As a business strategist focused on digital marketing and social media, I’d estimate that the word “Facebook” comes up in about 85% of my conversations with clients and industry insiders. While the attention in the past two weeks may have moved to the new kid on the block, Google +, Facebook still remains (by a long shot) the social network. Luxury brands are finally understanding how to interact with customers and fans in this arena, and are even beginning to ask the question: “How do we make money here?”
While Facebook has not, at least for the last few years, been a place where users look to make purchases, this mentality is starting to shift. Many brands have taken steps to actually make products available for purchase on Facebook, while others are concentrated on how to integrate the network into their existing purchase funnel.
I recently spotted a great chart (I’m such a sucker for a good infographic) published by digital strategist Janice Diner, and was impressed at how it quickly and effectively outlined the main opportunities to socialize commerce on Facebook.
Ms. Diner’s approach fixates on six primary areas:
1. The Facebook Store
The most direct in its approach to bringing commerce to Facebook. This is an actual e-storefont, usually hosted on a dedicated tab within a brand’s Facebook page. Customers can make a purchase using real currency without ever having to leave the Facebook environment. Social Commerce Today classifies f-stores even further:
Faux-Stores let you browse, but not buy. Envision a product image gallery that then links to an e-commerce store. Examples:
· Net-a-Porter often creates image galleries on Facebook that promote its latest merchandise, and present a link to purchase.
· Neiman Marcus does the same, featuring highlights from a new collection with a link to the specific product page, like they recently did for some new Alexander McQueen offerings.
Fan-Stores are typically limited-time only and are available solely to Facebook fans of the brand. Examples:
· Chanel’s limited-time only previews of Rouge Coco Shine lipstick to Facebook fans was successful in bringing new customers to the brand.
Full-Stores offer the full shopping experience, specifically tailored to the Facebook environment. Examples:
UK retailer, ASOS, runs an f-store that is freshly stocked with 1300 new products each week. US fashion retailer, Express, launched a fully functioning store on Facebook that offers real-time inventory, access to user accounts, and even wish lists.
2. Deals on Facebook
The team at Facebook clearly keeps their ear to the ground, listening for what new things are attracting attention. Observing the success of Groupon, Living Social, and many similar sites, it makes sense that Facebook wanted to get in on the action. Available in select markets for the moment, Facebook Deals allows users to make a discounted purchase (either with real currency or Facebook Credits) that can then be exchanged for full-priced goods and services. The companies taking advantage of this functionality are primarily hospitality-driven local businesses, with Deals tailored to the region in which the user lives.
A recent example is from Starwood’s luxury boutique hotel, W, which ran a Deal for its Scottsdale location via Facebook.
3. Facebook Check-In Deals
Noting the success of Foursquare in the US, and now globally, Facebook rolled out a competing location-tracking check-in service. Like Foursquare, Facebook also gives companies the ability to set up special offers that reward users for sharing their location with their friends. Facebook offers four options:
1 – Individual Deals: Ex. 20% off at store when you check in
2 – Loyalty Deals: Ex. free appetizer after user checks in 5 times to a restaurant
3 – Friend Deals: Ex. free round of drinks when you check-in with 4 other friends
4 – Charity Deals: Ex. donation made to a charity for every check-in
An example of a brand that’s taken advantage of this utility is United Colors of Benetton, which partnered with Facebook for the launch of Deals in Europe. Benetton opted for the Charity route, donating two Euros to Architecture for Humanity for every check-in. Similarly, Gap used the individual Facebook deal option to distribute 10,000 pairs of free jeans to the first check-ins.
4. Facebook Open Graph
Many companies have already begun to integrate social with commerce is via their own websites through Facebook’s Open Graph. Liking, sharing, and recommending are all actions we have now come to understand, and it’s these actions that quietly connect our shopping and social worlds.
One example of a brand that’s put a lot of focus on integrating Facebook social plugins onto its existing website is Levi’s. In 2010 they launched the Levi’s Friend Store that displays the jeans “liked” by your friends, and others.
5. Facebook In-Store Retail
Brick-and-mortar retailers (no e-commerce, or even a website, necessary!) integrating Facebook to give customers a social experience while they are in the store is, in my opinion, the most underutilized, highest-potential opportunity in social commerce.
From simple signage encouraging check-ins, to advanced tactics like Diesel’s in-store dressing room camera, there are a lot of opportunities for retailers to make shopping more social.
One of my favorite simple, yet brilliant, examples comes from beauty brand, Estée Lauder. They hosted events across numerous stores where customers could come to the counter for a makeover and have their photo taken with their new look. The photo was given to them digitally with the intention that this would be their new profile photo. A brilliant, simple way to tie the in-store experience to the social platform world!
6. Facebook Credits
Not obvious to your average Facebook users is that games and in-app virtual goods must use Facebook Credits as the mandatory currency. What was originally just a made-up currency now has an actual real-world exchange and has been used as a way to take advantage of Facebook Deals.
One example is the Facebook game RetailTherapy, developed by fashion blog PopSugar. In the game, players run their own virtual fashion boutiques, with the goal of expansion and profits. Players stock available-in-real-life merchandise from designers like Diane von Furstenberg and Tory Burch and even have the opportunity to keep their own avatar dressed to the nines.
UK retailer, TopShop, is one company that saw the opportunity to translate their involvement in a game to real-world sales. With their own store set up within the game, players can dress their avatars in TopShop threads by making purchases using Facebook Credits. Want to match your avatar? No problem. TopShop can redirect you to the e-commerce site to shop.
In Summary, there are many opinions on what the future of F-Commerce is and should be, but one thing is for certain: the socialization of shopping will only gain momentum. Brands that begin the process of integrating social into all aspects of their businesses NOW will be the ones with the upper-hand against the competition down the road.
Photo Credits: socialcommercetoday.com, janicediner.com