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MN Co.'s New Tech Drives Sales via Facebook

8thBridge's new Graphite platform allows consumers to interact with brands and products in new ways through Facebook; for example, marketers can use customized buttons to extend beyond Facebook's built-in "like" function to include words like "want," "love," "need," or "own."

Minneapolis-based 8thBridge, Inc., on Tuesday unveiled Graphite, a new platform that it says will allow marketers to "realize the full potential of social commerce" and drive sales via Facebook.

Brands that integrate Graphite into their Facebook pages can add "social expressions"-customizable buttons that allow consumers to indicate how they feel about a product. The function is meant to extend beyond Facebook's built-in "like" function to include words like "want," "love," "need," or "own."

When someone clicks on an "expression," Graphite produces what 8thBridge has dubbed a "shoppable story." Instead of a standard link, a shoppable story includes a thumbnail image with a play button, which appears on friends' Facebook feeds.

8thBridge claims that Facebook users are 18 times more likely to click on a shoppable story than a standard link, because links typically direct users away from Facebook. When a user clicks on a shoppable story, the thumbnail expands, and the user can zoom in on the product, read details such as the product's price, and view related products they may be interested in purchasing-all within Facebook. When a user is ready to purchase the item, he or she is directed to the respective company's website for checkout.

8thBridge says that sophisticated social commerce integration has until now required extensive technical support, making it difficult for marketers to adopt. But founder and CEO Wade Gerten said during a launch event for Graphite that it typically requires only about an hour and a half of a company's IT professionals' time to integrate into their marketing efforts. A simplistic interface is meant to allow marketers-rather than IT professionals-to make changes to their product images, descriptions, and other features once the platform is up and running.

Graphite also includes an analytics component, showing marketers which products are performing best and which "social expressions" are translating into the most sales, among other things. And marketers can target consumers based on their "expressions"; for example, if someone indicated that he or she "wants" a product, an e-mail can be sent to that individual when the product is on sale.

American Apparel, Elle, Guitar Center, Hallmark Cards, Musician's Friend, Nine West, and Toms were some of 8thBridge's "launch partners" for Graphite.

"The [Graphite technology] is a great improvement to close the gap between social networking and online shopping in a very user-friendly way," Stacey Shulman, chief information officer for American Apparel, said in a statement.

To view a video of the Graphite launch, featuring remarks by Gerten, click here.

Prior to the Graphite launch, 8thBridge developed Facebook applications for a variety of clients, including Delta Air Lines and Ticketmaster. The company was recently selected for Facebook's Preferred Marketing Developer Program, a designation given to 232 firms from 35 countries. 8thBridge and Minneapolis-based The Nerdery were the only Minnesota companies to be selected for the program, which recognizes innovative developers that use Facebook for marketing campaigns.

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