Dave Felipe is Director of Communications at SortPrice.com, a leading shopping search engine. SortPrice introduced a Store Application on Facebook in 2008 and has built Facebook stores for more than 1,500 national retailers of every size and scope. Dave shares five tips to help you maximize your "F-commerce" experience.
To stay competitive in the ecommerce industry, it goes without saying that you should always be keeping an eye out for new and innovative methods to expand your business and reach more customers.
While mobile shopping certainly has made its mark recently, the real big trend over the past year or so among online merchants has been social media integration - a movement that has quickly bridged the gap between ecommerce and the enormous audiences that are out there on social media sites, particularly Facebook.
The number of companies and applications offering Facebook ecommerce solutions during that time has grown at a staggering rate. That, in turn, has led to retailers making F-commerce, as we like to call it, a regular component of their sales and marketing strategies.
F-commerce, however, is relatively new territory for everyone. The rules of the game are still being written, thanks largely to that steady stream of new services, tools and applications that keep hitting the market. Regardless of what kind of F-commerce partner you choose to work with, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your foray into selling on Facebook is a productive one.
If there's one thing we stress to the retailers using our Store Application right off that bat, it's this - you'll get out of F-commerce what you put into it. Setting up a Facebook store and just hoping that people will find it is akin to not setting up a store on Facebook at all. To maximize your F-commerce presence, you need to commit time and effort to marketing and promoting your store to reach as many of the millions of people on Facebook as possible. Without such an effort, you're essentially just wasting your time.
Now, we're not suggesting that every retailer needs to go out and hire someone to specifically handle all F-commerce related matters. Spread the responsibility around some instead or take the lead on it yourself if you're a small operation. However you choose to approach it, the process will be an ongoing one - you should always be brainstorming new and creative marketing and communications tactics that will reach, engage and most importantly, motivate, your Facebook fans and friends.
To help get you on your way, here are five core tips that we pass along to all of our retail partners who are new to Facebook. Use them as a guideline and before too long, you'll be an F-commerce superstar yourself!
1) Spread the Word!
Once you have a store on Facebook up and running, make a big splash and announce it to your regular customers. Let them know that you've created something really cool and that you want them to be a part of it. If you have the time, send a quick press release about your new Facebook store to the local media too.
From there, every marketing or advertising piece you create moving forward should ALWAYS include information about your Facebook presence. If you send out monthly newsletters, include a "Find us on Facebook" button/link at the bottom. Make sure visitors to your regular website can also easily access your Facebook store with a similar tab or button as well. And utilize Facebook's "share" feature as much as possible to allow your fans and friends to pass along your application to their friends as well.
Facebook, after all, is a social resource so be social!
The merchants that have the most success on Facebook are the ones that truly get creative and build a community of people around their brand and their store. Posting the same tidbits to your Fan Page over and over won't get you anywhere with your existing fans and probably won't attract any new ones either.
So, don't use Facebook just to announce sales, promote items or spread the word about your company. Mix it up a little by adding items about local events, news, community organizations or charities too. Post a riddle, joke or quote each day with some sort of incentive for your fans to respond. You'll have a better shot at keeping peoples' attention if you put different things in front of them and encourage them to comment and/or "like" your wall postings.
3) Offer Rewards
Providing incentives to your Facebook fans is a great way to add more of them and to help bolster customer loyalty. We've seen some of our merchants employ special "Facebook only" rewards for their followers with great success and here too, you have a chance to be very creative. Offer things like free shipping, discounts, coupons or any other special offer that you can think of. Make people feel like they're getting something exclusive out of being one of your Facebook fans.
4) Push the Wishlist
Many ecommerce solutions on Facebook include a wish list feature, which is really what makes social shopping social in the first place! Wish lists are crucial to having users to interact with one another about specific products, brands and manufacturers.
Encourage users to regularly add items to their wish lists, preferably daily. Every time they do, their Facebook friends will see the activity on their newsfeeds, which will help spread the word about your company and store even more. You can also periodically solicit your fans to find out what products they're adding to their wish lists, say right around big shopping holidays. Again, the more interaction you can spur, the better!
5) Consider Multiple Tabs
As Facebook's layout and format has evolved, it's become even more user-friendly, and this is particularly true when it comes to F-commerce. One very important feature for retailers is that they can add online store tabs across multiple Facebook fan pages, not just their own. So get creative and build fan pages that relate to your product line and/or industry.
One such example: a ski equipment retailer could set up a fan page called "I Love Skiing" and add the store tab to the page to drive more traffic. There's no limit to how many fan pages you can build, so it really is a fantastic way to spread the word about your store.
As you've probably guessed, the more creative you get, the more potential your Facebook store holds! These tips are a great way to get started, but there are plenty of other methods that retailers have used to promote and market their F-commerce efforts as well. Chances are the more you do it, the more new ideas you'll come up with yourself.
Make no mistake. F-commerce IS the next big thing in online shopping, and if you're not involved in it, you're putting your company at a severe disadvantage, not to mention ignoring the promise of the nearly 500 million customers that make up Facebook's user base!
About the Author
Dave Felipe heads up marketing, advertising and public relations as the Director of Communications at SortPrice.com. Reach him via email at email@example.com.