Express launches social shopping catalog

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Apparel retailer Express launched a commerce tab on its Facebook page on May 3 that enables consumers to browse and make purchases from Express' entire product catalog without leaving the social network.

The Columbus, Ohio-based retailer's Facebook page now enables transactions on any product in its catalog. Consumers can recommend and share purchases by posting items or transactions to their profiles.

“We see the integration of social shopping as the next step for Express,” said Jim Wright, Express' SVP of CRM and e-commerce. “If you look at what's happening today, top-down marketing and driving people to places to [transact] has changed. We need to be where customers are having their experiences and sharing information. We need to take down the barriers preventing a shopping experience.”

Shoppers can add products to their Express e-commerce profile wish list via the Facebook commerce page. Consumers who have an Express profile can view the items they recently added on Facebook on Express' website and mobile commerce site and apps.

Wright said the information collected from Facebook shoppers will allow Express to re-target through direct mail and email. He did stress, however, Express would be “careful [not to take] what customers perceive as private information and [leverage it] in a way they're not comfortable with.”

Consumers can purchase Express gift cards on Facebook that can be shipped by mail or delivered to friends via email.

Wright said the company is developing tools that will allow consumers to write and post product reviews on Facebook. He did not specify when the tools would be available.

“[Marketers are] in a testing and learning phase for social media,” said Patti Freeman Evans, VP and research director at Forrester Research. “Facebook has not proven to drive direct revenue. Retailers are experimenting with driving direct access to a purchase.”

Freeman said experimenting with social commerce is valuable for retailers even if it doesn't drive direct sales because retailers “get insight into customers that [is] much more intimate. Retailers can pull those insights and turn them into analytics and use those analytics on their website to make recommendations to customers based on friends' purchases.”

Express operates 591 stores worldwide, and the company's Facebook page, developed internally by Express, currently has more than 837,000 friends.

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