Will shopping on social networks ever really take off?

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 May 2013 12:53 Written by Suleman Abdullahi Monday, 9 April 2012 06:56

Brain Solis in a recent post stated that “people are not proving ready to actually buy goods and services in Facebook, at least not at the scale retailers are used to seeing through traditional ecommerce.

A Bloomberg recent report pointed out that known brands such as Gap, Gamestop etc have all opened and closed shops on Facebook within the past year.

Gamestop VP of marketing and strategy, Ashley Sheetz commented that “we just didn’t get the return on investment we needed from the Facebook market, so we shut it down pretty quickly”.

Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forester Research stated that “there was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop. But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they are hanging out with their friends at the bar.

Research findings from Catapult Action-Biased Marketing, a Westport, Connecticut based researcher supports Sucharita’s comments.
Social media platforms were found to be good consumer and advocacy tools, and help in building brand awareness (people at the bar do banter on a lot of issues, don’t they?). But once the consumer’s mindset shifts to shopping, consumers are not going to Facebook or to blogs. They are going to brand’s sites and Google. You can read my thoughts on the Catapult research findings.

Also a recent report from the Internet Advertising Bureau shows how different devices are used for different purposes during the day. Desktops are considered more secured (68%) and great for sharing important information (72%). By comparison, the benefits of smart phones are keeping in touch on the move (95%) and socializing with other (78%).

This implies that while consumers will use a variety of devices, their preferred device for shopping is a desktop/laptop on an e-commerce site. And a mobile e-commerce site is preferred over a smart phone app.

Editor of Mediavataar based on the Internet Advertising Bureau’s report suggest that brand marketers should focus on optimizing their e-commerce sites for purchases on desktop/notebooks and tablets, and their mobile sites for researching future purchases.

The editor also suggests that mobile shopping apps are a distraction for both merchants and consumers and will fail for many of the reasons why Facebook stores have failed. Do you agree with these suggestions?

The editor goes further to state that Facebook, in particular, has a troubled relationship with its users when it comes to privacy. And several studies have shown that the majority of social networks users are unwilling to shop on social networks due to security and privacy fears. What will Facebook do with my information if I do shop there? Are the questions consumers are asking.

Does this mean F-commerce and shopping on other social networks will be never viable?

Here are some views…

Brain Solis suggested that the problem with F-commerce and shopping on social networks is the vision of many of the F-commerce strategies we’ve seen in play to date (this does make a lot of sense, doesn’t it?).

Brain believes that in new media, social, mobile, and disruptive, that brands tend to assume a “mediumalistic” approach.

Brain explains “mediumalistic” approach as a phenomenon where weight is given to technology of any medium rather than its specifics strengths and the unique possibilities to deliver desired experiences and outcomes.

I quite agree with this and have always stated that understanding customers and their reasons for adopting a particular media i.e. what specific needs they are trying meet by adopting such media, should guide all digital marketing strategies.

Brain goes further to say that with certainty, the sky isn’t falling on F-commerce, but it’s early. Brands need to use Facebook not as yet another digital catalog for selling products but as a platform for activating new experiences based on the nature and the psychology of the relationship that define the network.

Similarly Lauren Indvik wrote on Mashable that still none of all this (talking about the Bloomberg report) proves that social networks don’t have potential as sales channels. It may be that retailers simply haven’t harnessed the power of these platforms in the right way.

She stated that in most cases, retailers have entered the F-commerce market by importing their online catalogs and making available for purchases in Facebook apps. The experiences are nearly identical to shopping on their websites, with two major differences:

  • Shopper can complete their entire browsing and checkout experience without leaving Facebook.com
  • The Facebook apps tend to work more slowly.

In other words, consumers have little or no incentives to shop via these Facebook apps.

What do I think?

I think social commerce or s-commerce (involves more than just shopping on social networks) does have a great chance. There are ways to sell to those drinking at the bar, don’t you think so?

Besides, it might soon become a necessity for marketers to have to come up with ways to make s-commerce work if they are to remain competitive since at a time e-commerce growth will definitely be set to be plateauing.

If you are in Nigeria, forget the statement about e-commerce growth plateauing. We are just about getting started. It will take a while to reach maturity not even to talk about growth plateauing. But hey if you are the one to come up with ways to make s-commerce work, then by all means blaze the trail.

At the moment shopping channels just getting started everywhere and definitely set for growth include mobile (m-commerce) and social media (s-commerce).

I do share the views of Anton Gething in this article and think that whatever you do, developing strategies that will keep you beholden to the likes of Facebook for your online presence and brand engagement is a very risky business model.

To be successful with s-commerce, m-commerce and e-commerce, you must put the customer first.

What are your views? Is there anything you will like to add to this? I will love to read your thoughts below.

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