Thus far, “Facebook commerce” has flopped.
Efforts by retailers, from Express to Urban Outfitters, to sell merchandise directly on the social network via virtual shops on the site, “news feed stores” or catalogs have returned a negligible return on investment, at best.
Experts say that failure reflects the mindset of consumers when they’re on the site: They are not in consuming mode.
People visit the network to chat with virtual “friends,” share updates on their lives, cute cat videos, spout their views — but they’re not there to shop.
However, that could soon change.
In March, Facebook announced it would allow shoppers to buy from retailers with its Facebook Messenger app, the instant messaging part of the site.
The launch of its “Businesses on Messenger” platform enables orders to be placed on the site via an instant message conversation rather than a three-step process of select, check out, and pay. Facebook Messenger could be a game changer, finally turning a social network into a viable shopping portal. That’s in part because while there are thousands of retail stores and most of them have shopping apps these days, once they’ve been downloaded, they’re often forgotten and go unused.
By contrast, Facebook messenger has the potential to be a single shopping portal for an infinite number of retailers, as so many people are already on the site. Gregg Zegras, vice president of digital commerce solutions at Pitney Bowes, shared with Forbes.com why Facebook Messenger could finally usher in the era of Facebook commerce.
1. It’s A Billion-Person Market “In the online world, customers have thousands — arguably billions — of shopping options. Few existing sites allow customers to shop multiple brands—and those that do exist cannot boast a billion-person user base. Facebook will give retailers access to a large, global demographic that many retailers may have been unable to tap previously.”
2. The Borderless World Of Commerce Will Be The Norm “Nearly 40% of all online shoppers have purchased goods from another country. As Facebook gradually morphs into a social-shopping platform, users will also find more opportunities to purchase goods from countries outside their own. In turn, retailers may also find opportunities to diversify their product offerings to meet local needs.”
3. Shipping Options Will No Longer Be A Guessing Game
“Shipping is one of the biggest challenges for online retailers — our research shows that shipping costs and delivery time uncertainty are the leading challenges to domestic and global e-commerce. “In fact, the research found that almost half, 47%, of U.S. retailers identified their company’s management of parcel shipping as the weakest link in the fulfillment chain.
“Facebook Messenger provides the ability for sales representatives to engage customers where they are — online and via mobile — to talk through shipping options, which is an important factor for nearly 70% of American shoppers. Now, shoppers will know exactly how long a package will take to make it to their doorstep, and at what expense.”
4. Retail Customers Can Avoid Setting Up Tracking Alerts
“Closing a sale online isn’t the end of a customer’s shopping experience with a brand — 77% of those online purchases are going to be tracked by the shopper. One-third, 33%, track their packages once or twice. Another 21% track packages three to five times, and 23% track it six or more times. Today, shoppers receive a purchase confirmation with a tracking code that they must use on a third-party site to request shipping alerts.
“It’s predicted that Facebook Messenger will be used as a source to track packages and alert shoppers right to their mobile device. While the shopper is able to eliminate one step in the shopping process, the retailer is also able to control this part of the shopping experience.”
5. Advertisements Will Become Localized
“Notice how your Facebook advertisements are relative to your recent online searches? Soon those advertisements will be relative to places you’ve recently visited. With Facebook Messenger’s location capabilities, retailers can now market more localized offers to you and send promotions based on where you live and where you frequent. In-store offers can be given to help close the gap between the physical and digital shopping experience.”
This article was written by Barbara Thau from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.