We knew it was only a matter of time.
As the online world continues to gravitate towards Facebook as a central hub for many of our Internet activities, integration of business tools was the next step along the road to world domination increased profits for the social networking giant. By teaming up with startups, vendors, and even rivals, Facebook is poised to turn shopping into more of a social experience and become a supplement for companies currently using eCommerce to put their products where the consumers are spending large chunks of their time.
That’s their hope as Facebook ramps up their big eCommerce drive, oddly timed right in the middle of the holidays when businesses are focused on maximizing sales today. Then again, it’s Facebook. There was a movie made about their founder.
JC Penney and Delta Air Lines are already in the mix with eCommerce applications available to let you go to Facebook, buy a pair of gloves for Aunt Millie, and then book a flight to Hoboken to drop them off for Christmas.
The idea of using social media for eCommerce isn’t new. Some would argue that eBay is a full-fledged social media site whose social aspects are masked by the buying and selling nature of the site. Regardless of who started it, the next and greatest frontier may be written on our walls very soon.
The Rise of “Social Commerce”
As an early adopter, kudos should go to JC Penney for encapsulating the premise and strength of social commerce in one nice ad. Shop and share. That’s the concept that will entice users. For some, it will represent a further way to turn their daily activities into something shared with their friends and often the rest of the world. For others, it’s an opportunity to see what others think about particular items or businesses in an unedited, unbiased raw format.
What can be more raw than what goes on Facebook today?
As consumers adopt, so too will more businesses adopt the concept. Facebook is poised to leverage their tremendous footprint to get the early adopter companies on board. From there, it will explode as anyone who sells online will want to either also be selling on Facebook or potentially use the tools exclusively for their business presence.
Over 20 companies have met with Facebook managers in the last month according to David Fisch, who runs a commerce partnerships group at Facebook. The formation of the team November fits Facebook’s modus operandi of working behind the scenes with limited fanfare to develop and gauge their products rather than announcing what they are working on and soliciting feedback.
“Ultimately, the onus is on my team to prove we can create a lot of value for users,” Fisch says. “We hope to see a lot of innovation.”
According to Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research, Facebook eCommerce may be able to take marketshare from current eCommerce powerhouses like eBay. “It’s not natural to go to Facebook to shop—yet,” said Mulpuru. “But it’s not a long step.”
As people spend more and more time on Facebook, businesses have been trying to determine how to leverage their own presence. This may be the solution they’ve been searching for.
With Facebook Comes… Challenges
There have been and likely always will be trust issues with Facebook. For many it’s a necessary evil because their family and friends are already there posting. Many are still not comfortable sending anything confidential through Facebook, and few things are more confidential than making purchases.
Then, there’s Facebook Beacon. It was, as most recall, a debacle that ruined relationships, killed surprises, and resulted in a class action lawsuit. The idea of sharing activities with businesses, friends, relatives, and just about everyone else with an Internet connection still stings like a fresh wound.
Are we really going to trust Facebook with our purchasing habits again?
Different Time, Different Social Consumer
Unfortunately, in 2010 and beyond we are like sheep being herded (or is it like lambs led to slaughter) by Facebook, our friends, our family, businesses, and just about anyone with an Internet connection. Whether you love Facebook or hate it, you probably use it from time to time. If you don’t, good for you. Soon you’ll be in the minority.
It’s a different time and we are different people than we were all those (2) years ago when Beacon was drawing our outrage. Back then, fewer people used social media for exhibitionist purposes. We didn’t want people to know what we were buying or where we were shopping.
Today, millions of people post to Foursquare or Facebook Places when they’re going just about anywhere or buying just about anything. Buying online with options to share will just make it that much easier.
Facebook will succeed in launching a successful social commerce platform that will be adopted by thousands of businesses in one form or another. Millions of people will use it. At this point, the only thing that can stop Facebook is Facebook itself.
And that isn’t out of the question.