Facebook has added a Facebook Rewards feature in its mobile app, allowing users to scan a personalized QR code to achieve benefits when they purchase items at participating brick-and-mortar stores, TechCrunch first reported.
The social media giant told TechCrunch it has been running a “small test” of the feature in recent months to help the participating businesses to better connect with their customers. The customer benefits come in the form of discounts that can be used at the stores, or loyalty program bonuses.
The new program comes almost exactly four years after Target announced its Cartwheel service, which leveraged Facebook interactions to allow users to earn discounts that could be applied to in-store purchases.
Facebook also offered a similar Facebook Offers program as early as 2012, TechCrunch reported, noting that it allowed users to connect with discounts they could use in brick-and-mortar stores, though that was when mobile apps and the need to support omnichannel shopping experiences were little more than potential future concern for retailers and brands. Now, that concern is real, and the sector is constantly looking for ways to bridge mobile, social media and in-store experiences and interactions.
Loyalty programs have also exploded in recent years, and Facebook appears to be designing something around the now common notion of a member rewards program. Facebook's use of a personal QR code that can be used multiple times and in multiple places is also a fresh take on such programs, which normally involve paper cards.
Overall, it sounds like a great way for Facebook to increase and prove its value to both Facebook users and retailers. Retailers benefit from increased foot traffic stoked by special offers being dangled in front of Facebook users. Also, as TechCrunch pointed out, Facebook could earn more ad revenue from participating retailers and collect more data that could be helpful to those retailers and to Facebook.
This move comes as other social networks are trying to build similar bridges between their communities and brick-and-mortar retail. Snapchat recently launched a geotargeting program to match online ads to in-store consumer traffic. Twitter also announced the Twitter Offers mobile coupon program more than two and a half years ago.
Then, of course, there's Target's Cartwheel program, which reminds us that retailers might have a stake in launching their own mobile loyalty programs that allow users to build up in-store benefits. It's not clear which of these programs has the right recipe for popular usage, or if perhaps all of them do, but they show that even companies outside of retail aren't ready to sit idle while brick-and-mortar transforms.