Most people think of Facebook as a place to check out photos from last weekend’s party. But increasingly, the social network is becoming a destination for buying airline tickets, nappies and soap.
Procter & Gamble, Levi’s and Delta Air Lines are among a growing number of companies experimenting with building Facebook storefronts and forging into what is now being called ‘f-commerce’.
The actual number of people shopping on Facebook is still so low that most companies see the move as a way to study consumer behaviour more than a moneymaker. But some experts believe f-commerce could eventually overtake some established e-commerce companies.
“I think Facebook and Amazon will be squaring off as the two e-commerce titans in the future,” said Bob Pearson, author of Pre-Commerce and former head of social marketing for Dell.
About $5bn worth of physical goods are sold on social networks today, according to research from Booz&Co, with the social commerce market expected to grow to $30bn globally by 2015.
A growing crop of start-ups, including Milyoni, ShopIgniter and 8thBridge have been securing millions in venture capital investments in recent months in the race to become the leader in the Facebook storefront business.
But some analysts are sceptical that people will want to enter their credit card information on a site where they’ve logged on to socialise.
“Most users are just not willing to go to Facebook to buy something,” said Jed Williams, an analyst with BIA/Kelsey. “There’s more evidence that Facebook – the recommendation engine and the social graph – can be a conduit to commerce. But direct commerce, there’s not as much compelling evidence that that has stuck yet."
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