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One of the hot topics for this year has been brands opening stores on Facebook. But as with a lot of new channels, it has polarised opinion.

new media age columnist Ilana Fox today writes that she’s still not convinced about Facebook stores, following on from a piece she wrote in April, because she believes they don’t feel right in a place where users aren’t in a shopping mindset.

Ilana isn’t saying this merely from a social media point of view, but also based on her wealth of experience with ecommerce brands – she used to lead ASOS’s social media activity (before it launched its Facebook store) and now consults for many high street brands.

She quotes a brilliant piece of research by Havas Media Social which found that just one in ten people had shopped on a social platform and 44% said they weren’t interested. This would be a significant number if it were a sample based on the entirety of the UK, but the 10% was a representative sample of those using Facebook.

It’s safe to say that shopping on Facebook isn’t a mainstream phenomenon and may take some time to become one. But there is a demographic of connected consumers who want to do this, and actually expect to.

Last week at the Microstrategy Social Media Marketing and iCommerce Summit, I spoke to social media expert Brian Solis about this very subject. He said he grouped consumers into three sets: traditional consumer, online consumer and connected consumer. While connected consumers are lower in number, they tend to be influential and vocal.

For the right brand, a Facebook store can work but only if this connected group is a significant part of the audience. An example of this is Chanel, which launched a Facebook shop for one lipstick in its colour for that season. The shop therefore acted as a marketing tool, pushing its colour of the season and making a shop more like an exclusive event or pop-up shop. It then gave its trend-seeking audience a simple way to buy a relatively low-cost item.

F-commerce also works for brands where the product ties to a social feature, such as entertainment and ticketing. According to the Havas Media Social research, 36.4% of respondents said they’d be interested in buying music and 35.2% would be interested in buying tickets.

An example of this is music ticketing firm SPC Live, which has launched a white-label service for bands and musicians to sell tickets for gigs directly from their Facebook pages. It also allows people to hold seats next to them and share with friends, a tool that’s genuinely useful and not possible without being on Facebook.

I largely agree that brands have got too excited about Facebook stores and the result has been bland repurposed versions of etail sites that won’t inspire. If 90% of people haven’t shopped on Facebook and 44% aren’t interested, then if you’re going to launch a Facebook store, you’ll have to work harder to make something that will change their minds. This means real research so that you know your audience and what they want and need, or even to find out if it’s worth it yet.


Published 21 July, 2011 by NMA Staff

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