It has been 18 months since Facebook first allowed us to “Like” websites or products on other sites and broadcast that vote to our friends on our news feed. In that short period of time Facebook has built a series of features to support retailers who aim to leverage the power of that social network. While social commerce has been with us online since Amazon first promoted consumer reviews almost 15 years ago, the scale and stickiness of Facebook has made harnessing the news feed a strategic priority.
Social Commerce was featured prominently at this year’s Shop.org conference in Boston. At sessions on the subject the discussion was mostly about how different retailers have shaped marketing strategies around Facebook and it showcased some interesting examples. Powerful statistics were used to reinforce the scale of Facebook’s influence. There are more than 750 million Facebook users and 68% of them visit the site every day. On average a Share or Like on Facebook converts to 3.2 visitors and the conversion of those visits is high at 10.9%.
Social strategies are going beyond building a nice Facebook page and sprinkling Like buttons throughout the site. Perhaps the closest example to selling wine online came from Handbags.com. Chris Wilson identified their demographic as very passionate about handbags and using social media to find out whether they can trust a brand and whether the product will be reliable. On Handbags.com shoppers can register on the site with their Facebook login which connects with a Facebook toolbar for “Liking” or “Sharing”, and for “Commenting” on the site which can also be posted to the news feed. What was powerful about this toolbar was that it kept the shopper on the retailer’s website and didn’t lose them on trip a back to Facebook.While the goal is to have consumers promote your brand and products, a retailer needs to be cautious about the message they put into the social space. As Facebook puts it; people come first, then content (and commerce), and most retailers said that building engagement and customer service are the main activities for the retailer on the social platforms. Others treat Facebook fans as VIPs; sharing previews and design decisions with them, some even gave them early access to breaking sales making sure customers experienced a benefit from being a fan that shares with their friends.
Looking around at wine eCommerce there is very little beyond Like buttons on most major retail sites. One exception is Twisted Oak, a small California winery in Calaveras County, whose owner has always been very active on social media. The winery has a unique communication style and generates content that customers love to share making them a natural fit for social commerce.
Coming up with a strategy that uses Facebook’s features will present some challenges for wine stores. Stores can turn over inventory pretty quickly which makes it difficult to build up a body of Likes or Customer Comments; once the product page is gone so is the social commentary. It could even create a negative impression if very few product pages have garnered likes or comments although that needs to be weighed against the benefit of making it easy to share. Before building a strategy to leverage their customers’ social network stores should research how their customers already interact with the them and their products. Taking this research down to the monetary level was described as making it useful to make the business case for this investment. Maybe you will find, like Ticketmaster, that every Like is worth $5.
The point was also made that while the tools of social commerce are free, the creation and implementation of high value content that fans will want to share costs money and needs a budget. While there is no proven success model as yet, social commerce is starting to get interesting and could be exactly what a retailer needs to stand apart.