September 30, 2010, 1:38 PM

Facebook is for socializing, not long bouts of shopping, retailers say

Shop.org speakers urge retailers to consider why consumers go to Facebook.

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Josh Himwich

Consumers go to Facebook to socialize, not spend 20 minutes shopping, says  Josh Himwich, vice president of e-commerce solutions for Quidsi Inc., which operates online retail sites Diapers.com and Soap.com. That’s why retailers hoping to reach consumers through the social network need to offer shoppers a quick way to buy products, he said this week at the Shop.org conference outside Dallas.

“No one wants an entire shopping experience in Facebook,” he said. “They want to spend time with friends.”

One way to win fans without hogging their time is to offer what Himwich called microtasks. For Diapers.com and Soap.com, that will mean enabling its customers to buy products they regularly reorder on Facebook, and making it possible to do that in no more than two minutes without leaving Facebook.

In a session designed to give retailers tips about how to use social commerce, Himwich advised companies to forget worries about return on investment at first. “It’s about building up relationships,” he said. “Without those, no social commerce will happen.”

That point seemed especially sharp a few minutes later when Andrew Sirotnik, chief experience officer for e-commerce services provider Fluid Inc., asked the more than 200 attendees to raise their hands if they had sold anything through Facebook. Only one person, a woman who worked for an online apparel retailer in Canada, raised her hand.

Jones Apparel Group is another retailer that has found success through Facebook, said Ron Offir, president of e-commerce for the company whose brands include Jones New York Nine West, Anne Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt. Jones is No. 219 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

When fashion designer Rachel Roy launched a jewelry line, Jones created what Offir called a Facebook pop-up store to sell the goods. The site existed for three days, with shoppers able to browse products before pressing a link that took them to Rachel Roy’s site for purchases. The thinking in directing consumers to the Rachel Roy site was that consumer didn’t want to buy on Facebook, especially when Roy’s fans could buy from a site they trusted.

“We sold out of most products before three days,” Offir said. “And we added a significant number of Facebook fans.”

Comments | 2 Responses

  • I don't think it's an either/or proposition. I think it's the way you present the shopping experience that is important. Offline, shopping & socializing have always gone hand-in-hand. Friends meet for lunch and go shopping. Families take trips to the mall and it becomes an event. I think this human behavior does transfer online to Facebook, as more and more people spend time there. But I don't think it can be a standard ecommerce store experience. It has to be more of an event, like the pop up stores launched by Rachel Roy. Something that is special, unique to Facebook. Something people will want to tell their friends "Hey, this is cool, take a look at this." Facebook as a giant strip mall will not work. Facebook as a unique, personalized, event based ecommerce platform I believe will be the next direction for social shopping. -Lisa

  • Enabling a transaction inside of Facebook is useful, and as users spend more time in Facebook it will become more natural. BUT, its the extension of social promotions - private sales, group buying, earning social badges, getting loyalty points, etc that will really define eCommerce in a social environment. Those that get that idea of "activating their network" will drive eCommerce through social media - within social sites and on their own properties.

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