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]