Show me the money: Facebook tests new feature to encourage more in-app buying

The tool will simplify the checkout process in certain e-commerce apps

By , IDG News Service |  Internet

Facebook is moving ahead with plans to test a new mobile feature to entice more people to buy products while shopping on smaller devices such as iPhones.

There will be two partners for the test: Jack Threads, a men's fashion and clothing site; and Mosaic, a site for turning digital photos into a physical book. The feature, "Auto-Fill with Facebook," will roll out starting Monday night to a very small percentage of people using those companies' iOS apps, a Facebook spokeswoman told the IDG News Service.

The tool is designed to take some of the complexity out of the checkout process on mobile. If a user already has his or her credit card information on file with Facebook and is shopping within the Jack Threads or the Mosaic app, a button will appear upon checkout asking permission to access the person's payment information on Facebook. If the shopper says "yes," the payment fields will be filled automatically.

Facebook is rolling out the feature slowly, but within a couple of weeks all Jack Threads and Mosaic shoppers will have access to it, Facebook said. More partners are likely to come later. On the back end, Facebook partnered with PayPal, Stripe and Braintree to make the technology work.

Facebook revealed its initial plans for the service in August but didn't give a timeline for making it available.

Facebook wants its users to benefit from the service just as much as third-party app developers, a group that Facebook is fervently wooing. Getting consumers to make payments on a smaller screen is difficult, Facebook said, and some mobile app developers in e-commerce have been seeing decreased sales as a result.

If expanded more broadly, the Auto-Fill tool could also serve to more tightly bind advertisers on Facebook to their own mobile apps.

Facebook has signaled in recent months that it wants to provide more services to encourage app developers to use its tools and social data. Earlier this year the company bought Parse, a hosted back end providing app development tools. The Auto-Fill tool might be a feature that could eventually fit in with Parse's tools, Facebook said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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