The ABCs Of F-Commerce

E-Commerce is the process of developing, marketing, selling, delivering, servicing and paying for products and services on the internet. Typically, this means building a website to interact and transact with your customers. Your marketing drives people to the site, and the experience those customers have on the site will largely determine the chances of them coming back.

But “F-Commerce”, or Facebook Commerce, is different from E-Commerce. It’s almost the reverse perspective of E-Commerce in that customers and prospects are already on Facebook—it’s the marketer who must put their business there.

Facebook isn’t a website, it’s an internet platform. It’s a daily destination for the vast majority of regular internet users, almost regardless of demographic categories. It’s a consumer behavior that is increasingly relevant in peoples’ lives (whether they will admit it or not, 750 million people can’t be wrong).

Some of the world’s biggest brands are selling their goods and services on Facebook, and industry watchers are predicting that in 5 years more sales will be transacted on Facebook than on Amazon. This isn’t hard to believe when you consider how many ways a marketer can do business on the world’s busiest internet portal:

F-Stores: Facebook’s development platforms allow brands to install widgets that convert their Facebook page to an online store, with the ability to tap directly into their e-commerce website and supply chain, process orders and payments, and manage their customer relationships.

Group Buying: Trade “likes” for dollars. Provide your Facebook followers special offers that get better with every person who clicks the “like” button associated with your offer. Or generate significant social network buzz by announcing that a special deal will “go live” when an X-amount of people click the “like” button. It’s not just word-of-mouth, it’s crowd-sourced purchasing power.

Exclusive Offers: With traditional e-commerce (not an oxymoron anymore) you can make special offers to a known group of people—the folks on your list. On Facebook your offers go directly to your page fans, and any action they take on your offer is announced and opened up to their social network. You don’t need to ask them to forward the offer to a friend because all activity on Facebook is viral to begin with.

Facebook Connect: This permission-based marketing approach is conceptually similar to the opt-in, but it goes beyond allowing the marketer to connect with the prospect 1-on-1; it’s a 1-on-1-on-infinity relationship because Facebook Connect asks the individual for permission to look at their entire network and gather information on everyone. Think there’s a huge hurdle to get over regarding privacy? Think again. Every Facebook app from Angry Birds to Scrabble to Twitter on Facebook, asks for permission to tap into the users network first using Facebook Connect. The global success of Angry Birds means millions of people decided that protecting the privacy of their network wasn’t so important after all. If the offer is great, people will do whatever it takes to get access to it.

Shop-And-Tell Plug-Ins: Built into your e-commerce site, these plug-ins will tell a shopper’s network about their recent purchase (with appropriate permission granted first), not only on Facebook, but on your e-commerce site itself. When someone visits your site, they can see if someone from their own Facebook network has purchased something from you. It’s a virtual testimonial, almost as if your friend were waiting at the store for you to say “hey, I just bought this here and you should too”.

Check-In Deals: Facebook took the Foursquare concept and potentially became the biggest check-in network on the internet and in mobile, with their already-huge user base. Incentivizing your customers and prospects to check-in at your brick and mortar location with a special offer is one of the most effective ways to drive foot traffic (remember real, actual stores?) to your business. If you operate a restaurant, offering a small discount off the bill in exchange for a Facebook check-in is not only a great way to advertise your existence and location, it’s also a tacit recommendation. And if the customer checks-in on Facebook and includes a favorable comment about their experience, then you’ve just received a review even Zagat’s can’t measure up to.

F-Commerce isn’t an alternative to E-Commerce, it’s an additional component of a fully integrated marketing campaign. Instead of driving customers to your business, F-Commerce drives your business to your customers. And in turn it can potentially drive your customers’ social networks back to your business.