Facebook now lets you order dinner and buy movie tickets

If Facebook has its way, the social network will soon be your go-to online destination for movie tickets, food delivery and other local reservations.

Facebook does many things for its 1.7 billion users, but it still has work to do before it can close some lingering loops that exist between businesses and potential customers who use the social network. To that end, the company this week introduced a series of new ecommerce features, including food delivery, appointment booking and ticket purchase options, that let customers make direct transactions with businesses on Facebook.

The social giant enabled the features through a mix of partnerships and new technical capabilities. No, Facebook employees won't be delivering food any time soon, instead, partner companies including Delivery.com and Slice will handle the logistics. The third-party food delivery service puts Facebook in competition with alternatives such as Grubhub, Postmates and Seamless.

[Related: Facebook at Work (finally) launches as ‘Workplace']

Facebook will also let users book appointments and dinner reservations with small businesses and restaurants, salons and spas, using third-party services such as HomeAdvisor and MyTime. Users will be able to purchase tickets to upcoming films or events hosted by small businesses on those companies' Facebook pages via Ticketmaster, Eventbrite or Fandango extensions. Movie tickets can be stored as QR codes on users' Facebook accounts, and scheduled appointments are saved in Facbook's events section, according to the company.

Facebook business pages get long overdue ecommerce updates

Facebook pages will also receive an ecommerce enhancement to facilitate the new features, and Facebook won't charge for the capabilities, according to the company. Third party financial transactions can now be finalized on Facebook, so businesses don't have to encourage users to leave the site to order food, buy movie tickets, or book dinner reservations.

Many of the features put the social network in direct competition with popular alternatives, and some of the tweaks, such as ticketing, are long overdue. The data Facebook will collect by following its users' journeys from online discovery to offline sales could be incredibly valuable to marketers.

[Related: Facebook Messenger now supports native payments]

Facebook says the improvements will make it easier and faster for local businesses to make meaningful connections with users. "This is the first step, and over the coming months we'll be launching even more new features that will make it easier to get things done, make confident decisions and communicate directly with businesses on your time and terms," the company wrote in a blog post.

If Facebook can convince people to use its app for dinner delivery and salon appointments, in addition to staying in touch with friends and reading the latest political rant from a connection, it stands to gain more control and influence over online commerce. The new features also come on the heels of Facebook's Messenger Platform v1.2, which integrates payment mechanisms for chatbots with global financial service providers including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Stripe, PayPal and Braintree.

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Matt Kapko

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