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On Facebook, Retailers Tackle How Best to Drive Sales

Retailers experiment to leverage the social network

In 2011, major retailers in the US flocked to Facebook to build digital storefronts in hopes of capturing sales where so many socialized. But by the end of the following year, most high-profile players had closed their Fcommerce shops.

While some US retailers and brands forge ahead, the e-tailing group’s “15th Annual Mystery Shopping Study” found that what appeared to be a mass exodus did indeed happen. The number of retailers in the US with Facebook-enabled checkout dropped 63% between Q4 2011 to Q4 2012, to 6%.

Still, even as fewer “buy now” and “add to cart” buttons sprinkle Facebook’s newsfeeds and apps, US retailers know the importance of being on the site. According to a new eMarketer report, “Facebook Commerce: Evolving, Not Extinct,” the question is whether or not retailers can crack the commerce half of social engagement.

According to the e-tailing group, 98% of US ecommerce merchants surveyed had a Facebook page in Q4 2012, and nearly the same number of respondents (97%) linked to Facebook from their site. It is also notable that sharing in general is on the rise—a tactic growing in popularity as social discovery becomes a bigger part of the shopping process.

And even if Fcommerce did not work out for plenty of retailers, they are still positive about the role Facebook plays in social commerce. A survey by RichRelevance demonstrated that Facebook retailers in the US consider Facebook with high regard: The site took up a significant share of user social commerce sessions compared with other social network sites in 2012.

RichRelevance also found that buyers coming from Facebook converted at more than twice the rate of Pinterest and Twitter and had the highest revenues per session. Pinterest, however, had the highest average order value.

Moreover, whether or not internet users go on Facebook with the intent to shop, it was the social network most likely to influence purchases among US internet users surveyed by Technorati in December 2012. Facebook nearly tied with blogs, at around 31%, and trailed only the more sales-focused brand and retail sites. The same study found that 21% of respondents followed brands on Facebook to make purchases.

Another way to leverage Facebook is to facilitate interactions among Facebook friends on an ecommerce site or app. And the key to encouraging this behavior is allowing Facebook Login, a tactic that’s not brand new yet only used by a small number of retailers.

Other approaches include tried-and-true deals, retargeted ads served via Facebook Exchange (FBX) and using the new Facebook Offers.

There are no set rules for how US merchants can leverage social commerce, and what’s possible is constantly evolving.


The full report, “Facebook Commerce: Evolving, Not Extinct” also answers these key questions:

  • Can Facebook be part of the sales equation?
  • How does Fcommerce compare with commerce on Twitter and Pinterest?
  • What can multichannel retailers learn from smaller businesses about using Facebook?
  • What do new Facebook developments mean for retailers?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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