Changes to Facebook Pages Sees Another Setback to Retail Brands Selling on Facebook

After implementing timeline for fan pages Facebook has yet again changed the playing field in the way that brands interact with customers through their branded Facebook fan pages.

The ability to set a default landing tab will affect retailers who are using fan page apps such as Payvment and ShopTab in order to sell directly from their pages.

Small to medium sized retailers, who have already had little luck selling in Facebook with little, if any, marketing budgets will be hit the hardest by this move.  As reported a little while ago by CommerceOnFacebook, it will be the enterprise solutions of retail applications who will benefit the most from this change.

Companies such as 8th Bridge, ShopIgniter and Sortal who offer both customized solutions and the correct tools for successful marketing will now pull away from the crowd.  ‘Off the shelf’ solutions which rely on the merchant to find their own marketing success, will see a continued decline in signups and subscription cancellations.  Smaller storefront providers will probably begin to shut their own doors or change their Facebook applications completely.

Due to the most recent changes, not only the ability to set the default landing tab has changed.  The size of the canvas has increased which means that subscription based storefront providers will need to move fast to keep up with the development changes.

Fan pages will have the same timeline format as personal pages.  The picture at the top of the screen displayed on the default landing tab will not have the ability to link anywhere, display pricing information or have any clickable call to action.  Developers of fan page storefront applications must now offer retail customers solutions which entice shoppers to enter the storefront.  This is yet another click away from the reach of customers, who have already displayed a lack of interest in shopping on Facebook.

Below is the new layout of the Walmart Facebook fan page after the switch to the new timeline.

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The Key to Successfully Selling on Facebook

Imagine you’re a brand.  You want to have direct contact with the people who buy your products.  You want to know what they want.  How much they are prepared to pay for your products.  And who is recommending your products.  You want to identify your brand advocates and ambassadors and reward them accordingly.  You also want to be up-to-date with buying trends and therefore offer group deals and even customer initiated group deals.  All of this is now possible, but only in one place.

As a brand, selling directly and maintaining a direct channel of communication with your customers may seem a little alien.  It may also conflict with your distributors.  But what if you can give each and every distributor their own online channel of social communication and the ability to sell your products directly from this channel?  As a brand working with distributors you need to be able to set revenue percentages for sales and give your distributors an interface to view sales and commissions.

This is exactly what Panasonic Israel has done using the f-Commerce platform developed and supplied by SortalPanasonic Israel has over 25,500 fans on Facebook.  Therefore, from a common sense point of view, it’s just logical to be able to interact, learn a little and reward the consumers following the Panasonic brand in the Israeli market.  On top of that, Panasonic distributors also have exactly the same tools to utilize and leverage the power of selling on Facebook.  This is already being used by Future Audio Video Ltd, a smaller distributor who is now able to sell Panasonic products directly within Facebook.

Up until now, Sortal have been quietly, but confidently developing their f-Commerce solution.  After signing up a number of high profile clients within the Israeli market in 2011, Sortal are set to offer and promote their fully tuned solution to the rest of the world in 2012.

Sortal’s model is geared towards enterprise clients.  Each customer receives their own custom made, separately hosted application.  Built using the solid foundation of e-Commerce platform Magento, Sortal’s model is simple and focused.  They are looking at working with clients who have already budgeted for selling in Facebook and understand that uploading a few products to a fan page in the hope that items will sell themselves is not the way that commerce on Facebook will work.  Sortal clients must be serious about social media.

Sortal offer features that can already be found in the marketplace such as:

  • Group Offers
  • Offline Coupons
  • Purchasing Within Facebook

They also offer features that have yet to be seen or completely utilized within the social shopping stratosphere:

  • Full featured social loyalty program, including a points system for identifying brand ambassadors
  • Unlimited stores for distributors / affiliates based on Brand’s partners and resellers
  • Gifting – where the recipient is prompted to complete address details
  • Customer initiated group offers
  • Bargaining – which allows customers to name their own price for items

Additionally, being built around the Magento e-Commerce platform, all Magento functionality can be found within the Sortal Facebook store.  These features include:

  • Full account dashboard for customers and merchants
  • Ability to capture emails and send newsletters
  • Run in-store polls
  • Customer wish lists

If f-Commerce has been slow in 2011, part of the problem has been too many providers offering instant solutions to sell within Facebook, but not defining the methods.  The true success of f-Commerce depends on the actual selling within Facebook.  Selling in Facebook is not rocket science, but it is different to conventional online retailing.  Customers do not currently go to Facebook to make purchases.  However, given access to exclusive rewards and the chance to directly communicate with their favorite brands and retailers, will see the trust and purchase levels increase.  Cleverly implemented loyalty programs will keep customers returning and increase the conversion rates on sales.  Brands and retailers, whether big or small, who understand the importance of the investment in terms of both time and money in social media, will be among the first to experience success with social shopping on Facebook.  In short, brands who are able to listen to their customers and respond accordingly, will succeed.

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