In the last month there has been probably more tweets and comments about the Bloomberg “Gamestop to J.C. Penney Shut Facebook Stores” article than almost any other social shopping news. The demise of Facebook commerce seems far overblown and certainly far over-reported.
For e-commerce to be social, it needs to thought of and imagined in a social way so the customer is engaged through innovative programs. Arguably, social commerce needs to actually be “social,” not simply an e-commerce purchase app placed inside a Facebook page. Businesses need to create social strategies and technologies that facilitate the overall social experience and leverage some of the social actions, such as friends sharing with friends.
We’re seeing many businesses and brands experimenting with social technology to create new and interesting social commerce experiences. Target’s “Give with Friends” app allows for a group-gifting, social-buying experience. The app is simple and allows groups of Facebook friends to chip in to buy and send Target gift cards that can be redeemed both in-store or through the Target e-commerce site.
Coupons and discounts are going social, integrating into Facebook users’ data. Walmart went local, turning Facebook “likes” into targeted local sales. My Local Walmart through Walmart’s Facebook page allows consumers to choose their local Walmart location and get served deals and coupons based on their local store. AmEx’s “Link, Like, Love” application that launched last summer links Facebook users’ data with their AmEx card to deliver personal coupon deals, based on the cardmembers’ “likes” and interests. Most recently, AmEx launched a similar integration with Twitter allowing AmEx cardmembers to sync their cards with their Twitter account at sync.americanexpress.com/twitter. Once a card is synced with Twitter, users can tweet specified hashtags to a select group of participating merchants in order to unlock various discounts. These examples demonstrate an innovative “social” approach to social commerce.
Heinz Soup UK, a family-stable, non-e-commerce brand, managed to rethink and create a social commerce application successfully with a promotional sampling program, or as it is sometimes called: a pop-up gift shop. The brand enabled consumers from its Facebook page to buy and send personalized cans of “Get Well” soup to their friends. In a four-week period, it got 2,127 sales, one sale per eight fans, and a 200 percent (32,8210) increase in Facebook “likes.” Though the program is more likely to be positioned as a brand loyalty program that generated tremendous PR buzz in the U.K., there is no denying the clever social commerce element. Heinz successfully rethought the process and delivered a friends-sharing-with-friends social experience.
With the relaunch of Facebook Pages, Facebook also launched a group of social tools that can be used to support social commerce; most notably Facebook Offers, Facebook Interest Lists, and Facebook Mobile carrier billing on Facebook-based transactions.
Facebook Offers allows businesses, brands, and other page owners to share discounts and offers with their fans that can be accepted from their web or mobile newsfeed. Making an offer is as easy as creating a status update. One click (or tap on mobile) sends the offer to users’ email account and then they use it at the business’s brick-and-mortar location or other point of purchase. Though it doesn’t cost anything to create, post, or claim an offer, a business can promote the offer through reach generator ads to a wider targeted audience.
Facebook Interest Lists are curated lists that are specific to a particular topic. Below is an example of a shopping Interest List that follows a variety of retail Facebook pages. Any Facebook user can create their own list and other Facebook users can subscribe to that list if it is public. Any user can now follow their favorite brands and retailer pages with their own Interest List and see the Facebook Offers these brands and retailers have.
The focus so far for retailers has been largely Facebook commerce on the desktop. Facebook mobile commerce is just beginning to warm up, with over 425 million users accessing Facebook through their mobile device and more than 475 mobile operators deploying and promoting Facebook Mobile products. At the Barcelona Mobile World Congress, Facebook announced that it’s partnering with mobile carriers to offer carrier billing on Facebook-based transactions. Mobile social commerce, here we come with Open Graph everywhere. The new system has the potential to make it exponentially easier for buyers to make the purchases and for developers to develop apps for Facebook Mobile. As social commerce extends beyond the desktop into mobile, we’ll begin to see consumers connect where they buy with their social graph through their social networks.
The solutions to social marketing technology including social commerce are not always obvious and require a lot of experimentation. Innovation comes with many people being innovative. Kudos to the brands, marketers, retailers, and developers who are being innovative; social commerce is clearly a work in progress.