Why do brands think that putting product imagery on a Facebook tab with links to their website constitutes social shopping? I would let this go if this was the only option to bring a shopping element into Facebook, but that simply isn’t the case. On top of that, I think it’s hysterical that brands are paying a third party to sort this out for them.
In 2009 a company called Alvenda created the first F-Commerce (Facebook Commerce) site for 1-800 Flowers, and admittedly it looks pretty ghetto now, but what it accomplished was an experience that went from browsing to conversion all within the Facebook environment. Let me make that clear, you never leave facebook & you can buy things.
One of Alvenda’s more recent executions is the Brooks Brothers F-Commerce shop, which is absolutely gorgeous. You can browse product, zoom in on the finer details and purchase all within Facebook. While this is executed beautifully, it has some glaring issues.
First, the Shop tab is not Fan-gated. Fan-gating is putting a hurdle on a tab on Facebook that prohibits the consumption of that content unless a user “Likes” the brand. This strategy is a very successful fan-acquisition tactic and positions the content on Facebook as exclusive to the community around the brand. You can not only access the shop on the Brooks Brothers page, but you can actually complete a sale without “Like”ing the brand. I think that is why they only have 13K fans, hardly enough of a fanbase to justify creating an F-Commerce shop, which brings me to my next issue.
"Social Shopping" is not a new concept. As a matter of fact, it’s as old as Shopping is. It’s the reason why "earned media" and "word of mouth" endorsements are so powerful. I literally cannot make a purchase without the anointed approval of my mother or my sister. Just imagine taking that "Hey Sam, which shoes do you like better?" interaction and bringing into a trackable & accountable environment. Why would Brooks Brothers launch an F-Commerce site that just recreates their E-Commerce experience and doesn’t leverage Facebook’s core value proposition? You cannot share, comment or bring any social behaviors into the shopping experience.
There is new technology that will be coming out of a company that I cannot mention here, for fear of blowing up their spot, that is blending the beauty of the Brooks Brothers’ F-Commerce functionality & true social shopping. Pick 3 items, send them to your friends and see which they think is best. Comment on products and your comments only show up to people within your social network. It’s even a two-way street, you can import the interactions on Facebook to your proper site. Bottom line is, solutions exist.
Companies like Fluid are touting themselves as purveyors of social shopping on Facebook, and all they are doing in most cases is putting pictures of products on a tab that links directly to the brand’s website. I find this really frustrating as a user because it’s misleading. Brands like Nine West, PB Teen, Coach & Milly have all worked with Fluid and they do Fan-gate the content, but ultimately drives to their proper site to convert. Social shopping is implemented to a certain degree, but certainly not to the potential that would make it justifiable to spend the money on this functionality. Not only that but imagery with links behind a Fan-gate is something a brand can do on their own without the help of a third party.
F-Commerce should revolutionize the way we shop & officially insert social media efforts into the path to conversion for digitally savvy brands. I can’t wait to see the data…