Some of the big news coming out of Facebook is their move into having full-blown stores by retailers inside their Fan / Like Pages. This is the new social commerce that many are talking about these days and it appears to be poised to bring a lot of money to retailers and Facebook alike: if it worked.
Before I share my experience with trying to “shop” at JCPenney on Facebook let’s hear the corporate view of what is trying to be done. Bloomberg Businessweek reports
Facebook is ramping up efforts to entice companies such as Delta Air Lines and J.C. Penney to sell wares on its pages and convert more of its 500 million users into online shoppers.
Managers at the Palo Alto (Calif.)-based social network have met in the past month with more than 20 companies, said David Fisch, who runs a newly formed commerce partnerships group at Facebook. The aim is to help retailers set up shop on its pages and build tools that let Web users interact while buying.
Facebook is adding e-commerce features to attract users, keep them logged-on longer, and generate higher advertising sales. The effort may turn the company into an online shopping alternative to retailers such as eBay, says Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research .”It’s not natural to go to Facebook to shop—yet,” says Mulpuru, whose firm is based in Cambridge, Mass. “But it’s not a long step.”
Well, what better way to see how something like this works than to try it yourself right? Let the games begin!
First, I go to the JC Penney Fan Page and go to the Shop tab. So far, so logical. I am met with this next screen.
Well, since I am shopping for others or I am just not interested in sharing this with others I hit “Don’t Allow”. Now, at this point I figure my shopping days at the Penney Facebook store are over because I have broken the #1 rule in “Zuck’s Rules of Doing Anything on Facebook” which is “All users must give all information they can to Facebook at all times just because.” It allowed me to move on with my shopping experience,when I got this screen. Let’s just say it allowed me to move on because the next experience I was in for had little to do with shopping.
I actually thought “Gee, maybe I can still play in Facebook without giving up the data farm.” Then I went to actually purchase items and things only went downhill from there. Half of the items I tried to “Add to my bag” were not available while anything else I tried to put in my bag would act as if it was there but when I checked the bag it would say it was empty. I kept fighting becasue I blog about this stuff but my suspicion is that the average user called it a day by now and left in frustration.
So I figured I would check out the wall and what do I find? Complaints, spam, and this interesting status update from Facebook that not only promotes JCPenney’s Facebook stores but other places I could try as well!
So while I can see that this is a great theory, I honestly can’t believe that this was let out into the wild in this kind of disarray. Not only did it not reflect well on JCPenney but with Facebook it showed just how unwieldy and difficult a page like this can be because it becomes less about the brand and more about the brand’s problems (delivery, bad customer service etc etc)
So my question is this. Did I have this experience because I did not allow JCPenney and Facebook to take information and parade my activities to everyone I know? I actually hope so because if this is how this store experience works in general then this needs to go back to the whiteboard.