July 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

1-800-Flowers debuts the first online store on Facebook

The online floral retailer, a pioneer of Internet and telephone-based retailing, has launched the first online store on the social networking site Facebook. The online store lets customers shop and complete purchases without leaving their Facebook page.

The online floral retailer 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., one of the pioneers of Internet and telephone-based retailing, has launched the first online store on Facebook, the social networking site says. The shop at Facebook.com/1-800-Flowers lets customers shop and complete purchases without leaving their Facebook page.

"Facebook is redefining the social web, a cultural and social phenomenon that has changed the way we connect with one another," says Jim McCann, CEO and founder of 1-800-Flowers.com. "In 1992, 1-800-Flowers was one of the first businesses to embrace the Internet and in 1994 we were the first merchant of any kind to transact on AOL. Fifteen years later, we are extremely proud to again be the first-this time in launching a retail store inside Facebook, a bold step in unlocking the tremendous marketing potential of social media."

The retailer`s Facebook store had been up for almost a month for a beta test, but the official launch today caused a huge outpouring of consumers and regular customers expressing their interest on Facebook as well through Twitter and blog posts, McCann says. "The number of visitors to our Facebook page tripled since yesterday," McCann said after today`s launch.

Although 1-800-Flowers has the first online store on Facebook, other retailers also use the social networking site to promote sales. Sears Holdings Corp. says it allows shoppers on its Facebook Campus Ready page to make purchases without leaving Facebook, and other companies, including Hewlett-Packard Co., let visitors to their Facebook pages click through to their branded retail sites to shop and make online purchases. But 1-800-Flowers is the first to launch an online store on Facebook, a spokeswoman for Facebook says. The floral retailer uses a software application from Alvenda that lets Facebook visitors shop and complete purchases on 1-800-Flowers.com within a Facebook page, says Alvenda CEO Wade Gerten.

Alvenda’s technology, which the company refers to as a shoplet, is also used to let consumers shop e-commerce sites from online ads placed on third-party web sites. When 1-800-Flowers used Alvenda shoplets in online banner ads for Mother’s Day this year, it realized a 41% increase in sales per ad impression compared to banner ads without a shoplet, the retailer and Alvenda say.

"We believe the majority of future online sales will happen off-site,” Gerten says. “Alvenda enables customers to shop with brands wherever they happen to be; whether they`re on YouTube, a favorite blogger web site, or now Facebook. With innovative brands like 1-800-Flowers.com, Alvenda is moving commerce forward to unique touch points."

The floral retailer’s Facebook page, at Facebook.com/1800Flowers, includes a “Shop!” button in a navigation bar that activates the retailer’s e-commerce window. By keeping shoppers on Facebook while they shop on 1-800-Flowers.com, the retailer makes it easier for them to post and share comments about their shopping experiences with friends, the retailer says. 1-800-Flowers also makes special offers on its Facebook page to encourage visitors to register on Facebook as a fan of the retailer, a step that lists 1-800-Flowers.com on the visitor’s personal Facebook page.

Future versions of the retailer’s Facebook store will offer additional social features, including birthday calendars and group gift-giving options, 1-800-Flowers says. McCann says the retailer expects to eventually roll out additional Facebook stores for its other retail floral, gifts and food brands, which include FannieMay.com, The PopcornFactory.com and PlowandHearth.com, and that it is already starting to communicate with other social networking sites to launch online stores on their platforms. 1-800-Flowers is No. 31 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

The spokeswoman for Facebook says the 1-800-Flowers store is a good example of what the social networking site expects to see from online retailers. "We’re seeing brands do more and more interesting things with their Facebook Pages," she says. "1-800-Flowers’ online store is a great example of a business trying new things. Facebook Pages can be a unique and interactive way for businesses to communicate and engage with consumers."

Gerten adds that Alvenda is currently working with three other online retailers, including two within the top five online retailers as listed in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, to launch online stores on Facebook.

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