Start-ups find success through F-Commerce

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Facebook launched F-Commerce, or storefront pages where you can buy things from businesses, a few years ago. It started to look like a flop when some major retailers shut down their pages. But now smaller companies and start-ups are finding success through this new way of doing business.

Hairbows and accessories for babies, toddlers, even mommies. Deann Kump runs her business Tutu Cute LLC from her Dinwiddie home after buying some for her baby girl. "I said I've got to get these accessories and I just opened an at-home business," she explained.

Kump started about a year ago with a website. But soon after, she opened a Facebook storefront, using an app called Payvment that lets her accept credit cards right over the page. Now half her sales come through Facebook.

"First I just friend-requested my friends," said Kump. "Then I would post pictures and people would see that and they would tell their friends, and before you knew it, it just grew and grew and grew."

The advantage for start-ups: Facebook storefronts are free, allow businesses to build personal relationships with customers, and let them cross-promote their products with other Facebook businesses.

Explained Kump, "I started working with photographers and photographers would use my products and they would take pictures and tag it to my page and vise versa."

Tutu Cute LLC grew so fast, Kump was featured in a New York Times article on F-Commerce.

F-Commerce hasn't been a total success. Many large retailers, like The Gap, Nordstrom, JC Penney, and GameStop, shutdown their Facebook stores.

Said VCU Business School's Dr. David Urban, "People who are used to big companies and full blown websites are often much more comfortable with the format of those websites and the flexibility that they have."

And F-Commerce nowhere near rivals Amazon or Ebay in market share. But for smaller companies, like Tutu Cute LLC, USA Today reports second quarter profits on Facebook stores were up 38%. There are now about 180,000 Facebook stores.

Said Dr. Urban, "It's a lot less expensive than having a full blown website, it allows the business person to establish a close personal relationship up front."

The key to success? Urban says regular updates and photos to keep customers interested, and incentives, like discounts, for customers to share links with friends. For Kump, it's paid off.

"I now have 1600 likes," Kump told us. "And for being on Facebook for a year, that is a huge accomplishment for me."

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