Earlier this year I suggested retailers stop trying to make F-commerce happen, and for the most part, they’ve obliged. Rather than push fans to buy things through their Facebook pages, brands have used Facebook for branding. F-commerce, or commerce on Facebook, hasn’t found success partly because of the high costs of integrating inventory and shipping with a new, lower volume platform.
Still, with all of the social-enabled shopping happening on sites like Fab.com, OpenSky, and (eventually) Pinterest, surely Facebook has something to offer in the way of commerce.
Lucas Aragão, a former Product Manager of Brazilian local commerce site Peixe Urbano, launched a new spin on F-commerce. Instead of asking brands to invest heavily to integrate existing ecommerce platforms with Facebook’s, he’s taken F-commerce to the people. His site, BazzApp, is like a fancy Craigslist, if it were based entirely in Facebook.
BazzApp will also launch a mobile app, but the site will remain entirely inside Facebook. Aragão says that’s because he wants users to feel trust — like they know who they are buying and selling from. He could achieve that with a simple Facebook Connect sign-in similar to most apps, but he believes there is more value to F-commerce. “Being inside of Facebook also allows the user to stay on it and purchase at the same time they are chatting with a friend real time and asking their opinion on something,” he says.
F-commerce is different than regular commerce, which some of the big retailers who abandoned the platform early on did not realize. “The triggers for the users to shop are different, and so should be the stores,” he said. ”The challenge here is how to figure out the way people are more comfortable in Facebook.” On the Web, search won out as the best feature for usability. On Facebook, it’s browsing and recommendation. “The trick is finding the best way to implement it,” Aragão says.
This marketplace approach to commerce on Facebook might actually work. There’s little investment in infrastructure on the side of the seller, who takes care of shipping and inventory as well. And because users are buying from peers with real names instead of brands, shopping on BazzApp is closer to the activity we’re used to on Facebook — connecting with people. Social commerce is expected to account for $9 billion in revenue in 2012 if you go by this Booz Allen study.
BazzApp has early traction with females age 25-34 in Brazil. It is focusing initially on apparel. The company’s soft launch gathered 85,000 fans and more than 4,000 product listings, converting to around 700 sales. Aragão says this is a big number for Brazil, where many brands haven’t embraced Facebook as a marketing platform and have low fan counts. Mercado Libre, the eBay of brazil, does more than $5 billion a year in sales, but it is 10 years old and has not adapted to social and mobile trends. (For its part, the eBay of America — eBay — only recently adapted to user experience trends with its new Pinterest layout.)
Balancing a marketplace is difficult and finding an equal number of buyers and sellers frequently stymies new, ambitious marketplace startups. Why else does anti-innovation Craigslist reign supreme despite the hundreds of options with better design, functionality, and features? BazzApp is reaching out to curators and bloggers to create “trending items” emails to bring in buyers.
BazzApp is a part of Brazil’s early “second generation” of startups launched by founders who’ve had success at another large startup. That sort of deep generational experience is what makes Silicon Valley what it is — the Valley has 20 generations of entrepreneurs New York is on its third or fourth round. Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley said at PandoMonthly last week. With BazzApp, Brazil is just beginning its second.
BazzApp is officially available today in Brazil and will be running in English by the end of the year. The company has raised $300,000 reals from angel investors.