Vidar Brekke , CEO of Social Intent, made a strong and well-supported case yesterday on Social Times that on-Facebook storefronts may not be the wave of the future. Brekke, one of my “go-to” guides for navigating Facebook’s emerging capabilities, such as the Graph API, may be quite wrong.
The evidence appears to point to the appropriateness and rapid rise of “F-commerce.” Some of my arguments are obviously speculative, but, taken as a whole, I believe the case for building “F-shops” today is quite strong. Read Brekke’s take and mine — and let us know what you think.
1. Facebook is a mall — Millions visit Facebook daily for an increasing number of their digital-life activities — catching up with friends, playing games, sending messages, etc. Physical malls start their planning by luring shops of interest to targeted customers and then add amenities, such as food courts, activities for preschoolers and dog walks, to keep visitors from leaving.
The Facebook mall has the amenities; now it’s ready for the shops. Creating an on-Facebook storefront has a rather low barrier to entry. Facebook is likely to keep it that way until shopping starts to scale and, perhaps, beyond. As it has done with advertising, we can look forward to Facebook encouraging the creation of F-shops buy providing information to brands on how to best create Facebook commerce sites and featuring success stories.
2. Users will spend more time on Pages — Studies show that, currently, the overwhelming number of users rarely return to pages they Like and are mostly exposed to brands on their News Feed, the Facebook destination of choice. That’s going to change.
The number of monetization and data collection opportunities on the News Feed is too limited for Facebook and, consequently, for brands. In addition, all other benefits of social media engagement aside, corporations are best motivated when they are provided with the clearest link between their advertising and marketing expenses to their sales. Over time, Facebook’s feature structure will evolve to encourage more discovery across a greater number of platform destinations.
3. Be where your customers are — Brekke argues that retailers already have customers buying on their website and, as they are not present on their Facebook Pages, ads to drive traffic to an F-store may be misguided. Let’s set aside the possibility that, as a result of forces that include, but go beyond, Facebook, web commerce declines. In the bricks-and-mortar world, would a retailer be happy to cede business across town when he can stock a rent-free store just down the street from his competitor? No way. How is that logical on Facebook?
4. Today’s retailers are not tomorrow’s F-stores — In the nascent days of web commerce, few would have predicted that so many big winners would be dedicated companies (e.g., Amazon) and not the established stores everyone knew and frequented.
If retailers just modify their web pages to Facebook without a social strategy, they are going to fail. Successful F-shops are likely to offer fewer, more targeted products based on information culled from users’ social graph. Potentially, the experience of shopping on Facebook could be like going to a mall only with stores with stuff the individual shopper Likes. Yes, with a capital “L.”
5. Credit where credit is due — It makes sense for Facebook to work to maximize the number of ways Facebook Credits can be earned and spent on its platform. Brands that use Facebook Credits for Facebook Deals may move to accepting the virtual currency in their F-shops. Shops on Facebook are likely to be incentivized to accept Facebook Credits in their F-stores and websites, offer them as rebates, etc.
Yes, there hurdles
- The growth of platforms with the potential to host commerce is greater than just Facebook — no one should be assumed to be down for the count, especially the startup that’s still just a few notes on an iPad.
- As Brekke states, brands can effectively bring Facebook technology to their existing websites with satisfactory results; that may not change.
- As shopping becomes increasingly conducted on mobile devices, F-commerce appears to be even farther behind the pack than Facebook’s other mobile initiatives.
All told, though, the time to start transacting business on Facebook is now. The most successful social media marketing initiatives are from those brands that have gotten out in front of their competitors, listened to their customers and taken small, highly-targeted actions. The overall game plan for F-commerce is quite the same.
Neil Glassman is principal marketing strategist at WhizBangPowWow, with a track record of success across linear, digital and social media. Join his conversation on Twitter or email Neil to talk about marketing or swap recipes.