Facebook Is Trying To Change How You Shop — But Will It Work?

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335modify_finalPhoto: Courtesy of Facebook.
Facebook is attempting (once again) to enter e-commerce, displaying all the persistence of a miscellaneous family member who keeps trying to add you as a “Friend.” Last week, the social network and a handful of smaller businesses began to test a “buy” button that allows users to purchase items without exiting Facebook.

“Selling on Facebook, or F-commerce, was one of the most buzzed-about digital ideas in 2011,” according to Women’s Wear Daily reporter Rachel Strugatz. “But the effort was ultimately seen as a flop after brands failed to gain much commercial traction from the social platform.” Bulgari and Chanel, examples cited by WWD, ended up rerouting customers to their own e-commerce sites — a miscue Facebook hopes to address this time around. Though, Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at eMarketer, doesn’t envision a dramatic change: “Now most ads direct [users] off Facebook," she says. "I think we’ll see a similar pattern with commerce. Brands will want to make it so that a consumer can make a purchase with one click — but on their own Web site, not to Facebook.”

Mark Zuckerberg et al. won’t outline the e-commerce program, yet Todd Huseby, partner in A.T. Kearney’s Digital Business Forum, shares a possible configuration. “If an ad is shared from a friend, then it will appear endorsed,” he says. “And if I can buy from an easy button without any or many other hurdles, then it has a good chance to succeed.”

Influencers also debated the “buy” button in a RetailWire discussion. “Amazon has proven the power of ‘one click,’” points out Chris Petersen, president of Integrated Marketing Solutions. He calls Facebook’s plan “the breakthrough that [it] needs to make e-commerce successful. HOWEVER,” he cautions, “hell hath no fury like a consumer whose credit card data is stolen.” (You'll probably be able to buy T-shirts with that slogan soon — on Facebook, no less.)