20 February, 2014

Facebook–Retailers’ best friend

I was browsing Facebook on my laptop which is quite rare. I mean, I would rather use my hand held devices viz., the iPad and iPhone for posting and checking status updates. Really don’t use the computer browser for this purpose much. However, the larger screen size means one gets to see more things like what I saw today – one of my friends’ birthday in the coming days – a gentle reminder of sorts. And there is a small tag below which states I could buy a gift online! I was surprised that Facebook has integrated this facility on its homepage although the Gift App has been around for some time. While I further browsed through, it showed the Brands and products my friend has liked or mentioned in his posts. And bingo! There are options to buy gift vouchers straight out of the Facebook page… This was truly amazing. As a Host, I can even choose when the gift voucher should reach the birthday boy and it can also be mentioned on the timeline. Honestly, this is super cool, I felt.

Ecommerce is gaining enormous proportions in the world today. In India, it is a USD 20 billion opportunity by 2017 and growing at a CAGR of over 40% over the past few years. More and more Indians are taking to the internet for consumption of news, browsing and of course shopping and the Government suggests that there could be over 230 million users in the country at present.


Facebook means various things for people. For someone, its just a public profile which is for others to know that he or she is also on Facebook. For many, it’s a chronicle of their life – for their friends and family to know what they are doing, right from the time they snooze their alarms to the workday as well as food, drink and dinner, not to mention movies and music. Gaming is an important past time for some. Thousands of friends and contacts are found everyday on Facebook, thanks to technology which is bringing the world closer. Many companies do not focus as much on their own website as much as they do on their Facebook pages which are interactive and are probably having a better reach comparatively. Daily contests, product updates and other marketing opportunities are a regular feature.

Coming back to the curious case of gifting online, the gift vouchers were predominantly for the US market – Starbucks, Dominos, Chilli’s, TGIF and many more among Food & Drinks, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Old Navy, JC Penny, Gap to name a few among Retailers, Spas, Uber Taxi Services, Rdio among entertainment and even Charities such as ASPCA, WWF, Unicef and many more. One can choose among the various gift voucher options that are listed on the Facebook page, pay online and the gift voucher would be sent as a coupon to the receiver by email. The voucher can then be redeemed online or offline, depending on the Etailer or Retailer from whom the voucher has been sent. According to Anshul Gupta, former Head of Gifting at Indiaplaza.com, the pioneers of online Retailing since 1999, Gifting is an enormous opportunity in the Ecommerce space. He also feels Gifting is very personal and is social in today’s context. While the option to gift someone something and the price to pay is the prerogative of the one who gifts, it is about the other person when it comes to the choice of gift.


Even in a very evolved Retail ecosystem such as in the US, there are just a handful of Retailers who are taking advantage of this opportunity. I guess it wouldn’t be too long when the listing would be country wise or region wise. It would help Retailers to expand their reach and push their vouchers to as many people as they can, thereby attracting clicks to their online website or footfalls to their stores.

If Facebook buys out ecommerce companies, specifically for a continent or region such as Snapdeal or Flipkart, then this would open up a host of opportunities for Retailers, Customers and a great monetizing opportunity for Facebook themselves. Retailers like Shoppers Stop, Croma, Odyssey, Café Coffee Day and Starbucks already have a strong digital presence and may push their vouchers through Facebook for prospective customers through the gifting platform. These instances only prove me from time to time that Retailers have a bright future ahead. Just that the timing is key.

So, next time you wish to send a gift to your loved one in the US, try the gifting app on Facebook. You may be helping them earn some additional revenues while paying for the photos that you have stored on their servers! Happy Gifting.

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