Direct Line Blog

My, f-commerce, what big teeth you have

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Kotex's awesome Pinterest campaign
Kotex's awesome Pinterest campaign

One of my best friends loves dinosaurs. Like, really loves dinosaurs. One year for her birthday, we even took her to an IMAX to see some sort of dino movie. It was amazing, despite — or maybe because of — the fact that we were the only people older than 20 without children in the audience.

But even she was a little surprised when a Facebook ad appeared on the side of her page for, you guessed it: dino t-shirts. “Facebook knows too much!” she exclaimed, laughing but a little irked by the revelation.

That was about five years ago, when Facebook ads were still relatively new to us as early adopters of the social media site. These days, we're all pretty used to being marketed to through Facebook, whether we like it or not.

Data, personal information and desires listed conveniently in one place. From that perspective what's an e-marketer not to love about Facebook? That's why so many companies are — wait for it — trying to get a big, T-Rex-sized bite of the action.

In Reuters' recent article about f-commerce, e-commerce conducted via Facebook, several experts discuss why f-commerce may be the key to Facebook's future growth. The article claims 85% of Facebook's revenue currently comes from advertising. And with so much potential for growth in another revenue sector, it just makes sense that the company would want to expand beyond ads.

So, next up: Facebook as a retailer.

“Facebook had 845 million monthly active users at the end of 2011, far higher than Amazon's 164 million active accounts or the eBay online marketplace's 100 million active users,” the story's author, Alistair Barr, writes. “But despite that huge base, Facebook is primarily a way to connect with friends, and not an online shopper's first destination.”

The article notes that while so many large retailers tried to set up virtual shop on Facebook, they didn't succeed. Experts compare Facebook to retail behemoths Amazon.com and eBay, and discuss how some venture capitalists are banking on smaller startups like Fab.com and BeachMint to forge the way into f-commerce. Perhaps this is because these startups are in an environment to embrace social media from the get-go, rather than adopting to keep up with the changes.

It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges of f-commerce will be marketing directly to consumers without irking them by showing how much brands know about consumers' personal lives.

Dino t-shirts are great, but if we feel like Big Brother is telling us we want them, the whole f-commerce concept might go extinct before we have a chance to discover its true potential.

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