If there's one thing "Sex and the City" has taught us, it's that shopping is an inherently social activity. Which is why it makes perfect sense for retailers to sell stuff from online stores on Facebook as 1-800-Flowers is doing. The launch of the store led to a threefold increase in Facebook traffic for the retailer.
As Internet Retailer reports, customers can shop and complete purchases without ever leaving Facebook. Retailers may wonder whether this is a good thing. Haven't many of them expended major effort and expense creating e-commerce capabilities on their own Web sites? Maybe, but several companies I interviewed for a story about corporate blogs, all of whom had a presence on other social channels like Facebook and Twitter, emphasized the importance of engaging customers in conversations wherever they gathered online. That same philosophy applies just as well to selling stuff.
1-800-Flowers is using an application called a shoplet for its Facebook store. The same app, from a company called Alvenda, lets consumers shop e-commerce sites from online ads placed on third-party Web sites. When the retailer used shoplets in online banner ads for Mother's Day, it saw a 41 percent jump in sales per ad impression vs. banner ads without a shoplet. Says Wade Gerten, CEO of Alvenda:
We believe the majority of future online sales will happen off-site. Alvenda enables customers to shop with brands wherever they happen to be; whether they're on YouTube, a favorite blogger Web site, or now Facebook.
Keeping shoppers on Facebook offers retailers exposure they can't get on their own Web sites. 1-800-Flowers.com encourages folks to post and share comments about their shopping experiences with friends. It also makes special offers to encourage shoppers to register as fans, a move that adds 1-800-Flowers.com to their profile information, where friends can see it.
1-800-Flowers plans to add more social features, including birthday calendars and group gift-giving options, to its Facebook store. It also expects to eventually launch Facebook stores for its other retail floral, gifts and food brands, which include FannieMay.com, The PopcornFactory.com and PlowandHearth.com. It's also in discussions with other social networking sites about adding similar stores to their sites.
Will stores like these help offset slumping online sales? That's hard to say, but I guess they can't hurt.
For Facebook, this seems like a less heavy-handed effort to monetize the site than the controversial Beacon application that angered users in late 2007.