Facebook and Apple deepened their alliance today, as Facebook Gifts is starting to sell iTunes digital gift certificates. Upon purchase, Facebook users can suggest what music, video, or apps their friends should spend their $10, $15, $25, or $50 credit on. By adding one of the world’s most popular presents to its Gifts store, Facebook Gifts could boost sales and split the 30% margins with Apple.
What the actual revenue split is remains a secret. We do know there’s no shipping costs for either partner to pay for, and Apple typically taxes content and app creators a 30% to be sold in iTunes.
This is the latest move tying Facebook and Apple together after the social network was baked into iOS 6, and Facebook sharing buttons and social context (friends’ faces next to things they bought) were added to iTunes. If today’s integration is a success, it could create a virtuous loop where Facebookers buy iTunes credits for friends, who buy media or apps and share news of their purchases back to Facebook.
It’s a big day for Facebook Gifts, as iTunes is likely its most well-known partner other than Starbucks. Facebook unveiledits entrance into ecommerce in late September. It began in beta available to just a small percentage of US users, but earlier this month Facebook rolled out the product to tens of millions of people and added tons of new gift vendors. It’s also started showing you friends birthdays and a call to buy them Gifts atop the the mobile news feed.
The iTunes gift purchase process is a breeze. You pick a friend to buy for, select the dollar amount of the gift certificate, and then add an optional suggestion for what friends should buy. Gifters can browse categories like Top Albums, or use a search box to find the media they want to recommend. Once completed the gift will appear wrapped on a the recipient’s Timeline until they open it.
If Facebook is smart, it will use its data on which devices people use and their Likes to recommend who to buy iTunes gifts for and what they should buy. For example, Facebook should highlight iTunes credits in the array of purchase choices if you’re buying for a friend who uses Facebook’s iPhone or iPad apps. A Starbucks digital gift card might be a better suggestion for Facebook’s Android app users.
The next step would be tailoring what it tells you to suggest a friend buy to their Likes and app use. If they Like Taylor Swift, it could make it easy to recommend her new album Red. If someone shares to Facebook from the classic Angry Birds app, it might say you should recommend they spend their credit on Bad Piggies or Angry Birds Space.
This is the real potential of Facebook Gifts — taking the guess work and decision making out of shopping. It’s focus should be smoothing out all the friction of giving presents to friends until the only pain is the price. Then it won’t just be capture more of the gifting market, it will enlarge it all together and turn non-shoppers into ecommerce addicts.