With Facebook being such a popular hangout, for a while F-Commerce (or Facebook Commerce) seemed like a great idea. After all, if you knew the majority of your hometown was hanging out at a particular spot throughout the day, you’d assume it would be a great location for a storefront. But unlike real life, storefronts on social media sites don’t seem to be bringing in the masses.
The recent news that J.C. Penney, GameStop, and Nordstrom, have all closed their Facebook storefronts has brought speculation in the media that the idea might be a bad one. In fact, Forrester Research’s Sucharita Mulpuru told Bloomberg Media the results haven’t quite lived up to the initial anticipation.
“It was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar,” Mulpuru said.
At first, it seemed like a great idea. Brand marketing has found a home on the most popular social networking site, so it would stand to reason that Facebook might be a great way to sell products to consumers. But as Charles Nicholls, founder and chief strategy officer of e-commerce company SeeWhy, puts it, there is a separation between why consumers use Facebook and why businesses use it. Businesses, Nicholls points out, are on Facebook to sell more and interact with customers. Consumers are on Facebook to interact and have fun.
Another reason Facebook storefronts are problematic is that consumers would prefer to shop at the business’s website. It is assumed that a Facebook store will have only a sampling of the company’s overall offerings, making consumers wonder what they are missing. Businesses can just as effectively redirect customers to website storefronts through promotions, Nicholls advises, where consumers will browse for longer and purchase more than they would on Facebook.
There are exceptions to this, however. Those success stories involved a little creativity on businesses’ parts to fit within the Facebook format. In other words, if you want to sell something on Facebook, you need to tailor your storefront to the medium itself. Some notable success stories were detailed by Social Commerce Today, and they include sites that follow models for success. This includes stores that simply showcase products, with clickable links to websites where shoppers can buy items and fan stores with merchandise available only for followers.
For example, Lady Gaga’s merchandisers took advantage of her more than 31 million Facebook fans by setting up a Lady Gaga store. Fans were able to buy mp3s, sunglasses, T-shirts, posters, and more. For media-based companies, Facebook is a great marketplace for providing downloadable files or access to streaming media for a price. The ability to instantly access items allows Facebookers to buy items and enjoy them while still hanging out with friends.
Will F-Commerce take off? Only time will tell, but the fact that stores are opening and closing shops so quickly is telling in itself. If you plan to try to build a Facebook shop, consider carefully how you can tailor your store to your customers so that your store enhances their Facebooking experience, rather than takes them away from it.