Recently, a few big brands such as Gap, Gamestop, Nordstrom and JC Penney closed their Facebook stores. As a result, many prognosticators sounded the death knell for Facebook commerce.
The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth.
As the second largest store-building application on Facebook, Ecwid’s aggregate data demonstrates that f-commerce is alive and well. The data shows that the small businesses that have both a website store and a Facebook store typically get 15 percent of their overall revenue from Facebook.
That’s a significant chunk. The data also shows the average revenue of each Facebook store powered by Ecwid’s software rose 40 percent in 2011.
“It’s a matter of time – within the next five or so years – before more business will be done on Facebook than Amazon,” says Sumeet Jain, principal at CMEA Capital.
That’s a pretty bold prediction. While this may not happen as fast or at the dramatic scale that Jain predicts, the trend is clear – social commerce is on the move, and SMBs may be leading the charge.
So why are some big brands failing while SMBs are finding their way? It’s all about how you engage your customers. Do small businesses have an advantage here? Is it easier for smaller, more personalized businesses to succeed at social commerce?
How effective are you at engaging your customers and selling products via social media?
Here are some concepts and best practices for selling on social networks and tapping this potentially lucrative avenue for expanding your business:
Recognize that social commerce isn’t new
“Social” has always been part of “commerce,” even when Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. We listen to our friends’ recommendations and tend to buy more if we know a merchant personally.
So social media sites like Facebook and Twitter didn’t invent social commerce, but amplified it greatly. They introduced a convenient, easy and fast way to communicate with friends and others, and deliver “social messages” much faster and to a larger audience.
Fully utilize today’s powerful e-commerce tools
Merchants can now easily create f-commerce storefronts in minutes and make their offerings more targeted: e.g. show a discount on a particular book to all customers who like the book’s topic. This makes store offers more friendly, so social customers are more open to them.
Today’s modern store software also offers features previously found only in major brand storefronts, including powerful application program interface (API) options. Take advantage of this new breed of software and you’ll also spend less time on administration.
Decide what your unique social media strategy is
Most brands understand that they need to communicate with their customers, but many are not clear on what the conversation should be. A Facebook page is always a two-way communication, so if you’re not ready to engage your audience with a particular theme or approach, you won’t be successful.
This may involve trial-and-error, but eventually you’ll find a sweet spot of engagement. Also, always talk honestly and without marketing slang.
Don’t disrupt the conversation flow
If you’re going to make the leap from e-commerce to f-commerce – actually selling products on a site like Facebook – remember not to disrupt the original purpose of social networks, which is to connect people. You’ll want to make the process as seamless as possible, integrating your store into the conversation, and allowing people to shop without having to leave Facebook.
Avoid product “hawking” and focus on community building
Don’t try to just sell items on your Facebook page. Transforming your Facebook page into a list of links to your products will turn away customers.
Social networks are communications platforms, so maintaining a flow of communication with – and between – your customers is key. Try to build a community around your items, engage your customers, encourage fan-to-fan communication and product discussions, then simply offer a convenient way to buy.
Harness the power of your biggest fans
The enthusiast core of your audience loves to be recognized, so consider leveraging engaging, community-building applications such as “Fan of the Week,” new Open Graph API and frictionless sharing. This will help you to harness the power of your most avid customers.
Ultimately they are your biggest supporters, so it pays to offer them something special. You’ll be well rewarded as they spread their enthusiasm to friends.
About the author: Ruslan Fazlyev is the founder and CEO of Ecwid, a leading social commerce solutions provider that currently powers more than 140,000 online stores.