Why Amazon Unit Quidsi Finally Set Up Shop on Facebook

Hailed as the next big thing last year, commerce over Facebook — or “F-Commerce,” if you prefer — hasn’t really caught on yet. But Josh Himwich believes that’s because most people have it wrong. Instead of F-Commerce, Himwich thinks it’s more along the lines of “F-Errands.”

Quidsi, a unit of Amazon, last week launched Facebook sites where consumers could buy items from Soap.com and Diapers.com. Himwich, the vice president of eCommerce Solutions at Quidsi, says he took a while to add that functionality because he didn’t see any other merchants who had success selling via Facebook pages.

“Many of the retailers who have currently tried it at least in private will talk about the lack of success they’ve had,” says Himwich. “You’d be hard pressed to find a story where it did extremely well for them.”

Although Himwich declines to name names, JCPenney, Procter & Gamble’s Pampers, and retailers The Limited and Nine West, among others, have recently set up shop on Facebook. Jeffrey Grau, a senior analyst with eMarketer, agrees that F-Commerce hasn’t yet lived up to the hype. “It’s a real challenge because people are on Facebook to socialize with their friends and family,” Grau says, adding that the platform seems effective for broadcasting “liked” products.

What finally encouraged Himwich to embrace F-Commerce for Quidsi was his belief that instead of shopping on Facebook, many people would use it to knock out some errands. That was especially true for certain items Quidsi sells, like diapers. “It’s replenishment,” Himwich says of such purchases. Himwich says he got the idea from mobile apps, which are frequently use for “micro-tasks” like buying household staples.

About 600,000 shoppers regularly visit Quidsi’s sites. About a quarter of those consumers use an app called “My List” that was designed for replenishment purchases. Himwich’s hunch is that with targeted pay-per-click ads on Facebook, people who are on that social network will be reminded to buy more diapers, take a few minutes to get that done and then return to whatever they were doing on Facebook.

Grau says he thinks Quidsi’s approach is smart since the company is merely trying to increase its customers’ rate of repurchase rather than sell them something new. Still, Grau believes that others will figure out new ways to sell on Facebook that make sense. “It’s a harder business model on Facebook,” says Grau. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

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