When it comes to social commerce, no one is talking about the biggest opportunity out there. When most people hear the phrase “social commerce”, they think of a branded storefront within the Facebook canvas. But that’s only part of the equation. This year, while everyone debates the merits of social commerce and struggles to get a Facebook store set up, they’re missing out on the biggest untapped resource: using all Facebook data available to personalise customer experiences across the board. In order to maximise the potential of social commerce, organisations must think beyond channels and build a programme that leverages Facebook data to drive commerce both “on” and “off” Facebook.
“On” and “off” Facebook strategy“On” Facebook refers to having a storefront embedded within the Facebook canvas. This method has received the most attention in the social commerce conversation to date, but there is another approach: “off” Facebook, which presents an immediate and larger opportunity for most retailers. “Off” Facebook describes using Facebook data to drive elements of an organisation’s own website and mobile environments. By leveraging Facebook data from Facebook Insights and the Open Graph behind the scenes of their own environments, retailers can deliver targeted, personal experiences across all touch points.
Many businesses have a Facebook fan page that allows them to represent their brand and post offers and campaigns. If someone clicks on an offer it will then typically take him to the retailer’s online store, which is not on Facebook. Some have gone further to provide much of their product catalogue within Facebook. The final stage is to provide a complete shopping experience, including checkout, fully within Facebook. Early adopters of this approach included JC Penney and Asos. To be truly engaging, the Facebook store should leverage the social data within Facebook to personalise the experience, and offer something unique such as “Facebook-only” special offers or products.
Putting available data to work
To set realistic goals for a social programme, retailers must identify the opportunity and where they’ll derive value. There is an incredible amount of data available on Facebook, and it’s free for the taking. Facebook has two sources of data:
- Insights: Facebook’s built-in analytics dashboard gives retailers access to over fifty usage metrics, ranging from most viewed and most liked pages to anonymous demographic information like user age and location.
- Open Graph: a Facebook data source that ties activity to the individual. Retailers can see what products or brands a user has liked across the web, view his demographic information and track Facebook activity. The Open Graph also houses product information, so when a ‘Like’ button is clicked, an object is created on the Open Graph with a Facebook-generated ID and associated keywords.
There are billions of pieces of data available on Facebook Insights and the Open Graph, but it’s only valuable if you can put it into action. With the right strategy, retailers can use these data sources to personalise customer experiences within Facebook and where their customers are already comfortable browsing and buying. Some tips for creating the right strategy include:
1. Integrating mobile
Increasingly, people are using mobile devices to access Facebook. As of December 2011, 425 million users were actively accessing Facebook via a mobile device on a regular basis--approximately half of Facebook’s 825 million global users. Facebook mobile users are typically contributing twice the content of nonmobile users. Mobile usage enables additional information to be shared such as location as well as being able to use other sensors such as the camera. Last year, Diesel trialled QR codes in stores that once scanned would perform a Facebook “Like” on that item in the store. Also Simply Be trialled changing rooms that allow customers to take a photo and post to Facebook to get feedback from friends.
2. Building a design for social
Social is far more than just creating a Facebook page or Twitter account. It requires using all of the rich social data available to provide a more personalised relevant experience across all channels. This involves combining social data with other data such as purchase history, web analytics, location data and current search/navigation state to deliver the right content at the right time to the right customer. Building these kinds of experiences requires platforms that can handle the scale and variety of data and deliver consistent cross channel optimised experiences.
3. Having a specific ROI plan
Too often, organisations think that the only way to measure success of a social commerce programme is to track sales completed on Facebook or tally their “Like” count. Clearly define objectives, goals and how your programme will be measured. Will it be the number of total impressions? Customer acquisition? New data points captured? Building a loyalty programme? Referrals to your website? Or sales generated from transactions on Facebook?
4. Not creating another silo
When building a social commerce programme, think touchpoints like a customer does. Customers expect to be able to glide between your website, mobile apps and Facebook with a consistent experience. Early missteps of many social-commerce programmes involve outsourcing Facebook store creation to a new vendor, which results in a disjointed experience for customers and leaves retailers without access to valuable Facebook data or control over the customer experience.
Instead of creating a new silo or treating social commerce like an ancillary project, make sure that your social commerce strategy integrates Facebook data across your organisation and links all of your touchpoints. The greatest value of Facebook integration is access to customers, future customers and their data. Therefore, make sure your organisation has the technology to access Facebook data and is able to use it to drive decisions that impact sales across the enterprise, while also facilitating personal experiences for customers.
5. Not throwing out what you’ve got
Gaining net-new traffic, net-new sales and net-new data sources from your social-commerce programme will not replace what you have today. Use Facebook Insights and Open Graph data only to supplement proven data and content that you currently rely on. Marry web analytics data used to promote popular products in tandem with Facebook data to further personalise merchandising. Supplement your valuable customer profile and segmentation information with Facebook data to tune targeting and the increase the accuracy of your database. Remember, every user on Facebook creates his own profile, indicates his interests and leaves a trail of activity--so it’s self-maintaining. Even if some customers don’t have a Facebook account, you can still use the vast amount of data from Facebook to improve customer insights, monitor trends and create customer segments to ultimately deliver better experiences.
6. Starting small
If personalising every customer interaction within your web site or mobile environment with Facebook data seems too overwhelming, just start small. Use Facebook data to add a social element across customer touchpoints. For example, you can enable customers to see what items friends have browsed or purchased within your website, and allow customers to view wish lists and upcoming birthdays with personalised suggestions for each friend.
By following the points above, retailers can gain access and control over Facebook data to automate the delivery of tailored promotions, merchandising, product assortments and recommendations that are shown to each visitor. With the right strategy and technology in place, retailers can meet customer needs and deliver a more personalised experience both now and in the future.
Andrew Webb is an e-business strategist at Oracle-owned Endeca. He works with retailers, brands, distributors and media organisations across Europe to help them deliver a multichannel experience that combines content, community and commerce.
*Mandatory fields your email address will not be published. All comments are moderated and may be edited. Comments do not necessarily reflect the views of the Catalogue Development Centre Ltd.