Have you ever considered extending your small business storefront to Facebook?
According to The New York Times, small retailers are having more success than their larger counterparts when it comes to selling socially with Facebook storefronts proving to be a successful outlet for small businesses with less than $100,000 in revenue and fewer than 10 employees.
Yet Facebook storefronts present business owners with a number of challenges. For example, if you have a business page on Facebook, you do not own it; Facebook does, and as such, it is free to change the look, feel, security and functionality of your page when it sees fit. Furthermore, many consumers may be reticent about conducting financial transactions on social media.
If your small business is interested in exploring this new revenue stream, here are some tips to help you get started building your social storefront:
1. Build Your Facebook Storefront
Facebook storefronts are wholly independent of Facebook and are enabled by third party apps and services from companies such as Ecwid, BigCommerce’s, SocialShop application, and VendorShop Social. Alternatively, you can also have an app developer build you a custom storefront.
These apps offer a number of social shopping features that you can add to your Facebook business page. Some are free, with options to upgrade for increased functionality, while others charge a low monthly subscription fee. (Note: The Facebook store provider market is an emerging one with new start-ups popping up regularly. Furthermore, established players are increasingly targeted for acquisition. So do your due diligence on this one. Look for providers with a good customer service track record and try not to get locked into time-bound contracts.)
Whichever app you choose, getting started is quite easy. Once your app is installed, you can add product listings; a welcome page to showcase certain products and promotions; a shopping cart; and a variety of payment options such as PayPal. Some apps also include tools to promote your storefront to your fans, via email, your blog or website.
2. Personalize Your Storefront
Next, personalize your storefront to reflect your brand and appeal to the fans and customers you are hoping to engage with and sell to. Think about adding a human element to your banner image—this will help connect you with your potential buyers. To maximize your Facebook sales, look for ways to engage and connect—post tips that relate to your industry; share articles, images and blogs that might be of interest; and have a dialogue with your fans. Above all, inject some personality into your page—this is a huge differentiation for small businesses, so use it!
The New York Times also suggests pinning and tagging status updates and photos to attract fans and keep your page dynamic. For example, you could run a contest that encourages customers to tag your products in the photos they post on their Facebook page. In doing so, you’ll get free visibility on that person’s wall for all their friends and followers to see. You can also use the pin feature to highlight a product of the week or a special discount.
3. Be Social, Build a Community
Make your page an active one—treat it as you would your own bricks and mortar store. Meet and greet fans, and engage with them. Encourage them to post by asking open-ended questions in your status updates; comment on and like the interaction that follows.
You can also grow your community outside the confines of our own page. For example, follow business pages that relate to your products, industry or neighborhood and interact with folks on those pages (without being overly promotional). For example, if you own a retail store on Main Street, look around and find out who else is on Facebook—your local coffee shop, library, community newspaper? Give them a like (using your business page profile) and join in the conversation with other business owners and their customers. Your business will appear on their wall and help increase your visibility and marketability!
4. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
It’s unlikely that Facebook will ever be your only sales channel. So test the waters before you set up your store and ask your fans and customers if they’d be interested in buying from you via Facebook. Then, once you are up and running, don’t ignore your website or retail location. Small businesses are known to get as much as 15-30 percent of their sales from Facebook, but remember that not everyone is on Facebook, and not all are comfortable doing business there.
5. More Reading
For some real-world examples of how small businesses are using Facebook storefronts, check out this article from The New York Times: Small Retailers Open Up Storefronts on Facebook Pages.