F-commerce: A Platform Problem, Not a Performance Problem

F-commerce has a performance problem just like Bob Dole.  However, unlike Bob Dole – F-commerce hasn’t found its magic blue pill yet.  Every major tech outlet has highlighted why F-commerce sucks.  Some attribute it to social media ‘gurus’ with no real business experience in charge of driving online store traffic and failing miserably while others point to the Facebook user mentality being the crux of the problem.  The issues have been highlighted over and over again, but no one is providing an answer to the problem.

Online retail without tagging is unheard of today…unless you’re talking about FB

Go to your favorite retail store and look at how many tags show up.  You’ll probably see something between 10 and 40.  Additionally, you’ll probably see a tag from a retargeter like Criteo, TellApart, AdRoll, Chango, etc.  It’s a different story when you check out your favorite retail store’s Facebook Page.  Tags help retailers tailor storefronts and landing pages to each user as well as cross sell and upsell.  Moreover, there’s not data to support one way or the other that FB users who like a Page regularly come back to that page like a retailer can track via Search and Display to their online storefronts.  A user can even like a Page straight from an ad without ever visiting on the Page.  So what’s the alternative?  Say F-commerce doesn’t work and Advertisers should just drive users offsite to buy?  If you look at the list of FBx partners, they tend to mirror the same list of top retargeting services among retailors.  Coincidence?  Technically, it’s not F-commerce if a retailor just uses FBx to drive users offsite to buy.  So how does F-commerce thrive in a cluttered environment with splinters of SOV from each retailor?  Go Old School – Go Brick and Mortar (with Mobile).

F-commerce is better positioned with Mobile than tethered to a Facebook Page

With more than half its user base accessing Facebook through their mobile app and an even larger majority in Asia, we should stop crying about F-commerce not working on Desktop and start to think of how it could work in Mobile.  With either POS integration and/or FB payments at Brick and Mortars utilizing FB Connect we could see a breakthrough in cracking the F-commerce problem.  And when I say FB Connect I’m not talking about Open Graph.  People fail to realize that when they use Open Graph integration in online stores in an argument against F-commerce you’re really just reiterating what’s already known – People don’t like to share what they bought with friends in that capacity, but they do like to shop more seamlessly.  In the context of F-commerce, Open Graph is Blippy and Facebook Connect is Amazon.  One is a deadpool startup and the other is one of the largest online retailers in the world.  Instead of focusing on getting users to share purchases easier – get them to just purchase easier.

Facebook’s acquisition history paints the F-commerce story

It started back in July 2007 when Facebook acquired/acquihired Parakey along with its founders, Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt.  Parakey contributed to the first gen Facebook Mobile initiative and Blake Ross stayed on to be Director of Product.  The shift to mobile started at this point.  A year later check-ins were all the rage and while Yahoo! was busy offering Foursquare $100M, FB picked up Hot Potato and later Gowalla.  Hot Potato contributed to the development of Facebook Pages.  In the last few years acquisitions have been mainly mobile focused: Rel8tion, Beluga, Strobe, Snaptu, Gowalla, Instagram, Tagtile, Glancee, Pieceable, Spool, and Acrylic Software.  Interestingly, a few of these acquisitions already have pieces of commerce that could be easily leveraged – Tagtile for loyalty points and Sofa’s Checkout for POS.

We’re seeing F-commerce startups, like Payvment, release more mobile focused products to facilitate social shopping on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  Mobile is taking a larger portion of purchases with each infographic that comes out, showing a larger focus in FB’s overall strategy, and the major players already in the F-commerce space are heading that way so it should be a more focused discussion regarding F-commerce and Mobile than it currently is within the industry.