So the world’s largest retailer has taken a leaf out of the book of the world’s fastest growing company to spearhead its social media strategy in the world’s largest social network.

Walmart has launched CrowdSaver, a weekly Groupon-style app in Facebook that is triggered only if enough people ‘like’ the deal (see variations of the theme from Skoda and Uniqlo similar).  In order to Like the deal, you have to Like Walmart – ensuring Walmart news is added to your news feed.  Smart.

Last week’s first deal saw 5000+ people liking a deal for a 42″ plasma television – at $398 – an 18% discount to the in-store price.  In week 2, Walmart is experimenting with a low cost seasonal item, a personalized Halloween photo mug ($6 – at 40% off). With 1500 likes, the deal is on.

Over at thetrendwatch, Seinn Schlidt summarises why CrowdSaver is smart

  • Control – Allowing the retailer complete control of each and every deal.
  • Recruitment – Requiring people to “like” Walmart, before they can like a deal.
  • Engagement – Motivating the existing community to rally their friends to like a deal and to check back each week for a new deal.
  • Data – Helping Walmart understand “who” likes “what” and “how” likes convert to sales.

Interestingly, CrowdSaver deals are open to all – once the magic number of Facebook “Likes” has been reached (the number changes from week to week), the price is dropped on Walmart’s e-commerce site, and everyone can participate (one purchase per customer).

Walmart’s senior director of digital strategy, Wanda Young, emphasizes that CrowdSaver is a work in progress and Walmart will be experimenting with variations based on feedback and participation.  Here’s our opinion on how CrowdSaver could be developed.

  1. Make the deal exclusive to Facebook fans – currently, there’s no quid pro quo from Walmart for fan engagement – everybody can profit from the deal
  2. Allow purchase to be made within Facebook with a CrowdSaver Shop tab – currently CrowdSaver is being used to generate site traffic for Walmart’s e-commerce site – why oblige customers to click and go elsewhere?
  3. Make deal purchases in Facebook viral with an Alvenda-style newsfeed store – so purchases get syndicated across Facebook, with the opportunity to buy directly from within the newsfeed
  4. Employ active pricing, the more Likes, the better the deal
  5. Run CrowdSaver onsite, on Walmart’s main e-commerce site – using the Facebook “Like” social plugin – thus not obliging customers to move between two sites (think Levi’s friends store)
  6. Incorporate YouTube “Likes” into the offer, to encourage customers to see the ad for the product – See the Ad, Like the Ad, get the Deal
  7. Add promotional videos into Crowdsaver Facebook page that can be liked and syndicated across networks
  8. Include a mechanism to get customer commitment (currently Liking doesn’t commit you to anything) – for example, allow people to pay upfront at a set price, and then receive e-vouchers for future purchases based on the number purchases made
  9. Integrate the deal in-store – with aisle check-ins (e.g. shopkick), or physical in-store Like buttons on the shelf
  10. Extend the impact by offering discount vouchers for future purchases if deals are reviewed online (onsite or on review sites such as Yelp)

Like other commentators, we ‘like’ Walmart’s CrowdSaver Facebook app, and we expect f-commerce solution providers such as Alvenda, Wildfire or Payvment will be looking closely at its ongoing success – with a view to offering a Facebook Flash-Sale app – with group-buy functionality to their wares. Gap and The Body Shop notwithstanding, the CrowdSaver model is more brand and retailer-friendly than the Groupon model; there’s no discounting by 75% (in the Groupon world) customers get 50% off, and Groupon takes a 50% cut of what’s paid).

In terms of social commerce opportunities for 2011, a Facebook CrowdSaver App should be on your radar – whether you’re a retailer, brand, agency or developer.