Last month Bloomberg released a story that shook the social media marketing world to its core: major retailers, from GameStop to Gap to Nordstrom, were closing their Facebook storefronts due to lack of activity.
“What?” many of us wondered in shock and awe. “How could this be? People constantly converse about products on Facebook, and buying is the natural next step. What went wrong?”
Wrong Place, Wrong Time, … or Wrong Tactic?
In an excellent post titled “Adding a Pinterest-Twist to Fix Facebook Commerce,” Software Advice blogger Michael Koploy offers an answer: Facebook as it currently stands just isn’t built for retail.
Sure, there are oodles of Facebook conversations going on around products and services, and Lord knows having a Facebook Page is expected of any major brand … but that’s pretty much where the connection stops. As Koploy writes:
In short, the context for F-commerce [Facebook 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.”
Could the Pinterest Model Work for Facebook?
On the other hand, Koploy points out another model that could hold the key to turning F-commerce around:
… Pinterest and similar sites cater to the desire of people in social networks to refer products to each other, which ultimately drives traffic to retailers’ websites. This is very different than F-Commerce, in which Facebook provides a platform for retailers—not friends—to promote products.
I’m inclined to agree that Pinterest’s focus on visuals as de facto billboards for Web pages makes it ideally suited as a commerce driver. See the picture, like the picture, click through, make a purchase. It’s probably why this relatively new site, with a population that’s about 2 percent the size of Facebook’s, referred a whopping 3.6 percent of the total referral traffic in January 2012.
Koploy wraps up his post with insightful suggestions on how Facebook might leverage the Pinterest model to stage a comeback for F-commerce, including a strong tagging feature and a more prominent use of its existing category (Lists) function for retailers.
It’s an interesting concept, and I’ll be keeping a close eye out for Pinterest-like features popping up on Facebook (which, at the rate new features are rolling out, should be, oh, about 15 minutes from now?).
So, what are your thoughts on the future of F-commerce? Does Pinterest hold the key to Facebook’s future as a retail hub, or is the social giant just too ingrained in the “social” part of social media to ever offer retailers a valid storefront opportunity? Share your thoughts in the comments—we’d love to hear from you!
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