Social commerce spotlight: Is F-commerce drowning, not waving?
F-commerce is a huge, weighty boulder on a hillside. Everybody with a vested interest in the boulder knows that if they could just get it to the top of the hill, a gentle nudge would send it flying to glorious freedom and unknown destinations. Alas, the struggle in getting it there seems to be ever-increasing, and despite rousing chants and positive-thinking, little discernible progress is being made.
As BusinessWeek reports, the bandwagon that companies were so keen to jump on last year has lost its allure, and a not-insignificant number of major brands have shuttered their Facebook stores: Gamestop Corp, Gap, JC Penney and Nordstrom have all shut up shop and decided to focus their efforts elsewhere. Delta Airlines, which launched an online ‘ticketing window’ through Facebook has also made its final boarding call. Upon the application’s launch, Delta’s ecommerce Vice President Bob Kupbens had said: “We already know Facebook is the most used website by in-flight WiFi users on more than 2,000 Delta flights every day, giving us the natural launching point for a new online Ticket Window.”
But herein lies the issue. Facebook could be the most-visited website in the world, but does that make it a ‘natural’ environment for retail? Or are F-commerce disciples trying to force a square-peg into a round hole? Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research who last year released a study entitled, ‘Will Facebook Ever Drive eCommerce?’ notes that: “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.”
A study from Sociable Labs indicates that 50 percent of shoppers are logged into Facebook at the same time as browsing and shopping on another ecommerce site. Why? Because online shopping is already easy, intuitive and natural; more so than scouring through Facebook for items and products, despite retailers’ best attempts at streamlining the process.
But Facebook is a hardy beast. Despite the failure of its Daily Deals programme, the company is now working on a function that will let merchants offer discount codes to users who ‘like’ their businesses: a ‘get offers’ link. Will this development change the course of F-commerce as we know it? Unlikely. But it does indicate that Facebook is determined to get this boulder up the hill yet.