Facebook Commerce May Be Better Run by Twentysomethings

Social savviness boosts sales, SMBs say

Headshot of Christopher Heine

Small business players from here to Australia say that selling products on Facebook—a challenge for many e-commerce players—is easier when leveraging the digital savviness of twentysomethings. It raises the question of whether big retailers should include more young staffers in their social commerce efforts.

At any rate, consider Allison Young, who owns an Apricot Lane franchise with her sister in both Dallas and San Antonio, Texas. They are in their mid-20s, and Young thinks their digitally native sensibilities are the difference between success and failure on Facebook when it comes to their women's fashion retail efforts of the past few years.

"We started using Facebook marketing before we even opened our business to the public," she said. "And when we did open it, we immediately started incorporating the store into Facebook by taking pictures and posting them. People started immediately calling and ordering over the phone. The next step was adding a shopping cart."

Using a social commerce system by vendor Ecwid, Young last year added a "Shop" button to her pair of Facebook pages, which combine for 36,000 fans—a fairly big number on the social site for a small player. She didn't reveal Facebook-versus-website stats, but said, "It's helped our overall e-commerce go from 25 percent of our total sales to 33 percent. We mention our Facebook page a lot with our customers in the store.

"When we go on product-buying trips to Los Angeles, we post pictures of items, asking Facebook users to vote yes or no," she said. "We really try to involve them in the buying process, and we get a feel for what they want us to carry in the store."

Even Facebook marketers north of 30 years old believe having a millennial mind-set on staff is important. Take Tim Gritzman, owner of Natural Body Inc., who recently hired a 21-year-old employee who helps craft Facebook strategy. Gritzman said his Long Island, N.Y.-based sports nutrition products seller now utilizes the young woman's outlook toward social media to formulate posts and news feed ads.

"She's savvy," he said. "So it was great bringing her on board. She's an early adopter across social channels. I am very lucky to have that. I think younger people understand that consumers want to be part of a conversation. And that's ultimately how you earn somebody's trust and build relationships via social."

The young staffer's Facebook input seems to have helped sales. Like Apricot Lane's Young, Gritzman has implemented Ecwid's Facebook shopping cart in the last year and likes the results so far.

"It's a growing way for our customers to transact with us," he said. "Even when they abandon carts on Facebook, I think it still translates to sales. The data is showing us they are using the Facebook page and shopping cart as a jump-off point to the actual website."

Totally Sound Health, a small e-commerce company in Australia, attributes 20 percent of its revenues to Facebook while doubling sales in the last year from the social site. Simone Carot-Collins owns and runs the site by herself, and the 35-year-old agrees with Gritzman and Young that twentysomething marketers "get" Facebook commerce more intuitively than older folks. If her company continues to grow, she'll have an eye toward Gen Y applicants.

Carot-Collins said that "they understand the social nature of Facebook marketing, engaging with people, rather than more traditional one-way marketing methods."

These are a few qualities that recent marketing grads may want to include in their resumes.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.