The conversation and measurements concerning retailing on Facebook and other social networks continues. There seems to a bubbling desire to discover a way to introduce real-world retailing into these virtual words.
So far most of the measurement tools have relied on popularity measurements, such as which brands can garner the most fans. Most marketers realize that fan count and real product consumption are miles apart when converting eyeballs into cash.
Heather Dougherty, Director of Research at Hitwise, posted some interesting details on the amount of traffic that social media sources have sent to major retail websites. It seems that there is a growing number of social networker’s who want to at least continue to engage with brands from Facebook and simular forums.
Heather suggests, “one common question regarding the relationship between social networks and retailers is how to be sure that the traffic coming from social networks is not just a by-product of their popularity.”
Adding to this concern is the reality that retailers have not yet found a way to actually retail on the pages of Facebook. This Hitwise study only demonstrates how well social networks have been in pointing users toward the brand’s online or offline presence.
Eric Eldon added his commentary on the Hitwise report when he said:…”most retailers are still experimenting with a variety of approaches to building a presence inside Facebook.” He also suggested that some retailers are beginning to find ways to directly sell goods to users.
It is hard to measure the effects on retailing from these networks, but most agree that the actual sale of product within these networks has fallen short of what it could be. Brand popularity pages have become nothing more than another type of advertising presentation to the many Facebook users.
Retailers will need to do more than use the networks to make themselves more popular in order to build revenue from Facebook. They must find ways to engage users in the purchasing process with a group of their friends. Then Facebook could be used to organize great shopping experiences and then mimic the fun of sharing a purchase with others.
Once a retailer develops the group shopping experience, they will have a selling machine like none other, rather than a virtual extension of a popularity contest.