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A few months ago, I wrote about how a large chunk of e-commerce’s future is extremely likely to lie with Facebook. The recent announcement of half a billion active members should be enough to have any e-commerce or marketing professional chomping at the bit to seize the opportunity, get engaged and start selling.

Surprisingly though, there seems to be a lack of exploration into the existing possibilities...

I’m not suggesting that setting up shop on Facebook is suitable for everyone,  but I am suggesting that there is potentially an enormous and currently untapped opportunity for retailers that they need to explore. 

There *are* examples of companies experimenting with Facebook as a platform to sell products and services, but they seem to be few and far between. Leaving aside the well-worn and over-cited 1-800-Flowers.com example, there only seems to be a handful of the larger companies getting in on the act. 

Disney recently begun selling cinema tickets for Toy Story 3 across Facebook and Procter & Gamble has reportedly dipped its toe into f-commerce, including setting up an impromptu store to make the most of the Old Spice buzz.  

Smaller organisations are also trying to get in on the action. For example, the cosmetics company, Mark, now has online shop on their Facebook page and Fashion company NineWest is toying with an f-commerce store. Kudos for these guys taking the first steps into relatively unchartered territory.

I’d go so far as to suggest that there’s no real excuse to not be at least considering experimenting in this area. It’s relatively cost-effective, quick and easy to set up an f-commerce platform within a Facebook account, especially when third-party solutions are brought into the equation. I’ve scouted around a picked out a few that exist. 

Many of these examples redirect users from Facebook to their own online stores, but given that best practice e-commerce is about making a transaction as easy and seamless as possible, then, depending on the circumstances, keeping a potential customer within a Facebook page generally seems like a sensible option to explore. 

However, I'm expecting this current practice of redirecting to change in the coming months, especially as the bigger players in the e-commerce technology market, such as those in our E-Commerce guide, begin to look more seriously towards leveraging Facebook in this way.

3Dcart

 

BigCommerce

 

Payvment

 

Volusion

 

Voiyk

Shoptab

Furthermore, although there appears to be a degree of shyness from companies to actively experiment in this arena, it’s understandable. Every day, we’re reminded about developing a “social media strategy” and throwing e-commerce into the engagement mix can easily break the most hardened professional into a cold sweat... so it’s not a particularly large surprise that we’re not seeing larger amounts of activity.

But it is disappointing. 

Although it’s easy to see that f-commerce is very much in its infancy stages, I’d go so far as to suggest that it’s where mobile-commerce was a few years ago. Smaller purchases are currently being made, but developments and general uptake will result in larger transactions and increased user confidence. Those who begin to place resources into this area now will likely reap rewards later. 

As far back as 2003, Amazon was playing with m-commerce... and recently they announced $1bn in sales through mobile channels, which is no small number.

Given that more than 100m active users are currently accessing Facebook through mobile technology, it doesn’t take a genius to suggest that there seems a reasonable amount of opportunity which may present itself even further.

[Image credit: danielbroche]
Jake Hird

Published 5 August, 2010 by Jake Hird

Jake Hird is Econsultancy Australia's Director of Research and Education. Follow him on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn or see what he's keeping an eye on via diigo

126 more posts from this author

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Andrew Marshall, SEM Manager at s1

It seems logical to try selling on Facebook when there are so many users on there but how do you expect people to find you? If you sell jeans do you think people will search for jeans on FB, click on your page and buy from there? If you are only selling to people who already "like" you then surely it's just as easy to send them to your website? FB is good for talking about things you like but a lot of people will be unhappy if you keep trying to get into their personal space and sell to them. I believe it's better to keep customer interaction interesting, fun and informative, not to push products on them.

almost 6 years ago

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James Tomaszewski

I think that's a really valid point about the personal space invasion. breaking the engagement bubble with heavy handed commerce could soil the mood slightly.

However, on the Old Spice FB page, commerce is just an element of the entire experience. Consumers "get" that they are going to be sold to at some point. I don't think that we are going to see any 100% shopping experiences on Facebook.

I think that if brands combine subtle shopping experiences with as close to a one-click-purchase as possible, they will be enhancing the experience not detracting from it.

If I see an Old Spice T-shirt a friend has liked and I want to buy it - being one click away would be great. Now I can get back to Farmville and my impression of the brand is great.

almost 6 years ago

Kevin Galway

Kevin Galway, Owner at Ecommerce Consultancy

@Andrew (&@James).  I completely agree.  I firmly believe in using applications for what they are designed for, enhancing them is fine but 'pushing' product further down peoples throats will in the long run surely just detract from the overall proposition.

Users know where to buy products, sure adverts can raise awareness but am I alone in not ever taking any notice of the adwords in Google Mail when I log in? In fact it annoys the hell out of me because its so clever trying to push products to me that I might be interested in because of the content in my inbox. Rant over....

We all know why it's happening, because it can.  But do users really WANT advertising in FB, is it actually going to enhance the overall user experience, or just bang a few more bucks in the account of the already well known brands?

almost 6 years ago

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Henway

I think most companies will do best to focus on Google and search before even thinking of entering Facebook. It offers a better ROI on time than Facebook. Facebook is good for branding, but not for conversions. In Google, ppl are actually LOOKING for your product. In Facebook I wouldn't be surprised if it required 10,000 clicks for 1 sale. Ppl just aren't in a buying mode there 

almost 6 years ago

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zoe

I love the power of social, but I am still sitting on the fence with this one. I feel that by allowing people to buy from within facebook you are losing out on the value that comes from the shopping and brand experience. We always emphasise the importance of creating an e-commerce store that is as brand-centric as your physical retail location. One of the primary reasons people purchase and continue to make purchases is the way a brand makes them feel, how connected they are to it, their loyalty to the brand and the memory of an actual shopping experience. In my opinion, a facebook store just isn't at this level yet... It may well be in the future, but for the moment they don't quite cut it for me. 

almost 6 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

Yes, simply amazing that more f-commerce isn't happening! But Henway is right - get the basic right first, good quality SEO aimed at Google to help your own ecommerce web site, followed by some targeted PPC. We currently help clients with their Facebook pages and PPC on Facebook, and will be developing f-commerce capabilites soon, as this is certainly the way forward.

almost 6 years ago

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Dawn Clarke, Marketing Communications Manager at SeeWhy

Facebook has become a widely adopted alternative to building a promotional microsite, but in most cases, as you say Jake, these microsites link to the full ecommerce site for the transaction. As mentioned above however, 1-800-Flowers.com and others have recently built applications that enable Facebook visitors to purchase on Facebook.

Although the trend in f-commerce may have been slow to start, it is certainly gaining momentum - a recent survey gauging marketers use of social media to drive ecommerce sales found that 67 percent plan to leverage Facebook to drive traffic to their ecommerce website and, more significantly, 44 percent plan to use Facebook applications in place of microsites for launches and specific promotions. There’s a great blog on this with more survey results here http://bit.ly/9UQXq9.

almost 6 years ago

Tejal Patel

Tejal Patel, Digital Manager at Nokia

I completely agree with @James. It's about offering a subtle, low-key commerce experience on social sites. If a user is a fan of your brand and is following your page on Facebook, then why not experiment with offering something for them to buy right then and there? If you give a user something exclusive, be it first dibs at a new product or a lower price point before it's opened to other channels, who wouldn't be interested? The same rules apply as other commerce channels. give the user something added value and make their life easier and they will sit up and pay attention. It's definitely worth a go and more brands should be testing it out. I disagree with @Henway. I've worked in telecommunications for years and Facebook has increasingly become a very efficient channel for direct response advertising, not just brand. the level of targeting, testing and immediacy of results on Facebook is astounding. And brands have even more opportunities in the future once they fully understand who is 'liking' their ads.

almost 6 years ago

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Brian Biggs

Thanks for the Nine West mention! We here at Fluid completely agree with Tejal and James: Selling on Facebook isn't about repurposing your entire catalog in a tab, it's about providing true value to the consumer in the form of pre-sales, exclusive offers or compelling content. One of the nice things about this technology is that it allows retailers to ask consumers to put skin in the game by Liking the brand before accessing exclusive FB only content. This drives a brand's fan base and provides them the opportunity to communicate directly with the consumer. Continue to provide value and "Likers" will stay loyal and share with their friends. Let them down and they'll move on. Our Fan Shop product was built just for this type of experimentation. Here are a few more examples PBTeen Shop Dorm (live): http://www.facebook.com/pbteen?v=app_132904276742209 Fan Shop archive: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fluid-Demos/138550452852591

almost 6 years ago

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Alvin Tan

I've always doubted that selling on Facebook would work in a big way. The trend, after all, is called "social commerce" and not "commercial social;" any selling done on a congregation/social platform is likely to be obstructive at best and loathed at worst. While Facebook is a big, big thing, I disagree that the best way to profit from the explosive activity is to just "fish where the fishes are" -- that would be very simplistic in thinking.

I believe that the more plausible way of profiting off of Facebook's user base is to socialize commerce, not commercialize social. Infusing the social element to assist purchase planning, product selection, and product evalution would facilitate commerce, not obstruct it. With the Graph API, there are really two choices now (the latter of which is often overlooked): 1) put your store on Facebook, or 2) put Facebook on your store. The latter is very possible (just check out how we do it @ http://zuupy.com).

The biggest problem with selling on Facebook is the lack of purchase intent. At the end of the day, the biggest winners of this so-called F-commerce trend are going to be the platform/technology providers, not the retailers.

almost 6 years ago

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professionelles Webdesign

A fantastic new way to do marketing, think facebook has a big future in this area, time to use the potential

almost 6 years ago

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bmlcreative

This is a really interesting article. Without a doubt, Facebook is going to become a major player in the online retailing market. It's only a matter of time... Thanks for a great post :-)

almost 6 years ago

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TeamVoiyk

Jake thank you for the article and nice comments! We believe one of the main principles of e-commerce is to be everywhere: Be Seen and Be Shopped. Customer expectations for how and when they buy products have changed substantially over the past few years. With e-commerce 2.0, online shopping experience has been expanded to additional websites, various online marketplaces (such as eBay, Amazon etc.). We also have all seen the explosion of corporations creating online communities on Facebook. So the Voiyk Store connects your Facebook community to your e-commerce site. It gives the possibility to share and talk about your products. You shouldn't expect to have big sales in Facebook, but it will definitely drive traffic to your e-commerce site.

almost 6 years ago

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Kevin

I'll be the first to agree with the fact that facebook is taking over e-commerce. I happen to do e-commerce consulting and was brought in for a gift basket company ( http://www.giftbasketsplus.com/ and they want to bring in a social touch to their site.

Right now it has nothing and we're setting up a facebook page for them. The best way to do it on FB is to NOT hard sell - it's to actually be social.. hint hint to all the spammers on facebook blasting promotional offers.. It Doesn't Work :)

What does work is having contest and engaging your audience... anyways, thanks for posting this - i'm linking my client to this blog post

almost 6 years ago

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Dave

I worked with an apparel company that set up a shop tab on facebook. Just like in the article, it basically "looks" like a shop, but it just redirects you to the actual web page. Since the whole boxes thing going away this is going to be very hard to do in the future.

almost 6 years ago

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Adrian Grossett

Have to agree with Andrew Marshal - facebook is a social media application - and any one wishing to exploit it - and begin selling on it - is making a big mistake. As stated your better of growing your following on FB and then direct people to your website. I think a business using FB to much to sell products as opposed to discussing them will not do themselves any favours.

almost 6 years ago

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Terry Summerbell

If you offer a service, such as private tuition, and you already have a page and a whole lot of fans that love interacting with you, I think offering products for purchase in Facebook is an experience-enhancer.

Say you teach cooking, you've written an article or embedded a video lesson on Asian cooking into your Facebook page and there's a particular piece of kitchen equipment that you're using. If a fan wants to buy that equipment to replicate your recipe as close as possible, it is easier for them to buy it direct from your page, from a source they already trust, rather than search for it in a search engine and make a whole load of comparisons between traders.

I do however, think that brands and individuals need to be careful about sending out sales messages in status updates, unless there's a particular offer on and it is done infrequently, because that would get on people's nerves.

over 5 years ago

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Phil

With FB, it upsets me when one of my "friends" send me ads all the time. I dont like it one bit. It's cool to get something like once a week or month, but other than that, it's too much

over 5 years ago

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Web Designer Hull

Does anyone else worry that Facebook could potentially be a real world big brother. They store all your personal details, photos, private conversations etc.. and now your shopping habits, payment details and purchased product information?

about 5 years ago

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Sumit

Nice post.
There is an eCommerce boom in India these days.
A good Payment gateway is still missing and required for India centric eCommerce sites.Hope to see some great statups coming up.

over 3 years ago

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