June 11, 2010, 4:40 PM

Retailers tell how they sell directly on Facebook

Facebook offers a way to reach new consumers, Hallmark says.

Lead Photo

David Saville, innovations product manager at Hallmark Cards, describes the greeting card maker's Facebook selling feature at IRCE 2010.

Many buyers of Hallmark greeting cards do not visit Hallmark.com. But many of those shoppers are visiting Facebook. That’s why the greeting cards retailer decided to sell directly on the social networking site, David Saville, Hallmark's innovations product manager, said today at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition post-conference workshop session entitled “Brave new world of selling—on Facebook.”

Working with technology vendor Alvenda Inc., Hallmark launched a shop tab on its Facebook page that allows shoppers to customize and purchase greeting cards. The retailer then places a stamp on the card and puts it in the mail. “There are hurdles with printing and sending cards,” said Saville. “But the basic idea is to give consumers the ability to personalize and buy a real paper card without leaving Facebook, and to then be done with it.”

Once a shopper places an order, Alvenda communicates the order to Hallmark.com’s back-end system so that all of Hallmark’s orders are concentrated in one place.

A smaller retailer takes a different approach to orders from the social network. The orders placed on Equator Estate Coffee & Teas’ Facebook page are not integrated into the San Rafael, CA-based coffee and tea e-retailer’s web site. But that’s okay because the retailer’s business is small enough that it can manually handle having two order management systems, said David Pohl, head roaster and online merchant.

The retailer’s web store is difficult to update, but its Facebook store is not. That’s why the retailer’s Facebook store features small-batch, high-end offerings that are too limited to regularly add and remove from Equator Estate’s web site. Making special offers on Facebook rewards customers, said Pohl. “You should treat your fans like fans, with promotions or special offers,” he said.

While there is some crossover between the shoppers at the Equator Estate web site and the Facebook store, that overlap is minimal, said Pohl. That means the Facebook sales tab generates incremental sales for Equator Estate.

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