March 3, 2011, 1:04 PM

A shopping application lets Facebook users browse among merchants

A virtual shopping mall features merchants using the Payvment Facebook shopping platform.

Lead Photo

Payvment, provider of an e-commerce platform that allows Facebook users—whether they are individual artisans, retailers of manufacturers—to host stores and sell products within the social network, last week launched a Shopping Mall on Facebook. The Shopping Mall application brings together the wares of all of Payvment’s U.S.-based sellers so that Facebook users can browse, share and buy products from all those sellers without leaving the social network.

Payvment CEO Christian Taylor says more than 50,000 U.S.-based Facebook users have built stores using the company’s free app. Merchants include single-person operations like craft sellers to nationally distributed products like Say Yes to Carrots, a skin care brand.

To visit the Shopping Mall, located at www.facebook.com/gotothemall, a Facebook user has to grant the mall access to her profile information. Taylor says this information allows the Shopping Mall to present personalized recommendations to her based on the preferences she has indicated by clicking Facebook’s increasingly ubiquitous Like button. The shopper can also access a mall directory of all merchants or use a search function to find a particular seller. If the shopper indicates she Likes particular products in the mall, those Likes are then incorporated into new recommendations, and those Likes are also shared on her Facebook news feed. If her Facebook friends also shop at the mall, their Likes are also incorporated into what the consumer sees at the mall.

Taylor says the Shopping Mall app helps solve a problem with e-commerce on Facebook, which is that each seller was operating individually and Facebook users didn’t know all the Facebook pages that offered products. For example, if a Facebook user wanted to shop for Converse sneakers on Facebook, he might have gone to Converse’s Facebook page, but he wouldn’t have known there were other merchants also selling Converse on the social network. A search in the Shopping Mall would show all the Converse products available for sale from all merchants using the Payvment app to sell in Facebook. Taylor says search results are sorted by Likes of friends in the shopper’s network and by the Likes of all the consumers who visit the Payvment Shopping Mall.

“There needs to be a discovery location,” he says. “We want to make the Shopping Mall a place everyone knows to come to find cool products.”

A Shopping Mall shopper can make purchases from multiple sellers in the mall using Payvment’s universal shopping cart and check out with one transaction. Payvment’s shopping cart distributes the proceeds among all the merchants the consumer buys from. Merchants can accept any form of electronic payment, but they are required to use PayPal to process payments. Merchants manage their own costs with PayPal, Taylor says.

Building a Facebook store, and being included in the Shopping Mall, is free and a store takes about 15 minutes to build, Taylor says. He says there is no pay-for-placement in the Shopping Mall, nor does Payvment collect commissions on purchase. Search results are ordered by a combination of the shopper’s preferences, the number of Likes a product has received and by what is currently trending on Facebook. He adds that the Shopping Mall search system will reset itself periodically so that featured products get refreshed and the shopper sees something new.

Taylor says Payvement is able to offer its services for free because venture capital funding pays for research, marketing and administrative costs. The vendor, he says, feels that because e-commerce on Facebook is new, it`s best to get its platform out to retailers and collect feedback so it can improve its product before launching a revenue-generating business model.

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