French Connection and Dove are the latest brands to let customers buy via Facebook as the social network continues to drive take-up of social commerce.
Fashion brand French Connection is to launch a Facebook store at the end of the month that will allow followers of the clothing retailer’s page to buy items directly from its news feed.
FMCG giant Unilever has also unveiled an ecommerce offering, powered by Amazon, on the US Facebook page for its beauty brand Dove, with a global rollout to follow later this year.
Social commerce will, and should, become an important part of a retailer’s mix. But like Tesco Clothing, brands should think about whether it’s worth the investment at this early stage.
ASOS, like Tesco, was also tracking the referrals and sales it received from Facebook, and invested because it deemed it the channel to be worth it. Brands need to establish an engaged community on Facebook first, to make sure that once they do launch ecommerce ability, their followers will be interested in using it.
They join fashion brands ASOS and Young British Designers — both of which launched fully transactional Facebook stores last month — as being among the first companies to sell directly to Facebook’s 30m UK users.
French Connection’s store, which will stock a selection of its most popular items, follows last year’s launch of YouTique, its pioneering YouTube store (nma.co.uk 15 September 2010).
It worked with US social commerce firm Milyoni and UK social media agency Punktillio to create the Facebook store, with the former’s platform offering the ability to shop within the news feed.
French Connection’s digital director Jennifer Roebuck said this set it apart from ASOS’s store on the network because people are less likely to actively hunt out brand pages, despite being fans of them.
“I’m a fan of about 300 things on Facebook but I don’t go to their pages proactively, I wait for them to come to me,” she said . “People need to be reminded about a brand.”
But she warned that brands selling via such methods must be careful not to spam fans. “They need to keep posts to a minimum,” she said. “Facebook will become similar to email in that you need to keep it interesting and engaging. You don’t want people to start unsubscribing.”
Sharmita Saha, head of business development and social commerce at Punktillio, said US brands selling within the news feed “positively affects the order rate by four times, compared with going to an external ecommerce site”.
Dove’s Facebook store mirrors that of Max Factor, owned by rival FMCG giant Procter & Gamble, which lets people search for products and add them to a shopping basket in the social network before being directed to Amazon to check-out.
Marshall Manson, EMEA MD of digital at Unilever’s PR agency Edelman, which manages social media activity for Dove, said brands such as Dove, which don’t have the back-end ecommerce platform that ASOS or French Connection do, will increasingly work with third parties, such as Amazon, to help them enter the social commerce space.
“It makes sense to allow users to move directly from a social word-of-mouth recommendation, or from information a brand has shared, to purchase,” said Manson. “From a measurement perspective, it makes it easier for us to connect social activity with business values.”
Some brands are already tracking the sales driven by social media. Tesco Clothing has generated over £2m in sales in the past year as a result of its UK Facebook page.
Tesco worked with social media agency We Are Social to open up its clothing brand to a new audience online, one that wouldn’t usually shop for clothes in a supermarket.
It has tracked its activity on Facebook using vouchers, finding that a campaign called Friday Frenzy resulted in more sales in two hours than it would usually get in a week.
Despite this success, Tesco Clothing online marketing manager Rochelle Symons said launching a social network store was too much of an investment for the brand.
“It’s something we’re considering, and we’ve looked at what ASOS is doing,” she said. “But our budget isn’t enough to build it from scratch.”
Robin Grant, MD of We Are Social, said, “The jury is out for most brands because there isn’t enough data at the moment. It’s an extremely big investment for most brands to make without it being proven.
“With Tesco Clothing we built an engaged community,” he added. “If you can have a conversation with customers, sales will follow. It’s an indirect way of gaining sales, not direct response. It’s about building up the brand, which results in sales in the same way that TV does.”
Research suggests only a small percentage of brands and retailers are starting to experiment with social commerce. Ecommerce company One Iota surveyed all the brands in the IMRG/Hitwise Top 100 and found that, despite 65% having a fan page, only 4% had integrated a shopping function within them. Until ASOS, none allowed users to purchase within the Facebook environment.
Last July, Ebay, one of the world’s biggest ecommerce brands, told new media age that the UK market isn’t yet mature enough for social commerce (nma 22 July 2010).
Phillip Rinn, director of advertising partnerships at Ebay UK, said British consumers aren’t ready for social commerce, with the auction site instead testing ways in which social media more broadly could fit into a transactional website.