Imagine this scenario: You find a nice pair of shoes on a Facebook Page and want to buy them. You contact the Seller/Page Admin via Facebook Chat Messenger. The seller then checks the stock and confirms the order. The seller then shares his bank account details with you.
You then go to the nearest ATM and wire the funds to the seller’s account, along with your details, address for delivery etc. The goods are then prepared for delivery once the buyer’s bank transfer is confirmed by the merchant.
Sounds bizarre? Sounds a bit like a pain in the ass?
Don’t laugh. This is what the social commerce payments mode that Facebook is testing in Thailand. As per a TechCrunch report, the company has partnered with VC-funded Asian fintech startup 2C2P for the project.
As per this report, Facebook is trialling a product named Qwik with an unspecified number of top Facebook Pages in Thailand. Once a user taps the link, it redirects them to a new site where they can enter their credit/debit card details or provide their bank account which, with authorisation, triggers a bank transfer like an ATM.
In the age of Internet, a company of Facebook’s stature is trialling a payment method which requires a user to go to ATM for money transfer, in a fast-growing Internet market such as Thailand, is not just funny but also horrible.
What is more surprising and intriguing is the fact that social commerce payments using ATMs has existed in the world for a while now. Our Indonesian correspondent Anisa Menur confirms that Indonesian SMBs, use social sites like Facebook and Instagram to set up and run online shops, have been using this mode of payments for years. Even major e-commerce platforms such as Tokopedia and Bukalapak are using the ATM transfer payment method which requires users to ‘confirm’ their payment by filling up forms or submitting a scan of the transfer receipt.
Facebook’s rationale could be that Asia is a region where only few have Internet banking, credit/debit cards, and so its social commerce payments will have a decent number of takers. But it is still surprising as to why the company chose Thailand, which has a well-informed population familiar with using Internet banking to buy and sell items.
As a user, I would prefer a shopping portal to buy stuff and pay using my credit/debit card or Internet banking.
In Asia, Facebook has over 566 million monthly users. According to TechCrunch, the trial is an early indicator of Facebook’s intent to keep all the processes of the social commerce transaction on its platform. Except, you know that the entire system is leveraging technology outside of the Internet.
The report also says that Facebook is planning to widen the trials to other countries in Southeast Asia over time, but it picked Thailand first because of the large market for social media commerce.
In our view, social commerce payments may work in developing markets in Asia or Africa where Internet banking is still an alien, but it will not work in markets with good Internet penetration, if the process requires users to ride down the crazy road traffic and find out an ATM to transfer money.
Or does Facebook have some other intentions with the new system? Let’s wait and watch.