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Facebook is investing further in its outreach programme to retailers to bring clarity to the term “social commerce” and promote social integration on their websites.  

Gavin Sathianathan, Facebook’s strategic partner manager, is leading the social network’s bid to promote social commerce in the UK and said that agreed definitions are a key building block in its evolution. “It’s really important we nail what we mean by ‘social commerce’,” he said. “At Facebook, we do not equate ‘social commerce’ with opening a store within the network.”

The comments follow a story last week in which retail brands including John Lewis and Reiss told new media age that selling items via social networks, such as a Facebook Store, was not on their 2012 agenda, favouring to hone their m-commerce strategies instead (nma.co.uk 19 January 2012).

Defining social commerce, or “f-commerce”, simply as a transactional store on Facebook is a restrictive way of thinking, according to Sathianathan. “From a defininiton perspective, it’s important we’re all clear on that,” he said. “When I talk to retailers about this, I try to make it clear that it’s about how we can bring social media to bear on the purchase process, be that in a Facebook store or not.”

Most of the discussions taking place between Facebook and retailers centre on integrating Facebook functionality, such as Like or Share buttons, into their own websites, according to Sathianathan.

Top of Facebook’s priority list are supermarket and FMCG brands, while those that have experienced notable success in their f-commerce strategy stem from the fashion and ticketing vertials, according to the social network. 

“We talk a lot to FMCGs and grocers [whose goods or services are not necessarily social] about the social aspects of their products,” said Sathianathan. “For instance, a can of baked beans may not be social but the meal you have them with could.”

Earlier this week, Unilever used its Facebook storefront to help debut its Lynx Attract for Her brand – the first time it has attempted to appeal to female audiences with the brand (nma.co.uk 23 January 2012).

The FMCG giant sold all 100 cans it was offering via the platform, retailing for £3.25 each, within two hours of launch in a campaign that met most of its initial performance metrics.

However, despite the success of this initial campaign, Unilever has no immediate plans to use its Facebook storefront as a sales channel on an ongoing basis.

Commenting on the campaign, Joey Kau, ecommerce manager at Unilever, said, “There are no plans to move away from our current distribution channel and we’ll continue to distribute products in the way that we have been doing.”

Selina Sykes, Lynx brand manager at Unilever, said a Facebook storefront was used as part of the Lynx for Her campaign as that’s where much of its target market already consumes media.

“With the current momentum of technology, every time a new product comes to market there’s a whole range of new channels to play with,” she said. “We have to look at what our consumers are engaging with to decide what our key channels are.”

Andrew McClelleand, director of operations at online retailer trade body the IMRG, said that there is not widespread anticipation of using social storefronts as a mass distribution channel and that the interest in Facebook was “as an engagement channel”.

However, he did add that youth-orientated brands would be more likely to be interested in using Facebook Storefronts as an alternative sales channel.


Published 26 January, 2012 by NMA Staff

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