Being able to booking a flight at 30,000ft on Facebook is something of a first. Delta airlines is the latest business to set up shop on Facebook – the f-commerce store allows people to search, book and pay for flights within Facebook – which happens to be most trafficked site on Delta’s inflight Wi-Fi service (screenshots below).
Powered by Alvenda software (purveyors of fine – and the first – f-commerce software), the ‘Delta Ticket Window’ f-commerce app can be accessed in-flight or from home on a tab on Delta’s Facebook page – and will also be accessible from within the Facebook newsfeeds of Delta followers – making the store eminently viral. Additionally, the f-commerce app is ‘portable’ – and can be embedded in ad units on third party sites on the open web – creating a convergence of social networking, e-commerce, and advertising (see presentation covering Alvenda’s StoreCast app – and their blog entry). Why just have your cake – when you can eat it too?
A number of things are worth noting about the Delta f-commerce store. Firstly, there is a worthy attempt to allay any user security fears – given the lack of SSL icons et al on Facebook – with a interstitial notice “Connection Secured: We are connecting securely to protect your privacy” message (which would benefit perhaps by displaying, if possible, the Verisign logo). But it’s a temporary patch, and not a solution; Facebook and f-commerce software need to get this sorted if they are serious about selling on Facebook; perceived security is a hygiene factor for online retail.
Secondly, the f-commerce app is slim – skinny enough to fit into the new slender Facebook application page size (520pixels) to be automatically applied to all apps by Zuckerburg & Co later this month (thanks to Ariel Wada of PureVerticals.com for the heads up). Perpetually moving walls and layouts are something of a ‘feature’ in Facebook.
Thirdly, it seems clear from the Delta Ticket Window app that an emerging opportunity f-commerce agencies will be GUI design and optimization. Currently, the app does not yet seem to have been slimmed down an optimized to work with the svelte Facebook app page size. Booking on the first generation of the app feels a little like struggling to get on a pair of jeans three sizes too small – it’s the web booking form squeezed into a tiny window (see here another early review). Facebook design restrictions notwithstanding, taking a leaf out of best of breed in Apple’s App store – we like the Kayak travel app – might be a smart move.
Fourth, whilst the app may be convenient for the ever-expanding number of people who choose to live online within the walled garden of Facebook, the app currently doesn’t appear to offer any advantage or incentive other than just being there. Surely Delta – especially given attempts to turn around reputation – could and should offer it’s Facebook followers and customers something special for booking on Facebook; VIP boarding, price pledge, extra miles…
If the app is to fly – pun intended – we think Delta will need to respect and reward customers choosing to connect and buy with them on Facebook - simply replicating what is already available to everyone on the open web does not communicate respect. And is arguably redundant.
Which brings us onto a last comment, an emerging opportunity for software developers; Alvenda’s portable ‘StoreCast’ app is smart – allowing the app to be embedded in ad-units, across the open web, as well as in Facebook. But with the rise of app marketing, is there not also an opportunity to develop multi-platform apps that work on the top three app platforms out there - iOS, Android and Facebook? We can already see the the eyes of clients light up with the proposition “marketing apps that monetize themselves – on Facebook, iOS and Android”.