A new way to shop: F-commerce
As Facebook has grown over the last six years, it has become a significant part of over 500 million people’s lives. It has gone from social network to what Zuckerberg calls a “social utility” – Facebook is more than a community, it is a hub of online activity (kind of reminds you a bit of AOL in the 90′s). In a 2007 interview with TIME, he stated: “What we’re trying to do is just make it really efficient for people to communicate, get information and share information. We always try to emphasize the utility component.”
Facebook has gone from the trading of virtual goods (a la Farmville, Mafia Wars and Cafe World) to a marketplace and connection to the purchase of real, tangible goods. As previously written, Starbucks has now made it possible to check the balance on a registered gift card, and even give a gift over Facebook (in the form of money on a gift card) to your friends. Facebook commerce (F-commerce), which has been best defined by Brian Solis, includes both the internal use of Custom Tabs within a Facebook fan page, utilizing FBML (Facebook Markup Language) and on external sites through the use of Open Graph. Pampers and sellers on Etsy have already taken advantage of the Custom Tab “store” options, as has Starbucks.
In early November of this year, Amazon made a move similar to Starbucks. Now, when purchasing a gift card through Amazon.com, a shopper has 4 gifting options: a mailed physical card, sending an e-mail, printing out at home, and finally, gifting via Facebook. Amazon uses Facebook’s Open Graph to broadcast this present to not just the recipient, but his or her friends.
Amazon also does a great job of educating the customer about the process and the use of the user’s Facebook information.
Once signed into Facebook, a gift card can be designed. Customers can then type in a friend’s name in the “Facebook friend” box, which will auto populate, similar to Facebook’s search function. Additionally, a user can select the “See a list of my friends” link, which opens up a separate dialogue box. The default view shows your friends, sorted by their upcoming birthdays. This makes it pretty convenient to remember to buy a gift for a friend. The “sort by name” option lists your friends in alphabetical order (by first name). Gift cards can also be pre-ordered, up to a year in advance, making it easier to do bulk shopping.
This new form of commerce makes it easier to directly track the amount of revenue associated with an interaction. While not exactly the “value of a fan,” the exchange of real goods via Facebook is becoming more prevalent, proving the importance of the social network (and its wealth of personalized information) to companies, brands and marketers.