From e-commerce to f-commerce and who knows, t-commerce?

A Wild West atmosphere remains evident in the world of e-commerce as brands, once reluctant to sell directly to customers online for fear of alienating retailers, are now experimenting with novel ideas that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable.

For example, Ad Age this week chronicles an example involving Procter & Gamble selling products direct to consumers on its Facebook fan pages for several leading brands such as Tide, Gillette, Olay, Gain, CoverGirl, Luvs and Febreze.

According to the article written by Jack Neff, “Fulfillment of items purchased within Facebook on the P&G brand pages comes through P&G's own e-store that opened last year (PGestore.com), but the layout leaves room for other retailers to join as alternatives. Walmart.com is considering linking with P&G's Facebook pages as an option, said a spokeswoman for the retailer.”

It wasn’t that long ago that CPG brands who contemplated selling direct to shoppers risk incurring the wrath of retailers and the prospects of reduced facings, fewer promotional opportunities or some other type of retribution. But a lot has changed and major brands have discovered just how loyal and passionate some of their customers are thanks to the use of social media. The result is brands selling direct to shoppers has essentially become an opportunity for retailers as opposed to the competitive threat it was once thought to be.

According to Ad Age, “While Walmart.com is still undecided on joining the P&G f-commerce effort and doesn’t currently sell goods entirely within Facebook, it has boosted its profile within the social network recently, said spokeswoman Amy Lester, by adding Facebook “like” buttons to item listings throughout Walmart.com. That enables one of the key advantages of conducting sales within the social network - making it easy to tell friends about purchases or suggest gifts.