As the latest craze in alphabetised business practice, F-commerce takes E-commerce and pushes it into the brave new world of social media.

Selling goods and services on Facebook just makes sense: that’s where everyone is and companies are able to reach an audience that marketers of yesteryear would never have thought possible.

Early initiatives from companies hoping to maximise the potential of F-commerce include Heinz introducing a new ketchup blend exclusively via its Facebook page and the Parfums de Coeur company offering to reduce the price of one of its FragranceRebel products as the scent garnered increasing numbers of ‘likes’.

But these successes were well-funded and short-lived. F-commerce has some naysayers. In the US, Gap, GameStop and J.C Penny all closed their Facebook shops following after it became clear that their fans were decidedly uninterested.

What credit cards could teach F-commerce

Word-of-mouth rules in social media land so simply owning an F-commerce page or, as many brands do, making that page a Facebooked version of your own site, isn’t enough. People need a reason to visit, and then to return. In this respect, there are lessons to be learned from credit card reward schemes, which have been successfully holding the attention of customers for years.

Credit cards from the biggest, most successful rewards providers – NatWest, Lloyds TSB, Marks & Spencer and Virgin – all offer cardholders incentives to spend. The biggest schemes hand out their rewards obliquely, in the form of points which can subsequently be turned into anything from food to flights.

Deciding on a specific purchase, interaction or reward when you’re trying to use Facebook, or make a credit card payment, is tricky. Collecting points takes that sting away.

Scott Henry of business strategy firm FischerJordan, claims that points-based reward programs are now “the most important feature of payment cards”. Spending on reward cards can be up to three times that of a traditional card.

How does this translate to F-commerce? Because, with Facebook, there’s an obvious scheme already available for businesses to use: Facebook credits.

Allowing users to earn and spend on selected goods with the virtual currency – available to convert to 15 currencies, including pound sterling, US dollars and euros – gives F-commerce sites a simple way to tap into the Facebook culture, becoming part of the site rather than a hasty addition to it and preserves the oblique ‘points’ system which has made reward credit cards so rewarding for providers.

In April last year, it was announced that Facebook credits could be used to buy vouchers, which could then be used to purchase real goods and services using the ‘Deals’ offering – the same concept that is used in the immensely successful supermarket reward schemes.

Adding some form of reward scheme is just one way of making a site more directly personal and engaging. As the F-commerce trend continues, there will surely be many more.