For years, I have said that Facebook is the 21st century version of AOL in that it has become more than merely a social network and morphed into an “all-in-one” Internet portal. While some may take umbrage with that statement, apparently shipping giant Fedex concurs.
The Next Web reports that Fedex believes Facebook “will increasingly become a fully integrated part of how we do everything from chat to shop.” And by creating a new Facebook app called Ship to Friends, the company has put that philosophy to the test.
Ship to Friends not F-Commerce Best Practice
Though I appreciate the company’s efforts to harness f-commerce, I don’t believe its execution represents a best practice.
According to TNW, the app is no different than what customers would find on the Fedex website. The only distinction is that: a) it sits inside Facebook and does not require that you leave the site, and b) users can select from their list of Facebook friends to choose the recipient.
I suppose that because its located in Facebook, Fedex contends it will make shipping a package more convenient, but is convenience an attractive enough feature to overcome long standing customer wariness to using Facebook for what might be considered routine e-commerce activities.
Fedex App is F-Commerce 1.0
To me, it’s a throwback to earlier, unsuccessful attempts by large brands such as JC Penney, 1-800 Flowers, and Delta Airlines. These companies assumed that by simply integrating purchase transaction capabilities into Facebook, consumers would respond accordingly. That has not always proven to be the case.
Some threw in the towel and shuttered Facebook stores, while other, smarter brands figured out another approach was needed.
For example, Delta’s first attempt at using Facebook commerce was to create a ticketing app called Ticket Counter that, similar to the Fedex app, centered on convenience. Customers could purchase tickets without ever leaving Facebook.
Later, the company recognized its need to focus instead on social utility – which we define as providing a social service that helps people find social solutions to problems or that solves social problems – and created an app called Away We Go that allowed friends to plan trips together.
Does Convenience Count as Social Utility?
One could argue that by making shipping capabilities available inside Facebook (and, thus, making the process more convenient) Fedex is solving a problem. However, I think it’s a leap of faith based on the “Facebook as portal” philosophy, which assumes we are farther along the f-commerce continuum than is actually the case.
It’s a lofty philosophy, and one that I espouse, but not one rooted in practical reality – at least not at this juncture. I believe we’ll reach that apex; we’re just not there yet.