Beard Hats, PBR Bracelets, And Beef Empanadas: Payvment Is Taking The Impulse Buy Social With "Lish"

Facebook’s popular provider of shopping cart tools is betting that impulse buying is the next big idea in social e-commerce.

Impulse is a powerful emotion in retail. It’s why stores often bombard you in the checkout line with careful arrangements of inexpensive-but-unnecessary items: the brightly colored socks; the chocolate bars; the glossy magazines; the As Seen On TV sunglasses. It’s a longstanding trick of brick-and-mortar stores that their online counterparts have yet to fully master. To the contrary, checking out is often the most cumbersome part of shopping online.

So Payvment, which has helped more than 175,000 merchants set up e-commerce storefronts on Facebook, is launching Lish, a shopping site that attempts to recreate that same gotta-have-it feeling online by compiling data about which products are trending across Facebook and Twitter. Lish is also cutting down the number of steps in the checkout process from seven to two, so you won’t have a chance to come down from your buyer’s high before you’ve completed a purchase.

“Impulse shopping is a pretty big untapped opportunity that social is uniquely equipped to drive,” Payvment CEO Jim Stoneham tells Fast Company. “People try to recreate this online, usually through recommending related products, but it’s not the equivalent of the display at the cash register that gets you to buy stuff you didn’t plan on buying.”

Lish was introduced last week in private beta, and is stocked with exactly the kind of bizarre oddities you’d expect people to be sharing on Facebook and Twitter: A rhinestone peacock-encrusted iPhone case; bracelets made from PBR cans; beard hats; Harry Potter-themed onesies. One great thing about the virtual impulse buy checkout line is that product size is no longer a limitation--one item on sale is a bag of beef empanadas.

To use Lish, you have to give it to access your Facebook profile, then specify a delivery address and pre-authorize your PayPal account before your first purchase. That way each subsequent purchase requires only one checkout step. You can browse the store and click on smiley buttons to like, dislike, or “meh” products and help Lish’s algorithm learn what you like.

Lish isn’t Payvment’s first experiment with a shopping site. Most recently, it offered a “shopping mall” Facebook app that aggregated products from all merchants using Payvment into a single, shoppable page. Like any company building a business that piggybacks on Facebook, Payvment began studying the clickthrough data that came in from the shopping mall. Stoneham soon realized 85 to 90% of purchases were a direct result of clickthroughs to the mall’s Trending Products section. He also noticed the average person purchased roughly one item for $25, which falls solidly into impulse-buying territory. Finally, he noticed the steadily growing amount of referral traffic from social networks outside of Facebook, notably Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. All signs pointed to an obvious opportunity to create a targeted shopping experience that specifically catered to one-off purchasers looking to discover kitschy, new items.

Lish doesn’t open up a new revenue stream for Payvment just yet, but Stoneham cites some possible monetization routes down the road, including pay-for-placement. But for now, Payvment is using Lish as another avenue to help its sellers, many of whom are small businesses, gain visibility.

“The better job we do at helping our sellers sell, the more likely they are to give us money for Facebook ads and pay premium fees, and that’s fine with us. That’s how we’re making our money today,” Stoneham says.

[Images: Flickr user Elizabeth Green Musselman; Payvment]

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