E-commerce isn’t working on Facebook

Posted on March 7, 2012

So Facebook isn’t going to become the next Amazon anytime soon. Hardly surprising that, is it. Bloomberg recently reported that a number of large brands have closed down their e-commerce offerings on Facebook.  The fact that the stores have been pulled isn’t really that interesting. The platform is still young and business are prodding it to see what works and what doesn’t.  The reasons behind it might be food for thought for those looking to use Facebook in the future for business purposes.

The primary reason for pulling the Facebook stores appears to be lower than expected sales figures. The current way of offering products for sale through Facebook is via the company Facebook page on a custom tab. This is the first clue to the low sales figures. How many times do you just browse a companies Facebook page? It’s hard enough to find the link to it. Even if you’ve previously “liked” the page it’s unlikely you’ll have much more interaction with it after.  Figures on the interaction Facebook pages get, even pages with millions of fans indicate that they don’t get much “clickfall/footfall” after the initial action. If you haven’t twigged by now, massive numbers on the Web often don’t mean that much. Facebook have also announced that “pages” are to have the timeline interface applied to them in the coming months. Initially, it looks like the new layout will make custom tabs less prominent.

It’s been said before but the Facebook experience is akin to the bar, how many times have you bought a pair of shoes off a bloke in the pub? That’s not to say that the bar experience can’t boost sales. I’m sure most people have talked about a holiday, new service  new widget with their friends which has resulted in their friends at least considering making the same choice. Although not a shop, the Guardian app does tie together the social aspects of Facebook while selling their media services. By deeply integrating into users’ everyday Facebook experience and offering something of value they can make sure they are front and center of a lot of eyes while avoiding the spammy label.  You’re probably familiar with the Facebook games that bombard the wall with useless updates about how many leaves have been swept up etc. If e-commerce is going to work on Facebook it’s going to need to be a much richer and more integrated experience than just replicating your existing store on a (hard to find) page.

But perhaps Facebook isn’t the place to sell one off products. The Guardian produces new articles every day and people want to read new articles every day. News articles have a much better fit into the “what’s going on?” experience that Facebook offers. It’s unlikely you’re going to want to shop and share your thoughts about a new pair of jeans every day of the week. With the lower volume content production and consumption cases, the Facebook feed isn’t likely to produce many results. Pinterest on the other-hand could have hit upon something with its endless scrolling of aspirational, pretty things.

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