(By Rich Bieglmieir) This weekend, an unlikely pair is meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas. Facebook, Inc.
) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his senior management team are getting together with Wal-Mart Stores Inc's (WMT
) top brass, including CEO Mike Duke.
In addressing the meeting, Wal-Mart issued the following statement.
"We appreciate and value the ongoing strategic partnership we have with Facebook. Their help and support with testing new and innovative products and technologies to reach our customers has been invaluable."
Facebook says they are interested in "deepening" the relationship learning from WMT's "experience and management team about building a strong, durable and valuable company for the long-term."
While both sides are throwing vanilla niceties around on the eve of the gathering, clearly, in iStock's view, the target is Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN). Think about it, Facebook is the world's largest social site and world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart.
FB is struggling to find a way to answer critics who wonder how the online giant will monetize traffic. Meanwhile, the brick-and-mortar retailer is well behind the king of online sales, Amazon.com. An integrated relationship between Facebook and Wal-Mart should be lucrative for both parties.
The possibilities are endless, but let's use the upcoming back-to-school shopping season as an example.
After Christmas, back-to-school shopping is the year's second-biggest consumer spending spree. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates total spending is expected to approach $84 billion between now and the end of September for college and primary education (K-12).
With the economy tightening family budgets, 32% more people say they will compare prices online before making purchases, according to BIGinsight™, Monthly Consumer Survey for June 2012. Meanwhile, 20% report they will do more shopping online, while 48% say they will shop less and 46% say they will be searching for lower prices.
Now, taking advantage of these trends is where the money will be made. Research from Cisco shows the key is to "Catch ‘Em and Keep ‘Em" to convert browsers into buyers. Facebook's fishing net has 900 million users worldwide. The next step is to "keep" shoppers connected to specific brands, Wal-Mart's part of the equation. Based on user data Facebook collects, they can entice customers with experiences that trigger them to buy more i.e. deals exclusive to Facebook users based on previous inquiries.
Facebook gets a cut of sales and Wal-Mart a much larger web presence. Done correctly, and shareholders of both companies should benefit from this weekend's meeting.