Facebook unveiled a plan on Wednesday to leverage its dominance of social networks to become the leading supplier of shopping deals to smartphone users and dominate the emerging category of social commerce.
Under the plan, Facebook members who use the company's location-based Places feature will be alerted to special deals and discounts offered by retailers in their vicinity.
Users can take advantage of the feature by showing their phones at participating stores. Facebook said that this action would be posted on users' news feed so that their friends might also utilise the special offers.
Facebook said its launch partner was the clothing retailer Gap, with Starbucks, McDonalds and H&M also set to participate.
Eventually, all companies with Facebook pages will be able to offer deals to Facebook users on their mobile phones, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said. The deals will include one-time offers and loyalty rewards as well as deals that reward customers who bring their friends.
Facebook said that the strategy would help it establish leadership on the mobile internet, where the number of its subscribers has more than tripled in the last year from 65 million to 200 million. Facebook said that figure made the company's mobile platform more popular than both Apple's iPhone and Google's Android.
"It starts to solve an age-old problem that local businesses have always had," said Emily White, director of local at Facebook.
"They've been told they need to be online. But it hasn't always been clear what the benefit is. That's what this Deals platform allows. It's turning those fans, those visitors, those eyeballs into real dollars, real people and real business."