Michael Koploy, an ERP analyst for SoftwareAdvice.com, wrote an interesting article — Adding a Pinterest-Twist to Fix Facebook Commerce — about why companies shouldn’t put a lot of effort into their Facebook pages, like setting up an ecommerce site (or as Koploy calls it, an F-commerce site — ‘F’ for Facebook).
Many experts have weighed-in on why Facebook storefronts are often unsuccessful. A large part of it simply boils down to the fact that Facebook isn’t an e-commerce site. This results in a contextual disconnect.
“Most people don’t go to Facebook wanting to purchase something,” says Josh Davis, social media strategist at ITFO Communications and blogger at LL Social. Davis believes that retailers were initially excited by the advertising potential, but are now realizing shopping-intent isn’t there.
In short, the context for F-commerce is wrong. Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru accurately likened F-commerce to “trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”
Facebook’s core focus is clearly stated on its login page: “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” Facebook is not about shopping. And it’s not about retailers. But Facebook is good for connecting people to each other.
Last week, we discussed why it’s a bad idea for companies to quit blogging to go with Facebook: Facebook owns the channel, you don’t. When they change their rules and their interface, you’re screwed. When you change your blog, you can decide what, where, when, and how.
But companies like Gamestop, J.C. Penny, and Nordstrom all pulled their F-commerce efforts after failing to receive any kind of pay off. And that’s just a year after investors swore up and down that F-commerce was going to put the hurt on online retail giant Amazon.com.
I hate predicting failure of new ventures, and pointing my finger and going “neener neener” at people who tried something and failed (unless they’re complete a-holes; then they deserve it). But I’m not surprised, and am rather pleased, that these companies got smart and cut their F-commerce efforts before they lost their shirts.
The big surprise they would have had — and it’s the same damn surprise that businesses who put a lot of money and effort into Facebook always get — is that one day, Facebook will decide, “we don’t want you to have X on your page any more, so we’re going to ‘improve’ the network.”
They did it with FBML in 2010 (Facebook Markup Language, which companies spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on to design these gorgeous sites). They did it with Groups, after begging organizations, companies, and loose collectives to spend all their time and effort to get people to join. And they did it with the non-Timeline iFrame pages, after people spent hundreds and thousands of dollars to recover from the whole FBML fracas.
Mark my words, it will happen again within the next 12 – 18 months. Someone’s going to spend thousands of dollars, get their page looking all pretty and just the way they want it, and WHAM! Facebook will change it yet again.
Facebook, like Koploy reminded us, is a place to connect. It’s a place where friends gather. We don’t hang out with our friends at the bar to buy stuff. Companies that are doing F-commerce need to pull out before they get the big F-U.
Put your money into improving the SEO of your ecommerce site, doing more social media marketing, and using Facebook for what it’s intended for: posting Instagram pictures of your feet and gag-inducing GIFs of your favorite inspirational sayings typically found inside the doors of high school lockers.
Photo credit: Abandoned storefrontColes County Tales (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Orangutan feet Macinate (Flickr, Creative Commons)