Facebook Deals comes to Canada, beta features 11 retail partners

A beta program of Facebook Deals is now live in Canada and features discount offers from 11 different retail partners, according to the social network’s Canadian headquarters.

Deals is an extension of Facebook Places, which became available to Canadians Sept. 25, 2010. Now touch screen smartphone users who check-in to certain retail locations will also be offered a digital coupon to download, to be honoured once shown to the cashier at check-out.

Retail partners such as Loblaw Companies Ltd., Chapters Indigo, Wind Mobile and Telus will be offering deals during the beta period, and the new feature will eventually be opened up to all Canadian businesses.

Canadians can access Facebook Deals using the iPhone app, Android app, or any other touch screen phone that supports HTML5 by visiting Facebook.com/mobile.

“Think about the number of businesses that have Facebook Pages,” says Elmer Sotto, the head of strategy for Facebook Canada. “Facebook Deals is an extension of Pages that brings that conversation to your mobile phone, in the retail location.”

Related Story: Interview with Facebook’s new head of Canadian operations

Businesses won’t have to pay Facebook to feature a deal, or share any portion of the revenue made as a result of a deal, Sotto says. A business must first claim its location in the Places feature, and Facebook will review deals submitted by businesses to ensure they follow some basic guidelines.

More than 15 million Canadians have a Facebook account and about one-third of those use the social network on a mobile phone, Facebook says. Mobile users tend to be the most active, accessing the site about twice as much as PC-only users.

“They’re the ones who will be more compelled to find deals and use deals,” Sotto says.

Joe Fresh, the apparel line owned by Loblaw, is one of the beta program partners with Facebook Deals. It kicked off its campaign by offering up jeans for $5 that would normally cost $19, to the first 500 check-ins between Jan.31 and Feb. 5. But senior vice president of marketing Craig Hutchison expected the 500 pairs of jeans to be bought at the bargain price within one day.

“The beta program is an initial program for us to see what the consumer response is going to be from our Facebook community,” he says.

Businesses fill out a one-page online form to submit a deal to Facebook. Shop operators will enter in a summary of the deal, a description of how to claim it, when the deal can be claimed and how often the deal can be claimed.

There are four different types of deals to offer. An individual deal gives a simple discount to one customer, a friend deal gives a discount to customers who check-in with friends, a loyalty deal rewards repeat customers, and a charity deal offers to donate money to a good cause on behalf of the customer.

“We’re making sure they are deals that will bring value and utility to Canadians,” Sotto says. “The deal will not go live unless someone at Facebook actually looks at the deal and reviews it.”

Joe Fresh prepared for their initial deal by making sure they had enough denim.

“We needed to make sure we had enough product in our stores to keep up with what we hope is a fantastic consumer response,” Hutchison says.

Facebook’s new feature is one way that businesses can more easily offer and manage location-based mobile incentives and offers, says Michelle Corsano, president of Toronto-based Burst Marketing. Though national brands with multiple locations may benefit from the feature more than smaller, local businesses.

“It is a better loyalty and customer retention technique than one fro customer acquisition,” she says. “Companies who endeavour to participate also need to think about the long-term customer lifecycle and value – how does this fit in with their customer acquisition and retention strategy?”

Privacy settings for Facebook Deals will be inherited from a user’s settings for Places, Sotto says. When a user downloads a deal, that will be shared in their news feed according to the same settings they’ve selected for sharing their Places check-ins.

Facebook Deals has been active in the U.S. for more than six weeks now, and more than half of U.S. brands have decided to use the feature since it was announced, Sotto says. The Austin, Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinema saw more than 5,100 people check-in to its combination restaurant-theatre after offering a deal to give away free pint glasses.

There’s no timeline for when Deals will exit the beta stage, he adds.

Facebook Deals beta partners

There are 11 retailers currently offering Facebook Deals:

  • Chapters Indigo
  • H&M
  • Dynamite
  • Garage
  • Joe Fresh
  • Wind Mobile
  • Telus
  • Kiehl’s
  • Town Shoes
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport
  • AMC IMAX Theatres

Brian Jackson is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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