As far as we know, no automobile manufacturer has yet sold a car on Facebook.  In the meantime, BMW (UK) is piloting f-commerce with a new popup fan-store selling exclusive limited-edition brand merchandise for BMW customer fans, a personalised ‘Key2Joy’ car key cover for their BMW.

We love this because it’s simple and smart – simple because BMW are selling just one thing, whilst outsourcing all the e-commerce heavy lifting to a trusted e-commerce partner – Amazon (checkout is completed on Amazon).

And smart because selling exclusive limited-edition brand merchandise on Facebook is a cost-effective solution for BMW to test the potential of f-commerce in driving customer retention (by boosting brand loyalty) and customer acquisition (via the referral effect of brand advocacy).  BMW also has fan-store targeting right – existing customers rather than wannabe owners; a key case is useless to a non-owner – whose loyalty and advocacy to the brand will be considerably less valuable to that of an owner (past purchase is the best predictor of future purchase, and advocacy based on personal experience – not hopes – is more persuasive).

If there’s a criticism, it’s that the shopper experience in the BMW popup fan-store is less than wonderful – the look and feel does not reflect either the branding of BMW or Facebook, and typographically it’s a mess.  Getting thrown out to a separate Amazon store to checkout is also less than ideal.  Take a look at Gilt’s fan-commerce store to see how f-commerce should be done.

Now of course, if this BMW pilot is to establish the business case for popup fan-commerce on Facebook, BMW will need a way  of measuring any impact on loyalty and advocacy.  One simple solution would be for BMW to ship the key along with 2 special Key2Joy VIP test-drive invites for the latest model – one for the customer and one for a friend.  Redemption rates would give an indication of the impact of the store.  Another solution would be to add two simple pre-purchase questions prior to checkout for 50% of customers – propensity to repurchase, and propensity to recommend – and then ask the same questions in a mail-in survey for the other 50% when they receive the key.  If Facebook commerce works – the latter will be higher than the former.

Whether or not BMW plan to measure the performance of their fan-store in these or other ways, we don’t know – but running a cost-effective pilot popup store selling exclusive branded merchandise is a first step in the right direction. One to emulate?