You can't respond to a Facebook friend request with a wine request ... yet. But you can now legally buy and send wine to your Facebook friends who are 21 or older and live in a state where direct-to-consumer wine shipping is permitted.
Facebook Gifts debuted this past Tuesday, offering the social network's 1 billion users the chance to buy real-life gifts—options range from Williams-Sonoma gourmet snacks, to Sky Mall-type gadgets, to wine—for their Facebook friends. Facebook Gifts debuts just one month after Amazon introduced its own long-anticipated wine sales portal. Facebook's wine sales are being facilitated through ShipCompliant, which claims more than 2,000 winery clients throughout the United States. Both Facebook wine giver and receiver must be age 21 or older and, as with all wine shipments, the delivery must be signed for by an adult with a valid ID.
The number of ShipCompliant wine brands available through Facebook Gifts is growing, with nearly a dozen available at press time, including Amuse Bouche, Blackbird, Captûre, Domaine Chandon and Robert Mondavi Winery. Current selections range in price from $14 to $90, with an additional charge of $15 to $20 for processing, handling and shipping. (The Amazon Wine portal charges a $10 shipping fee; while Amazon's selection of wines is much broader, their availability is highly limited from state to state.)
Facebook's foray into social e-commerce began in May, at the same time the company went public, with the estimated $80 million acquisition of Karma Science, a small (16-employee) company that operated a gift-giving application which mined Facebook data about consumers to make recommendations of gifts that people in a user's circle might like. Karma, which also worked with ShipCompliant for its wine sales, took gift orders and informed the recipient, who then decided where to have the gift shipped, or to forego the gift and have its price donated to charity. Karma is Facebook's second-largest acquisition after photo application Instagram.
Facebook's wine sales will now operate the same way Karma's did. "Every winery that's participating on Facebook has an account with ShipCompliant, and it's that account that facilitates the acceptance of that order by the winery," said Jeff Carroll, ShipCompliant's vice president of strategy and compliance. "We check for all the various state laws and regulations, and then the winery, through our tools, can direct the fulfillment of that order."
Domaine Chandon, one of the first wines to be offered by Facebook, had been available through Karma earlier this year before Facebook purchased the company. "[Karma] came to me and asked me if [a social media wine portal] was something that we'd be interested in," said Matt Wood, estate director at Domaine Chandon. "I'm pretty keen to move into different spaces and am open to trying different channels and avenues, so I said 'yeah, absolutely.'"
"We were only live for a relatively short period of time before Facebook purchased [Karma] and then they obviously shut things down and did all the work to be able to relaunch it as Facebook Gifts," Wood said. "They're really focused on what they're doing and they've got the resources to make it work, so [the transition has] been seamless for us."
A small percentage of each wine purchase will go to Facebook, but that amount has not been disclosed. Wood did say, however, that the arrangement "makes sense financially for us."