September 30, 2010, 10:05 AM

Shoppers get a new way to tell Facebook friends about gifts they want

Viewers of online store circulars send messages like “Gift Me This” to their Facebook pals.

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Retail chains no longer have to rely as heavily on the printed advertising circulars they have traditionally distributed through Sunday newspapers. As newspaper circulation has declined, retailers have opted for also distributing electronic versions of these circulars on their web sites, through online marketing like e-mail campaigns, and through their profile pages on Facebook. Now ShopLocal is offering a new way to connect circular readers with the popular social network.

ShopLocal, a provider of online versions of weekly advertising circulars distributed by retail chains including Staples Inc., The Home Depot Inc. and Best Buy Co. Inc., launched this week a system that lets viewers of retailers’ online circulars instantly send messages to Facebook friends as they hover over individual product ads with their computer mouse.

“We’re creating a modern version of the printed circular in Sunday newspapers, and helping retailers extend their base into the Facebook audience,” says Vikram Sharma, CEO of ShopLocal, which is a division of PointRoll, a subsidiary of newspaper publisher Gannett Company.

The online circulars reside on microsites hosted by ShopLocal and are linked directly from the retailer’s e-commerce site. Hovering over any ad within the circular generates a window that lets the shopper send a message to her personal Facebook page. Retailers can populate the window with ready-made message titles, such as “Gift Me This” or “Check Out This Great Deal,” and also let shoppers create their own titles, Sharma says.

"Holiday shopping is an exciting time for both retailers and consumers, but breaking through the clutter can be a challenge for advertisers," says Tricia Kokoszka, program manager of retail marketing at Staples. "Facebook is at the heart of consumer conversations. ShopLocal's 'Gift Me This' allows us to be invited into those social discussions with a specialized, branded experience for Facebook users."

ShopLocal introduced a complementary service four months ago that enables retailers to present their online advertising circulars on their own Facebook pages. The service introduced this week is intended to reach consumers who aren’t necessarily registered fans of retailers on Facebook. “This way shoppers who may not already be fans can introduce the retailer’s products to their friends and their friends’ friends on Facebook,” Sharma says.

Sharma declines to specify for publication the costs to retailers of deploying its online circulars, but says ShopLocal’s pricing is designed to accommodate small as well as large retailers.

 

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