Practical Ecommerce

Social Media: Selling on Facebook

Facebook is set to allow developers to create shopping apps directly on merchants’ fan pages. This means that fan pages, which were once mainly marketing channels, can now be used as a point of sale, if merchants are willing to pay a developer to implement the apps.

The first step in the transition from viewing social media as a networking site was the trading of virtual goods via Facebook Credits, taxed by the company at 30 percent. Facebook and app developers created items available for purchase and consumption within the site itself, fueling such popular (but time-wasting) apps as Farmville.

Screen capture of 1-800 shop on Facebook.

Screen capture of 1-800 shop on Facebook.

The further transition to a social media marketplace that deals in physical goods bodes well for merchants looking to market and sell to consumers on the same channel, typically using fan pages.

Several ecommerce development firms have already begun releasing apps for social media merchants. Minneapolis-based Alvenda has created Facebook shopping apps for’s and cosmetic company mark.’s fan pages. These apps, which the company terms “shoplets,” are Flash-based storefronts that operate on Facebook fan pages under the “shop” tab.

Screen capture of mark. shop on Facebook.

Screen capture of mark. shop on Facebook.

One San Francisco-based ecommerce company, Fluid, also offers different versions of offline shopping capabilities for its clients. For clothing company Nine West, it created a well-designed Flash app that requests users fandom before they begin shopping.

For backpack manufacturer JanSport, another client, Fluid released a shopping app that requires installation on a user’s Facebook interface, a slightly lengthier process.

These Flash apps can turn the uniform look of a fan page into a much more engaging shopping experience and keep all the navigation on one page. Cutting down the number of clicks it takes to make a transaction leads to lower cart abandonment. Adding this capability to the marketing potential of social media, and it becomes much easier for merchants to reach their customers, build friend-based networks with them for sharing pictures, video and announcements, and sell products all in one place.

Screen capture of Nine West shop on Facebook.

Screen capture of Nine West shop on Facebook.

Unfortunately, Flash-based apps do have their downsides. These features cannot be used on the iPhone or iPad, rendering them obsolete for a large section of the mobile viewership. Users who have not downloaded a recent version of Flash also cannot see the store. Sometimes loading time or a failure to load all parts of the navigation can also make this experience frustrating for users.

Of course, merchants who sell products that would appeal more to social media’s younger demographic will probably have more success using this type of off-site solution. Businesses selling products related to fashion, music, sports or the outdoors could potentially convert their Facebook fan base into paying customers.

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons

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  1. Arturas Kvederis April 16, 2010 Reply

    This will be huge, especially among the companies who have already highly invested in their social media marketing activities. I believe we will see a boost in demand for "facebook marketing" campaigns among the online merchants.

  2. George Eberstadt April 16, 2010 Reply

    Given the amount of time people spend on Facebook, it’s inevitable that merchants will want an ecommerce presence there. But that will just create one more place where stores have to fight for traffic, they same way they do on their www store site.

    One key to get traffic within Facebook is going to be presence within the feed stream — which will call for different strategies than those that work on the www store. While merchants are likely to think of Facebook as another place to build a direct customer relationship, Facebook is primarily about members sharing with each other. That means that creating a sustainable way to get shared into the feed steam BY MEMBERS must be an element of your customer acquisition strategy.

  3. Greg April 16, 2010 Reply

    Having your products on Facebook gets you closer to the audience. Payvment’s free storefront app for Facebook takes discovery a step further by enabling your store and products to be found and purchased via search from the thousands of other merchants using the platform.

  4. Lisa Suttora April 16, 2010 Reply

    Excellent article! This is the future of ecommerce. In the next decade, etailers will need to go out and "live where their buyers live". Become part of the communities that their markets participate in.

    While search will never go away, it’s no longer enough for an online retailer to set up a website and then wait for a customer to find them or search for them.

    You must find out where your customers hang out and then go out to them and become part of their community with relevant content and shoplets.

    Have a presence in those communities. The awareness and relationships that are built through that presence will then evolve naturally into sales.

  5. Louis Camassa April 19, 2010 Reply

    What are the conversion rates for FaceBook stores/apps? While these on-site stores may be useful for some sites, it becomes difficult to make it an enjoyable shopping experience. Think technology limitations and minimal screen space which truncates the amount of text, images and videos you can show in the shop.

    Having to rely on Flash technology for the shopping experience is also a huge limitation.

    Is providing a product feed that sends the customer back to your site from FaceBook more effective?

  6. scottdennison April 20, 2010 Reply

    What do you make of the idea that fan pages no longer have "fans" but now have people who "like them"? I have no idea what they are thinking by this move… anyone here have an opinion on this?

  7. Alex Mulin April 26, 2010 Reply

    Scott, I didn’t notice any change with FB fan pages. Perhaps I missed something.

    With regards to selling on FB – there are more and more new apps coming. Moreover, it doesn’t have to be a pure FB app. An e-commerce solution can have a plugin created for FB. E.g.