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Improving customer experiences with Facebook

Monday October 24 2011

Facebook has arguably become the dominant and most widely used platform for people to share with each other their interests and preferences. Andrew Webb, e-business strategist, discusses the best ways for retailers to use Facebook to enhance the experiences they provide for their customers

Facebook has arguably become the dominant and most widely used platform for people to share with each other their interests and preferences. Andrew Webb, e-business strategist, discusses the best ways for retailers to use Facebook to enhance the experiences they provide for their customers

 

‘Markets are conversations,’ the rallying cry from the Cluetrain Manifesto back in 1999, has particular relevance for the world of social commerce today, according to Andrew Webb, e-business strategist at information management software provider Endeca.

 

People are inherently social animals and want to validate their decisions and purchases with other people. The slick marketing messages are mostly ignored as people look to find reviews and opinions of others. The circle of influence is strongest from close family and friends and extends out through those that share similar interests/circumstances through to the wisdom of the anonymous crowds.

 

Facebook takes the concept of people sharing very seriously and has just taken it to the next level with announcements made at their F8 conference on 22 September 2011. They have expanded their language of sharing beyond just ‘like’ to include any verb so for example someone could ‘view’ a product or ‘purchase’ a product or ‘watch’ a video. This extra information significantly expands what can be expressed and offers even greater opportunity to businesses to enhance the customer experience they deliver to their customers based on this data.

 

Expanding customer engagement

 

Webb said one early adopter of using Facebook data on its online store was Levi’s with its ‘Friend’s Store,’ which shows the products that friends like, as well as upcoming birthdays. “There is much that can be done directly on an online store to access the Facebook Open Graph in real time to drive merchandising based on insights about a person’s location, gender, age, likes, comments, shares, referrals and friends,” he continued. “Additionally Facebook Insights data can be downloaded, which provides more aggregated anonymous data such as most visited pages, most shared and liked products and fan count that can be used to refine and filter products shown as well as being used to enhance relevancy of results.

 

“Increasingly people are using mobile devices to access Facebook; out of around 800 million users approximately 350 million access Facebook daily from a mobile device. Equally Facebook mobile users are typically contributing twice the content of non-mobile users. Mobile usage enables additional information to be shared such as location as well as being able to use other sensors such as the camera. Diesel earlier this year trialled QR codes in stores that once scanned would perform a Facebook ‘like’ on that item in the store. Also being investigated are changing rooms that allow customers to take a photo and post to Facebook to get feedback from friends.”


Maximising value of Facebook presence

 

Many businesses have a Facebook fan page that allows them to represent their brand and post offers and campaigns. “If someone clicks on an offer it will then typically take them to the online store of the company which is not on Facebook,” Webb said. “Some have gone further and provide much of their product catalogue within Facebook that can be viewed but for checkout redirecting them to their online store. The final stage is to provide a complete shopping experience including checkout fully within Facebook.

 

Early adopters of this approach included JC Penney and Asos. To be truly engaging the Facebook store should leverage the social data within Facebook to personalise the experience and offer something unique such as Facebook only special offers or products.”

 

Social is far more than just creating a Facebook page or Twitter account, he stressed. “It requires using all of the rich social data available to provide a more personalised relevant experience across all channels. This involves combining social data with other data such as purchase history, web analytics, location data and current search and navigation state to deliver the right content at the right time to the right customer.

 

“Building these kinds of experiences requires platforms beyond the traditional e-commerce and CMS [content management system] solutions to be able to handle the scale and variety of data and deliver consistent cross channel optimised experiences” Webb concluded.