TIME facebook

Facebook Wants to Let You Buy Things From Retailers’ Pages

Company reportedly testing mini-storefronts in merchants' Facebook pages

Facebook’s pages for small businesses originally started as a way for them to stay in touch with customers and hopefully generate leads, but now the social network wants to supercharge their revenue power by providing merchants with online storefronts inside their page.

Facebook is reportedly testing this new feature with some online retailers, according to BuzzFeed. The new feature essentially lets merchants showcase products and let Facebook users shop directly from within the storefront in the page instead of having to go to the merchant’s website.

In June, Facebook started to test a “buy” button on some of its ads to streamline the process of purchasing advertised products, though these two initiatives appear to be independent tests. Nevertheless, Facebook is surely hoping these prove to be successful. Although it’s proven quite good at generating revenue through advertising, e-commerce would be a significant new source for the company. E-commerce is predicted to reach around $350 billion in 2015, according to eMarketer.

Earlier on Wednesday, Google also announced a “buy” button for its mobile search ads, and other companies, such as Pinterest and Twitter, have joined the trend.

MONEY Shopping

How Summer’s Black Friday Is Like the Real Black Friday

Some Prime Day deals are terrific. Most are nothing special.

From the beginning, Amazon has been comparing Prime Day to Black Friday. On the surface, Black Friday and Prime Day—a big sales event being held today, July 15, if you somehow haven’t heard—are quite different. Today’s sales are online-only, whereas Black Friday remains dominated by the in-store shopping experience. Only Amazon and a handful of competitors are offering special sales today, whereas virtually every retailer offers deals for Black Friday.

Yet there are many similarities between Black Friday and what’s being billed as the summertime Black Friday. That includes many of the criticisms about Black Friday, which has been losing shopper interest for years due to a wide range of factors.

Shoppers should take the following into consideration before buying things on a day pumped up as “Black Friday”—no matter what time of year this day takes place.

There are some truly amazing deals. According to the deal trackers at BestBlackFriday.com, some of Amazon’s Prime Day prices for specific items like printers, video games, Blu-ray movies, and TVs indeed beat the best Black Friday prices offered on the day after Thanksgiving last year.

But the vast majority of deals are meh. The hashtag #PrimeDay is trending on Twitter today. Glance through the comments posted, and you’ll see multiple mentions of words like “disappointing,” “underwhelming,” “boring,” and “meh.” There are also more colorful comments that demonstrate people are hardly amazed by Amazon’s offers, like that Prime Day is “not the risk to my wallet I thought it would be,” and “like a dollar store going out of business sale,” with deals “so random and bad that hipsters couldn’t even buy them to be ironic.”

For the most part, the same can be said of Walmart’s “Rollback” sale timed to coincide with Prime Day. Some deals seem terrific—think $13 for a video game that retails for $30—while most are random and underwhelming. How excited can anyone get, after all, about a plush puppy toy that’s marked down from $12.50 to $10.91?

Best deals are selling out very quickly. Many customers trying to get in on Amazon’s “Lightning” deals have expressed frustration that the items are sold out and they’re being put on a “waitlist.” The limited quantities and rapid sellouts are not unlike the doorbusters regularly offered on Black Friday, which some customers feel are tantamount to bait-and-switch because few get to actually purchase the items at the advertised prices. You’d think that Amazon would have an endless supply of it own products, but even they are selling out. As of 11:30 ET, Amazon’s Fire HD 7 deal—priced at $79, down from the usual $139—was 98% sold out.

Consumers are under pressure to buy right away. Prime Day lasts only one day, and with the exception of a somewhat vague sneak preview of deals released yesterday, shoppers didn’t know what exactly would be on sale today. Many of the deals will be exceptionally short-lived and can sell out, disappearing soon after they’ve surfaced.

The net result is that shoppers have very little time to assess each deal, compare prices with other retailers, or think things through much at all. It’s similar to what we might call “Black Friday brain,” in which the crowds, limited quantities, and frenzied atmosphere conspire to pressure shoppers into buying whatever’s in front of them, regardless if it’s actually a good deal—and regardless if it’s something the purchaser actually wants. Speaking of which …

You probably don’t need any of this stuff. Amazon created Prime Day out of the blue, in order to manufacture shopper interest at a time it didn’t otherwise exist. In other words, people aren’t shopping today because they need anything in particular; they’re shopping today because it’s Prime Day. Yes, you might find some stuff that’s fun and remotely useful, at a good price. But don’t kid yourself: You’re probably not shopping out of a genuine need. As a Detroit Free Press columnist put it, “Don’t get so overwhelmed by the hype that you buy stuff now that you really don’t need.”

Read next: 12 Ways to Stop Wasting Money and Take Control of Your Stuff

TIME Retail

Google Is Making Shopping on a Smartphone Much Easier

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

A new "buy button" is coming to search results

Google is finally rolling out a ‘Buy’ button in its search results. The new feature, first reported back in May, is an effort to get users comfortable thinking of Google as a shopping destination, not just a conduit to other sites.

At a press event on Wednesday, the company announced “Purchase with Google,” which will turn the ads that appear at the top of search results into cards that let users buy products from directly within Google’s interface. After clicking an ad marked with “Buy on Google,” a user will be taken to a special, Google-built page that shows information about the product and a checkout button to pay for the item using the credit card stored in a Google account.

Google isn’t actually selling these products itself, but instead partnering with retailers who will handle order fulfillment. Google makes money on these ads using the same cost-per-click ad auctions that power its traditional search ads.

With its new buttons, Google is aiming to make it easier for users to buy products on mobile phones’ screens. “There is too much friction when we try to make transactions on a phone,” says Jonathan Alferness, Google’s vice president of product management for Google Shopping. He notes that conversations rates to purchase items are still twice as high on desktop as they are on mobile.

Google is rolling out the buy button as a small test with about a dozen retailers in the coming weeks, with plans for a larger U.S. expansion by the end of the year.

At its event, Google also outlined some other recent tweaks to the mobile shopping experience. These include improved voice search that will provide users more detailed information when they ask questions about products, info cards that prominently show product reviews and improved “deep linking” capabilities that will let users open a purchase page within a retailer’s app directly from clicking a link in a Google ad.

MONEY online shopping

Here Are All the Other Retailers Offering Big Online Sales for Prime Day

Amazon and Walmart aren't the only players.

Amazon’s Prime Day, which the company is billing as bigger than Black Friday, has gotten shoppers excited and inspired the competition to launch widespread online sales of their own. Walmart is the most prominent retailer to offer its own online sale for Wednesday, July 15, but it’s not the only e-retail operation trying to compete with Amazon for bargain-hunting shoppers today.

Below is a list of retailers hosting special sales today. We’ll add to it as we hear about more.

Amazon: Of course. Deals like $60 off Fire HD 7 tablets went live at midnight last night, and new items will go on sale every ten minutes or so. Amazon has promised “more deals than Black Friday,” and if Prime Day winds up being an annual tradition, Amazon gets a bonus marketing plug: After all, one of its products (Amazon Prime) is in the name of the sales event.

Walmart: Thousands of items are being listed at “rollback prices” on Wednesday, which typically translates to 20% to 50% off their normal prices. The threshold for free shipping on purchases has been reduced from $50 to $35 as well for several weeks. Naturally, Walmart isn’t mentioning “Prime Day” as the reason for its sale, but the world’s largest retailer is indirectly referencing Amazon’s sale. Unlike Prime Day, which is only available for subscribers to its $99-per-year Prime service, Walmart overtly points out its sale contains “No upfront fees” with Rollback prices “At or lower than Amazon’s prices.”

Newegg: The e-retailer’s “Fantastech” Sale began at midnight and lasts for 24 hours, with discounts of 20% to 90% off a wide range of electronics. And Newegg also takes a swipe at Prime Day by stating the sale includes “Free Shipping for All,” not just members of an annual subscription service.

Target: A “Black Friday in July” sale has just been extended through Saturday, July 17, perhaps due to the fact that some other high-profile sales are taking place this week. Target’s sale includes deals like buy-one-get-one-half-off clothes, shoes, and accessories, plus an extra 10% off with the promotional code JULY.

FreeShipping.com: For one day only, this membership service—which normally costs $12.97 per month in exchange for free shipping and 10% cash back for purchases with 1,000+ online retailers—is giving 20% cash back on purchases with participating retailers. The service allows a free seven-day trial period, and there’s a $10 cash back offer for the first purchase of new subscribers. Just be aware: After the trial period is up, you’ll be charged $12.97 per month until you cancel.

G.H. Bass & Co.: On Wednesday only, Bass is hosting a sitewide sale, with 50% off all purchases. Use the code CYBER50 at checkout for “Better Savings Than Black Friday.”

Macys: The department store is hosting a “Surprise Specials Day” online, with loads of discounts and, for the first time ever, free shipping on all orders, no minimum purchase required.

Best Buy: The electronics big box chain actually hosted its answer to Prime Day one day in advance, with a special “Tuesday TechDay” sale that poked Amazon with language to the effect of: “Online Only. Free 2-Day Shipping. Deals for all. No membership needed.” There are still many items on sale today, but deals offered yesterday—like the iPad mini 2 for $70 off—have expired. A glitch that caused Best Buy to sell $200 gift cards for $15 overnight has been fixed as well, and those who snagged the crazy deal posted by mistake may not have their purchase honored.

Drizly: The on-demand alcohol delivery service is offering a $10 Amazon gift card to customers making their first purchase at Drizly on Wednesday, July 15, in honor of Prime Day.

MONEY online shopping

10 Companies That Pay You for Referring Friends

Gap + Birchbox Summer Beauty Shop Launch
Cindy Ord—2015 Getty Images

From AirBnb to Sock Fancy.

Do you like shopping online? Better yet, would you like to make money (or get other cool stuff) for shopping online? There are a number of retailers, websites, and subscription clubs with awesome referral programs that let you do just that. Check out the perks and start earning some major rewards for all your hard work.

1. Zulily

Zulily offers thousands of trendy items for the whole family. From baby gear to home decor to apparel, toys, and more. If you refer a friend, you can earn $15 to spend on the site. The credit is added to your account when your friend’s item ships. There’s no limit to the number of credits you can earn, and they expire 18 months after issuance.

2. Hulu Plus

By now, we all know that cable television is expensive — it’s one of the first things we cut from our budget in a pinch. Switch to Hulu Plus to save money and still see the shows you love. If you refer your friends, you’ll even get two weeks free. This deal is so great, you can earn up to a full year if you get 26 of your friends to join in on the fun.

3. ThredUp

Not only can you sell your used clothing on ThredUp, but you can also make money for telling friends about it. Their system is set up as a share-and-earn model. You send invitations to shop on the site to your friends, they get $10 to spend, and if they spend it, you — in turn — get $10 added to your account when their items ship.

4. Airbnb

Travel can be expensive, and sites like Airbnb have unique options to help make it more fun and affordable. I love how their referral program works two ways. You get $25 if your friend completes a reservation request. And you get a whopping $75 if your friend lists a place as a host. What a wonderful way to make money to go on vacation.

5. Sock Fancy

We all need socks. They keep our feet warm, cozy, and looking good. When you refer friends to Sock Fancy, they get 15% off their first order and you get a free pair of socks. Send invitations via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

6. Birchbox

Birchbox lets you pretty yourself with products delivered to your front door. When you tell your friends about the service, you earn 50 points. For every 100 points, you get $10 to spend in the Birchbox Shop.

7. Stitch Fix

Need a little help with your style? Stitch Fix gives you personalized clothing options according to your list of preferences. You try them at home and decide whether to purchase or return (for free). If you get your friends to sign up for the service, you earn a $25 credit to spend on the site. This credit is activated when your friend’s order ships.

8. MyHabit

Shop amazing deals on the popular brands you love at MyHabit. For a limited time, this site is giving members $20 for each friend they refer. The extra incentive: Those friends you refer also earn $20 for signing up. It’s a win-win!

9. Dollar Shave Club

Keep your face smooth and get free stuff with subscription-based Dollar Shave Club. For every friend you successfully refer to the site, you’ll earn $5 toward your next purchase. You can choose from all different blades and products, so there’s something each of your friends can enjoy.

10. Ebates

You’ve probably heard about Ebates. Those of you who haven’t are missing out, quite literally. Shop at your favorite stores through the site and earn back a percentage of the total price in the form of a quarterly check. And refer your friends to sign up for a $5 bonus. They’re even offering an additional bonus for the first three friends you refer now through the end of June.

More From Wise Bread:

 

MONEY Food & Drink

Insider Tips for Choosing a Great Cheap Wine

A Food & Wine expert shares his secrets with our Snob on a Budget.

If you love wine but don’t have endless cash to spare, choosing a bottle can be tricky. The problem isn’t a lack of low-priced options: The wine industry is growing rapidly and new inexpensive wines show up on wine shop shelves all the time.

The challenge is finding gems among potentially humdrum choices: How do you know which sub-$20 white wine to choose for your summer BBQ? Or decide how cheap is too cheap at a restaurant?

There’s good news for wine-lovers with little cash to spare: Studies show that most people can’t actually taste the difference between cheap and expensive wine.

And whether or not you have an especially sensitive palate, there are great values to be found if you shop smart. Here are some rules of thumb you can follow to end up with the finest wine possible on a frugal budget.

1. Look for Lesser-Known Varietals

Wines that Americans love—like Chardonnays—effectively come with a popularity “tax,” and tend to be the most overpriced. It follows that you’ll get a better deal if you look where others don’t, says Cornell Hospitality School wine lecturer Cheryl Stanley.

“Be adventurous,” Stanley says. “There are great values in some lesser known varietals and or regions.”

Those include wines from places with cheap labor costs and lots of inexpensive land, like Malbecs from Mendoza, Argentina, says Food & Wine executive wine editor Ray Isle.

2. Befriend Your Shopkeeper

If you can, try to find a local wine shop with employees who really care about their product.

“Don’t be afraid to give the retailer the price point you are willing to spend. They should know their inventory and be able to guide you to a great wine,” says Stanley.

The best part: Many neighborhood stores will be willing to give discounts to frequent shoppers.

3. Beware the “Second-Cheapest Wine” Rule

Generally you shouldn’t buy the second-cheapest wine at a restaurant, says Isle, unless you happen to know and love it.

Back in the day, wine-drinkers were advised to always go for the second-least-expensive wines on the menu, since they tended to be the best value (and—of course—nobody wants to seem miserly in front of a date).

But restaurateurs caught on, and now the second-cheapest wines tend to be the most marked up: A good reason to just go ahead and order that least expensive bottle. The good news, says Isle, is that any sommelier worth his or her salt will likely make sure that even the cheapest bottle on the menu is going to be great.

4. Skip “Finicky” Varietals

Some grapes simply don’t lend themselves to cheap wine, says Isle.

You see lots of cheap Pinot Noirs out there, for example, but since the varietal’s grapes are challenging to grow, those bottles are less like to be good value—and more likely to be cheap for a reason.

Higher production costs mean higher prices for the good stuff.

5. Get Technological

Arm yourself with free apps like Delectable, which lets you scan an unfamiliar label with your smartphone camera and view reviews and ratings from other people who have tried that bottle—kind of like a Yelp for wines.

MONEY Shopping

Something Unimaginable Is Happening in the Gadgets Market

gadget
Jeffrey Coolidge—Getty Images Circle of Technology

We're spending less for the first time in years

The global love affair with gadgets isn’t dying, not by a long shot. But a new study indicates that our infatuation with shiny new electronic devices appears to be hitting a plateau.

This week, the IT research firm Gartner released a forecast predicting that for the first time since 2010, there will be a worldwide decline in money spent on gadgets. Globally, the anticipation is that consumers will collectively spend $606 billion on PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones in 2015. That would represent a 5.7% decline from 2014.

The decrease in spending isn’t because we’re buying fewer mobile phones. In fact, mobile phone purchases are expected to be up for the year: 1.94 billion, versus 1.879 billion in 2014. Yet mobile phone prices continue to fall. So even as we buy more, the dollars collected on those sales aren’t as high as one might expect.

The Gartner forecast does call for a net decrease in the sales of tablets and desktop and laptop computers. In particular, PC purchases in western Europe, Russia, and Japan have been falling, “largely due to price increases resulting from local currency devaluation against the dollar,” Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal said in a press release.

Looking forward, Gartner is forecasting that the number of mobile phones and tablets sold will rise globally in 2016 and 2017, while purchases of PCs and laptops will keep declining. Total dollars spent on gadgets are expected to rise in 2016 and again 2017 as well. Even so, the anticipated sum of global gadget purchases in 2017 won’t match the total from 2014—$627 billion versus $642 billion, respectively.

TIME

Gen Y’s Secret Retail Guilty Pleasure

If you guessed Etsy or Urban Outfitters, you guessed wrong

Millennials love all things artisanal, hand-crafted and customizable, so it stands to reason that one of their top retail destinations is… Walmart?

New data about shopper patterns and preferences uncovers some interesting findings when it comes to the behemoth of Bentonville. According to an article in AdAge, “Walmart indexes higher with those under age 24 than Target, Costco, Kroger, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. It’s also rated higher than all those except Target with shoppers aged 25 to 34.”

While this doesn’t mean millennials are more likely to shop at Walmart, “It does mean that millennials spend a higher proportion of their money at Walmart than older generations,” says Jared Schrieber, co-founder and CEO of InfoScout, a company that analyzes consumers’ shopping behavior, which collected the raw data used in the AdAge article.

“[Millennials] are in the first life stage where they often have complete control over their spending,” says Jason Dorsey, millennials researcher and strategist at the Center for Generational Kinetics. It’s striking, he says, “that a traditional, established brand that gets negative press around hot button topics for millennials is still able to win a large group of millennials.”

Walmart’s CMO Stephen Quinn told AdAge, “That kind of shocks a lot of people, including inside the company.” He chalked it up to young adults’ increasingly busy lives. “As millennials become time-crunched with relationships and kids coming along, it’s opening up a strong need for them to have a one-stop shop,” he said.

Schrieber said young adults are also at a point in their lives when stores like Walmart fill a crucial need. “This is highly reflective of their life-stage in that they are establishing their own households for the first time, which results in higher proportions of spend on the household goods offered by big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target,” he says.

“Wal-Mart still has something that meets the needs of this new generation of young adults — budget-sensitive and one-stop shopping,” Dorsey says. “It will be interesting to see if as millennials grow up and their incomes increase, if Walmart is able to convert this current advantage… into long-term loyalty.”

Across all age groups, American households do about 24% of their spending on groceries, cleaning supplies, health and beauty products and the like at Walmart. Among millennials, that figure is 8% higher. “Millennials spend a higher proportion of their money at big-box retailers than other channels such as traditional grocers, drug stores or dollar stores,” Schrieber says.

The InfoScout data also shows that Gen Y hasn’t abandoned its love for Tar-jay: While the average household does 8.6% of its grocery and related items spending at Target, the average millennial household funnels 11.6% of its spending in this category to that retailer. In big data jargon, Target claims a 35% higher “share of wallet” from millennials than from shoppers overall.

MONEY online shopping

Amazon’s “Prime Day” is Black Friday in July

While Amazon may be practically giving away some items on "Prime Day," it could be gaining thousands more prime members.

July 15 is Amazon’s “Prime Day,” a day the company has created to boost Amazon Prime membership, offering perks like wildly discounted items. Amazon claims there will be more deals on “Prime Day” than on Black Friday, the traditional shopping day after Thanksgiving where stores open at predawn hours with deep discounts.

TIME Amazon

Amazon’s New Prime Day Will Be a Massive ‘Global Shopping Event’

Mark your calendars: It’s on July 15

Amazon is turning 20 next week, and to celebrate the online retail site is launching Prime Day, a global shopping extravaganza for Prime members.

The company has whet the appetite of shoppers around the world by announcing that on July 15 there will be “a global shopping event, with more deals than Black Friday” — the biggest shopping day of the year that happens after Thanksgiving. Much like Black Friday, deals will start at midnight, and new discounts will be offered as often as every 10 minutes, Amazon said in a statement. The event will be open to Prime members in the U.S., the U.K., Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, and Austria.

Not a Prime member? Clearly, this is the time Amazon wants to woo you into the fold, and a 30-day free trial of Prime has been offered: “If you’re not already a Prime member, you’ll want to join so you don’t miss out on one of the biggest deals extravaganzas in the world,” said Greg Greeley, vice president of Amazon Prime.

Getting shoppers to become Prime members is a push that has yielded benefits for the company. A recent ComScore report revealed that “Prime members make twice as many purchases as nonmembers, and they spend 40% more per transaction.” Last week, the company expanded its one-hour delivery service Prime Now to parts of central London, marking the company’s first expansion of its speedy service outside of the U.S.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com