A couple days ago, Techcrunch had a post with two points people found interesting.
Point #1 was the focus of the article: “50% of visitors to ecommerce sites are currently logged in to Facebook.”
Point #2 was a soundbite from Facebook: “88% of Internet Retailer Top 200 retail sites are integrated with Facebook.”
I threw out Point #1 as normal Techcrunch drivel as the article could have said 50% of visitors to health sites, porn sites, banking sites, news sites, or travel sites are currently logged in to Facebook. We all know visitors to any sites are currently logged into Facebook. It’s becoming unusual for people to log out of Facebook. What retailers – and health sites, porn sites, travel sites, etc. – need to think about, though, is why their visitors aren’t logged into their own sites.
I’ve always thought that the holy marketing grail for ecommerce sites wasn’t PPC or SEO (or to a lesser degree, Display/Retargetting, Social, Affiliate Programs, Lead Gen, etc.) but rather the in-house email list and the retention and engagement that comes along with the people on that list. You have names, purchase history, interests, demographic information like age, gender, income, and address, and much more. Slicing and dicing this information (and using big words like Business Intelligence) allows you to intelligently build a lifetime relationship with your customers.
But unfortunately, all that powerful data about your customers is often overlooked in deference to that next acquisition through Google AdWords. In this way, merchants aren’t typically developing a relationship with their customers. They acquire visitors, try to get them to become customers, and then send them a coupon every once in a while or a holiday promo. And that’s about it. The utopian land of really engaging with customers to build a life long relationship (read LTV) doesn’t exist for traditional ecommerce sites. Yes, that’s a bit of a generalization, but think of how many people you have in marketing dedicated to acquisition compared to how many people dedicated to building a relationship with your customers.
But now, my opinions of email have changed. Email should be a part of everyone’s engagement strategy, but email kind of just sucks. I’ve been heavily influenced over the last year living in the land of everything social through my work with Kontagent, being a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, where local/mobile/social is hot hot hot, and understanding that kids these days just don’t use email…and I’m pretty sure that’s where adults are moving to as well. So if email isn’t where it’s at, where is it at? Well, as the Techcrunch article says, 50% of your users are logged into Facebook. They’re posting on friends’ walls, messaging, and playing games. Your customers are using their mobile phones to text, chat, and use lots of apps.
Another email is not going to cut through the clutter, but more importantly, it’s just not going to be the way to communicate in the future.
Which leads me to Point #2 in the Techcrunch article. According to a Facebook spokesperson, “88% of Internet Retailer Top 200 retail sites are integrated with Facebook.” Well, that sounds great. Big number. Merchants are doing exactly what they should be doing to engage with their customers in this social/mobile/local world. Right? WRONG! Unfortunately, the Facebook spokesperson doesn’t define that ‘integrated’ means. Not surprising that the Techcrunch reporter didn’t dig for more information…but I digress. So I did some research to find out what Facebook was talking about and discovered that ‘integrate’ to Facebook means adding Like buttons.
I took the Internet Retailer Top 500 list and visited the Top 100. I threw out 12 of the Top 100 for various reasons: they had too many brands to cover (Orchard Brands has 17 websites, Colony Brands has 11 websites, eFollet has 100s, etc.), were membership sites (Ancestry, Netflix, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem), or just were anomalous (Build.com didn’t work, Peapod & Freshdirect don’t fit the mold, etc.).
For each website, I went to at least two product pages and noted what ‘social integrations’ they had: Facebook Like Button, Facebook Share/Send Button, Tweet Button, Google +1 Button, Email This Button, and Facebook Connect log in option
Here are the results:
-78% of the sites had either the Facebook Like or Facebook Share/Send buttons on their product pages
-56% of the sites had the Tweet button on their product pages
-25% of the sites had a Google +1 button on their product pages
-42% of the sites had an Email This button on their product pages
-9% of the sites had Facebook Connect log in option
If I continued down the list to the Internet Retailer 200 – 299, I assume I would have been able to move the 78% up a little bit. Not sure if I would have reached the supposed 88% integration rate that Facebook claims, but maybe if you classify Facebook Pages as ‘integrated’ you could reach that number.
My point, though, is that just adding those Like and Share/Send buttons to your ecommerce site and/or creating Facebook Pages is not a real integration, it’s a pathetic excuse for one. It’s a pathetic excuse for one. What you have to do is integrate with Facebook through leveraging Facebook Connect.
Coming from 6 months of thinking about nothing but persistently logged in applications – think social games, flash sale sites like Gilt, and daily deal sites like Groupon, membership sites like ShoeDazzle and JewelMint, I’m disappointed that traditional ecommerce sites aren’t at least offering the option for visitors to log in through Facebook Connect. Instead, I get a big fat pop up when I first visit saying ‘Sign up for Email’ or I search for a place to log in and all I see is ‘My Account’ as opposed to ‘Login’ or ‘Register’ or something related to becoming a member. The flash sale sites, daily deal sites, membership sites, and social games require you to log in from day one to see or do anything useful. Ecommerce sites don’t need to require this action, but it should be encouraged and rewarded. Customers grant you access to their social graph and interest graph as well as the ability to post to their wall. With this information, you can reward visitors for inviting their friends, start to customize each visitor’s experience and importantly, track the lifetime of the user.
But don’t take my word for it. Just look at Amazon, by far the largest internet retailer (at $34B in revenue as of 2010). For years, their business has been about developing a relationship with their customers. They want you to log into Amazon.com ASAP and they want you to stay logged in. And you you want to log into Amazon to get a personalized experience. You want to know what to get your friends for their birthdays. Or you want to join Amazon Prime (membership) to get great benefits (free two day shipping, free video streaming, kindle book borrowing). Amazon has built their business around creating a relationship with their customers. It’s also reflected in their acquisitions of Zappos and Diapers.com.
And Facebook Connect allows ecommerce sites to do exactly what Amazon is doing. [Note, Amazon is also futzing around with Facebook Connect.]
So when you think about being ‘integrated’ with Facebook, know that the Facebook Like button or the Facebook Page or the Facebook Store (don’t get me started on this one!) is a cute little baby step. Good for you. But if you want to supercharge your business (look at what’s happening with BeachMint, Zulily, BirchBox, ShoeDazzle, Modcloth, etc.) and build a brand that has a visceral relationship with its customers, look into Facebook Connect.