Monthly Archives: February 2012Blog

Retail on Facebook. Is “F-commerce” All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

There’s been nothing but hype around Facebook’s upcoming IPO. Hundreds of millions of users, mountains of personal data, brands dying to repurpose their ad dollars online. This is going to be huge! Isn’t it?

I don’t know. I’ve never thought much of Facebook as a business. It’s great as a social network. At least it was before it became so complicated that I can’t in good conscience recommend that anyone use it. Not that it’s not good for communicating with friends and family, or customers if you’re a business. I use it every day for those purposes. But I’m also willing to check and reset my privacy settings whenever FB changes things, which is often, and I don’t give them any data beyond what’s necessary to converse with people. But I can’t expect most people to be as mindful as I am. And if they’re not, they’re just falling into FB’s data trap.

And then there’s the matter of how bloated the app has become. It’s more like using MS Word now than a cool social tool. Who can understand all the features? Do I subscribe, follow, post, write a story? Why is the button I used to do something yesterday gone today? And why do posts always seem to disappear? Do average people understand any of this? Maybe this obscurity all works to FB’s advantage, keeping people in the dark as they provide more and more data while blithely using the site?

Anyway, the issue here is business, and the fact is, people don’t go to FB to shop — they go to connect. Yes, they learn a lot from their friends, including new things to buy. And brands do their work of chatting up (if not completely annoying) customers, offering sales and specials back on their own sites. But how is ‘F-commerce’ doing? Well, many brands have opened up storefronts on FB itself, but some are closing them just as quickly. According to a recent article,

“There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop, but it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”

Apparently FB’s offer of connecting and communicating with friends isn’t going to automatically turn into a commerce goldmine. Is this a surprise? People go to FB to talk, not buy. Maybe finding and purchasing things is actually a lot easier and better on Amazon or Google after all. Once the IPO smoke clears, the next sound you hear may well be the latest bubble bursting.

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