Why Facebook Fails as an E-Commerce Platform … and How to Fix It

3.9.2012 »
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Facebook is an amazing platform for brands, enabling them to engage and interact as no platform or channel ever has before. Markets have evolved into conversations: conversations that deepen relationships, building awareness, affinity, trial, and perhaps most importantly, loyalty. But it’s not a panacea, and there’s one critical step in the business process where Facebook falls short: it doesn’t work as an e-commerce platform.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen major retailers quietly shutter the Facebook storefronts they opened to take advantage of F-commerce. When Facebook works so well for so many things, why doesn’t it seem to click for retail?

Facebook, and the retailers who embarked on this noble experiment, aren’t wrong to try to capitalize on the community and brand affinity that Facebook facilitates. They just went about it the wrong way. Most F-commerce stores featured small subsets of the retailers’ product line—and that’s where they fall short. Shopping online is about choice, variety, selection—and making that selection smaller isn’t a benefit. To top it off, creating a Facebook storefront creates more work for the retailer: Maintaining the world-class e-commerce experience that online consumers expect is hard enough, and a subshop created for a specific environment is counterintuitive…and therefore fails.

But while Facebook might not work for e-commerce, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for retail. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Facebook is at its heart an engagement platform—one that enables consumers to interact with and redefine a brand, to provide feedback, to build community, and to bond with a brand—as stated earlier in this post, it’s an unprecedented opportunity.

The key to success in capitalizing on this engaged audience is to create a way for users to share their affinity and experience without limiting the selection they’re seeing—in short, find a way to leverage the realtime community of Facebook on the retailer’s full-selection site. Harness the joyous bonding of a girls’ day out Saturday afternoon in the Herald Square Macy’s shoe department. My best girlfriend might be in Colorado, or Des Moines, but help us shop online together just as if we were in the store together. That’s how retailers, Facebook, and consumers for that matter—win.

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