By Nick Johnson - March 28th, 2012
Prompted by this article in Fast Company, I've been thinking about f-commerce recently. As Farhad Manjoo mentions in his article, there was an awful lot of hype and bluster around f-commerce n...
Prompted by this article in Fast Company, I've been thinking about f-commerce recently.
As Farhad Manjoo mentions in his article, there was an awful lot of hype and bluster around f-commerce not so long ago. Brands like Gillette, Coca-Cola, 1-800-Flowers, JC Penney, Sears and many others opened up Facebook stores, convinced by the opportunity to secure a new revenue stream.
And yet, almost as quickly, those stores are shutting down. Gap, JC Penney, Gamestop, Nordstrom and others have closed their commerce sites on the social networking behemoth.
It looks like f-commerce could use a rethink.
So, I've come up with three ideas that might improve the process, and get brands back on board:
Beat Amazon at their own game
One of the most powerful tools that Amazon has is it's recommendation engine. You log in, and you find a list of items you might find interesting/desirable. Whenever you make a purchase, you get prompts showing what other people bought at the same time.
But that's the limit. Because (at the moment at least) that's all Amazon knows. Facebook has a FAR richer data set to leverage. Not only items you've bought, but items you've liked. Or items your friends have liked. Or items from brands you like. Or items you've checked out previously, but are now on sale. The list goes on. If Facebook can start to leverage this data to encourage commerce, it would be a real shot in the arm for the whole of social commerce.
But for this to happen...
Facebook needs to unify the shopping experience
At the moment, there are hundred of individual Facebook stores. When I go on Gillette store, I can see many different shaving products I can buy. But that's it. I'm sure, if I were to buy a Gillette razor through the site, I'd soon see many ads for the company in my news feed. That's great. But it's so fragmented.
Why isn't there a Facebook store? If there were, then Facebook could begin to highlight all items that you've interacted with (Liked, Shared, Friends have liked, you've looked at) across the internet (assuming that site is linked to Facebook) and present them in one place. It would become a far more tempting destination than a site whose sole product is razors.
There could be different sections - showing products you've liked (or, with the increasing number of verb options to choose from, 'reserved') in a universal wishlist.
Share desires with others - within reason
You could also have separate sections showing friend activity. So, if you know your friend has great (and similar) taste in films, you could see the films he's recently bought, or liked, and purchase them yourself.
This is - unsurprisingly - where things really get powerful. As Manjoo mentions in the Fast Company piece, imagine a time when you could hop on to Facebook, see the jeans a friend has liked, and buy then for their birthday.
It's a frictionless environment.
Allow groups to leverage their buying power easily
Start with discounts. Let's say one of your friends buys a book. They love that book, and they want other people to read it, too. So they share it on Facebook with a glowing testimonial. And a 10% off voucher.
The act of purchasing allows (or rather, incentivises) your friend to push this book out to you. It works for the bookseller, it works for Facebook, and it works for you.
You could go further, and build group buying into the platform and blow all the main players in this market out of the water.
OK, I know. This is wishful thinking. There are legion problems with the above - not least privacy issues about sharing buying habits with others, and the ability to convince brands to all join one store and lose the branding and control of their own private garden.
But it seems to me that with a few changes like those outlined above, f-commerce would really start to take advantage of the strengths Facebook brings to the table. A Facebook store would become a real destination, and would be social from the ground up.
What do you think?