Many brands have tried to nail it, but replicating e-commerce sites on Facebook doesn’t work. At least according to Nokia and Heinz.

At Facebook Marketing 2012 speakers from both brands said that while Facebook can be used as a platform for offering fans exclusive or limited edition products, it is a mistake to simply repliate existing storefronts.

We Are Social marketing director Tom Ollerton highlighted two Heinz case studies where the FMCG brand had used Facebook as a platform to sell new products to its fans.

Heinz wanted to sell just over 1m bottles of its limited edition Balsamic Vinegar Ketchup, so We Are Social recommended that an intial run of 3,000 bottles be sold exlusively through Facebook to build excitement around the launch.

The campaign proved to be a success and all bottles were sold, however there were a mistakes with the execution. Firstly, purchases were confirmed within Facebook instead of using a confirmation email which Ollerton said resulted in some negative comments on the page.

But despite that, it got picked up in the press and people got ridiculously excited about it.

Fans posted pictures of themselves with their new bottle, some even going so far as to take it on holiday with them. But there were also complaints about the buying process.

Hosting the e-commerce page within Facebook actually put people off as it’s not a trusted platform for making a purchase. It created a lot of nervousness.

As a result, for a subsequent campaign to promote personalised cans of tomato soup Heinz chose to use PayPal instead of selling directly on Facebook.

Despite making the purchase journey a bit longer, we had no complaints as PayPal is a trusted online payment tool.

Overall the soup sale achieved a global reach of 26m people, and gained a 650% increase in interactions on the page during the campaign.

Ollerton said the key lessons they learned from the campaigns are that you have to reward people and innovate. 

You have to give people something they can’t get somewhere else, you can’t just replicate your e-commerce platform.

Nokia global editor-in-chief for social media Thomas Messett echoed this sentiment.

He said that too many companies use Facebook as a way to give away cheap products or discounts, which has no long-term benefit to the brand.

If you put something cheap on your fan page, people will ‘like’ you to get something cheap. It doesn’t actually mean anything.

Instead brands should use Facebook to offer exclusive or unique products to reward their fans, not just to replicate their e-commerce site.

Messett said there is also value in rewarding customers for sharing purchases on Facebook, however brands have to make sure they get user consent first.

Don’t be too pushy, it’s likely to turn people off. Frictionless sharing is a great idea, but Spotify has ruined it.

Does this mean f-commerce has no future? 

Not necessarily, but as Messett said, brands need to do something different on Facebook. There are issues around usability and trust to be overcome, as well as the fact that people are less in ‘purchase mode’ when on Facebook.

We have looked at this issue before, and found that, though larger brands like Gap have been underwhelmed, small businesses have used it successfully, while brands like Gilt Groupe have had some success by launching exclusive offers through Facebook.