By Patrick Salyer, CEO, Gigya. Pepsi, Verizon, ABC and more than 700 of the world's largest business use Gigya's Connected Consumer Management Suite, which includes products like Social Login, Registration-as-a-Service, Social Plugins and Gamification.
Facebook's (FB) most recent earnings call revealed that while the company's financials are strong, it is reaching a saturation point with teen audiences. As usage among teens reaches a threshold, Facebook's overall user-base growth could soon begin slowing as well. Recent social login data from my company, Gigya, runs parallel to this notion, as Facebook's share of logins has actually shrunk since 2011 and currently holds only a narrow majority of logins:
Social Login Preferences for Gigya Clients
While Facebook is hardly in dire straights, this data is certainly eye opening as Social Login serves as a proxy for the popularity of Social Networks. Consumers use Social Login to easily and quickly sign into a 3rd party site or application by leveraging credentials from a trusted identity provider in which they easily remember their user name & password. In addition to ease of sign in, there are other benefits to the consumer such as creating a more personalized, relevant experience, for example by using a consumers' friend list to surface popular content. Overall, it's safe to say that consumers choose a social login provider that they care about a lot, and that is very relevant to them.
If indeed growth and popularity are indeed dropping off for Facebook, it's become increasingly clear that the world's largest social network needs to continue augmenting its current revenue streams -- and find new ones -- in order to successfully and consistently meet investor and user expectations. While Facebook's growth may be slowing, because of its ubiquity as a social network it still has one valuable asset that no other company in the world has - vast amounts of user data on XB consumers. This is an amount of users that will be virtually impossible for the likes of SnapChat & Pinterest to catch up with, regardless of their popularity. Because of this asset, if Facebook can flex the power of its vast amounts of user data and extend beyond its core product, the growth opportunities will continue to remain.
Power a new era of relevant ads - outside of Facebook.com
Despite recent stagnation, Facebook still holds a dominant position that can be leveraged to extend its reach and drive enormous amounts of revenue. In order to do so, the company must extend its ad network beyond the walls of Facebook.com and become an ad network for the rest of the web. While creating a web-wide ad network based on social profile data is no small task, the opportunity is too great for Facebook to ignore. Facebook and its ad customers have already seen remarkable success with its contextual ads on Facebook.com; it only makes sense to allow for hyper-targeted ads on other web properties.
Consider the following use example: a Facebook user goes to NFL.com and sees an ad for his favorite football team's jersey with his last name on the back. If traditional "rest of the web" advertisements were informed by Facebook's data, brands would flock to the world's largest social network to reach users across the web. It's safe to say that Facebook would easily become the largest and most significant player in the world of display, a $12B revenue opportunity.
Become a payments provider
Facebook's second, and perhaps most difficult challenge, will be to become a meaningful player in the payments space. The company made its first major strides as a payment provider recently when it announced in August that it was testing an auto-fill billing feature for third-party mobile apps that populates payments information with stored credit card data. I recently tested out the feature on JackThreads' mobile app, one of the early testers of the feature. I was blown away at how easily I was able to pay for a new winter coat. Yet the reason the auto-fill feature worked so well for me was that Facebook already has my credit card information on-file, which is quite rare. While there is no public data on how many credit cards Facebook has stored, estimates from 2012 claim that number is around 10-15 million.
Retailers looking to streamline the payment process and reduce shopping cart abandonment should be licking their chops at the potential of Facebook's auto-fill billing feature, particularly when looking at how people log into e-commerce sites and apps. Our data from Q3 reveals that Facebook's dominance as an identity provider is most pronounced with e-commerce sites and apps:
The implications get even more interesting when we examine Facebook's strength on mobile, which will soon account for a quarter of e-commerce spending by 2016:
With such a strong foothold in e-commerce and mobile properties, the imperative for Facebook to collect more credit card information from consumers is all the more evident. The obvious hurdle, of course, is getting consumers to view Facebook as a safe, reliable place to store credit card info. That solution may come in the form of bolstering its Gifts business or creating new apps and avenues that entice users to make payments. Or perhaps more realistically, the social network could also look into acquiring a payments company that already owns a large database of credit card information.
By tying identity to payments, either directly or through partnerships with industry stalwarts like PayPal and Amazon (AMZN) (via the ability to connect your PayPal account with your Facebook account, for example), Facebook could finally become a meaningful player in a trillion-dollar e-commerce market and become even more relevant in the eyes of consumers and investors alike.
Facebook's ascendance, its initial stumbles with its IPO, and its in-progress comeback have been fascinating to watch. What has become clear in its most recent earnings report is that growth as a company (read: revenue) cannot be totally dependent on growth in its user base. Of course Facebook needs to keep a large amount of users active on its core product, Facebook.com, but that isn't enough anymore to support investor and the larger business community's expectations.
On the other hand, Facebook's ability to monetize is nearly limitless, particularly when one considers the vast number of ways that consumers and businesses can use its platform, whether as a payments provider or as an ubiquitous ad network. The company has already demonstrated a knack for innovation -- not just on its core product, but also with its monetization strategies. Remember, it was only a year ago when exasperated investors berated the company for not taking full advantage of its mobile ad business.
Ultimately, Facebook's biggest asset is its data. It has one of the deepest, most valuable collections of consumer data in the world; and I truly believe that the company has only begun unearthing its value. In the coming 12-18 months, watch for Facebook to extend its spindles, creating new ways for consumers to engage with the network and with brands by using their Facebook identities. And if Mark Zuckerberg and his team execute correctly, we may soon see Facebook start reaching its enormous revenue potential.