Facebook with virtual store to keep users on the site

Sortal, a mixture of a virtual store within Facebook and a tool to foster customer engagement, aims to assist advertisers reach Facebook users.

By ROY GOLDENBERG / GLOBES
October 29, 2011 22:25
3 minute read.
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facebook logo311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Over the past few years, Internet users throughout the world have been spending ever more time on Facebook, and the numbers are continuing to grow as smartphones and tablets that enable people to connect through social networking from anywhere become more prevalent.

And like in every other situation in life, advertisers are trying to reach this audience and to search for ways to create a relationship with it, including on Facebook. Methods range from contests with prizes, through lively dialogues, to truly complex marketing methods, as advertisers seek to reach the huge number of Internet users hiding behind the “likes.”

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Sortal Commerce Ltd., founded in 2010 by CEO Ami Meoded and CTO Meir Tseitlin, aims to assist advertisers in reaching Facebook users through sales platforms. Sortal is a mixture of a virtual store within Facebook and a tool to foster customer engagement.

Sortal wants to monetize Facebook fans through a virtual store within the social network. The goal is to keep users on Facebook, rather than redirect them to a brand’s own website, says Meoded, a former IAF squadron commander and vice president of Clasikaletet, a children’s music company.

“We are more than just a store within Facebook,” he says. “The idea is to provide a tailored shopping portal that efficiently uses social information, involves the customers and creates ‘ambassadors’ for brands who will bring in their friends and more customers.”

Sortal offers a variety of social shopping features on Facebook, such as buying a present for a friend without having to know the recipient’s address (the recipient chooses which address should be used), or group purchases at discount prices (based on the size of the group).

There are also options for bids, such as negotiating with a brand to reach the buyer’s target price, and receiving notification when the price reaches that amount.



There is also a Facebook membership club where preferred customers can receive special discounts or credit to purchase products in advance.

Discounts are offered to preferred members on the basis of various criteria, such as the number of their friends and prior purchases.

“Sortal’s platform enables a connection between a brand’s physical customer club and a Facebook customer club by crossreferencing the data, such as email address, residence or phone number between the databases,” Meoded says.

Sortal’s products rely on the ecommerce platform of Magento Commerce Ltd., a Los Angelesbased company founded by Israeli expats CEO Roy Rubin and CTO Yoav Kutner, who sold the company to eBay Inc. for $100 million in June.

Sortal has raised $500,000 from a private investor and is currently planning another financing round. The company has opened a sales office in the US, and it also operates in Germany and the UK.

Sortal’s Israeli customers include Orange franchisee Partner Communications Ltd., travel agency Daka 90 Ltd. and Strauss Group Ltd. For the Israeli distributor for Panasonic Corporation, Sortal provides a platform for authorized dealers to independently manage sales.

“The idea isn’t to make it easier for marketers to develop a Facebook application themselves, but to benefit from Panasonic’s application while offering their own prices to customers,” Meoded says.

Globes: What’s your business model?
Meoded: “We sell user licenses for social e-commerce platforms to companies engaged in social media that advise brands on how to operate there, such as Talking Heads, Blonde 2.0 and Rahav Social Media.

How did you coin the name?
“Sortal is a combination of social and portal, to connote a social portal.”

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