Blood is what you’d expect to find on the wall of Miami’s favourite blood splatter analyst, but now there’s a store, a ‘Wall-Store’. CBS’s Showtime is doing pop-up retail in Facebook, with a ‘Wall-Store‘ selling select Dexter-branded Valentine’s Day gifts (click ‘just Dexter’ in the Facebook new feed to see the wall store).
Facebook Wall-Stores (also known as ‘news feed stores’) are an interesting viral variation to ‘traditional’ Facebook ‘Tab Stores‘ (Cartoon Network) or ‘Page Stores‘ (ASOS). They are shareable stores that appear in news feeds, often selling just a few products. Buy something or like something from a wall-store and the store is syndicated to also appear in your friends’ news feeds; i.e. on what they experience as Facebook’s front page. Smart move Showtime. The Dexter Wall-Store, run on Milyoni software (and branded ‘Instant Showcase’), allows users to complete transactions – in this case with five clicks – without ever leaving the wall. Delta Airlines, using Alvenda (now 8th Bridge) software offers a similar service.
We like Wall-Stores because we think they play to Facebook’s strength as a conversational platform – they appear in conversations, and stimulate conversations. Sure, you can replicate your entire web store in Facebook with an f-store that sells a full range of products. This is the route that ASOS and J.C. Penney have taken. But you have to ask the question, why? For some, the answer is simple; now so many people spend so much of their time online in Facebook, it makes sense to fish where the fish are and start selling everything you have to sell in Facebook. Why, if you sell on the Wild West plains of the open Web, wouldn’t you want to sell in the more populous Walled City that is Facebook? There are probably more people on Facebook now than there were on the Web when you started out with e-commerce.
And of course replicating your Web-store in Facebook brings you an added viral benefit; unlike Web-store purchases, f-store purchases advertise themselves by becoming news feed items, syndicated to (on average) 140 friends, so the more items you sell in Facebook, the more free advertising you get. Furthermore, this free advertising gets you something most other advertising can’t deliver – something communication professionals call source credibility. Source credibility, the believability and trustworthiness of a communication, is critical for influence to occur (95% of consumers don’t trust ads) – advertising without source credibility is about as useful as a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys.
So, port your web-store to Facebook, and start selling everything there, right?
Well, perhaps… An alternative perspective is to view f-stores and web-stores as qualitatively different. Why simply replicate a Web-store in Facebook? It’s pointless. Clicking through from an ad or status update to a Web-store is not difficult and after all, Facebook is still a very primitive retail platform; it’s difficult to offer a gold-standard online full retail experience in Facebook, so why bother? Instead, why not adapt your retail strategy in Facebook to the real-time conversational nature of medium – and use f-stores as real-time ‘event stores’ or ‘campaign stores’ designed to ‘tryvertise’ a limited range of new products for a limited amount of time. In other words, use Facebook for running retail events – like selling a range of Valentine’s Day Dexter merchandise*. Wall-Stores, with their viral potential, are a smart vehicle for such event-based live retail. We like.
* Of course, there is a third point of view that Facebook is a conversational platform for social interaction, not for commercial transaction. Selling on Facebook is like selling at a friends’ get-together. Sad. We are already surrounded by enough places and people selling their stuff; we don’t need yet more commercialisation of social space. Just as a concession stand behind your friend’s BBQ selling the wares of P&G or Unilever would be out of place – so too is a Facebook store. Commercialism is maladapted to the social space, and therefore will die. Furthermore, by selling in Facebook not only will you waste money, you’ll also risk damaging your reputation because you are disrespecting your customers’ social space. Imagine a salesman popping up from behind the couch during an intimate and romantic tete-a-tete. It’s the kind of menage-a-trois no business needs. Interact, share, and support in social media, but don’t sell.
The ‘no-commerce’ perspective is a perfectly valid argument, particularly if you are of the Naomi Klein persuasion – but it’s ultimately a moral argument, and we don’t buy it. Nobody is forcing anybody to buy on Facebook or even visit f-stores. Who are we to impose our views on where we can buy online? Moreover, the same argument could be used for Web-commerce – the Web, like Facebook, was designed as communication tool not a commerce tool, but that hasn’t stopped e-commerce from becoming a success story. You may not like commercialism, but it makes business sense. Saying no to f-commerce now is like saying no to e-commerce. It’s an option, but…