Timeline and a Lesson in Consumer Engagement

Despite the recent bad press surrounding f-Commerce together with the ‘sudden’ and ‘forced’ implementation of Facebook’s timeline for pages, ShopIgniter’s offering has now become even more compelling.  Not only has timeline not been an obstacle for ShopIgniter, but has actually enhanced the ShopIgniter offering.

By fully understanding every element of the new timeline, ShopIgniter’s f-Commerce solution caters for each individual feature of the new timeline.  From the cover photo to engaging posts, ShopIgniter’s customized shopping application utilizes every benefit of the new timeline page design.

According to a CMO council study, 79% of fans want to learn about the products offered by brands they’ve liked.  In another study by Simply Measured, there has been a 46% increase in engagement per post since the implementation of timeline.  Content engagement, such as compelling pictures and videos is receiving a 65% engagement increase in comparison to the old design.

For brands looking to sell on Facebook, these are substantial statistics.  Now, product and brand awareness is simpler, more effective and has a higher response rate.  The ability to highlight and draw attention to specific promotions and products can be done using the scalable fan page images and post pinning to keep relevant and important news directly in the vision of the consumer.

The use of stunning imagery, collages and eye-catching promotional banners can enhance the brand and the user experience alike.  By steering the consumer and guiding them through their purchase via imagery, brands will see an increase in sales conversion.

Speaking to Commerce On Facebook, ShopIgniter CMO Kevin Tate stated “We are PCI level 1 compliant.  Security is a big deal for consumers and we’ve made the Facebook shopping experience as safe, if not safer, than dot com shopping sites.”

Unlike competitor f-Commerce providers who have stayed with the ‘catalog on a tab’ approach to consumer engagement, ShopIgniter are bringing the point of purchase to the consumer at the very first moment a consumer engages with an offer, product or promotion.  Timeline tells a story in real time.  Therefore it makes sense for brands to offer time based promotions.  Whether it’s a teaser in advance of a special promotion or a limited offer discount, timeline is now the ideal place for f-Commerce.

The fit between ShopIgniter’s offering and Facebook’s Timeline is a perfect match.  Mobile engagement is on the ShopIgniter 2012 roadmap.  Realizing that the majority of people are using mobile devices, ShopIgniter are ensuring that their brands receive the most up to the minute methods to engage with consumers.   At this point in time, ShopIgniter are definitely pulling away from the rest of the pack to offer a unique and effective product to fulfill the social needs of every brand.

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Has f-Commerce Ended Before It Has Even Begun?

Sucharita Mulpuru has made no secret of the fact that she doesn’t believe in f-Commerce.  Mulpuru, a senior analyst at Forrester Research has even been quoted as saying “In the history of retail, there has probably been nothing that has been so widely anticipated yet underwhelming as the ‘era of social commerce,’”.

To back up her theory, one just needs to look at the recent news whereby big brands such as Gamestop, J C Penney and Nordstrom have made the decision to close their Facebook stores.  In a recent telephone interview with Bloomberg she was once again quoted with negativity toward f-Commerce, “There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop, but it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”

However, with that said, I don’t believe that f-Commerce or the future of selling products within a social environment should be dismissed so easily.  Instead, everyone involved with f-Commerce needs to take a step back, admit temporary defeat, understand the failings to date and either rebuild or improve the social shopping experience.

Even using Mulpuru’s own analogy of selling people ‘stuff’ while they hang out in a bar can be used positively.  For example, if someone if hanging out in a bar find out why they’re there, who they want to be with and what they would spend money during their visit.  Again using the ‘bar’ analogy, customers would be interested in being presented with relevant offers according the situation.  People are distracted into doing things spontaneously.  Just look at the success of all of the ‘off Broadway’ comedy shows.  Everyday hundreds of people on the streets around Times Square are asked “Do you like comedy?”  Has a comedy club ever decided to stop using this marketing tactic due to other comedy clubs not having success?  The answer is no.  This is the same reason why retailers looking to promote and sell within Facebook should not give up just because big name brands have not had success.

Admittedly things should change.  Storefronts in Facebook, sitting on Fan pages have become too readily available at too little cost.  Thereby alluring retailers into thinking that selling on Facebook is easy.  It’s not, nothing in life is.  But it doesn’t mean it’s time to give up.

Facebook itself has done very little to assist retailers get traction.  There have been no ‘best practice’ case studies on Social Commerce produced by Facebook.  Perhaps if Facebook didn’t take 30% on the sale of each Facebook credit, the credits may have a real monetary value that could be used to make purchases within Facebook stores.  After all, buying tangible goods is far more important and valuable than being used to buy virtual game tokens or imaginary swords.

Consumers still do not understand the security aspects of purchase transactions within Facebook.  This needs to be more widely spoken about.  It’s incredible that Facebook manages to get mentioned in the press at every given opportunity but does not use this sway to educate consumers.  Zuckerberg’s quote of how commerce on Facebook will blow up is almost two years old and is still being used by f-Commerce startups in their marketing material.

In short, f-Commerce has not been done correctly.  The education and psychology of social consumers is still not understood well enough.  Development companies offering Facebook storefronts to the masses,  with no aid to assist their storefront customers, has also been detrimental to the industry.  If things do not change, if Facebook does not pay heed, f-Commerce may come to an end.  But it will not be the end of social commerce.  Social commerce began when the first person shared with a friend details of a deal or an offer via the web.  Facebook’s existence did not create f-Commerce.  It just created additional opportunities which, as yet, have not been fully optimized.

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The Key to Successfully Selling on Facebook

Imagine you’re a brand.  You want to have direct contact with the people who buy your products.  You want to know what they want.  How much they are prepared to pay for your products.  And who is recommending your products.  You want to identify your brand advocates and ambassadors and reward them accordingly.  You also want to be up-to-date with buying trends and therefore offer group deals and even customer initiated group deals.  All of this is now possible, but only in one place.

As a brand, selling directly and maintaining a direct channel of communication with your customers may seem a little alien.  It may also conflict with your distributors.  But what if you can give each and every distributor their own online channel of social communication and the ability to sell your products directly from this channel?  As a brand working with distributors you need to be able to set revenue percentages for sales and give your distributors an interface to view sales and commissions.

This is exactly what Panasonic Israel has done using the f-Commerce platform developed and supplied by SortalPanasonic Israel has over 25,500 fans on Facebook.  Therefore, from a common sense point of view, it’s just logical to be able to interact, learn a little and reward the consumers following the Panasonic brand in the Israeli market.  On top of that, Panasonic distributors also have exactly the same tools to utilize and leverage the power of selling on Facebook.  This is already being used by Future Audio Video Ltd, a smaller distributor who is now able to sell Panasonic products directly within Facebook.

Up until now, Sortal have been quietly, but confidently developing their f-Commerce solution.  After signing up a number of high profile clients within the Israeli market in 2011, Sortal are set to offer and promote their fully tuned solution to the rest of the world in 2012.

Sortal’s model is geared towards enterprise clients.  Each customer receives their own custom made, separately hosted application.  Built using the solid foundation of e-Commerce platform Magento, Sortal’s model is simple and focused.  They are looking at working with clients who have already budgeted for selling in Facebook and understand that uploading a few products to a fan page in the hope that items will sell themselves is not the way that commerce on Facebook will work.  Sortal clients must be serious about social media.

Sortal offer features that can already be found in the marketplace such as:

  • Group Offers
  • Offline Coupons
  • Purchasing Within Facebook

They also offer features that have yet to be seen or completely utilized within the social shopping stratosphere:

  • Full featured social loyalty program, including a points system for identifying brand ambassadors
  • Unlimited stores for distributors / affiliates based on Brand’s partners and resellers
  • Gifting – where the recipient is prompted to complete address details
  • Customer initiated group offers
  • Bargaining – which allows customers to name their own price for items

Additionally, being built around the Magento e-Commerce platform, all Magento functionality can be found within the Sortal Facebook store.  These features include:

  • Full account dashboard for customers and merchants
  • Ability to capture emails and send newsletters
  • Run in-store polls
  • Customer wish lists

If f-Commerce has been slow in 2011, part of the problem has been too many providers offering instant solutions to sell within Facebook, but not defining the methods.  The true success of f-Commerce depends on the actual selling within Facebook.  Selling in Facebook is not rocket science, but it is different to conventional online retailing.  Customers do not currently go to Facebook to make purchases.  However, given access to exclusive rewards and the chance to directly communicate with their favorite brands and retailers, will see the trust and purchase levels increase.  Cleverly implemented loyalty programs will keep customers returning and increase the conversion rates on sales.  Brands and retailers, whether big or small, who understand the importance of the investment in terms of both time and money in social media, will be among the first to experience success with social shopping on Facebook.  In short, brands who are able to listen to their customers and respond accordingly, will succeed.

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Milyoni and TV Free Media to Bring WSOBP to Facebook

F-Commerce developer Milyoni (pronounced Million Eye) together with TV Free Media, a Vegas based production company, are bringing the World Series of Beer Pong to Facebook and will be streaming the tournament live.

The tournament which is now in its 7th year will take place from Jan 1st to Jan 5th 2012 in Las Vegas.  The event boasts a grand prize of $50,000.  After gaining a cult following among college kids, Milyoni founder and CEO John Corpus thought that Facebook would be the ideal venue for the streaming tournament.  “Our goal is to bring a truly social experience to unique events like this, allowing fans to get in on the action, even if they are watching from miles away.”

TV Free Media who will be using Milyoni’s Social Live technology are offering pay per view of the event at the cost of $4.99 or 50 Facebook credits if purchased in advance or $6.99 and 70 Facebook credits if purchased once the event begins.

By utilizing the social functionality of Facebook all three entities, Milyoni, TV Free Media and BPONG are looking to gain a high amount of exposure and publicity.  For more details about the World Series of Beer Pong VII, please visit the site.

A trailer for the forthcoming event can be seen below:

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80 Percent of Internet Users Purchased from a Facebook Store

As an advocate of Social Shopping and f-Commerce, it is always a little disturbing to read misquoted articles that contain statistics which mean absolutely nothing.  It is even more disturbing when the headlines of such articles are actually detrimental to the f-Commerce industry.

The headline in question “More than half of shoppers don’t trust Facebook”, published recently on Internet Retailer.  Now that’s a pretty big claim.  At a first glance it would be easy to assume that thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people were asked about their concerns regarding the ‘shopping on Facebook’ phenomena.  After all, in full throws of the holiday season, there would be a lot more people around to answer such a question.

However, reading further into the article which was published on December 27th, it becomes apparent that the survey concluding that “More than half of shoppers don’t trust Facebook” was actually conducted almost five months ago, back in August.  The number of shoppers who had responded to the survey was a staggering 722.  Yes, that’s right, 722.  722 people of which 382 people stated a ‘distrust in Facebook shopping’ in August 2011 provoked the headline in December 2011 “More than half of shoppers don’t trust Facebook”.

The original survey which was conducted by ThreatMetrix, an online fraud prevention company gives no details of demographic details or geographic location of the 722 participants.  After reading this I asked five friends if they had ever bought from a Facebook store.  I found out that four of my friends had indeed bought from a store on Facebook.  I quickly concluded, based on the above research principals that 80% of polled Internet Users have purchased from a Facebook store.

On a final note, the article published on Internet Retailer quoted a Mr Alisdair Faulkner, Chief Products Officer at ThreatMetrix.  Mr Faulkner stated “With new account registration, you have [criminals] who will sign up with social networking sites like Facebook in order to gain access to current user information”.  On behalf of CommerceOnFacebook.Com I would like to offer a reward to anyone who actually understands this comment and can explain the relevance of such an absurd quote.  Apart from being a totally random comment, what is the connection between this comment and Facebook stores?  Admittedly anyone can setup a false profile on Facebook and add people as friends.  Depending on security settings would determine which personal information can be viewed by connections and non-connections.  But surely this has absolutely nothing to do with f-Commerce?

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Innovative and Social – f-Commerce by Social Innovations

In the recent words of Facebook’s director of commerce partnerships, “personalization drives engagement” it’s certainly true for the thinking behind Social Innovations. Social Innovations is the latest addition to a long line of f-Commerce platforms. But Social Innovations has dared to go where other applications have faltered.

Social Innovations delves into the interests and likes of a fan which in turn, is able to formulate specific products to display to potential customers and increase the chances of a sale. Within the Facebook environment, where display space is limited, it makes good sense to be able to show a ‘smart display’ of merchandise.

Speaking to Commerce On Facebook, Paul Yates CEO of Online Ventures and newly appointed CEO of Social Innovations stated “This is a true f-Commerce application which is fully customizable to give the brands’ look and feel while maintaining all of the functionality of Facebook’s social aspects.”

Social Innovations Interactive Plugin (SiiP) does not force shoppers into sharing personal details but does recommend that users do so in order to experience the full value of personal engagement of the social shopping experience.

As the founder of Just Search and former CEO of Getupdated, Paul Yates is looking to utilize his extensive contact database to help bring in blue chip clients to get Social Innovations off the ground. Offering an enterprise solution which is customized on a per brand basis, SiiP is able to integrate each custom application seamlessly into the retailer’s payment processors thereby giving customers the full shopping experience inside Facebook.

From a development perspective, Social Innovations are also investigating the possibility of rewarding social influencers. This would complement the existing functionality which allows customers to share details of their purchases to their Facebook wall and newsfeed. This function would certainly increase the viral behavior and extend the social reach of products. The initial pull of fans stands within the ability to offer personalized discount codes and Facebook exclusive content. However, being an enterprise solution will attract brands that, in theory, have a better idea and a bigger budget in order to achieve the initial push needed to launch a successful Facebook store.

In our opinion, Social Innovations is definitely an f-Commerce contender to watch out for in 2012.

The screen shots below are from retro t-shirt site, Truffle Shuffle’s Facebook store, powered by Social Innovations.

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A Big Deal for Big Commerce

Only yesterday Techcrunch reported that e-Commerce provider Big Commerce has just received $15 million in new investment funding from General Catalyst Partners.  Apart from the fact that this is a considerable chunk of change, it changes the playing field of online commerce.

Big Commerce provides just about everything to enable selling on the Internet.  From setting up a web store, managing inventory and integrated payment processing to a selection of marketing tools including email campaign management.  A little over a year ago, Big Commerce added Social Storefronts to its offering and thus broke into the world of f-Commerce.

With the $15 million injection the company is stating that the money will be used to increase headcount in Sydney and Austin, Texas being allocated for sales and marketing initiatives.

The investment shows a number of noticeable indicators, and here’s my analysis:

  1. Serious money is now being put into social commerce.
  2. Despite the fact that Big Commerce is a Facebook Storefront provider its core business was, and still is, a complete e-Commerce provider.
  3. It wasn’t until Big Commerce was profitable that it received this amount of cash signifying a lower risk for General Catalyst Partners.  Does this really mean that Venture Capital companies are gambling smarter now?
  4. The timing is just right.  Social commerce still hasn’t proven itself as a formidable force and there are still no definitive facts to point to the guesstimate of the $30 billion revenue by 2015, but there is certainly a lot of buzz and noise right now.  This is making large retailers take decisions about the future of their social presence now rather than later, meaning that Big Commerce has just strategically placed itself as the potential number one platform for Facebook stores.

However, as with everything, there is always a negative.  The negative in this case is that customers are limited to choice.  Only Big Commerce platform customers can open Facebook stores with Big Commerce.  So the battle now is against the all-in-one providers such as Big Commerce and the f-Commerce providers who offer complete integration and seamless transitions for customers from their current provider or alternatively just provide a great stand alone social commerce solution.

My prediction at this time is that the market is still so young and so vast that only a year from now we will begin to see the major players of social commerce truly emerge.

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Payvment – Facebook Store

The answers were provided by a support representative at Payvment.

  1. What is the format that merchants can upload their product catalogs to their Facebook store?

    Merchants can upload products to their store manually, using the CSV importer, or using our API.

  2. Can this be an automated upload?

    If you use the API, the upload will be automated. If you manually upload products or use our CSV importer the upload will not be automated.

  3. Do you give merchants the ability to run group offers from their Facebook store?

    Merchants have the ability to enable a storewide discount only for Fans who “Like” their page.

  4. Can stores be setup to enable shoppers to checkout within Facebook?

    All transactions occur within Facebook.

  5. Can stores be setup to enable shoppers to checkout and redirect to the merchants’ webstore?

    Currently, this is not available. All transactions occur within Facebook.

  6. Is it possible to search the entire product catalog within Facebook?

    Yes, when searching in the search bar, results are first returned from the merchant’s store if no results match then results will appear from across Facebook. When you launch a store, you join Payvment’s huge network of 60,000+ stores and get into our Facebook-wide shopping cart system.

  7. What is your pricing model?

    Payvment is completely free, we will not charge you any fees or take a cut of your sales to use our Facebook solution. Our goal is to develop the best social network shopping technology and with your feedback we can continue to improve. Launch a Facebook store now and it will remain free even after our public beta ends.

  8. Do you enable 3rd party integrations?  For example Magento / e-Bay etc?

    Currently, this is not available.

  9. What is the level of social interaction on the product catalog? For example share/like/rate/comment etc.

    For example share/like/rate/comment etc. We offer in depth social integration. Users can share, email, tweet, like, and comment on products. Merchants can implement their Twitter feed and Facebook wall to their store. Customers have the ability to rate the buyers after a purchase is made.

  10. Do you offer any tools for merchants to promote their Facebook storefronts?

    Merchants can choose to have their products listed in the Shopping Mall on Facebook.


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ShopVisible – Facebook Store

The answers were provided by Lauren Smith, Marketing Coordinator, Shop Visible.

  1. What is the format that merchants can upload their product catalogs to their Facebook store?We allow our clients to upload their products through our ShopVisible platform. The platform is a web based portal that allows the retailer to manage their entire business, from shipping to order management to marketing in a single place. Additionally, we can tie in to other content providers to have the content autoload the products.
  2. Can this be an automated upload?See answer to 1.
  3. Do you give merchants the ability to run group offers from their Facebook store?Absolutely. Our platform allows some of the best features & functions of viral marketing, including group offers.
  4. Can stores be setup to enable shoppers to checkout within Facebook?We believe that true social commerce is a complete shopping experience – including checkout – within Facebook. Our shopping experience is an in-frame store, rather than an application that requires users to allow permission for the app to access their data.
  5. Can stores be setup to enable shoppers to checkout and redirect to the merchants’ webstore?It can, though we believe completing the transaction within Facebook provides the most successful conversion rate and prevents cart abandonment.
  6. Is it possible to search the entire product catalog within Facebook?Yes, our retailer Incipio Technologies has their entire product catalog in their Facebook store. To make browsing easier, we’ve set up custom links on the left navigation underneath their main profile/page photo, as well as easy to navigate links within the store. There’s also a search bar for users to find a specific product, and compare functionality if they’re doing product research.
  7. What is your pricing model?Our pricing model is completely custom, dependent upon several factors and integrations required.
  8. Do you enable 3rd party integrations?  For example Magento/ e-Bay etc?We already integrate with several third party products, which can be found on our website. Those same integrations are available to social commerce customers. We also have the ability to tie in to any other third party not listed, and pricing will be based upon that.
  9. What is the level of social interaction on the product catalog? For example share/like/rate/comment etc.All of the above. We believe that social interaction is the key goal of having a Facebook store. We allow features like share with friends, like the product, compare for research, ratings & reviews.
  10. Do you offer any tools for merchants to promote their Facebook storefronts?We offer the ability to rapidly create promotions relevant to holidays, events, and such within our platform and notify fans, as well as a full marketing suite of tools including CRM and email marketing.


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Shopping Thing Brings eBay and Amazon to Facebook

New social shopping platform Shopping Thing is now enabling store holders of both Amazon and eBay to open a Facebook store using their existing store products.  Using the Shopping Thing application for Facebook, Amazon and eBay store holders, after following a simple process, can see their products listed directly on their Facebook fan pages.

ShoppingThing for Consumers comprises of the following:

  • Enabling consumers to find and shop from merchants in their area.
  • Explore over 75,000 merchants locally.
  • Support independent artisans and local merchants.

As f-Commerce begins to grow, more services are aiming at existing online stores in a bid to win their market share at this early stage.  Giving online stores the ability to transition into Facebook certainly increases the chances of winning the business.  Seamless transitions are always the preferred method, but right now there is no seamless technology that also incorporates the back end store management such as order processing and fulfillment.  These could be the additional factors that swing the balance of power and sway some of the bigger online stores to enter the social marketplace.


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