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Are consumers ready to buy stuff on Facebook?

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As more Internet visitors shift more of their browsing time into social network, startups and small businesses are experimenting with Facebook sales, aka "f commerce."

Even though a number of big brand retailers apparently haven't had such great luck initiating e-commerce operations on the Facebook social network, that hasn't deterred several well-funded startups that are focusing on a trend that is being called "f-commerce" by some.

Reuters reports that these companies, including BeachMint, Yardsellr, Oodle and Fab.com, are all testing various selling models on the Facebook platforms.

Anecdotally, I know that small businesses are inclined to experiment as well. I was surprised to learn last week, for example, that 90 percent of the 1,200 companies using the Goodsie e-commerce platform are using the Facebook storefront feature. That is a pretty high percentage, don't you think?

What makes the likes of Beachmint, Yardsellr, Oodle and Fab.com interesting is the tens of millions of dollars in venture capital they have received from people including Accel Partners, Andreesen Horowitz (the firm fun by Netscape founder Marc Andreesen) and Goldman Sachs.

Here's a snapshot of what some of the aforementioned companies have done on Facebook to warrant attention. (Ironically, I'm including their Web page links, because in most instances there are still best for those of you researching these companies.)

  • Beachmint (a fashion site that includes the ever-present Olsen twins) ran a live video event for Stylemint and included capabilities that allowed for one-click purchasing.
  • Fab.com runs flash sales for subscribers (who pay $5 per month), integrating with Facebook to let people "show off" their purchases to friends.
  • Oodle, an operator of online marketplaces with a local twist that touch 15 million people; think of it as an online classified section within Facebook.
  • Yardsellr organizes people into social communities for buying and selling purposes; if you post an item, it gets posted on the newsfeeds of those in your community.

Aside from the obvious ramifications for Facebook if f-commerce takes off, this is an important conversation for one big reason: People are spending an increasing amount of their Internet time within Facebook and not out on the Internet at large.

The Reuters article points out that Facebook has approximately 845 million active monthly visitors (as of the end of 2011). That compares with the 100 million people who frequent eBay's online marketplace.

The consumer love of feedback -- on products, services, the people and companies selling same -- is what makes the Facebook experiments really interesting. If your Facebook friends trust a brand or product, the theory is that you will be more likely to give it consideration.

If your company doesn't have an e-commerce offering within Facebook, it could lose out -- if not in the next few months, then in the not-so-distant future.

(via Reuters)

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure