You don't have to be friends with your customers - but it helps, especially if they Like you on Facebook. If you are able to hang out with people who like what you sell on sites like Facebook, sharing common interests and occasionally showing off new products, you'll build a loyal customer base.
For Rebecca Hall of Natick, MA, a mom who makes jewelry and sells it on an Etsy store called What Cool Moms Want, chatting with the fellow moms she calls her "fans" on Facebook and selling them there through a service called Easy Social Shop has boosted her sales by 10 to 15 percent in the past six months.
"I get a variety of Cool Moms who message me with requests on Facebook after seeing a new necklace I've posted," she says. "They are either inspired by what I've made or their curiosity gets the best of them and they want to know if a certain design is possible. I had a customer who previously bought a spirits-themed necklace but wanted something for her soccer playing daughter. I sent her a few options and she settled on my design."
After making the soccer-themed necklace, Hall added it to her Etsy shop and posted a photo on Facebook. "That same day, I had two Cool Moms place an order for that necklace: one was for a soccer playing niece and the other was bought as a gift for herself to represent her four soccer playing boys with the phrase "my boys kick grass.'"
Hall is one of the many socially-oriented sellers who have turned to services like Easy Social Shop to "power" their business Facebook pages to enable sales. In the past, I've written about ArtFire's Facebook Kiosk, which opens a sales page in a browser window atop a Facebook page so shoppers can complete a purchase without leaving Facebook. Soldsie is a Facebook app that allows visitors to purchase items advertised on a Facebook page by writing "Sold!" in the comments.
In contrast, Easy Social Shop lets sellers advertise products on their Facebook pages with catalog-like listings, but takes shoppers back to the merchant's ecommerce store on platforms like eBay, Etsy, Magento and Amazon to complete the purchase.
"Online merchants want the sale to happen on their original ecommerce site because it streamlines and simplifies the process," says co-founder and CEO Nissim Lehyani. "We're a data-driven company and we make decisions like this based on the data gathered from our merchants. This particular decision came after various A/B tests and an analysis of our data that clearly showed that the sale is more likely to convert on the merchant's original website. Also, we got positive feedback for the decision after engaging with our users."
Lehyani founded Easy Social Shop in 2011 with his university classmate Ofir Tahor after observing the experiences of friends and family members who owned small businesses. "They were all actively using social media for their businesses, but they struggled to find a way to channel those activities into sales," Lehyani explains. "We realized that the problem wasn't that social media couldn't support ecommerce, but that the focus needed to be tailored to the particularities of social media."
Using Easy Social Shop, ecommerce merchants can import their ecommerce product listings to a Facebook storefront, where their merchandise is displayed with a photo and sale price - as long as their store is hosted on one of the supported platforms: eBay, Etsy, Amazon.com, Wix, Magento, Shopify and PrestaShop.
A merchant's Facebook friends can share, ask questions, or comment on that item. By clicking on the listing, they go to the merchant's storefront where they can find out more or purchase it. When sellers edit or add products, their products are automatically updated. Because Facebook apps are not yet fully available on mobile yet - which Lehyani emphasizes is a limitation of Facebook and not his product - the Facebook Shops aren't visible on mobile devices, however.
Sam Levett, owner of Gate Trading Company, operates the Rush It UK Facebook page powered by Easy Social Shop. He said he has also seen a 15 percent jump in sales from his Facebook Shop. "More importantly, we are seeing a much higher spend per head from customers driven from Facebook," he adds. "People who are coming to us via Easy Social Shop are mainly female and of mixed age groups. The conversion rates are higher on Facebook as they are not driven to you - they are coming to you as a social choice."
The Easy Social Shop website says that 80,000 sellers have installed the software in 142 countries. The company is based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Easy Social Shop creates a Facebook shop with just a few clicks; a new Shop tab appears at the top of your store's Facebook page. Product listings appear beneath, with prices and buttons enabling customers to promote and share items. Sellers can also promote products to their Facebook timeline.
Rebecca Hall says she doesn't pay anything for the Facebook shop shown below, What Cool Moms Want. Lehyani explains that his company uses a "Freemium" model to charge for services. The basic version is free, but added features like analytics and technology updates cost more.
"Thus far, the results have been fantastic and we've seen our merchants gain an average sales growth of 10 to 18 percent," says Lehyani.
Hall estimates that 15 percent of her store's sales come through Facebook. "Customers purchasing through my Facebook shop tend to be Cool Moms between 30 and 45 years old," she comments. She doesn't have a website of her own yet; she sells on Etsy, TheCraftStar, and Facebook. "The best part about Easy Social Shop is that it's free. It was easy to apply to my Facebook page and gives me the advantage of having my shop just 1 click away from my fans that are engaged with my posts. I would highly recommend Easy Social Shop to anyone who has an ecommerce business and a Facebook business page."
A former computer programmer, Lehyani finds it "incredibly exciting" to see how his skills can benefit sellers. "Social commerce is the future of ecommerce. If you want to grow your business, social media provides a uniquely effective means of reaching new markets and audiences. If you want to stay small, optimizing your ecommerce efforts for social media means cutting costs while bringing in new business, allowing you to control your size. The ecommerce space is so crowded, if you don't take advantage of all that social media has to offer, you run the risk of losing your business entirely."