An opportunity for businesses to build closer relationships with customers…
Facebook announced earlier in May that it has brought Facebook Shops to business Facebook pages, which could have a tremendous effect on both consumer and business buying behaviour. Given how the line between personal and business is becoming ever blurrier, especially in the social media arena, this is an incredible opportunity for companies to build closer relationships with their customers.
What does Facebook Shops do?
Touted as a way to support SMEs through the Coronavirus crisis, Facebook Shops provides businesses with an extension of their business Facebook page that can be used as a purchasing platform to take customers through the entire buying journey without having to leave Facebook’s ecosystem. Businesses have made do for years, directing prospects to a central website, but this enables small and medium-sized operations to create a much smoother, more seamless experience for potential customers.
Considering the launch is across both Facebook and Instagram, many expect the service to be reserved for small artisanal sellers – think jewellery, fashion, beauty products – but there are applications for the Channel too. Imagine a business wanting to quickly replace a damaged office handset – within a couple of minutes, a purchaser could log on, find the product and get it ordered – but is that really so different from logging on to the business’ existing website?
While this isn’t exactly game-changing technology, Facebook’s integration in all of our lives is so deep that some will prefer a Facebook-based purchasing experience. Maybe their account manager talks too much, or always tries to upsell another product? Sometimes people just want to get a thing ordered, and this will be a quick way to accomplish that without having to remember login details or speak to a representative.
Facebook Shops is only open to US users currently, but if the Channel doesn’t adapt to this new purchasing method, they run the risk of being left behind once the service launches to over 44 million Facebook users in the UK.
How should businesses adapt?
Social media has quickly become an indispensable tool for business but has always sat slightly separate from the purchasing experience. Now, that’s all changed. Operations, even those in the Channel, will be forced to put more of a focus and allocate more resources to their responsiveness on social media. Not just for the odd complaint or public tweet, but now for product questions and purchasing, and AI chatbots will become ever more useful in this scenario.
Facebook’s plethora of supporting services will pose a genuine threat to the likes of Amazon and Etsy too. Businesses will be able to leverage tools like live video and loyalty programs; a useful feature for B2Bs in adding returning customer discounts, for example. Ultimately, fostering a community of shoppers who don’t have to leave Facebook to browse, experience or purchase the goods they desire.
Impulse purchases are going to be a massive market for Facebook’s new platform, considering browsers may be easily swayed by community reviews, especially from other businesses for example, as well as engaging demo videos, from both the seller and customers alike. Therefore, leveraging social media influencers and encouraging happy customers to share their glowing reviews of a product, are going to be vital strategies to find success in this platform as well.
There’s no doubt what Facebook’s endgame is here. A social media platform for businesses to sell and advertise their products, where customers can share their reviews and promote the very same products, like a social-driven purchasing feedback loop.
Many may feel that the Channel, given the products and services within, would be immune from this new customer journey. Still, in the age of next-day delivery and instant purchasing, Channel businesses, especially hardware vendors, will need to use this time to plan and integrate new social platforms like Facebook Shops and catch up to the smoother, more personalised and efficient experiences found in the consumer purchasing space.