Facebook-Funded Sociable Labs Helps Retailers Be More Friendly

Sociable Labs, which is helping retailers to integrate Facebook’s social graph into the shopping experience, has raised $7 million from investors.

The second round of funding was led by Battery Ventures. The company previously raised money from the fbFund, a $10 million seed fund and joint venture run by Facebook, Founders Fund and Accel Partners.

Nisan Gabbay, founder and CEO of Sociable Labs, said Sociable is exploring what social commerce means, and from what he’s determined so far, he doesn’t believe it means people shopping on Facebook.

Rather, he thinks the most value lies in connecting to friends on actual retail sites to share recommendations.

For instance, it would be helpful if people could see which of their friends are registered to run in a 5K when signing up for the race, or if anyone they know has stayed in a particular hotel in Miami before using a travel site to book a room.

Sociable’s beta customers include Active.com, Chegg.com, Backcountry.com, Rue La La, HauteLook and Sole Society.

“Facebook is focused around entertainment, but it’s not about discovery or an immersive experience,” Gabbay said. “I find that the right experience is to offer the feature set where they already shop online, and by adding social features and the graph into that experience.”

Currently, most social commerce experiences are tied to the “like” button.

You can like a product and have it show up in your news feed on Facebook. But that information is not useful to your friends until they are shopping for something similar, at which point it may not be easy to find.

“Not everything can happen on Facebook,” Gabbay said. “Your friends don’t want to see what you are buying until they are making a decision.”

Privacy protections will obviously be key with this sort of integration and long-term cataloging of consumer purchases. But after a quick look at how Sociable is integrated on Active.com, a Web site dedicated to sports events, it doesn’t feel invasive. It’s information that friends would normally share on Facebook, but which would instantly get lost in the stream of news.

Sociable Labs will charge its lowest-paying customer $50,000 a year for services and licenses. The company currently has 25 employees, and plans to use the funding to deploy the software more broadly and market it, now that it is coming out of beta today.

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