"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?

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The secret behind Facebook's new toy

The secret behind Facebook's new toy

Facebook's recently announced Graph Search feature changes everything. Okay, not everything. Toast will still land butter-side-down, and shoe manufacturers will continue to be unable to manufacture anything that doesn't shred your heels upon first use. But it's going to have a massive effect on social media marketing and an even bigger one on social commerce.

For years now, brands have been engaging with people on their corporate Pages. Of course, no one joins Facebook for that, so direct traffic to facebook.com/acme_tractors has historically been pretty low. As a consequence, brands have had to force their way into users' newsfeeds and timelines. Sometimes by staging giveaways or running polls - anything to 'engage' and inspire sharing. Sometimes by posting photos of cute, fluffy rats wearing silly hats. Pics like that always get 'likes'.

But, in doing that, brands have dumbed themselves down. Acme Tractors aren't in the business of cooing over rats in hats. They're in the business of selling tractors (at least they would be had I not made them up). What they need is for people to engage with their brand on Facebook in the context of commerce, not cuteness.

Once Facebook's Graph Search expands to include all Open Graph elements (something CEO Mark Zuckerberg says is forthcoming), brands won't have to ditch their dignity to catch the eye of prospective customers. They'll just need to offer enticing deals, deals which reward users' participation and incentivise sharing. That way, when people search for deals which might interest them, perhaps deals their friends are taking part in (or, as we like to call them, Co-buys), up comes the brand and up go the sales. Essentially, brands won't just appear in search results, they'll be able to sell in them.

That's a game-changer.

And it's actually the most important thing you're yet to read about Facebook's announcement. You'd heard how it might affect Google. You've read about poor old Yelp. You've learned how Bing might actually profit. But, unless you work for one of those companies, none of that really mattered to you. This does. This matters a lot.

Robin Bresnark

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