New Avenues for E-Commerce

E-Commerce Offers New Avenues for Payment Acceptance

1-800-Flowers is paving the way, yet again, for retailers to reach consumers via E-Commerce. The company has jumped on the Facebook bandwagon and is taking advantage of the viral social networking phenomenon. In late July, they became the first store to sell their products directly through Facebook, via a Facebook application. They simply added a “Shop” tab to their page where users can shop, purchase, and ship, all without leaving Facebook.

As one of the first brick and mortar retailers go to online, 1-800-Flowers continues to  lead the pack in thinking outside the box. Started as a single flower store in the 70s, the company launched a toll-free brand in the 80s and then evolved into one of the first online retailers in the mid-90s. Already utilizing mobile phone apps and Twitter, Facebook adds another avenue where the company is finding ways to go directly to the consumer, rather than waiting for the consumers to come to their web site.

“Facebook was the world’s fourth most visited web site.“

According to Alexa, a web information research company, Facebook users spend, on average, 30 minutes a day on the site. This gives online retailers, with at least a Facebook “fan” page, more opportunity to capture the attention of their current and future customers. It’s about allowing the consumer as many avenues for purchase as possible.

In addition to 1-800-Flowers’ fan page, followers can also post comments, provide feedback and publish links on their profiles. The company also provides apps for iPhones, Blackberrys and Androids, as well as a basic mobile site, where consumers can shop the Mobile Gift Center and receive SMS offers via their mobile phone.

Besides being a company which seems to forge new marketing paths, 1-800-Flowers needs to throw a pretty wide net out there to catch consumers. 1-800-Flowers’ target market is larger than consumers looking to send flowers, since the acquisition of several companies over the years has expanded its basic product line to include popcorn and specialty treats, cookies and baked goods, premium chocolates and confections, gourmet foods, wine gifts, gift baskets, home décor and children’s gifts.

With its  2.2 billion member base, Facebook was the world’s fourth most visited web site in January, according to figures from comScore, an Internet marketing research firm. So far, Facebook has become a very strong marketing platform (hence the word “viral” that has been added to the original “social networking” term). However, based on other known security issues, the site’s payment platform still has analysts and developers wary of using the site for payment checkout. 1-800-Flowers uses an embedded transactional advertising widget, which operates as a fully functioning storefront. To serve its new e-commerce channel, Facebook is developing a new electronic payments system that might compete with Paypal. Facebook’s Vice President of Product, Christopher Cox, said “software developers who sell applications on Facebook are testing the payments system, but it is unclear whether the company will manage e-commerce transactions across the Web.”

Similar to offering alternative payments, merchants can stay ahead of the curve by regularly finding new ways to maintain their current customer base and reach new consumers. They need to be thinking – “where is my target customer spending their time?” The old adage of “build it and they will come” doesn’t apply in every situation – especially in today’s virtual world.

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