Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Future of Selling

I recently wrote about the importance of multiple sales channels for small business owners and how the economics of sales channels is an important consideration when determining which channels to use. Traditional sales channels like retail stores and wholesale distributors now also work in conjunction with e-commerce. Selling via your website or a third party site is accepted as a standard. Several years ago mobile commerce—selling to consumers on their mobile devices—became common and is today growing exponentially. Today, it’s clear that your company’s next sales channel will be Facebook. Welcome to f-commerce.
How big is Facebook?
The statistics are nothing short of staggering. According to the company there are over 500 million active users on Facebook with half logging in to their accounts every day. 200 million of these users access Facebook via their mobile devices. In total, users spend nearly 12 billion hours per month on Facebook. Beyond just being logged in, users are interacting and engaging information on Facebook. Over 30 billion links, news stories, notes, photos and blog posts are shared each month.
With the launch of social plug-ins in April of last year, Facebook’s reach now goes beyond its own website. Over 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook via social plug-ins and this number is expected to increase dramatically with the recent launch of the Comments box social plug-in.
How can your company sell via Facebook?
As an initial step your company can use Facebook as a lead generation tool, enticing users to engage with your company’s fan page and inviting them to visit your existing ecommerce website to execute a transaction. If you are feeling truly innovative, there are a number of new online tools that can convert your company’s fan page into an e-commerce enabled point of sale. Companies like Payvment and Storefront Social offer configurable tools to create these f-commerce points of sale.
The Payvment e-commerce solution is currently free: There are no upfront fees or on-going frees. This will most likely change in the future but as of right now it’s a low-cost method to experiment with Facebook sales. Payvment also powers a Facebook shopping mall which currently attracts over 15,000 active monthly users. The number is small but it’s very new and like anything on Facebook, if it grows, it grows very quickly. Storefront Social offers template-based online storefronts for Facebook that range from $10 per month to $50 per month for up to 500 products. Custom solutions are also available.
Can you make money on Facebook? Is it worth it?
Buzz and engagement don’t necessarily translate into sales in the short-term. This appears to be the case with Facebook for the time being. The experience of most marketers actively selling on Facebook is that it works for selling more to existing customers but doesn’t work as well for new customer acquisition.
Is it worth it? For most companies my opinion is yes—assuming you have developed other sales channels that are working and you have an existing customer base. Relying exclusively or mainly on Facebook as a sales channel is not the right approach for most companies. But having a presence in anticipation of the future is definitely worth the small investment required.

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