Why Facebook is increasingly becoming a retailer’s best friend

As if more evidence were needed that the web is becoming more sociable than searchable, the popularity of Facebook continues to march on relentlessly.

So much so that it has leapfrogged Google on at least one occasion so far this year in terms of scoring more hits to its home page than Google. Back in March, Hitwise noted that the two sites accounted for approx. 14% of all US internet visits with Facebook’s home page recorded at 7.07% of traffic compared to Google’s 7.03%.

So the true value of Facebook as an immensely powerful presence is only becoming clear to retailers now that people are routinely integrating Facebook into many aspects of their daily lives – and they’re doing it in droves.

Facebook users ‘influence their friends’ shopping’

According to a study from consulting firm Morpace Inc., “68% of consumers with Facebook accounts say a positive referral from a Facebook friend would make them more likely to buy from or visit a retailer”.

The firm also documents how, “consumers are using Facebook to share shopping information both on company fan page walls… and on the personal walls of their Facebook friends.”

For even the smallest of brands, these can translate into very powerful endorsements indeed and this activity alone reinforces any arguments over just how powerful Facebook can be for retailers looking for ways to reach their target audience.

Results from the survey also suggests that “a presence on Facebook can not only improve consumer awareness but also fulfill the consumers’ desire for product knowledge, events, and promotions.”

Of course paid search is now commonplace on Facebook where advertisers can target people based on location, age or specific interests with the ability to engage with Facebook ads as they would with other elements of the site. For instance you can RSVP to an event or become a fan of a page through an ad.

I’ll vouch for that!

Coupons and discounts represent an excellent opportunity for retailers to appeal to a consumer audience in an informal way. And the demand is most certainly there as Facebook users are actively looking for value from the retailers whose pages they follow.

The most popular reasons cited as to why Facebook users signed up as fans on corporate profile pages include:

  • To let their friends know what products they endorse
  • To receive coupons and discount offers on products
  • To get the latest info on new products
  • To learn more about a company or organisation
  • To meet people with similar interests.

Facebook on the go

Remember too that more and more consumers are getting Facebook updates direct to their mobile phones or other wireless devices so retailers have the added opportunity to reach their target audience – wherever they may be.

Meanwhile, Facebook is planning to launch its virtual currency, ‘Facebook Credits’ in September this year in a move that could lead to the standard on-line currency.

ROI – but not as we know it

While the opportunity to engage with active Facebook participants is becoming more significant all the time, it’s worth remembering that many members join Facebook simply as a way of keeping in touch with family and  friends. With that in mind, retailers need to find fun, interactive and imaginative ways to engage with consumers through their Facebook pages if they are going to successfully build successful business relationships with customers on Facebook.

Using social networking as a marketing channel creates an interesting deviation on the term ROI. The traditionally acknowledged meaning of ‘I’ within the acronym may possibly be in the process of being be substituted – to ‘interest’ or even ‘influence’.

Footnote: Ben & Jerry’s drops email in favour of social media.

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