When Facebook enabled brands to open storefronts on the popular site, it...

When Facebook enabled brands to open storefronts on the popular site, it was seen as opening a lucrative door to a new channel for "social sales" or "social commerce." Social sales involves consumers sharing information regarding a purchase with friends and acquaintances, increasing the likelihood of a purchase by those friends. Recognizing the opportunity for promotion and validation that comes from friends recommending products to their friends, many brands hurried to enable purchases on their Facebook pages. Excitement was in the air: Business consultant Booz & Co. predicted early in 2011 that Facebook stores would generate the majority of $30 billion in social sales by 2015.

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But in 2012 many of those early pioneers in "f-commerce" have shuttered their virtual storefronts. The Gap, J.C Penny, Gamestop and others have all closed their Facebook stores due to a lack of interest and sales.

What does this mean?

Does the failure of early Facebook stores spell the end of social sales?

Absolutely not. People want to buy what their friends are buying, and avoid the uncertainty that can accompany a new purchase.

These efforts failed for several reasons:

  • Lack of differentiation: The Facebook stores we're essentially clones of other online storefronts, and failed to provide a compelling reason or experience to buy via Facebook instead of another retail or online channel.
  • Lack of push-through: Social recommendations are extremely powerful, but cannot deliver the volume that retailing demands today, especially for consumer items like clothes and games. The sites need to be promoted as extensively as other online channels are promoted.
  • Taint of MLM: When MLM is done right, like Avon or Amway, it opens the door to entrepreneurship. When it's done wrong, it leads to friends pressuring friends to purchase, which can leave a bad taste. Some of the early Facebook stores we're accused of "spamming" Facebook friends with promotions. One observer compared Facebook stores to selling to friends when they we're hanging out at a coffee shop.
  • Facebook uncertainty: It takes a lot of resources to set up a Facebook store. But with Facebook changing features and presentation frequently, businesses could not lay out a long-range strategy for their Facebook stores.

How can you use this?

Social sales remains a powerful force, even if it doesn't reach the lofty heights promised by Bain. Knowing what others buy does influence purchase decisions. According to a Sociable Labs survey of 1,088 online shoppers, 62% of online shoppers read comments about purchases on Facebook, and an amazing 75% of those shoppers clicked on the product link in Facebook posts. More than half of those (53%) of those who clicked through actually made a purchase.

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Posted in Marketing and Advertising Post Date 01/17/2017