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Another f-commerce first, you can now buy alcoholic beverages directly on Facebook.  The popular cider brand Magners (owned by C&C Group) has set up a pop-up fan-store on Facebook to support the launch of a new range of special edition ciders.

The goal, according to Magners marketing manager Kirsty Hunter, is to drive trial among UK Facebook fans “F-commerce is in the very early stages, so at the moment it is simply a great way to increase offline sales by driving trial… In years to come, however, we may see more consumers making their purchases in this way”.

As with offline pop-up fan stores – such as from Adidas – the goal of Facebook fan-stores is to drive trial of new products among fans, and to drive fan advocacy, which can accelerate the sales-rate at launch.  In an age where other drinks companies are shifting digital spend to Facebook (Bacardi is said to be switching 90% of digital spend to Facebook, Diageo (Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Guiness, Baileys) has just signed a multi-million dollar Facebook ad deal), pop-up fan stores to support product launches make sense.

For £10 ($15) Magners fans get three special edition bottles – pear and ginger, spiced apple & honey and spiced apple & rhubarb – plus a bottle opener and a booklet. To ensure they are of legal drinking, C&C Group has implemented a three-tier security check – a Facebook profile age above 18, an age gate, and payment by credit card (only available to 18+).

Technically, the store is simple enough, an iFrame pulling in a single page store running on eBay’s Magento software from the e-commerce agency Cargo. The campaign was devised by the agency glu Isobar.  To access the fan-store, you have to – naturally enough – be a fan, so there is a like-gate to keep non-fans out. User experience-wise the fan-store is fine, but it does throw up a rather worrying “this is an non-secure form” dialogue box warning just before you enter your credit card details (see below).

Of course, pop-up fan-stores to support product launches are not the only f-commerce option for drinks brands; at the end of 2010, Heineken announced that the beer brand is planning on launching a Facebook fan store selling branded goods to fan (t-shirts etc) – much like Coke’s fan-store for Coke branded fan merchandise.  By getting brand-merchandise into fans’ hands, brands give fan’s something to talk about and thereby can activate fan-advocacy, a known driver of sales.

We like this ‘f-commerce as fan-commerce’ approach far better then the factory-store approach, which in practice is often no more than copying your mobile e-commerce site into Facebook. Same products, same prices, poorer experience.  On the other hand, using Facebook as a fan-channel for pop-up fan-stores selling get-it-first fan-exclsuives and fan-merchandise is an evidence-based and theoretically-informed approach to f-commerce.  Expect to see fan-stores selling fan-subscriptions soon to complete the tripartite of fan-commerce.

Which is why we think the f- in f-commerce should stand as much for ‘fan’ as Facebook.  Your thoughts?