Facebook looking to launch Gifts product

Facebook appears to be gearing up to launch a product called Facebook Gifts, seemingly the result of its acquisition of mobile gift-giving app Karma.

The company temporarily posted a new job listing this week for a “merchant operations analyst” with a number of responsibilities related to on-boarding new merchants, managing assets and inventory.

“We are looking for an individual with strong communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills to help us launch our Facebook Gifts product,” the listing read before it was taken down last night. A Facebook spokesperson said the company did not have any information to share.

The Next Web reports that is has a source saying Facebook will debut its social gifting product in the U.S. within the next few weeks.

In May, Facebook bought Karma, an iOS and Android app that allows users to choose gifts for their friends from a curated set of products. It also suggests friends to whom a user could give gifts to based on their recent Facebook posts. When users choose a gift, the recipient is notified so that he or she can provide their mailing address. The recipient also has the option to swap the gift for something else.

The Karma app is still available from the Apple App Store and has about 2,000 monthly active users connected with Facebook, according to AppData. Although the social network said it would keep Instagram running under its own brand, the job post reference to “Facebook Gifts” suggests that it is likely to rebrand Karma since it was less known than Instagram.

Facebook picked up the full Karma team and technology in the acquisition, so it started with a working model. Scaling to handle Facebook’s audience, even if only in the U.S., however, could be a big challenge for Facebook. Selling physical goods requires the social network to take on a number of new tasks. Although it seems that merchants will handle fulfillment, Facebook seems to managing aspects of marketing (writing copy, photographing products) and packaging (sourcing and distributing gift packaging for merchants).

It’s unclear whether Facebook will handle customer service, but with the name Facebook Gifts, users are likely to have the perception that they are buying from Facebook, not from individual merchants, so the company will need to be prepared to handle issues that arise from unhappy customers.

Facebook had a product called Gift Shop from 2007 to 2010, which mostly offered virtual gifts that users share on each other’s walls. The company experimented with physical goods in 2009, partnering with American Greetings Interactive, GreetBeatz, Someecards and Real Gifts to sell cards, flowers, candy and stuffed animals. However, Facebook’s business grew by offering a platform on which developers could create their own games and apps to sell virtual or digital goods, not by sales from Gift Shop. The company also seemed to put aside gifts to focus on its growing ad business. Likely after seeing the model of Karma, Facebook decided to get back into gifts, this time with a mobile-first approach. It’s unclear whether Facebook will offer a desktop component for Gifts.

Below is the job listing from Facebook’s Careers site mentioning “Facebook Gifts.” The link has been taken down.