Brands including Gamestop, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom and Gap all opened Facebook storefronts—and have subsequently shuttered them due to inactivity. Initially, the world’s largest social network seemed like an ideal extension of a company’s retail brand.
Recent experience, however, has proven otherwise. So what gives? Consider this perspective from Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, quoted in a Bloomberg story: “ ‘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 people stuff while they’re hanging out with their friends at a bar.’”
Mulpuru’s viewpoint is certainly valid. After all, Facebook is a social network—not a shopping network. You can’t blame brands for trying to further leverage their Facebook pages by converting their audience into purchasers, but it’s not wholly surprising that Facebook users prefer to spend their time interacting and sharing, not shopping.
Of course, this retail trend highlights a critical component of any digital marketing strategy, and one that we can’t emphasize enough to all of our clients. Your web presence must begin with a strong, optimized website as part of your larger SEO plan. Platforms like Facebook are undeniably powerful, yet they exist to drive traffic to your website—and if you’re a retailer, you better make sure that your online storefront is user-friendly and representative of your brand. Facebook isn’t the end-all, be-all of your online presence; instead, it’s one of many tools that, when used as a whole, can help you attract new customers, build relationships and better engage with those who are already fans of your brand.
And another thing? We, as people, are largely creatures of habit. And Facebook just isn’t a shopping portal. We’re already used to shopping with online retailers (or at brick and mortar stores). Asking us to change our habits by buying on Facebook is a big step—and one we’re not yet ready to take. Sure, Facebook is evolving into a more robust social platform that encourages more specific, social forms of sharing and interaction. Yet it’s not likely to morph into an online retail destination—at least not in the near future.
Are you surprised that brands have had trouble with Facebook stores? Or do you think selling merchandise within Facebook is a strategy that doesn’t make sense? Is there a brand you know of that’s successfully selling on Facebook – we’d love to hear about it.