Omaha Steaks Buys Into Facebook Commerce

Despite the negative noise surrounding f-commerce, retailer launches online shopping option

Some would say opening a Facebook store right now is as good a move as launching an app for Windows Phone devices. There’s not enough demand, goes the argument. Bloomberg BusinessWeek even published a much-discussed article in February that looked at the decisions by Gap, JCPenney, Nordstrom and Gamestop to shutter their Facebook stores. But according to Todd Simon, svp and owner of Omaha Steaks, opening a Facebook store is a no-brainer.

“I think not having a Facebook store would be kind of like saying we don’t have to have a retail store. … We sort of held back really getting into this until the technology was there that allowed us to develop a shopping experience around the social platform and really create a social experience as opposed to just trying to rubber stamp out what we’d already been doing in other channels,” said Simon.

Rather than wrap a full-fledged e-commerce offering within a Facebook app, Omaha Steaks opted to make the store e-commerce-lite and Facebook-specific. Some products are priced specifically for Facebook, and others are only available within the Facebook store. Simon said Facebook users expect some sort of bonus for being a fan, so the brand wanted to acknowledge that relationship through the store.

Badging is one way. For example, users can earn a Steak Lover badge for shopping in the store, a Steak Advocate badge when friends click a shared link that directs to the store or the First Time Buyer badge for an initial purchase.

Exclusives are another. To get users to try shopping on Facebook, Omaha Steaks will run offers exclusive to its Facebook fans. Currently for every $10 users spend in the Facebook store, they will receive one point (equal to $1) to put toward their next purchase. The brand will also test campaigns which incentivize sharing, such as offering a discount to users who share a product to their Facebook account. Simon said those promotions could be season or product specific.

“You might get more points for sharing a specific product over another product, like if it was a new product. Or [users could earn] points for commenting,” said Simon. He said the Facebook store is a “great place to introduce new products before we take them to the general public or [display them] in mailings” because the platform offers instant feedback.

Omaha Steaks worked with the social commerce tech company ShopIgniter in developing the store, which opened a couple weeks ago. ShopIgniter CMO Kevin Tate said the gamification elements are a key element in encouraging users to shop via social networks. These elements perform best when tied to a specific campaign and can return focused insights which can later inform a brand’s larger rollout strategy “and even who are my most influential customers in helping to spread the word about a campaign,” said Tate.

At this point Omaha Steaks is looking at its Facebook store as another commerce channel in its portfolio rather than how it relates to its existing e-commerce site. For starters, comments and reviews do not cross-populate between the e-commerce presences. And while users can register on with their Facebook account, a user’s shopping cart on the e-commerce site will not be linked to the one on the Facebook store.

The Facebook store is still in its early days, but Simon said that he expects it to “grab a few percentage points” of Omaha Steaks’ total online revenue as soon as next year.