Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

Social E-Commerce: The Wave of the Future or The Ultimate Cop-out?

We’ve come a long way in a short time since the “birth” of the Internet. House hunters can view satellite images of hopeful homesteads while on the go, long lost friendships can reconnect with a single tap from their phone, and almost all of anyone’s shopping needs can be satisfied without even stepping into an actual store. So, it only makes sense that Facebook would take all of these capabilities and roll them into one with their latest feature: Facebook Gifts.   


Social E-Commerce is Here

Recently, I realized that a friend of mine had a birthday quickly approaching. This event wasn’t sprung on me, but I certainly wasn’t prepared with a clever gift idea. Knowing my friend, I knew she would appreciate the indulgence of a little cyber shopping, so I determined an Amazon gift card was the best option. (You can never go wrong with a gift card.) What I didn’t realize was that I could actually gift this to her via her Facebook page. (What? Where I have been?) All I had to do was follow a few simple steps to connect my account and my Facebook account. Then, Amazon allowed me to select the denomination and the look of the virtual “gift card” that I was sending. I also had the option to post a message on my friend’s Facebook wall. Being a bit of a skeptic, I wanted to see the actual message on her wall. Sure enough, it appeared with my message and the image that I chose for the “gift card.”


Gifts for All?

While this is a new feature to me, this is not a new feature of Amazon. In fact, even gifting through Facebook isn’t a “new” concept. Remember when Facebook would allow you to “gift” virtual items to each other? Well, the difference is, with Facebook Gifts you’ll be able to purchase physical gifts to send to friends and family directly through Facebook. This past May, Facebook acquired Karma, which makes apps for gifting friends and family. And as a result, Facebook has unveiled their latest feature with Gifts. This concept allows the social exchange of products with unmatched ease. Click the “Gift” link to purchase and send items from approved vendors (currently Starbucks, Magnolia Bakery and GUND teddy bears are on the list) to your Facebook contacts. Once a gift has been purchased and sent, the lucky recipient will be notified, presented with a digital greeting card and a preview of the gift. In addition, the recipient has the option to reply with shipping address details, and can customize the size, flavor, and color of their gift. They can even make an exchange for a different gift (of equal value). One major point to note, Facebook is rolling this out slowly. For now, St. Louisans will have to sit tight and use more traditional ways of gifting their friends.


To Gift or Not to Gift

So, while I’m staring, mouth gaping wide over the “cool factor” of this technology, I’m also hesitant. As Forbes points out in a recent article, “social shopping will … be a gradual process as users get more comfortable with purchasing products based on their friends’ recommendations,” and I can completely see why. The ease of use and amount of customization that can be built into this type of gift-giving is pretty incredible. However, the sentimental side of me is at odds. This opportunity to indulge in an instantaneous extension of gratitude, appreciation or acknowledgement could be a bit of goodwill that the world could really use. Or, does it send an aloof message: “I’m thinking of you, but I’m copping out?” Furthermore, are there any risks involved that are different than any other e-commerce? Time will tell.

What do you think? Will Facebook Gifts bring us all a little closer, or is it just another gimmick?