FB Storefront Solutions Explored

Social media has changed everything. Not only has it improved the lives of more than a billion users worldwide, but it's also had a profound effect on the business world.

Arguably, Internet retailers are enjoying the biggest rewards as a result of social media.

Social commerce - the selling of products through social media - provides merchants with yet another avenue to expand their businesses. And although many different tactics such as promoting or advertising on social networks can fall into this emerging category, merchants can take the strategy a step further by selling directly on these sites through virtual storefronts.

Facebook, of course, provides merchants with the biggest opportunities in the social commerce space, and there are already more than 50,000 Facebook stores with more popping up every day. But how exactly does a retailer make the transition from ecommerce to f-commerce?

Five More Ways to Sell on Facebook: The opportunities for selling product on Facebook hardly end here. Discover more social commerce and Facebook storefront solutions such as Ecwid, Milyoni, ShopVisible and more here at Website Magazine.

Know the benefits and challenges

Merchants should first understand the benefits and challenges that are associated with engaging in the production and promotion of social storefronts.

The most significant benefit of a Facebook store is the possibility for broader audience reach. Your Facebook "fans" may be talking about your brand already, but what if they had the opportunity to browse and share products directly from your store?

Their product "likes" would then be publicized on their Facebook walls, which in turn would be shared with all of their friends. Since the average Facebook user has 130 friends, a notification about five sold products could potentially reach 650 new customers.

A social storefront is also a logical extension of your brand according to Jason Weaver, CEO of enterprise social marketing software provider Shoutlet.

"It seems as if having a Facebook page now is synonymous with having a website five years ago," says Weaver. "So brands are rushing to make that experience as complete as their own website."

But aside from the obvious advantages that come from virally spreading your products across the Web, there are also quite a few challenges still associated with social storefronts.

For instance, keeping your catalog up to date can be time consuming. There is also the difficulty in continuously coming up with interactive and valuable ideas that will provide your customers with reasons to come back to your brand's page, rather than just lazily pushing your products into their newsfeeds - which will most likely have the opposite effect and keep them off your page.

In order to make your f-commerce store successful, it is important to establish goals before choosing a solution and a strategy. For instance, do you want your social storefront to simply create viral buzz around your products, or do you want it to be the go-to commerce destination for your customers?

It will also prove useful to know how those goals can be satisfied with available solutions on the market.

Get acquainted with the vendors

All social commerce platforms are not made the same. Just like any other solution, service or platform, every social commerce solution has its own, unique bells and whistles.

For example, Facebook commerce platform Payvment allows all transactions to take place entirely on Facebook (some solutions redirect customers to the merchant's ecommerce page). Additionally, the platform also includes features like its Payvment Shopping Mall (pictured opposite page), which is basically a directory of all its customers' stores.

The Payvment solution also features social sharing options, analytics tracking, product management solutions, orders and payment support and store setup. The platform provides three service levels - free, premium and platinum solutions - which are differentiated by the number of stores and administrators on each account, type of support, as well as the means by which a seller can promote items to their fans (manual or automatic).

ShopIgniter offers another suite of products for f-commerce. This solution also allows fans to make purchases within Facebook, which, according to Alan Wizemann, chief product officer at ShopIgniter, gives brands and retailers a competitive sales edge.

ShopIgniter also features real-time inventory checks, social rewards, exclusive-offer technology and a social product-launch feature, which creates momentum for new products by offering fans and followers exclusive early access.

"The Facebook newsfeed is an excellent channel to offer impulse products, time- or inventory-limited items or highly desirable promotional products," says Wizemann. "We have taken extra care to ensure that our software delivers a secure and elegant experience for our customers' end-consumers."

A third solution, Shoutlet, takes a different approach entirely when it comes to in-stream purchasing. This platform's Shop and Share feature takes customers back to the merchant's website instead of enabling purchases within Facebook, but this is done for a specific reason according to CEO Jason Weaver.

"We found that our enterprise clients have already made huge investments in their ecommerce sites," says Weaver. "So they are looking to monetize those existing systems rather than paying another vendor a transaction fee."

The Shoutlet platform enables merchants to list products, drive purchases and encourage social shopping by letting users share on more than 100 social sites. Merchants can schedule upcoming promotions in advance, as well as display current and sale prices for consumer comparison shopping, which also drives social sharing during promotions.

Keep it social

It is important when creating an f-commerce store to remember that Facebook is still a social media site. Even though merchants can leverage the social network to sell goods and services, social storefronts should not disrupt the purpose of the website, which is to connect people and foster relationships.

In order to make sure that your social storefront does not disrupt your Facebook page, merchants should keep their Facebook pages informative, and with a focus on providing value for visitors. The application shop tabs, along with product promotions, should be enough of an incentive for fans to explore, purchase and share products on their own.