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Why Retail Marketers Should “Like” the New Facebook App Center

As Facebook’s App Center begins its roll-out across the globe, many brand and retail marketers are wondering:

“Should I be paying attention?” and if so
“What does this mean for my social & mobile marketing efforts?”
The answers are: 1) Yes and 2) Maybe a lot.  Here’s why:

Facebook designed the App Center to drive discovery of Apps and Sites

To really understand the App Center and its potential implications requires a read-through of the developer documentation and listing guidelines. However, I’ll save you that and skip to the important bit.

In addition to Facebook and Mobile (iOS/Android) Apps, any website or mobile site can be listed in the App Center as long as it uses Facebook Login and has an “immediately logged-in, personalized experience.”

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Put simply, Facebook treats any Facebook-login-powered (or “on graph”) experience as an App. It does not matter if that App is actually a native mobile app, a Facebook App, or a website that uses Facebook for login.  While there are currently a couple of stipulations about how a website needs to use Facebook authentication, it doesn’t negate what’s potentially very interesting for marketers:

In an “on-graph” world, everything acts like an ‘App’.

That’s right. Every site (or more generally, every “experience”) can, with permission, access a customer’s profile to customize their experience and make it easy for them to amplify that experience.  This ability underscores the importance of marketers gaining permission (the “allow”) to access customer profiles, which brings me to the next point:

The App Center is going to drive more ‘Allows’

In the App Center, which can be accessed either via the Web or in the Facebook Mobile App, users are presented with links alongside the apps (or sites, remember) that read “Visit Website” and “Go to App”.  A summary Facebook Permissions dialogue is found below these links which is important because when users click “Visit Website”, they are authorizing your site (or app) and are taken directly to a logged-in, personalized experience.

There is not an interim “Allow” pop-up between the click and the experience. Customers grant permissions based on the text below the link, and are taken straight to the authorized, logged-in app / site / experience. 

This is particularly useful on mobile. For example, if I’m using the Facebook iPhone app and someone sends me a link to something Viddy in the Facebook App Center, I can click “Install” and as soon as the app downloads from the iOS App Store it’ll be ready to use with my Facebook account.  This flow is worth watching, or trying out for yourself as it really streamlines the authorization and install process on mobile.

The fact that the App Center is simplifying matters to such a degree is especially important because:

Facebook is going to drive a lot of people to the App Center with “Requests”

Facebook is changing the way some of its notifications work, so that many apps now generate “requests” with links back to the App Center.  If you go check out your own App Center Requests page, I bet you’ll have some sitting there already.

There has been a good deal of speculation recently as to some ways in which Facebook may seek to monetize App installs. For example, some believe that Facebook will charge brands per install.  However, where this gets even more interesting is when we remember that Sites = Apps.  

If we squint a bit and look into the future, we can see that:

Facebook is poised to charge brands a ‘per-allow’ fee for authenticated users referred to .com sites

While brands would have to register their sites in the App Center first, it’s not too much of a stretch.  It certainly could prove to be a very interesting way to gain ‘allows’ among certain customer segments.

So What’s a Marketer to do Now?

It’s still very, very early in the Facebook App Center.  

A browse through the directory shows only about 30 web apps (sites) in the “Lifestyle” category, only four of which are really “retail” related (FancyOodleFashionista, and a Zappos promotional app).

Odds are, Facebook is still largely figuring out how much of the App Center is going to be centered on online games vs. mobile apps vs. shopping. However, if you’re a brand with a personalized, on-graph experience, it makes a lot of sense to take a look at the App Center as a place to drive discovery and reach a new audience. And, if you are a brand with an on-graph experience, it’s certainly time to think about how your current online properties are going to participate in an increasingly social / mobile / personalized web.

Kevin Tate is CMO at ShopIgniter, a Portland, OR based company that enables brands and retailers to promote and sell products using social media. He can be reached at kevin@shopigniter.com.

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