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Many brands have tried to nail it, but replicating e-commerce sites on Facebook doesn’t work. At least according to Nokia and Heinz.

At Facebook Marketing 2012 speakers from both brands said that while Facebook can be used as a platform for offering fans exclusive or limited edition products, it is a mistake to simply repliate existing storefronts.

We Are Social marketing director Tom Ollerton highlighted two Heinz case studies where the FMCG brand had used Facebook as a platform to sell new products to its fans.

Heinz wanted to sell just over 1m bottles of its limited edition Balsamic Vinegar Ketchup, so We Are Social recommended that an intial run of 3,000 bottles be sold exlusively through Facebook to build excitement around the launch.

The campaign proved to be a success and all bottles were sold, however there were a mistakes with the execution. Firstly, purchases were confirmed within Facebook instead of using a confirmation email which Ollerton said resulted in some negative comments on the page.

But despite that, it got picked up in the press and people got ridiculously excited about it.

Fans posted pictures of themselves with their new bottle, some even going so far as to take it on holiday with them. But there were also complaints about the buying process.

Hosting the e-commerce page within Facebook actually put people off as it’s not a trusted platform for making a purchase. It created a lot of nervousness.

As a result, for a subsequent campaign to promote personalised cans of tomato soup Heinz chose to use PayPal instead of selling directly on Facebook.

Despite making the purchase journey a bit longer, we had no complaints as PayPal is a trusted online payment tool.

Overall the soup sale achieved a global reach of 26m people, and gained a 650% increase in interactions on the page during the campaign.

Ollerton said the key lessons they learned from the campaigns are that you have to reward people and innovate. 

You have to give people something they can’t get somewhere else, you can’t just replicate your e-commerce platform.

Nokia global editor-in-chief for social media Thomas Messett echoed this sentiment.

He said that too many companies use Facebook as a way to give away cheap products or discounts, which has no long-term benefit to the brand.

If you put something cheap on your fan page, people will 'like' you to get something cheap. It doesn’t actually mean anything.

Instead brands should use Facebook to offer exclusive or unique products to reward their fans, not just to replicate their e-commerce site.

Messett said there is also value in rewarding customers for sharing purchases on Facebook, however brands have to make sure they get user consent first.

Don’t be too pushy, it’s likely to turn people off. Frictionless sharing is a great idea, but Spotify has ruined it.

Does this mean f-commerce has no future? 

Not necessarily, but as Messett said, brands need to do something different on Facebook. There are issues around usability and trust to be overcome, as well as the fact that people are less in 'purchase mode' when on Facebook.

We have looked at this issue before, and found that, though larger brands like Gap have been underwhelmed, small businesses have used it successfully, while brands like Gilt Groupe have had some success by launching exclusive offers through Facebook. 

David Moth

Published 19 July, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1674 more posts from this author

Comments (15)

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Stuart Witts

Dear David,

Considering the actual content of your story, could your headline BE any more wrong... or link baity?

Regards,
Stuart :)

almost 4 years ago

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Max Webster-Dowsing, SEO Consultant at RBS Insurance

I totally agree with you Stuart. The title is aimed at getting clicks whereas the content is saying something else entirely.

Heinz actually had great success, but the customer journey let it down somewhat, bearing in mind that this was their first F-commerce campaign this is not the end of the world. You have stated yourself that it sold loads and got user engagement.

I find that many of the articles on E-consultancy these day use headline grabbing titles to pull the visitor in but are actually rather a let-down

almost 4 years ago

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Mia Perry

David,

The title of the article is very misleading...

I come from the F-commerce industry, and these are my thoughts:

Bloomberg decided to show only a few failed attempts of F-commerce, and didn't provide even one brand that succeed in F-commerce.

Companies like Gap and Gamestop, closed their stores because the company that built their stores, Adgregate Markets, closed its doors.
A lot of these big brands created stores on Facebook that didn’t fit the Facebook ecosystem, which is based on social elements and open graph usage.

However, I'm positive that they will use the knowledge they have gained from this experience and develop an improved storefront - one with a better social experience.

Facebook is already directly responsible for billions of dollars of 3rd party commerce transactions resulting in its social plugins and Open Graph API.

There are great examples for F-commerce campaigns like the launch of Heinz ‘Get Well’ Soup cans: 4 weeks, 2,127 sales – 1 sale per 8 fans – and a 200% (32,810) increase in Facebook ‘Likes’.

We at StoreYa (http://www.StoreYa.com), see an enormous traction, there's an amazing daily growth of merchants, creating their own Facebook shops.

There's no doubt that F-commerce is the next step in the eCommerce evolution, but it will take some time.

Duplicating your eCommerce store to Facebook will not do the trick..You must provide the merchants with engagement tools, such as: Fans-firsts, Fans exclusive deals & discounts, this adds an important added value to the social shopping experience.

Mia

almost 4 years ago

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thomas messett, Global Editor In Chief - Social Media at Nokia

Hi David,

Tom Messett from Nokia here, as quoted above, I just wanted to clear up our thoughts on F-Commerce:

Nokia does believe in Social Commerce and F-Commerce, we are already trialling several initiatives across the globe and have seen good results. This is an important part of our plans and we want to move beyond driving purely "engagement" and into driving commercial value from social, as I said yesterday in my presentation.

The points I made yesterday referred to very specific use cases: We don't believe in simply dropping existing e-commerce solutions into Facebook and although offers and discounts have their place social commerce is far more than that and continually discounting to drive new "likes" is, despite what studies might say, not a great idea.

If you could correct the title that would be great, and if you would like specific comments from me or to discuss this further please email or tweet: @Tom_Messett

almost 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

Hi all, I have amended the headline (which wasn't mine BTW). The content of the article represents what what said, in that Facebook storefronts that replicate e-commerce sites don't work.

This was the point I was trying to get at, rather than a general attack on f-commerce which has its benefits as per the quotes included in the blog and comments.

almost 4 years ago

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Roxanne Varza

Looking beyond the dramatic title, I definitely love when brands jump to conclusions after ONE simple campaign that didn't go exactly how they planned. It's a bit like extrapolating and saying a city has no power just because one outlet doesn't work.

Naturally, details like the email confirmation and whatnot are simple problems to fix.

It's just a learning process. Once brands recognise what the challenges are and develop solutions, I'm sure they'll be singing a very different tune :)

almost 4 years ago

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Philip Wride

I started writing a blog post about F-commerce in response to this article from David but thought in the end posting a comment might be a better option.

With my consultants / strategists hat on my thinking goes like this; replicating the eCommerce experience in Facebook can and does work, and it could be the brand that's at fault rather than the platform. Are people used to buying Heinz products from Heinz online? Likewise Nokia? Most of the time consumers buy the products from those two brands via a third party and this is where it comes down to trust.

Those brands that are seeing success with F-commerce and replication of their eCommerce web experience have already built up a level of trust with their consumers, their consumers feel comfortable purchasing online from them and this is where fashion retailers often do really well.

Those brands that don't have a strong eCommerce footprint outside of Facebook are going to struggle because they haven't built up that level of trust. The example of Heinz above adding Paypal in to the mix highlights this; Paypal is a trusted mechanism, Facebook is a trusted platform for information gathering and sharing. That makes it two trusted online brands rather than just the one (Facebook) with Heinz being the ugly duckling and not a "trusted" online brand. The original purchase through FB didn't work because Heinz wasn't a trusted online brand.

With my Zmags hat on, we've seen some great successes for our clients that have replicated their catalogue experience inside Facebook and used the same eCommerce solution across general web and inside Facebook.

almost 4 years ago

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sal

What a misleading title! They don't work? When clearly you've demonstrated with Heinz that they do work? Don't mislead people. They will hate you for it.

almost 4 years ago

francois Laxalt

francois Laxalt, Market Intelligence & Innovation at Neolane

The title do not reflect at all the content...
You sould consider updating it, it's not good to fool your loyal readers ;)

almost 4 years ago

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Tom Ollerton, Marketing Director at We Are Social

David,

Thanks for sticking around till the end of the Chinwag / Our Social Times Facebook marketing event. It's good that you've highlighted some of the many great moments in the Heinz Balsamic Ketchup and "Get Well" Soup campaigns.

However there are a couple of points where you have misunderstood and misquoted what I said and what Heinz believe.

It starts with the title of this article which is very misleading. At no point did we say or infer that Heinz said Facebook storefronts do not work - quite the opposite in fact, as has been demonstrated by two very successful campaigns.

"speakers from both brands said that selling items through the social network doesn't have a future, primarily as consumers didn’t trust it."

What I actually said was that selling through Facebook for Heinz has been a massive success for the brand on two occasions. Both products almost sold out straight away and gathered staggering amounts of P.R due to the idea, execution and nature of the campaigns being perfect for social media. Social commerce does have a future for Heinz and for any other brand who wants to give their fans an experience on a social network that they can't get in-store or on their traditional ecom. Social commerce is the socialisation of ecommerce and I'd predict that selling products through a social network directly or indirectly is the future of ecom and Heinz were rightly applauded for innovating in this space and leaving their competitors wondering what hit them - 26M campaign views can't be wrong.

"Balsamic Vinegar Ketchup was launched on the social network following a teaser campaign and fans could buy a personalised bottle within Heinz’s Facebook page."

This is incorrect, fans could buy a limited edition bottle of Balsamic Vinegar Ketchup, not a personalised bottle.

"Heinz wanted to sell just over 1m bottles of its limited edition Balsamic Vinegar Ketchup using Facebook”

I actually stated that Heinz were producing 1,000,057 bottles and as an agency our first (overly) ambitious thought was it would be great to sell them all through Facebook but we quickly dismissed that idea and decided 3,000 as a number for the first foray by Heinz into f-commerce - not 5,000 as you mention.

"The first problem this encountered was that they forgot to send out confirmation emails, which Ollerton said resulted in some negative comments on the page"

As I stated at the conference Heinz were the first UK brand to sell a food product through Facebook and the decision was made to send a confirmation to the user on Facebook once the order had been placed as opposed to a confirmation email (I showed the image on the slide). We categorically did not 'forget' to send out confirmation emails - we were given feedback by a very small number of people on the page that an email would have been preferred. Our community management responded instantly reassuring the consumers that the orders were confirmed and the confirmation had been sent to them on Facebook. We took this insight from the community and responded to the community accordingly in the subsequent Get Well Soup campaign by sending them an email when their soup had been purchased.

"Hosting the e-commerce page within Facebook actually put people off as it’s not a trusted platform for making a purchase. It created a lot of nervousness."

This has been taken out of context. Facebook is a new platform for making purchases through so for the first campaign there would always be a few comments about feeling nervous about purchase, but overwhelmingly, and as proved by numbers, this wasn't the case. When we first launched the campaign selling products through facebook was almost unheard of and social networks aren't famous for being secure. In the case of the checkout process on the Heinz Tomato Ketchup page this was totally unfounded given that we had a secure and robust solution and would not have considered the campaign without it.

I'd really like you to amend the points in this article including the title to reflect the truth.

Thanks for pointing out that "Overall the soup sale achieved a global reach of 26m people, and gained a 650% increase in interactions on the page during the campaign" we're really proud of these results and are proud to be working with an FMCG brand that has the vision, courage and trust to continue to innovate across social to great success.

Tom

almost 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

Hi Tom,

Apologies if you (and everyone else) think the article is misleading, that obviously wasn’t my intention.

I think the main issue is my use of the word ‘storefront’. What I was referring to is when a brand just replicates its existing e-commerce site within a Facebook page, whereas you and other readers obviously use it to refer to any sort of commerce within Facebook. In hindsight, this was my error and I should have used a different word or defined it more clearly.

But with this in mind, I felt that your case studies and Thomas Messett’s presentation supported the idea that replicating e-commerce sites doesn’t work. As you mentioned, some users didn’t like the buying process, which led you to use PayPal for the second campaign. This hardly bodes well for anyone trying to host their online store within Facebook.

I feel I pointed out the success of your campaigns (we have also used them as examples of successful case studies in the past - http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8778-11-examples-of-f-commerce-for-2012) and highlighted Thomas’s point that “brands should use Facebook to offer exclusive or unique products,” as you did with Heinz. But in my opinion the combination of your case studies and Thomas’s presentation added weight to the argument that replicating e-commerce sites doesn’t work, as people are obviously willing to buy products on Facebook yet there are few examples of brands achieving success with a replica storefront.

Re your point about the number of bottles being sold, I’ll correct it so it’s 3,000, not 5,000. I must have misheard you.

Re saying you forgot confirmation emails. Again, this is a bad turn of phrase on my part and I will amend it. I wasn’t intending to suggest that you meant to do it and then didn’t, more that in hindsight it would have been a good idea to use confirmation emails because, as you said at the conference, this is what consumers are used to.

Re taking you out of context – I don’t think that is a fair accusation. It’s a direct quote with the context being that, as you said, some people weren’t comfortable making a payment through Facebook. I didn’t suggest that you were being careless by using an unsecure platform, just that consumers were wary of it.

Overall, I think the comments left on this blog show that I should have been clearer about what I define as a storefront and selling through Facebook. As I said, I apologise for any confusion caused and I will amend some of the points this weekend.

However I stand by the assertion that, in general, replicating e-commerce sites on Facebook hasn’t proved to be a successful strategy, and that there are trust issues with making transactions through Facebook, no matter how unfounded they may be.

David

almost 4 years ago

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Tom Ollerton

Hi David,

Thank you for your response to my feedback and making the amends. I really appreciate you taking the time to do that. I'll look forward to meeting you at the next event if not sooner.

Thanks,

Tom

almost 4 years ago

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Consulting Agreements

Face book is already directly responsible for billions of dollars of 3rd party commerce transactions resulting in its social plugging and Open Graph API.

almost 4 years ago

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Scott Lacy

Eventually one of the major players will successfully marry social and e-commerce. Will it be Facebook? Impossible to say. In the meantime, online retailers need to be more proactive in leveraging social on their own sites. I counsel my customers to build a social presence *and* boost conversion rates at the same time by trading tweets/likes for discounts. It's a potent strategy when executed properly.

Customers can smell a phony promotion a mile way. Sincerity and generosity are the keys to the kingdom. If you provide legitimate value to your online shoppers, you'll see great return on the investment—and without needing to stand up a Facebook store.

almost 4 years ago

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Julian

Fastidious respond in return of this matter with real arguments and
describing everything about that.

over 3 years ago

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