Over the last year or so there has been a lot of talk about, and experiments involving, f-commerce (selling via a Facebook storefront). During that time, the broader topic of Social Commerce (s-commerce), or the use of social networks in the context of e-commerce transactions, remained somewhat in the background. Today, however, we are seeing an interesting about-face happening in the market. As many early adopters of f-commerce have discovered, long-term success in this space involves taking a broader view and adopting a more comprehensive approach than simply introducing a storefront into a social network.
Below are a few best practices I have discovered when it comes to retailers looking to take the plunge into truly socializing with – and not just selling to – people on social networks:
- Verbs matter. At the core of Facebook is the social graph – the people and the connections they have to everything that matters to them. As a result, the “Like” button has proven to be the most popular of their social plug-ins, allowing users to give positive feedback and connect with things they care about. To “Like” something is only one way in which to express a connection to the item in question. The major advancement offered in Open Graph 2.0 is the ability to express user connections and activities based on verbs and nouns that make sense for the situation. For example, other than “add to cart,” the most important verb that consumers can communicate is to “Want,” which relays a deeper intention versus a general feeling. Want is an example of a platform that is maximizing the power of this verb by offering a solution that’s simple for both consumers and retailers to use.
- Context is king. Because we now have the ability to represent contextually-relevant verbs and nouns, retailers can better understand purchase intent, which until now, could only be ascertained through making assumptions based on behavioral analytics or actually asking browsers through an in-session survey. This ability to more accurately identify purchase intent through contextual actions undertaken by shoppers is a major breakthrough.
- Sharing should be simple. Social media 2.0 has arrived, and if retailers don’t embrace it, they will be left behind. Gone are the days of traditional wish lists and static “My Favorites” pages. People – especially shoppers – want to share, and the Open Graph 2.0 has made sharing easier than ever. Mark Zuckerberg talked of “frictionless” sharing at the recent Facebook Developer Conference, and people have already begun to embrace this by tagging content and relaying it to their networks to show both interest and intent.
- Quality over quantity. Exposure is only as good as where it takes place and to whom it occurs. If I sell fishing gear and my products are exposed to quilters, there likely won’t be much opportunity associated with that exposure. But if I can show my products to like-minded individuals – people who have interest (or better yet, passion) in the same things I do – I have the potential not to only generate more traffic, but also ensure that the traffic is of a higher quality, which will lead to sales. Typically, people’s Facebook friends share commonalities in several ways, so the exposure that Timelines will provide for retailers is very meaningful.
- Advertising is evolving. The Open Graph 2.0 platform also provides additional opportunities for Facebook to expand and enhance its advertising capabilities. As a result, Facebook’s advertising model will likely evolve to take better advantage of the actions and nouns that users express on their Timelines. It remains to be seen how much more effective the new model will be, but this is something that retailers should closely monitor, so they can identify the advertising opportunities that make the most sense for them.
We are only in the early stages of adoption of the tools and platforms that can fully harness the opportunity presented by s-commerce, although there is huge potential for it to be one of the biggest revenue generators for retailers in the coming years. The key is to put consumers first, building social engagement features throughout the shopping experience. Above all, consumers crave genuine engagement, so learning how to satisfy that craving in a more complete and intuitive way than ever before will forge brand trust and shopping confidence, translating into more success for retailers.