Zuckerberg: Apple’s Privacy Move Could Spur More Social Commerce

Clubhouse seems to be Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite social media network — apart from his own, that is — as he dropped into the social audio app again to talk about Facebook’s commerce efforts and brush off concerns about Apple’s looming privacy updates.

Joining Shopify’s Tobias Lütke, Spotify’s Daniel Ek and tech reporter-turned-venture capitalist Josh Constine in a conversation on Thursday, Zuckerberg dropped a few numbers about Facebook and Instagram Shops into the chat.

“I’m pretty excited about the potential of where [commerce] is going,” he said. “I mean, we’re a little less than a year in and have a million active Shops and 250 million people using them actively [every month]. I think it’s just good progress and I think it’s still early compared to where it’s going.”

In particular, he’s impressed by the speed at which the company was able to spin up the shopping platform and tools, and he called the potential across the next five years “explosive.”

And for all the attacks Facebook has waged against Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 privacy changes, the CEO downplayed the issue to his peers. He said the company “will be able to manage,” perhaps even thrive, if the software update nudges more brands and merchants to sell through Facebook and Instagram.

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Apple will soon require developers to ask permission to track users in a clear and obvious way, in a move that’s expected to suppress mobile-based ad targeting efforts. Facebook has been waging a public relations war on the iPhone maker over the coming update for months, launching commercials, issuing statements and, in case anyone missed those, even calling out the rival tech giant in its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings call.

“Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own,” Zuckerberg said at the time, “and this impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world.…With the upcoming iOS 14 changes, many small businesses will no longer be able to reach their customers with targeted ads.”

Facebook’s constant drumbeating may have worked against it, though. Despite beating the estimates, the company still saw Wall Street recoil over potential headwinds to its advertising business, with shares dropping as much as 6 percent at one point immediately after the earnings were reported. Shares have since largely rebounded.

But as the release of Apple’s software update nears, Zuckerberg seems to be taking on a rather head-turning pivot.

“It’s possible that we may even be in a stronger position, if Apple’s changes encourage more businesses to conduct more commerce on our platforms by making it harder for them to use their data in order to find the customers that would want to use their products outside of our platforms,” he said in Clubhouse.

Facebook introduced Shops last summer for its main platform along with Instagram, and has been steadily promoting its social commerce efforts as a way to help downtrodden retailers overcome the pandemic challenge. But it’s clear, at least now, that Zuckerberg also sees it as a strategic lifeline in the face of Apple’s move.

The tech executive apparently enjoys dropping morsels of insights into Clubhouse. This latest chat follows another high-profile conversation on the platform in February, when he evangelized augmented and virtual reality as the future of remote work communication and collaboration.

He seems to like the app and the experience so much, Facebook and Instagram are reportedly working on similar features to introduce a Clubhouse-like experience themselves.

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