Facebook today announced that it is now selling iTunes digital gift cards through its Gifts product. The feature includes iTunes catalogue integration so users can search for music, movies, apps and other content through Facebook and then send recommendations along with the gift cards they buy for friends.
The addition comes just at the start of the holiday shopping season, which will be an early test for Facebook Gifts. The social network recently added new retail partners, such as babyGAP, Fab, Brookstone and Lindt. Users can also gift subscriptions to television and music services like Hulu Plus, Pandora and Rdio. These digital gifts, especially iTunes credits, could be big sellers since they are low cost and nearly universal in appeal.
Users can purchase iTunes cards worth $10, $15, $25 or $50. There is an option to search and recommend specific content for a friend, but there is no way to buy a particular album or movie, for example. We’d like to see Facebook and Apple offer the option for users to give even smaller gifts, such as a single song, iOS app or movie rental. Users might be more likely to send each other these gifts for everyday occasions.
Facebook takes a percentage of sales — varying by partner or item — and in exchange helps promote the goods, photographing the products, writing copy and displaying them on site. Facebook and Apple haven’t revealed their arrangement, but AllThingsD sources say retailers that sell iTunes gift cards typically take 13 percent of those sales. The two companies have partnered in new ways this year, including deep Facebook integration with Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems. In the past, Facebook and Apple have had a more difficult time cooperating. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs called Facebook’s terms “onerous” after an integration with the Ping social network fell through. Now, either through leadership changes or growing necessity, the companies are apparently able to work together.
Facebook Gifts are still rolling out to users in the U.S. The company hasn’t said when all U.S. users will have the feature, but it’s possible for users to get access sooner if they receive a gift from a friend.
For physical goods, Facebook provides merchants with packaging materials and helps with tracking shipping and customer service. A benefit of Facebook Gifts is that users don’t have to know a friend’s address to send them something. They can choose a gift, send their friend a message and a preview of the gift, and then the recipient can enter where they want the item shipped. Users receive notifications throughout the process so they can track the status of the gift.