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Facebook Expands As Shopping Channel With Flash Apps

23 April 2010 - 11:26 by Paul Tissington

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We may once have viewed it purely as a social networking site, but recently the extremely popular social media site Facebook has begun to demonstrate that it can be a valuable tool for e-commerce too, with experts predicting that the site could begin to influence online shopping trends.


The latest development in the saga of Facebook's transformation from social media phenomenon to e-commerce tool comes in the form of the development of shopping apps which can be implemented directly on the Facebook fan pages of online retailers and brands. Online merchants can pay developers to set up the apps on their fan pages, meaning that Facebook users who engage in safe shopping online can then use that fan page as the point of entry to the sale process. Previously, fan pages have primarily been exercises in marketing rather than active retail channels.


Although Facebook merchants have sold before, their sales in the past have been limited to virtual goods-for example, via games such as Farmville-which exist purely on the site itself rather than in the form of physical goods. These virtual goods use Facebook Credits and are only usable on the site itself. 


However, now online retailers will be able to sell real goods for those safe shopping online to purchase, with some retailers already selling via the Facebook 'Shop' tab, with online Flash-driven stores being termed 'shoplets' by Facebook. And because these 'shoplets' are created using Flash technology, they do not necessarily have to resemble mundane fan pages; rather, they can be considerably more sophisticated and appear in the form of advanced shopping channels. 


However, there are disadvantages: not all Facebook users have Flash technology enabled on their browsers and the shopping apps are difficult to view on the current generation of smartphones and tablets such as the iPad. No doubt the technology will continue to evolve.