“F-Commerce” is dead. Long live Social Commerce. (Updated)

F-Commerce is dead. Long live social commerce.

So, “F-Commerce” pioneers Payvment have put up the shutters and announced they’ll cease operating next month. It’s not all doom and gloom – by all accounts the team are moving on to e-commerce providers Ecwid, and there’s a holding page on the Pavyment site attempting to transition all existing customers to that service.

But it’s definitely a big, resounding death-knell for old-fashioned, unimaginative ‘F-Commerce” – the term which was given to the first phase of efforts to sell in Facebook.

Not long ago, Payvment was the world’s biggest Facebook e-commerce platform. Over 170,000 had set up trading stores on their Facebook Pages using their technology – so many, in fact, that Payvment were able to amalgamate them into a giant megamall (apps.facebook.com/shoppingmall/ – which appears to be as dead as its daddy right now).

But things have changed – and the way Payvment has been swallowed up by a more generalised e-commerce platform (which offers Facebook embeddability as just one of its services) is very telling. There’s nothing wrong with setting up a store in Facebook – you might make one or two sales here and there – but setting up a store just in Facebook? It was a proven disaster time after time after time, as the likes of Gap, JC Penny and Gamestop  all shuttered their F-stores within months of launching them.

Truth be told, we’d have to question Ecwid’s approach as well – embedding a parallel store in Facebook to sell exactly the same things in the same way as your traditional e-commerce destinations? Why bother? But we suspect they know that already, and this apparent embracing of Payvment’s legacy may be little more than an exercise in customer acquisition.

But this isn’t a sad story. It’s not selling in Facebook which died today, it’s selling in Facebook as if it were just any other website. The answer, the incredible opportunity, is to do something different in Facebook. Not just to situate your commerce in a social setting but to make your commerce social in and of itself. Up until now, retailers have sold and marketers have engaged but there’s gold at the border – selling by engagement. That means your deals have to be social: prices need to reflect demand, promotions need to follow requests, advocates need to be rewarded and incentivised, fans need to be converted into shoppers. And, crucially, selling needs to become an event, just like any other campaign you’d run on a social network.

That’s a million miles from adding item after item of inventory in a faceless Facebook store. That’s a million miles from the “F-Commerce” we used to know. That’s Social Commerce. Long may it live.

**Update: It looks as though Ecwid only bought the merchant relationships, while Intuit – the people behind the really rather good Quickbooks payroll software – have acquired Payvment’s team, technology, and patents. Again, though, we see this as a vanilla commerce play – rather than any move to transition “F-Commerce” to  more meaningful and engaging Social Commerce. **

Robin Bresnark

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