Back in April I wrote a column about why I thought it was a bad idea for HMV to invest in a Facebook Shop. The reaction to my piece was mixed so here we go again.
Many of you agreed with me, but several did not – with the most vocal taking issue with my use of language and the fact that I go against the grain of what many major retailers are doing. God forbid original thought and colloquial language.
“You Sir are a fool,” said one man rather idiotically. “Really condescending if not arrogant,” said another. “Vulgar … a load of rubbish,” complained someone else. Well you know what? I still think I’m right. In fact, I know I am. And because NMA likes it when my column provokes debate, and because retailers still think Facebook Shops will bring them a fortune, I’m going to talk about it again.
Current research from Havas Media School states that 89% of people have not bought a single product through Facebook Shops, and that 44% are not interested in doing so. The people surveyed stated that concerns about security were a barrier for purchase, and when you consider the countless issues surrounding privacy on the social network, apprehension over security is legitimate justification not to shop.
I just don’t really believe that’s the reason as to why only 11% of people have purchased through Facebook Shops. It doesn’t really make sense.
Recently Facebook chief information officer Tim Campos announced that consumers consider the social network to be a trusted ecosystem, and I believe him. When it comes to social networks, Facebook is the accepted dumping ground for us to purge our offline lives onto the online, and we don’t let security concerns stop us. It’s our default network, and our hub where people from all different areas of our life are a single click away. Facebook isn’t a gimmick, it’s our normality, and the more we represent our lives on the site, the more entwined it becomes with our offline world. Facebook is genius, addictive, and our online vanity mirror. We’d mourn it if we ever lost it, and despite the privacy issues we do tend to trust it. We trust it with our online lives.
Yet when we throw Facebook Shops into the mix I’m cynical. Users may say they don’t use Facebook Shops because of concerns over security, but I believe it’s because they instinctively know they just don’t feel right. Everyone in the digital industry knows the basic rule of social media is to engage rather than to broadcast – yet many want to conveniently forget about this when it comes to forcing Facebook Shops into communities of customers.
So let’s take a step back for a moment and consider what Facebook Shops are and how they work. For etailers, Facebook Shops are an “easy” route to riches, and a great way to be where your customers hang out. Right? No. Just because your customers are hanging out, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to shop. And just because you have a version of your etail site on Facebook, it doesn’t make it any more social or engaging. Facebook Shops are not what social commerce should be about. Instead, Facebook Shops – because of their very existence on the social network, and because retailers think they’re “social commerce” – are invasive.
One of the main reasons your Facebook page is active is because your community members have forged relationships with each other around your brand values. They’re using your Facebook Page to define themselves online, and your products – out of the virtual world – are secondary to that. Your customers want to embrace your brand on your Facebook page, but they don’t want to feel like they’re being force-fed. Real social commerce is about recommendations and referrals, peer support, and customer interactions with the brand and other shoppers.
Social commerce isn’t about forcing shopping opportunities on those who aren’t in the mood to shop. Brands should trust their customers, and they should believe that if a customer wants to make a purchase, they would find their way on the difficult path from Facebook to their retail site. They need have a little faith, and they need to have a little bit of self-respect. Facebook Shops – to your customers, at least – are desperate and needy, an elbow in the ribs of shoppers to try to get them to purchase more. And nobody wants to shop with a brand like that.
This column originally appeared in New Media Age magazine.