Sucharita Mulpuru has made no secret of the fact that she doesn’t believe in f-Commerce. Mulpuru, a senior analyst at Forrester Research has even been quoted as saying “In the history of retail, there has probably been nothing that has been so widely anticipated yet underwhelming as the ‘era of social commerce,’”.
To back up her theory, one just needs to look at the recent news whereby big brands such as Gamestop, J C Penney and Nordstrom have made the decision to close their Facebook stores. In a recent telephone interview with Bloomberg she was once again quoted with negativity toward f-Commerce, “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.”
However, with that said, I don’t believe that f-Commerce or the future of selling products within a social environment should be dismissed so easily. Instead, everyone involved with f-Commerce needs to take a step back, admit temporary defeat, understand the failings to date and either rebuild or improve the social shopping experience.
Even using Mulpuru’s own analogy of selling people ‘stuff’ while they hang out in a bar can be used positively. For example, if someone if hanging out in a bar find out why they’re there, who they want to be with and what they would spend money during their visit. Again using the ‘bar’ analogy, customers would be interested in being presented with relevant offers according the situation. People are distracted into doing things spontaneously. Just look at the success of all of the ‘off Broadway’ comedy shows. Everyday hundreds of people on the streets around Times Square are asked “Do you like comedy?” Has a comedy club ever decided to stop using this marketing tactic due to other comedy clubs not having success? The answer is no. This is the same reason why retailers looking to promote and sell within Facebook should not give up just because big name brands have not had success.
Admittedly things should change. Storefronts in Facebook, sitting on Fan pages have become too readily available at too little cost. Thereby alluring retailers into thinking that selling on Facebook is easy. It’s not, nothing in life is. But it doesn’t mean it’s time to give up.
Facebook itself has done very little to assist retailers get traction. There have been no ‘best practice’ case studies on Social Commerce produced by Facebook. Perhaps if Facebook didn’t take 30% on the sale of each Facebook credit, the credits may have a real monetary value that could be used to make purchases within Facebook stores. After all, buying tangible goods is far more important and valuable than being used to buy virtual game tokens or imaginary swords.
Consumers still do not understand the security aspects of purchase transactions within Facebook. This needs to be more widely spoken about. It’s incredible that Facebook manages to get mentioned in the press at every given opportunity but does not use this sway to educate consumers. Zuckerberg’s quote of how commerce on Facebook will blow up is almost two years old and is still being used by f-Commerce startups in their marketing material.
In short, f-Commerce has not been done correctly. The education and psychology of social consumers is still not understood well enough. Development companies offering Facebook storefronts to the masses, with no aid to assist their storefront customers, has also been detrimental to the industry. If things do not change, if Facebook does not pay heed, f-Commerce may come to an end. But it will not be the end of social commerce. Social commerce began when the first person shared with a friend details of a deal or an offer via the web. Facebook’s existence did not create f-Commerce. It just created additional opportunities which, as yet, have not been fully optimized.