Should Fashion Brands Be Opening Shops on the Facebook Mall?
Now that so many people are interacting with brands on Facebook , it seems natural that brands should offer their fans the opportunity to buy things from them too without the inconvenience of having to leave Facebook. Fashion brands would seem to have the most to gain, given the fact that fashion is such a social purchase and that they have managed to build such strong fan followings.But social media marketers can't agree if F-Commerce is a worthwhile investment or a waste of money.The 'pro' camp argues that the shops need to be where the customers are. Once people are on Facebook, they want to stay on Facebook, so let them shop in the security and comfort of their favourite social network.The against camp argues that only E-Commerce sites can deliver a properly optimised shopping experience and they're only a click away, so why waste money on creating a sub-optimal experience, cramped and cluttered by Facebook ads and navigation.Both camps have logical arguments, and F-Commerce is so clearly in its infancy - 89% of UK Facebook users have not yet bought anything on Facebook - that it's not possible to make a definitive judgement on whether Facebook shopping is a flash in the pan or something that's going to grow exponentially in importance.The logical route to take would be a phased approach - don't invest in a fully-fledged Facebook store before you've had the chance to test some other, lower investment approaches to see if Facebook could really help you to drive sales. Here are some possible approaches you might want to consider that other brands have adopted.1.Bring Facebook to Your -E-Commerce StoreAt the simplest level, this is applying the Facebook 'Like' and 'Share' buttons to each of your product pages and displaying aggregate 'Likes' to users browsing those pages.At it's most advanced, it might be something like the Levi's 'Friends' Store'. Again, using Facebook's social plug ins, Levi's store browsers not only see how many people have 'Liked' a particular piece of clothing, but which of their friends have 'Liked' it. Hence, shopping in the friends store becomes a much more social experience - your friends' opinions influence your purchases without them neeeding to be with you.2. Use Facebook as the Shop Window, But Not the ShopThis is an approach typified by Ted Baker. Although users can browse Ted Baker products in their Facebook store up to the point of purchase, a click on the 'Buy' button connects them to the Ted Baker E-Commerce store. This has the disadvantage of taking users aways from Facebook, but the advantage of offering them an optimised shopping experience when they've finished browsing.3. Try Part of the RangeAnother staging and test post en route to full F-Commerce capability is to make only part of the range available, or very specific products, to test the water before launching a full fledged Facebook store. Victoria's Secret do this by offering the ability to purchase Gift Cards only in their Facebook shop.4. The Full StoreIf the staging post along the way you've chosen has proven to you there's potential for a fully fledged F-Commerce ship, then the investment is probably worthwhile. Your aim will be to create something like ASOS has - a full functioning replica of their ecommerce site that works entirely within Facebook without the user having to leave the social network at any stage. The ultimate F-Commerce shop is one that brings together the best of functionality from your E-Commerce site, and the best social aspects of Facebook to allow users to interact with their friends whilst shopping.The more brands that jump on the F-Commerce bandwagon, and the better experiences they offer, the more likely consumers are to expect Facebook stores in the future. We'd suggest that you take at least a tentative step along the road outlined to find out if F-Commerce is for you and your customers otherwise you could find your competitors a couple of steps ahead and reaping the benefits.