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Facebook Storefronts: AT&T Misses and Others Don't

  |  March 15, 2011   |  Comments

More retailers have launched storefronts on their Facebook fan pages in the past two quarters. A review of the sites that have done it well.

My position is this:

  1. Facebook is the consumers' community of choice. Consumers are using Facebook in the shopping process and businesses are delivering value to the consumer via Facebook's Open Graph.
  2. It is early days. Retailers and brands are testing a wide range of programming, which I encourage. The case for traffic has emerged, core to the case for sales.
  3. Test both: Facebook on your site and your offer on Facebook. Unfortunately, select few are incorporating Facebook on their site. But, the number of Facebook fan page storefronts is rapidly increasing.
  4. Use your common sense. Sound consumer shopping scenarios and fundamentals still apply with Facebook.

There are too many examples to list of those who are not using good judgment and common sense when it comes to advantaging their business using Facebook. Instead of listing those, I am sharing programs that are more good than bad. When you evaluate Facebook programming, to decide if it is good or bad, ask yourself this simple question: What is the relevant, compelling consumer problem solved?

Facebook on Your Site

Example 1: The Amazon Facebook experience (not Facebook Amazon experience).

If you haven't experienced Amazon's Facebook experience, try it now. Go to Amazon.com, click on your Amazon.com link above the search box (image 1), and use the Facebook Connect on the right-hand side of the page (image 2).



Experience a personalized Amazon.com experience – your Facebook friends with upcoming birthdays (1), what's popular with them (2), and recommendations for music, movies, and books for you based on your Facebook profile data (3 and 4).


Good or Bad?

Is there a relevant and compelling consumer problem solved? Absolutely. Facebook is the consumers' profile on the Web. Amazon has personalized the shopping experience through Facebook Connect. My profile is now in my shopping experience and I didn't need to enter a list of family names, birthdays, and what (I think) they like. I don't miss any of my nieces' and nephews' birthdays, as a result. Amazon enabled me to easily purchase a relevant product or a gift card, letting my nieces and nephews know I'm thinking about and love them. Problem solved.

Example 2: The Step2 Facebook experience in customer reviews.

Several retailers, including Step2, have materially enhanced the customer reviews on their product pages with Facebook Connect. Customer reviews is the user-generated content (UGC) that drives SEO and conversion.


Good or Bad?

Is there a relevant and compelling consumer problem solved? Yes. Consumers want objective reviews from other consumers relevant to them, and authentic, real reviews they can trust are critical. The "like" button (1) shows me how many people have endorsed the product and whether they're in my network. The reviewers' Facebook profile (2) gives me that information to know a mom, like me, endorses this product. I can also comment on this product (3), stimulating the conversation with my friends on Facebook. Step2 increases the relevance to me, using Facebook, and my trust in the review, giving me confidence to click the "add to cart button." Problem solved.

Your Offer on Facebook: The New Storefront

Example 1: Sierra Trading Post.

More retailers have launched storefronts on their fan pages in the past two quarters. Sierra Trading Post is one who has done it well because it has applied sound consumer shopping scenarios and executed the fundamentals better than others selling from the Facebook fan page. There are not as many proven tools to drive traffic to the fan page vs. one's site (no Google SEO, for example). As such, when one is successful getting a consumer to one's storefront on Facebook, using proven conversion tools is key.


Good or Bad?

Is there a relevant and compelling consumer problem solved? Yes. Sierra Trading Post shows upfront deals, what's new, and incorporates the social content consumers use most in their shopping process: the customer review. Since Facebook is the social network consumers use most, those retailers and brands who do have a storefront, but do not include the social content consumers rely on (a fundamental conversion driver, the review) are not using common sense. In this case, I can easily see this is a 4.5 star product, has 25 reviews, a "pros" tag, that this shoe runs true to size and width, as commented on by 20-plus consumers who've purchased the product, and a snapshot summary. This is core to the information I need to purchase this product. Problem solved.

Example 2: AT&T

AT&T has 1.3 millions fans, an impressive number. In my view, AT&T needs every brand, marketing, and sales tool to work very hard for the company as the competitive intensity in this category is high, the consumer has the choice to pick Verizon instead of AT&T for the number one smartphone, the iPhone, and the AT&T brand is seen as unreliable by many consumers (too many dropped calls). As such, using the fan page to increase the brand reputation, increasing the attribute around reliability and quality, and communicate its offering is an opportunity. But, it didn't use common sense and fell short.

Is there a relevant and compelling consumer problem solved? You decide. Following is why the answer is not a straightforward, "yes."

  1. The "home page" of the fan page is brochureware. When one gets traffic to the fan page and is asking the consumer to "like" one's brand, providing a compelling, relevant reason to do so is critical. "Get access to everything AT&T" is not compelling. So, instead, I reworked its page to read "Get early access to deals, news and exclusive content." I'd also recommend going one step further by showing the exciting, hot products right now (as AT&T does on its website): the iPad, 4G, and the Motorola Atrix.

  2. Launched a "ratings" tab on its Facebook fan page using the AT&T logo as an icon. Apply the common consumer scenario in this category. I'm a consumer looking for a smartphone and deciding whether to use AT&T or Verizon. I first pick the product, then the carrier, then the plan. Give me the customer reviews in the context of my shopping path. I don't start with ratings, I start with product. Incorporating customer reviews is great. However, the number of consumers clicking on an AT&T logo to look at "ratings" is likely very low. So, instead, I reworked its left navigation to read "5 star products" (signaling reliability and quality), with a star icon, ubiquitous on the Web, and well-known to consumers as customer reviews, and more credible to them than AT&T reviews.

  3. The reviews are in the very old format, star ratings and a free form text box, without tags (1). There is no number showing how many reviews are represented in the star rating (2). There is no snapshot summary (3). Also missing are the pros and cons of the product - what consumers want to know. As shown above with Sierra Trading Post storefront customer reviews, the consumer is looking to validate the authenticity of the reviews by knowing how many verified buyers are represented in the star rating (e.g., 25), tags (e.g., true to size), and a pros/cons summary, easily read via a smartphone.


Problem solved? You decide.

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Cathy Halligan

Cathy has over 20 years of experience in both multichannel and online retail and a deep understanding of consumer needs and goals. Cathy's proven track record spans a range of industries and companies, from start-up ventures to multibillion dollar operations. Cathy is currently a Board Member at Ulta Beauty (ULTA), the largest beauty retailer that provides one-stop shopping for prestige, mass, and salon products and salon services in the United States. She has served as SVP, marketing & sales at PowerReviews, the world's most widely deployed social commerce platform, where she was responsible for overseeing the company's rapid customer and revenue growth. Prior to PowerReviews, Cathy held executive-level positions at Walmart: chief marketing officer Walmart.com, vice president of market development, global e-commerce, and vice president of product management and multichannel integration. Ms. Halligan has also held executive positions with leading retailers Williams-Sonoma, Gymboree, and Blue Nile, and was an associate partner at Prophet, a leading management consulting firm. She started her career as a marketing coordinator at Lands' End.

For real-time social commerce news and updates, follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyHalligan.

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