Facebook Gets Another Shot At Commerce, in Pictures

Stipple Brings Image Augmenting Tech to Facebook Feed

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It's been a tough week for those retailers and marketers holding out for the eventual promise of Facebook commerce. After AllThingsD reported that Facebook Storefront platform Payvment was shutting down, a slew of posts and tweets hit the web about this being the end of commerce on the social-media giant.

Not so fast. On Wednesday, Stipple, one of several tech companies that provides the ability to enhance images with additional functionalities, extended its service to images in the Facebook stream. Brands can now post images embedded with Stipple's tags that will display real-time pricing information when appearing in a user's feed.

In addition to product pricing, Stipple also offers multimedia and social features, but the big news here is an alternative means to drive purchases and commerce on Facebook, after what seemed to be a setback earlier this week.

Today's launch partners include a number of brands, such as People magazine, Sony Pictures, The Washington Post, Dr. Oz, Associated Press Images, Karmaloop and TLC Network, among others.

The idea of image-based commerce is certainly an attractive one, given the rise of sites such as Pinterest, SVpply and The Fancy, which have spawned their own ecosystems of startups trying to bridge the gap between images posted to those services and their sources -- the merchants and retailers -- and facilitate seamless shopping through them. For example, Canadian startup HOVR.IT employs image-recognition technology and a Chrome extension to try to bridge that gap.

The ultimate goal, of course, is bringing image-based commerce to the Facebook feed and its 1 billion-plus users -- not in a storefront, not hidden away, not through redeemable offers, but right there in the feed -- and the images which comprise it.

Stipple debuted this functionality in Twitter's expanded tweets and media cards late last year, and the Facebook integration will be similar. On Twitter and Facebook, users can hover over products to access real-time pricing that is automatically updated as the merchant updates the pricing at the source. However, users will need to click through to the retailer's site to complete the actual transaction. This can be seen as a barrier, but it also means we're just one step away from shopping directly in the Facebook feed without the need to ever leave it -- and that's big.

According to Techcrunch, companies such as Nordstrom, Nike, and L'Oreal have already been using Stipple's technology in its images, and today's launch of the Facebook integration revives hope for these brands and others, that the true potential of e-commerce hasn't died this week, rather, it has been reincarnated and is only just beginning to surface in a new form.

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