An E-commerce Model for Social Networking

Users share birthday information, engagement and wedding announcements and many more such events with their friends on social networking sites. So why not extend this and let people buy their friends gifts for weddings, birthdays, baby showers on the networks itself? Social networking sites such as Facebook could support wedding registries – people planning to get married can sign up for a Facebook wedding registry provided by merchants such as, say, Pottery Barn or Williams – Sonoma. Their friends can then buy them their wedding gifts online. Another concept could be wish-lists – I can maintain a wish list on my profile – and any friend who is so inclined can buy it for me during the holiday season or for my birthday or anniversary.

Users should be allowed to choose whether they want their friends to see their purchases or wish lists, and if so, which friends.  It certainly should be an opt-in model.

This would require that Facebook have its own shopping engine and allow sellers to set up Storefronts. These could range from the really large stores to mom-and-pop stores. A Target storefront is different from a Target ad listing. This is because the storefront will facilitate interactions on the network itself – I can buy things from Target’s FB storefront, get coupons for the next time, share my coupons with friends, apprise them of really great deals and make suggestions (“Hey these shoes will really look good on you”, “I thought you might like this book”) – with their permission – no spam, please!

For the user, the benefit is the combination of ease of purchase and social interaction. For the retailer, the benefit is obviously the sale. Additionally, the viral nature of the site will also give them more customers. They could also derive the benefit of the targeting available on social networking sites. The site itself of course would charge listing or sales fees to the retailer which would be an additional revenue model.

Note: Facebook does have a gift shop but it is pretty basic and not as yet conducive to the wedding registry kind of concept. Also, it’s better to not just have a single gift shop, but let retailers set up storefronts and let users to buy directly from them. There are 3rd party e-commerce applications that some retailers use, but this should become a standard mainstream feature.

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