Well, here it is, the downloadable f-commerce FAQ – all you wanted to know about using Facebook as a platform for facilitating and executing sales transactions.

We’ve distilled our analysis of f-commerce down to 15 key questions and answers, including 50 industry examples, proof-points, tips, and links. We hope you’ll find it useful. Let us know what you think!

Read the f-commerce FAQ here or you can download it as a PDF (click image or here).

The F-Commerce FAQ

1. What is f-commerce?

Simple Definition: Facebook Commerce is selling with Facebook

Full Definition: F-Commerce, derived from e-commerce, is the use of Facebook as a platform for facilitating and executing sales transactions – either on Facebook itself or externally via the Facebook Open Graph.  F-commerce is a form of social commerce, the use use of social media, online media that supports social interaction and user contributions, to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services

Examples of f-commerce include

  • 1-800-Flowers f-store: The first ever store in Facebook that supported transactions within the network itself (The first ever transaction took place at 11:50 am EST on July 8, 2009 for bouquet of flowers ‘A Slice of Life’ bouquet)
  • Levi’s Friends Store: One of the first e-commerce sites to use Facebook social plugins to offer instant personalisation. Friends logging into the site using their Facebook credentials can view items that are popular with their friends and other Facebook users, as well as post directly to their Facebook wall
  • Diesel’s DieselCam: An early example of an in-store f-commerce, the DieselCam, was a fitting-room mirror connected to Facebook that allowed Diesel store shoppers in Spain to shop with their social graph by sharing clothing tryons with friends and soliciting feedback

2. What is the size of the f-commerce market?

The value of transactions completed within Facebook is predicted to supersede those on Amazon over the next five years ($34 billion)

3. What’s the purpose of f-commerce?

F-commerce helps businesses facilitate and execute sales transactions using Facebook.  F-Commerce can be used to drive customer acquisition (trial), customer loyalty (re-purchase) and customer advocacy (word of mouth), and improve customer experience

From a consumer perspective, f-commerce allows shoppers to shop with their social graph and make smarter shopping decisions using their social intelligence (learning from others)

4. Who is doing f-commerce?

Some businesses using f-commerce include…

5. What is industry saying about f-commerce?

“Social media may not have driven sales in an obvious way so far, but the next logical step will be transactional social media. When you can buy products through Facebook, rather than just liking them, we’ll start to see a shift in the role of social media in the business” Manish Mehta, head of social media, Dell

“It’s a matter of time—within the next five or so years—before more business will be done on Facebook than Amazon” Sumeet Jain, Principal, CMEA Capital

“In three to five years, 10 percent to 15 percent of total consumer spending in developed countries may go through sites such as Facebook” Mike Fauscette, Analyst, IDC Consulting

“Anyone who still believes in 2010 that Facebook isn’t going directly drive a massive commerce opportunity for merchants and retailers alike on that platform will find themselves this time next year in 2011 wishing for their own Christmas miracle” Karen Webster, President, pymnts.com

6. What are the arguments in favour of f-commerce?

  • Facebook is already a viable sales platform; the top 3 brands on Facebook all directly sell on Facebook (Coca-Cola(24m), Starbucks (20m) and Disney (19m))
  • Facebook drives e-commerce traffic; ticketing site Eventbrite found that integrating with Facebook on its website, generated additional sales – each Facebook share generated $2.53 in additional sales)
  • Facebook is where your customers are; 1 in 11 humans are on Facebook, half log on every day
  • F-Commerce is what your customers want; when asked, customers say the principal reasons for connecting with businesses on social sites are to buy and for deals.
  • F-Commerce customers are good customers; Facebook users spend up to 1.5x more online, and Facebook customers spend more than double that of non-Facebook customers
  • F-Commerce increases conversion; 51% increase in likelihood a customer will purchase, after clicking the ‘like’ button
  • F-Commerce drives customer loyalty; 28% increase in likelihood that customers who ‘like’ a brand will repurchase
  • F-Commerce drives customer advocacy; 41% increase in likelihood a customer that a customer will recommend, if they have liked the brand
  • Facebook customers are good customers: Facebook users spend 1.5x more online that other Internet users

7. What are the arguments against f-commerce?

  • “The likelihood that Facebook will ever [become] a key sales-driving tool for retailers and creating a reliable revenue stream for Facebook, is unfortunately far-fetched”. Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester
  • The market opportunity for selling on Facebook is tiny – even the most enthusiastic projections forecast a market size only 1/3 of that of mobile commerce, representing a maximum of 4% of digital commerce
  • Online shoppers don’t want to buy on Facebook – a Booz & Allen report on social commerce found that 73% of online shoppers would not purchase goods on Facebook or through other social networking sites
  • Facebook itself is an immature and risky platform – do you really want to be investing in next year’s MySpace?
  • Where’s the money? No major brand, retailer or independent study has yet provided compelling evidence that selling with/on Facebook unequivocally drives ROI or CLV (customer lifetime value)
  • Businesses find social networks to be a particularly ineffective new customer acquisition tool; only 7% of retailers say Facebook is an effective customer acquisition source.
  • F-commerce will not take off because Facebook has a “reputation for apathy around privacy issues.” (Forrester)
  • The Open Graph protocol is useless for all but the very large companies such as Amazon – just look at your friends store on Levi’s - pretty empty isn’t it?
  • When only 1% of site visitors come from a social media URL, it’s difficult to take Facebook seriously as an e-commerce traffic generator
  • Email marketing campaigns can boast an 11% click-through rate and a 4% conversion rate, Forrester’s findings show that Facebook can only generate a 1% click-through rate, with only 2% of those people converting to actual customers
  • According to a Goldman Sachs survey, Facebook has little effect on online shopping activity
  • Facebook is better adapted to marketing than selling; it’s useful for promoting marketing messages and communicating brand personality, but not processing transactions, which are best completed on the company website
  • Enabling e-commerce on Facebook, when you already have an e-commerce solution on the open web creates redundancy – and is therefore pointless

8. Where’s the evidence that f-commerce can work?

  • Ticketmaster: Every time a user posts on their news feed that they’ve bought a ticket from Ticketmaster, friends spend an additional $5.30 on Ticketmaster
  • Eventbrite: Every Facebook share generates $2.53 in ticket sales (RPS (revenue per share)); every 24 shares generates a new sale
  • Incipio Technologies: Facebook is #2 source of e-commerce traffic, shoppers from Facebook are 3x more likely to add products to a cart, and final conversion rate is 2x the average.
  • P&G: Sold 1,000 diapers in under an hour on its f-store
  • Tesco: Generated £2m+ in-store sales with FB vouchers for fans
  • RachelRoy: Temporary ‘pop-up’ Facebook fan store resulted in 3rd highest sales day
  • Kembrel: 20% of sale transactions were on Facebook with a 7-10% larger shopping cart than their dot.com website
  • BabyAndMeGifts50% of online sales from Facebook
  • LiveScribe: measurable ‘increase in revenue’ [undisclosed] after installing Facebook storefront
  • Ettitude: Aussie retailer ‘logged sales‘ [undisclosed] from Facebook
  • Chompon: Online sales platform found that Facebook shares generate on average $14 in sales (RPS), and Likes generate $8 (RPL)
  • Ticketfly: Ticketing site found (Jan 2011), every Facebook share/tweet generated 3.25 tickets sales; Facebook is Ticketfly’s top referrer at roughly 9% of total traffic
  • Wetseal: 20% of e-commerce sales come from Facebook
  • Nordstrom’s Hautelook fan-only Diane von Furstenberg Facebook shopping event on Dec. 7, 2010 generating in excess of $100,000 in sales.  Users were incentivised with a $10 coupon to refer new members in – and new members represented 40% of those sales. Conversion rates were above 6%.

9. What are the different types of f-commerce?

There are two basic types of f-commerce

“On-Facebook” f-commerce

  • Facebook stores (f-stores) – e-commerce enabled Facebook pages, such as that of Coca-cola, used to sell Coke merchandise
  • Facebook Credits payments – allows customer to make “frictionless” in-game payments and buy directly from their newsfeed (with Facebook Credits)

“Off-Facebook” f-commerce

  • Facebook-enhanced web-stores - traditional e-commerce sites that integrate with Facebook to offer customers a Facebook experience whilst shopping on-site.  For example, Amazon allows shopper to login with Facebook details, and uses the Open Graph data that comes with the login to offer instant personalisation (recommendations, birthday notifications, etc.)
  • Facebook-enhanced retail stores – traditional brick and mortar retailers that integrate with Facebook to offer customers a Facebook experience whilst shopping in-store.  For example, department store chain Macy’s Magic Fitting Room is a Facebook-connected fitting room that allows customers to share clothing tryons – in real life and virtually

10. For “On-Facebook” f-commerce, what are the options?

F-Stores

  • Faux Stores (Storefront Only): Faux stores are Facebook are product catalogues linked to product pages on an external dot com e-commerce site.  For example, Bulgari runs a faux-store on it’s Facebook page linked to its e-commerce site.  Advantages  include ease of set up, no back-end integration, whilst nevertheless broadening the digital footprint of an online store. Faux-store software providers include ShopTab, SortPrice, and BigCommerce
  • Full Stores: Full stores offer the full dot com e-commerce experience optimised for and inside of Facebook. The full product catalogue, shopping cart and the checkout process are all handled within Facebook. For example, ASOSJCPenney and Delta Airlines offer full stores in Facebook.  Advantages include increasing customer exposure to a full range of products and frictionless commerce with the promise of higher conversion rates. Full store software providers include Usablenet, 8th BridgeMilyoni and Fluid.
  • Fan Stores: Similar to full stores, but offering a limited range of fan-first or fan-only exclusives to Facebook fans, fan-store are typically used to support an event, launch or campaign with a view to stimulating loyalty or advocacy.  For example, Heinz allowed ketchup fans to buy a new line before it was available on stores.  Moontoast and Payvment are software providers for fan stores.

Buy With Friends

  • Allows people to buy directly from their newsfeed (with Facebook Credits) deals purchased and shared by their friends. Trialled for purchases of digital/virtual goods for Facebook games

11. For “Off-Facebook” f-commerce, what’s available?

Facebook Open Graph Protocol

  • The Open Graph Protocol is a solution for external websites to link into Facebook and turn individual web pages into Facebook objects that get integrated into a Facebook user’s social graph (their personal map of connections with people, photos, events, and pages). For example, when someone ‘Likes’ a movie page on the IMDB site, that ‘Like’ is added to the user’s social graph and gets posted to their Facebook Wall.  The advantage of using the Open Graph Protocol for businesses is that it allows them to improve customer experience with Facebook features and generate referral traffic via site-related status updates posted to users Walls

Facebook Social Plugins

Social plugins are a simple way for e-commerce websites to enhance customer experience by offering Facebook-powered social experiences by adding just a few lines of code. Social plugins are extensions of Facebook and are specifically designed so no user data is shared with the sites on which they appear.  Most of the plugins are showcased on the Levi’s store

  • Like Button: allows users to share pages from your site on their Facebook profile
  • [Share Button]: also allows users to share pages on their Facebook profile
  • Activity Feed: shows users the likes and comments on your site from their friends
  • Recommendations: gives users personalised suggestions for pages on your site
  • Like Box: enables users to view and like your Facebook Page from your website
  • Registration: allows users to easily sign up for your website with their Facebook account
  • Login Button: allows users to login to your site with their Facebook account
  • Facepile: displays the profile pictures of users who have used Facebook to engage with your site
  • Comments: lets users comment on any piece of content on your site
  • Live Stream: enables your users share activity and comments in real-time as they interact during a live event

Facebook Deals

  • Check-in Deals: Allows local retailers to drive foot traffic and loyalty by offering special discount coupons Facebook users who check-in to their venue
  • Individual Deal: For both new and existing customers when you want to launch a new product, get rid of excess inventory, offer seasonal incentives, or simply get more people into your store
  • Friend Deal: Group discounts for up to 8 people, when they check in together to drive foot traffic and build exposure on Facebook for your business
  • Loyalty Deal: For rewarding your most loyal customers; claimed by customers only after a certain number of check-ins (2-20)
  • Charity Deal: Create a Charity Deal to make a donation to the charity of your choice. This is a great way for your business to give back to the community while adding a human touch to your business
  • Deals: As of April 2011 – a ‘coming soon’ service – rumoured to be a Facebook version of Groupon, where users buy a voucher with Facebook credits to spend in-store or at the location

Facebook Fitting Rooms

  • In-store fitting room mirrors connected to Facebook that allow shoppers to shop with their social graph by sharing clothing tryons with friends and soliciting feedback. DieselCam and Macy’s Magic Fitting Room are examples of Facebook Fitting Rooms, with the latter offering augmented reality virtual ‘tryouts’ – flick an outfit from your smartphone app to the mirror and see it overlaid on your reflection

Real-Life ‘Like’ Buttons

  • Physical ‘Like’ buttons on shelves, displays or venues, but unlikely to take off until NFC technology becomes widespread, allowing handsets to pair with Like buttons. Coca-Cola Village used a real-life Like button that allowed visitors with a bracelet containing Facebook details to like attractions

Shop-and-Tell Apps

  • Add a Facebook layer to the shopping experience by allowing shoppers (online and in-store) to share their purchases with their Facebook contacts.  For example, Swipely is a ‘shop-and-tell’ service integrated with Facebook and linked to a credit card, so when a product is made, it notifies Facebook friends and pays cash-back/rewards to the Swipely user

12. What are some tips for getting started with f-commerce?

  • Start with the Smile: Start with the customer smile, not the sell, platform or software. How can you use f-commerce to make your (best) customers smile?
  • Ask not how you can sell better with Facebook, ask how you can help your customers shop better with Facebook
  • Begin by listening to your customers; run a customer workshop – would they buy from you with or on Facebook, how would they like to buy, and what would they want to buy?
  • Think of Facebook as a social Operating System not a social network - the goal of f-commerce should be to turn social data into social value for the customer
  • Set clear objectives based on what are you trying to achieve; are you looking to acquire new customers, improve customer loyalty (repeat purchase), stimulate advocacy, monetize Facebook investment, or optimise sales?
  • Say NO to silos; f-commerce should link in with your CRM program and/or multi-channel sales strategy
  • Manage expectations from the outset – whether you’re looking for smiles or sales – Facebook is an experimental channel
  • Establish your benchmark RPL (revenue per like) and PRS (revenue per share) – use these starting f-commerce metrics to track your performance
  • Begin with quick wins; integrate social plugins with your web-store, and install a simple storefront app on your Facebook page – measure impact on traffic, order value, conversion and shares
  • Make it Easy, Secure & Social – three critical success factors in f-commerce
  • Don’t let social get in the way of the sale; think frictionless commerce for f-commerce – use Facebook to take the speed bumps out of shopping
  • Don’t clone; don’t just replicate your web-store in Facebook, offer something exclusive, new and compelling offer that customers can’t get elsewhere; fan-first or fan-only exclusives
  • Provide incentives – reward customers for social activity and social interactions that share and spread the word. Digital, in-kind, and monetary incentives help foster customer loyalty and advocacy
  • Exploit urgency and limited quantity. Beyond the great deal, make offers time and volume sensitive to create buzz and a sense of occasion
  • Use exclusivity: Make your Facebook customers feel special by giving them exclusive access, information and products
  • Enable sharing with friends before and after buying – to allow customers to friendsource advice on what to buy and to share their purchase
  • Don’t forsake e-commerce for f-commerce, you need them both – f-commerce for the social consumer, e-commerce for the traditional consumer
  • Measure the smiles as well as the sales – use analytics software and Facebook Insight – but look for the smiles behind the numbers; a happy customer is a returning customer and a recommending customer

13. What are some of the notable examples of f-commerce?

On Facebook

  • 1. 1-800-Flowers f-store
    • What’s notable about it: Where it all began: The first transaction in Facebook at 11.50 am EST on July 8, 2009 for bouquet of flowers ‘A Slice of Life’ on the f-store of U.S. florist 1-800 flowers…
  • 2. Warner Bros f-store
    • What’s notable about it: First movie rentals (streaming) store – exclusive premium content for fans – direct from the Studio – sent Netflix shares tumbling
  • 3. Lady Gaga f-store
    • What’s notable about it: The most popular f-commerce enabled page on the planet 31m+ fans
  • 4. Starbucks f-store
    • What’s notable about it: The most popular product brand page in Facebook uses Facebook as an e-commerce enabled CRM platform – top up your loyalty card/iPhone payment card on Facebook
  • 5. Coca-cola f-store
    • What’s notable about it: The second most popular product brand page in Facebook uses Facebook to sell brand merchandise
  • 6. Delta Airlines f-store
    • What’s notable about it: First airline ticketing store in Facebook – view the f-store on the page or on your wall
  • 7. Dexter f-store
    • What’s notable about it: a viral ‘wall store’ that can be shared by users
  • 8. Nike f-store
    • What’s notable about it: freebies for fans when they buy
  • 9. Disney f-store
    • What’s notable about it: group-buy ticketing app for Disney movies – payments handled by Fandango
  • 10. Apple (App) f-store
    • What’s notable about it: The world’s most admired brand starts selling on Facebook
  • 11. Max Factor (P&G) f-store
    • What’s notable about it: an early example of a brand-to-consumer fan-store – logistics by Amazon
  • 12. Pantene (P&G) f-store
    • What’s notable about it: an early example of a fan-first f-store – giving early access to new products to fans
  • 13. Pampers Store
    • What’s notable about it: Selling 1000 diapers an hour to fans on Facebook – before they’re available in store
  • 14. P&G f-store
    • What’s notable about it: Big brand manufacturer selling wide range of products (29 brands) direct to customers – using Amazon for logistics
  • 15. Dove (Unilever) f-store
    • What’s notable about it: P&G’s rival in consumer goods taking a different f-commerce route – B2F (Brand to Fan) fan-stores selling a limited range of products, rather than a full-store.  But taking a leaf from P&G’s book – using Amazon for fulfilment
  • 16. Old Spice f-store
    • What’s notable about it: using an f-store to promote an advertising campaign
  • 17. Rachel Roy f-store
    • What’s notable about it: early example of a fan-only f-store – offering fan-exclusives
  • 18. Nine West f-store
    • Offers fan-first exclusives – before available in-store
  • 19. jcpenney f-store
    • What’s notable about it: one of the first ‘full f-stores’ from a big retailer offering the full web-store experience optimised for, and inside, Facebook
  • 20. ASOS f-store
    • What’s notable about it: much admired UK e-tailer opens up a full f-store – with international delivery
  • 21. Heinz f-store
    • What’s notable about it: a fan-first f-store – get new products before they arrive in store (AKA tryvertising)
  • 22. Bejeweled (PopCap) f-store
    • What’s notable about it: f-commerce for Facebook games – buy add-ons using Facebook Credits
  • 23. W Hotels f-store
    • What’s notable about it: a group-buy store in Facebook from Starwood’s luxury boutique hotel brand
  • 24. Holiday Autos (Travelocity) f-store
    • What’s notable about it: first f-store for car rentals
  • 25. Volkswagen (Skoda Fabia) f-store
    • What’s notable about it: first Dutch auction f-store (every ‘like’ price drops by 1€, until someone buys)
  • 26. Walmart f-store
    • What’s notable about it: Crowdsaver store from the world’s largest retailer is not strictly an f-store, more a storefront for in-store deals that go live when enough ‘likes’ are reached
  • 27. Bulgari f-store
    • What’s notable about it: Luxury brands dip their toes into the f-commerce water
  • 28. Kembrel f-store
    • What’s notable about it: Student e-tailer makes 20% of 2010 Black Friday sales on Facebook – with 7-10% higher order value
  • 29. Vinobest f-store
    • What’s notable about it: First group-buy f-store for wine – the future of wine clubs?
  • 30. Best Buy f-store
    • What’s notable about it: Big Box electronic retailer uses f-stores to encourage shoppers to share their purchases (Shop + Share)
  • 31. Molly Sims f-store
    • What’s notable about it: Popular celebrity f-store from the former model and actress
  • 32. Barneys f-store
    • What’s notable about it: Hip fashion store selling selling a $33,835.00 ring on Facebook…
  • 33. Retail Therapy f-store (by PopSugar)
    • What’s notable about it: A Facebook game (‘CityVille-for-shopping’), where players become retailers and manage their own fashion store, buying stock with Facebook Credits; participating brands include as TopShop, & Diane Von Furstenberg
  • 34. Sears f-store
    • What’s notable about it: A deal-for-likes app, deals go live when enough ‘likes’ have been reached

Off Facebook

  • 35. Amazon
    • What’s notable about it: when the largest e-tailer on the planet integrates Facebook…
  • 36. Levis Friends Store
    • What’s notable about it: one of the first retailers to integrate Facebook into their web-store to offer instant personalisation
  • 37. TripAdvisor
    • What’s notable about it: Leading review and travel booking site integrates with Facebook to offer instant personalisation and allow users to connect with Facebook contacts on-site
  • 38. Groupon
    • What’s notable about it: The fastest growing e-commerce business integrates with Facebook and uses social sign-on (one less login to remember) – and then encourages members to share deals via Facebook
  • 44. DieselCam
    • What’s notable about it: Facebook-connected fitting rooms in Diesel stores, Spain
  • 45. Macy’s Magic Fitting Room
    • What’s notable about it: Facebook-connected fitting rooms with virtual try-outs
  • 46. Swivel (Facecake)/Social Shopper (Zugara)
    • What’s notable about it: More Facebook-connected Augmented Reality Fitting rooms – ‘visualise and validate’ the shape of things to come?
  • 47. Coca-Cola Village
    • What’s notable about it: Real life like button at the Coca-cola village, swipe your entry band to send a ‘like’ to Facebook
  • 48. Swipely
    • What’s notable about it; ‘shop-and-tell’ service integrated with Facebook and linked to your credit card - buy a product, notify Facebook friends and get cash-back/rewards
  • 49. Mazda Facebook Deals
    • What’s notable about it: For the launch of Facebook Deals in the UK, check-in with Facebook to a Mazda dealer on your handset and get 20% of a Mazda roadster
  • 50. Gap Facebook Deals
    • What’s notable about it: For the launch of Facebook Deals in the US, check-in with Facebook to a Gap Store – first 10,000 received a free pairs of jeans, all others received 40% of all regular priced merchandise

14. What are some of the leading f-commerce software partners?

F-Commerce Consulting

Facebook Advertising

15. Where to go for more information about f-commerce?

Social Commerce Today (www.digitalinnovationtoday.com)

  • Industry journal for news, comment and analysis in social commerce, sponsored by Syzygy digital communications and marketing

Editor | Dr Paul Marsden (paul@viralculture.com) @marsattacks