Taking that rare step is Equator Estate Coffees & Teas, which Tuesday announcing launching an online store on its Facebook page allowing fans to buy artisanal coffees without leaving the site.
"Social media is rapidly becoming a critically important vehicle for talking with our customers. Now, with our new iFanStore, we've opened up an entirely new sales channel for our seasonal, specialty blends," said Helen Russell, CEO and co-founder of San Rafael, Calif.-based Equator, in a statement.
The company's iFanStore is powered by San Francisco-based e-commerce technology provider Milyoni and offers a half dozen coffee blends including Columbia La Eternidad and Mocha Java, ranging in price from $12.95 to $14.95. Adding a social flavor, the storefront also lets customers share purchases with friends on Facebook and other social properties including Twitter.
Michael Straus, a spokesman for Equator, said the company had a clunky online store on its own site and was looking to integrate its social media strategy with e-commerce, making a shop on Facebook seem like a good fit. (Equator is now also revamping the store on its own site.)
But most other marketers haven't come to the same conclusion. "People aren't using Facebook right now to buy stuff," said Mike Lazerow, CEO of Buddy Media, which develops applications and brand pages on Facebook. "They use it to talk to friends, see pictures, play games, learn about new products, connect with companies and products that they love. But they are not currently buying stuff directly on Facebook."
He added that mindset will eventually change as Facebook becomes part of the typical Facebook experience. For now, direct selling on the site is limited to a handful of retailers including Limited Brands and 1-800-Flowers. "What's often ignored is whether the commercialization of Facebook will hurt its social feel," said Shiv Singh, vice president and global social media lead at Razorfish.
He suggested that e-commerce activities should be presented in ways that don't intrude on the conversational flow of Facebook. The success of an e-commerce venture via a Facebook page also depends on the product being sold. "I wouldn't buy a car from within Facebook but I might buy a T-shirt," said Singh. Or a pound of coffee?