The next frontier of social shopping has arrived. While retailers have been capitalizing on the thriving communities within Facebook and Twitter for enhanced customer engagement, JCPenney announced this week that customers will be able to purchase items directly from the company’s Facebook fan page, without having to click through to JCPenney.com.
Facebook, traditionally relegated as a community for shopper enthusiasts, is now a place where commerce can thrive. In July 2009, 1-800-Flowers.com became the first retailer to launch a Facebook storefront, enabling shoppers to purchase items directly from the retailer’s fan page. In February 2010, the florist announced the capability for Facebook fans to purchase items directly from its news feed (the community aspect of the page) without leaving the page.
JCPenney’s new integration will support a full e-commerce experience within the retailer’s Facebook page, including add-to-cart and checkout, among other key functionalities. By utilizing the “Shop” tab on JCPenney’s Facebook page, users can search all products currently included in JCPenney’s product pages. Shoppers also can “Like” and share items and purchases with their friends within the community.
“With over 1.3 million friends and growing, our Facebook page remains a vital tool for engaging our customers as they explore and share the JCPenney brand,” said Tom Nealon, group EVP, JCPenney, in a press announcement. “By introducing commerce capability, we are able to take our Facebook experience to the next level, providing convenient features that encourage social integration and user contribution as our customers shop.”
Usablenet, the solution provider powering JCPenney’s Facebook e-commerce application, anticipates that 10% of its retailer clientele will be using the application by the end of Q1 2011. Apparel and fashion retailers have indicated an increased interest in the new capability, according to Jason Taylor, VP Product Strategy, Usablenet. “Our clients want to be where their customers are,” Taylor said. “They want to have all different views of products and information optimized for not only on Facebook, but for various other channels.”
Industry analysts agree that social media usage is closely correlated to shopping.
“Social media is impacting retail buying patterns year-over-year,” said Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works, an online education and community company for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs. “As each year progresses, the percentage of people who say they made buying decisions based on conversations via social networks keeps growing. Whether you’re ready to participate, your customers are already doing so.”
While small- to mid-sized retailers have leveraged technologies like Ecwid, Milyoni and Payvment to drive purchases within their Facebook pages, JCPenney is one of the first leading retailers to leverage a fully functional Facebook storefront.
“Retail is no longer about just getting a customer to walk into a physical location,” said Lori Schafer, Executive Advisor to SAS Retail and co-author of Branded! How Retailers Engage Consumers with Social Media and Mobility. “It’s about being wherever that customer is. You’ve got to bring your store to where that customer likes to spend time. The biggest benefits come from cross-channel engagement — reaching consumers wherever they are spending their time so that they can find the products and services they specifically want.”