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1-800-Flowers.com Blooms on Facebook

Will e-commerce on Facebook finally blossom? That may depend on how 1-800-Flowers.com fares as the e-tailer today became one of the first to open up a fully integrated storefront on its Facebook page.

By doing so, Facebook users can browse and purchase from 1-800-Flowers.com without leaving the social networking site or being redirected to the company's Web site.

The news comes at a time when recession-strapped brands are increasingly looking to ssocial media as a more affordable marketing alternative compared to traditional online and offline advertising.

And while many large companies, including Pizza Hut, Target, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, have had success using Facebook for interactive promotions, none have truly capitalized on the site's 250 million-member community by conducting integrated online purchase transactions.

The move is also significant because many e-tailers, both large and small, use widgets and Facebook apps that show inventory or create wish lists, but redirect shoppers to their e-stores. Some of these apps have a limited amount of inventory available for closed-loop purchases, but to date, no one in the Fortune 500 is grabbing headlines for baking an e-commerce storefront into their company's Facebook page. "We’re seeing brands do more and more interesting things with their Facebook Pages," Facebook said in an e-mail sent to InternetNews.com. "1-800-Flowers’ online store is a great example of a business trying new things. Facebook Pages can be a unique and interactive way for businesses to communicate and engage with consumers."

The flower vendor has a long-earned reputation as an e-commerce pioneer. The Carle Place, N.Y.-based company, known for the unprecedented move of using 1-800 in its name, went online in 1992. It became the first merchant on AOL three years later.

In 2007, 1-800-Flowers.com launched a Facebook app that worked with its loyalty program, Fresh Rewards, by offering users activities they could participate in to earn special discounts and benefits, which was soon followed by a fan page, that currently has 1,748 fans.

Facebook for friends and family, but buyers?

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if 1-800-Flowers.com can entice Facebook members to buy while socializing at the site. Historically, research has shown that social media site users want to connect with friends and family -- not buy products.

The company looked to Alvenda, an e-commerce-enabled advertising network and application developer, to build the Facebook storefront, and naturally, it finds promise in the potential of e-commerce at social media sites.

"We believe the majority of future online sales will happen 'offsite.' Alvenda enables customers to shop with brands wherever they happen to be; whether they're on YouTube, a favorite blogger Web site, or now Facebook," Wade Gerten, Alvenda CEO, said in a statement.