NEW YORK: US department store JCPenney has rolled out an integrated ecommerce site within Facebook, allowing consumers to buy products from it without having to leave the social network.

The retailer, which has 1.3 million registered Facebook fans, will make selected items available to browse and buy on the network, using a platform created by Usablenet.

When visiting the store, consumers are given the option of posting comments and recommendations to their Facebook friends, in an attempt to exploit the 'social graph'.

The reason the store is significant is that it moves the purchase onto Facebook.

Many stores have already created links to Facebook from their e-commerce sites, allowing customers to share images or comments with their friends, in the hope that this will lead to future sales.

JCPenney's initiative is the largest of its kind to date. In October, Procter & Gamble launched its own Facebook webstore, using a platform run by Amazon's web services business.

Meanwhile, the online florist 1-800-Flowers has allowed Facebook users to complete transactions on the networking site since last year.

Back in August, Delta Air Lines began offering ticket sales via Facebook.
Tom Nealon, who heads JCPenney's digital initiatives, said the new application would "encourage social integration and user contribution as our customers shop".

Other brands with ecommerce operations are expected to follow suit. Jason Taylor, head of global product strategy for Usablenet, said that the UK online fashion retailer Asos is planning its own Facebook store before the end of 2010.

Elsewhere, the consumer electronics retailer Best Buy has made its online inventory available on Facebook for comments and search, but directs users to its own site for transactions.

Taylor argues that the emergence of e-commerce business within Facebook will provide retail marketing executives with firmer data on which to determine their future marketing spending.

"One of the things that JCPenney recognises is that they are doing lots of things, but without the key numbers on revenues that are coming through Facebook, it is hard to move the investments forward," he said.

Earlier this year, Facebook launched a new Facebook Deals service with several retailers, including Macy's and Gap.

The scheme aims to attract customers into shops by offering discounts in return for users agreeing to register their presence in physical stores.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff