The F-Commerce Explosion

October 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

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More and more business are exploiting the conveniences FaceBook provides in reaching potential customers, P&G, Volkswagen and recently the British fashion brand French Connection.

“Over the past year, an explosion of stores on Facebook Inc. and the site’s growing number of partnerships with Internet retailers has propelled social commerce to an inflection point, says Ethan Beard, who runs the Web giant’s developer network.”(WSJ) Companies are taking full advantage of social media tools and content–such as user profiles, customer ratings and reviews, user recommendations and wish lists–to make online shopping a more social experience.

“In August, U.S. Internet users spent 41.1 billion minutes on Facebook, surpassing Google Inc.’s 39.8 billion minutes for the first time, according to comScore Inc. (SCOR)”, Wall Street Journal says. Apparently not all the people have anything to search very often. But almost all of them have friends on FaceBook.

Will e-commerce and f-commerce collide and overlap?

Beard said the U.S. e-commerce market, worth $133 billion last year, will continue to expand, providing ample opportunity for all competitors.” Even though the pie is growing, I would argue that the impact of Facebook on established online retailers, such as Amazon and eBay is going to be quite significant and that f-commerce provides golden opportunities for small business.

Before Facebook dipped its toes into the e-commerce water, people would first think of conglomerates such as Amazon, Macy’s and Endless in terms of purchasing online. Those reputable websites provide trust and a sense of security. But websites as such are trying to be more and more inclusive, thus less exquisite and professional in the products or services they offer. It’s like shopping at K-mart. You know it has everything you need, but just not exactly what you want. Small specialized businesses do a better job at making their products custom-made and catering to different needs. They are nowhere to be found before FaceBook era, but are easily accessible through customer ratings, reviews and recommendations on the network.

Amazon may beat small businesses by a narrower profit margin. But let’s admit it, shopping online in 2010 is not about filling basic needs, it’s more about finding the right personal match. What Amazon offers is competitive. True. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they come in good quality or enough choices. I once wanted to buy a baby fern, and ended up buying one at Amazon from a florist that’s its partner. The fern looked brownishly ugly and almost seemed dying when arrived. Several days later, I came across this very nice florist near Cooper Square. Their fern looked so much better. I wondered if they have a website that I had known before the compulsory shopping, I’d much prefer to buy there. Unfortunately I didn’t.

Moreover, as inclusive as Amazon tries to be, there are always goods and services left out. Stuffs like hand-made jewelry, creative decoration designs and vintage clothes can be found on eBay. However, the stores don’t usually pop out in the vast sea of similar products. Using word-of-mouth, aka viral marketing, FaceBook users are going  to make sure that good stores pop out and stay in business. But having said that, the golden tickets are as difficult to get as the ones for Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

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