LONDON: Online retail sales made through Facebook, the social network, could surpass £3bn in the UK during the next three years, a forecast has predicted.

Ecwid, the ecommerce services provider, reported that British shoppers spent over £50bn making purchases on the web in 2011.

However, social commerce remains at a highly nascent stage, with only 4% of consumers already having bought something via Facebook. A 40% share of Ecwid's sample also indicated they were interested in doing so.

The company thus forecast that Facebook would account for 6.1% of internet purchases during the next three years, equating to £3.1bn in all.

"While Facebook commerce may still be in its infancy ... it has the potential to grow massively," Ruslan Fazylev, Ecwid's chief executive, told Computer Business Review.

"Many businesses now have a presence on Facebook but relatively few have been able to successfully monetise it to date. It is now actually quite easy to set up a store on Facebook which offers the same experience as a traditional online store."

According to Ecwid's figures, businesses selling from a store on Facebook as well as their existing digital platforms have generated 17.7% of incremental revenue.

One way to encourage such activity is increasing the number of "likes" a brand has. Some 57% of the panel agreed they would be more likely to follow brands promising discounts in their online stores.

Based on this evidence, Ecwid stated that the average "like" could ultimately be worth £13.70 if a brand was able to get a successful Facebook retail hub up and running.

"By creating a Facebook page and store in which a 'like' provides values to customers, businesses ensure a more engaged customer who is not only likely to purchase more, but also to recommend their experience to their friends and networks," Fazylev said.

Data sourced from Computer Business Review; additional content by Warc staff