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TechnologyDec 14, 2010

f-Commerce: How Can I Engage My Customers?

Credera Team

Last time I wrote about the Who, What, Where and Why of f-Commerce, “executing transactions within Facebook without leaving the network.” Today I will “add an H” to round out the 5 W equation and talk about How to make f-Commerce possible for your customers. But before I get started I wanted to remind you why Facebook is such a promising platform for commerce. Consider two statistics about the number of Facebook users and their purchasing behavior.

1. If Facebook were a country it would be the 4th largest behind China, India and the United States! (Remember you are capturing attention when and where it is focused.)

2. Only 14% of people trust advertisements, where 78% trust peer recommendations. (Remember, you want to leverage the loyalty of your “fans” and encourage them to continue liking, sharing and posting your products.)

Practical eCommerce and Milyoni produced a fascinating webinar called, “500 Million People and Growing: The Facebook Conversation Turns to Commerce” that outlined the three key components of social commerce: social product catalog, social merchandising and secure order processing. Let’s take a look at these components to define the “How.”

Social Product Catalog

It is important to remember that your Facebook store should not take the place of your existing eCommerce site, but rather co-exist with it. That means there is no need to promote and sell all your products through Facebook but rather ones that adhere to the “contextual mix” of your fans. You must first and foremost understand your fans’ profiles. Their social graph of likes, pages, relationships, locations, etc. Then you tailor your product offerings to the commonalities amongst your fan base and create a personal-shopper experience.

Social Merchandising

Merchandising is defined as “the activity of promoting the sale of goods.” To make this definition “social” you must focus on the concept of a conversation. It is the conversation that is the catalyst to drive commerce on Facebook, not a barrage of advertisements or sales discounts. Your job is to creatively start the conversation by making product posts that are entertaining, educational, and informative.

Say you sold college sports paraphernalia and you wanted to promote your Auburn University merchandise. You might post an Auburn baseball cap to your fan page wall with the tag line, “What are the Auburn Tigers more likely to eat for dinner – Tostitos or Ducks?” (in reference to the National Championship Tostitos Bowl matchup between Auburn and Oregon). Once you post this to your wall it automatically appears on the newsfeed where your fans extend the conversation. They make it viral by commenting on the post, “like”ing the product, or visiting your store and making the purchase.

Secure Order Processing

To mitigate the hype around Facebook and privacy it is important to understand what information is passed during each stage of the order fulfillment process. Let’s take a look at this diagram modified from the Practical eCommerce webinar.

First, Facebook captures your fans’ social profile, which you have leveraged to create a social product catalog. As a result a purchase is made. Next, the commerce solution that powers your Facebook store takes over and captures the product selection, billing and shipping information. This information is then passed to the payment gateway that processes the fan’s credit card information. Most commerce solutions integrate with numerous payment gateways (e.g., PayPal, Authorize.net, digicert, etc.), allowing you to select the option you currently use for existing eCommerce transactions. Notice that none of the information is passed back down the chain, making this a secure and trusted process.

Is your eCommerce Platform f-Commerce Ready?

Few leading eCommerce solutions provide plug-n-play f-Commerce integrations in their existing platforms. A level of custom development is always required, showcased by the “Trailblazing” functionality of stores I discussed in my last blog. So what should you ultimately expect from your eCommerce platform as it relates to f-Commerce and other social media integration? Enterprise Irregulars clearly articulates that, “Commerce systems need to tie together online, mobile, in store, phone, facebook, Twitter (and other community sites), customer service, order management and fulfillment, etc. into one seamless customer experience. We have to move away from the days of thinking of distinct separate systems or modules and into a full and highly complex customer experience process.”

I spoke with Kenny Rosenberg, a developer at Credera, about his experience in helping clients reach this goal. “Every couple of months we are approached to do a social media integration for a client. To keep up with demand and the ever increasing social media trend, we follow the development of social media APIs (application programming interfaces) to identify optimal commerce solutions that minimize management maintenance. Depending on the use case of the customer, we are able to select the proper applications to make any level of custom integration possible.”

Conclusion

So if you need help giving your fans something to “shop” about consider strategizing with Credera to create a fully customized Facebook store. We are equipped and experienced to empower your business to effectively engage in f-Commerce. But remember, it’s up to you to keep it social and create the conversations that spark viral interaction among your fans. A “like” turns into a “share,” that morphs into a recommendation (which 78% of consumers trust) that ultimately ends in a purchase… now that’s what I call viral.

However, maybe you don’t want to distract from your existing eCommerce site. You’d rather drive traffic to it by continuing to revamp and leverage Facebook and other social media as a marketing platform. Stay tuned for more ideas on connecting commerce and social media.