In 2011, Facebook took a huge leap of faith by allowing businesses to set up shop and sell their products directly from their Facebook pages. F-commerce, as it’s known had a positive uptake from lots of household brands keen to cash in on their large Facebook followings.
A year down the line and things aren’t going so well, with reports suggesting that many of the early adopters are calling time on their F-commerce experience. Gap, J.C. Penney and Gamestop are just a few that have shut up shop in recent months.
According to a report by Bloomberg, video game retailer Gamestop opened its Facebook store last April but lasted just six months due to the inability to convert its 3.5 million-plus Facebook fan base in to paying customers. A familiar story that many other brands can relate to I’m sure.
It’s no coincidence that so many brands are pulling the plug on F-commerce and it’s a decision which completely undermines the expectations initially pinned to the service when it first launched. Little over a year ago there were even suggestions that Facebook would be ‘the next big thing’ in e-commerce, with the potential to challenge the likes of Amazon and PayPal. Not so much, it seems.
So what is it that’s stopping Facebook’s 850 million members from splashing the cash? Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research explained;
“There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop,”
“But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”
And here lies the problem – Facebook is social network, not a shop.
In addition, the Facebook checkout process it notoriously clunky due the process taking place via slow-loading Facebook apps. Team this with uninspiring, replicated product catalogues and you’re giving users zero incentive to shop via Facebook.
While it’s too early to write off F-commerce for good, recent evidence would suggest that brands are best using social networks for what they offer best (engaging with fans) and letting their websites do the selling.
I’d love to hear your thoughts – does this prove that social networks and e-commerce should be kept separate, or just that retailers need to do more in order to harness their potential selling power?