Graphite is a gray, crystalline form of carbon that occurs as a mineral in some rocks. It’s also the name of the new social commerce platform from 8thBridge.

8thBridge has come a long way since it first put f-commerce on the map with the development of 1-800-FLOWERS f-store back in 2009. According to the company, Graphite is the “first social commerce platform built from the ground up to be easily integrated with existing channels and marketing systems.”

The key phrase in that quote is “integrated with existing channels.”

In an interview with 8thBridge founder and CEO Wade Gerten, he said, “Graphite was designed to help marketers scale up sales and realize the full potential of social commerce by tapping into the distribution power of their existing channels.”

You may recall Gerten was quoted in a Bloomberg article as giving f-commerce a #fail grade. His reasoning was/is that too few people actually visit f-stores or social shopping apps on Facebook to make a meaningful difference on the bottom line. For multi-channel retailers, most customer interactions take place on existing channels, not on social networks. “Less than 1% of revenue comes from social networks such as Facebook,” he said.

That’s one of the problems that Graphite is designed to solve. Rather than putting the cash register next to the water cooler, and sell in social media, the new platform puts a water cooler next to the cash register, and brings a Facebook-powered social layer to e-commerce sites – in the form of customizable buttons that look, feel, and read in a way that’s consistent with the brand. (See screen shots below; note areas highlighted in red.) All of this is possible thanks to Facebook’s recent opening the doors of its Open Graph, of course.

Shoppers will now be able to express how they feel about offers to their Facebook friends using expressions such as: Want, Love, Own, Need Advice, Smile, LOL, Gimme, Neeed, I Can’t Wait to Wear, Ask a Friend, Wear, Have, and Try.

Another problem Graphite seeks to solve is to enable ‘safe’ user contributions on e-commerce sites; reviews and ratings are great but can be more dangerous than pre-defined buttons. Don’t expect many brand to add “hate” buttons on product pages.

Like Facebook’s social plugins, the Graphite social plugins allow brands to create custom Open Graph-powered social buttons that require little, if any, IT involvement to deploy. “Until today, this integration required too much internal technical support to accomplish it. Graphite solves this problem by making multi-channel social commerce as easy to implement as the Facebook Like button,” said Jon Kubo, Chief Product Officer at 8thBridge.  Just as installing a Facebook Like button simply requires pasting a few lines of code into a product page, the same is true for Graphite custom buttons.

8thBridge is launching Graphite with over a dozen brands who are implementing their new social commerce buttons: American Apparel, Inc., Avon/mark, Deb Shops, ELLE, Guitar Center, Inc., Hallmark Cards, Inc., Hayneedle.com, Musician’s Friend, Inc., Nasty Gal, Nine West, Oscar de la Renta, Plum District, TOMS, and Woodwind & Brasswind.

Why is all of this important?

For 8thBridge, social commerce is people-powered commerce; it’s the power of word of mouth in driving e-commerce traffic to your site.  The opportunity for Open Graph-powered social commerce is to make word of mouth controllable, measurable and scalable where you do business.  The Graphite plugins are designed to do just that by adding a controllable, measurable and scalable social layer to shopping. “Helping customers connect where they shop” is how we put it. In other words, it’s about making it easy for customers to express themselves and share how they feel about a product through social sharing, and express their true relationship with it – something a mono-dimensional “like” button alone could never do.

We agree it makes sense to think of social as a feature rather than a channel; and with their customisable Facebook connected buttons, 8thBridge are not only taming the Open Graph, but also taming word of mouth.  We like.

Is the future of social commerce more about integrating social features into sales channels as opposed to selling in social applications?  Let us know what you think!

Deb Shops

Nasty Girl

Nasty Girl

American Apparel