allow millions to book doctors’ appointments, order dinner, watch videos, chat with their friends, and order goods all through one digital hub. Today’s announcements, paired with Facebook’s recent moves, such as the integration of Uber and other brands into its Messenger chat app and a developer platform that allows any company to create a chat bot, suggest that the company is also trying to position itself as a hub that users never leave, and through which all communication and commercial transactions flow.
Whether users even want Facebook to be their main conduit remains to be seen. Seamless, eBay, Fandango, and Yelp already have pretty decent apps themselves.
Delivery.com is a relatively small player in the food-delivery market, with a presence in roughly 40 cities, compared to competitors Grubhub and Seamless, which are in over 1,100 cities. Facebook said that it would be open to working with other companies in the future. The company also said that, although its new services will initially only be available in the US, this experiment could well expand into new territories.