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April 18, 2012

F-commerce A Bust?

Facebook offers businesses the ability to have a functioning online retail storefront incorporated into their fan pages. The idea of making shopping a social experience sounded good and seemed like the perfect opportunity for businesses to convert their followers into paying customers. Companies of all shapes and sizes jumped on the bandwagon, from mom-and-pop operations to giants like GAP.

What time has shown us is that Facebook stores just aren’t generating revenue like it was projected. The money just isn’t there and for this reason many big players are simply pulling out. For many online retailers there is simply no incentive for their Facebook fans to make a purchase via their Facebook stores versus through their already-established online store.

Online shopping is already so convenient and many users were simply not interested in shopping on Facebook. The Facebook apps for ecommerce added delays to load-times, and in some cases required the user to go to the principle online store to complete the purchase. Many of these retailer’s just quietly took their Facebook stores offline and focused on maintaining their presence and brand in the space. Facebook is definitely not something to be dismissed because of these online store failures. Facebook is still often a major traffic driver to all sorts of websites at a fraction of the cost of using other means of advertising.

Time will determine if the so-called “F-commerce” is not a viable means of doing business online, but it certainly will need to have the kinks worked out. Early adopters are often the ones who learn by trial and error, and in this case the trials resulted in low conversion rates that did not justify the high costs of development. Perhaps the future will reveal a way to sell products through Facebook beyond the capability to create another version of an already existing shop linked to a fan page, but for now this does not seem to be a viable way to generate revenue using Facebook.

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