Focus on: Social Media

A look at the latest Facebook trends boosting loyalty, sales

Abe’s of Maine runs contests on its Facebook page.

As merchants big and small still try to figure out how to best use Facebook, a few major trends have surfaced, including some that could potentially shape the future of e-commerce. 

One of the fastest-growing trends among retailers on Facebook is also the most simple: posting contests and promotions. In fact, Walmart’s Facebook site grew by 1 million “fans” in the first quarter of 2011 by running contests and offering deals.

“The quality and number of Facebook fans a retailer attracts is critical because it puts companies in position to push out promotions, product deals and information to their core audience,” said Susan A. McKenna, CEO of Winnetka, Calif.-based social media firm McKenna’s Marketing. 

Big-box merchants aren’t the only ones leveraging this strategy. Edison, N.J.-based Abe’s of Maine, an electronics and camera multichannel retailer with an online store and a bricks-and-mortar location in its hometown, is adding an abundance of new Facebook fans, thanks to a series of contests it launched as a part of an effort to boost its follower base. 

Building on its camera-centric product focus, the company encourages its Facebook fans to upload creative pictures to its page and write captions/comments to win prizes, such as digital cameras. Avi Blumenstein, the online market manager for Abe’s of Maine, said this tactic has proved extremely valuable.

“Since we are a smaller retailer, there have been challenges in growing our Facebook fan base,” Blumenstein explained. “But, we have had a lot of success with giving shoppers an incentive to ‘like’ us on Facebook through contests, and people have been sending them to friends, so more consumers are learning about our brand and interacting with us.” 

Abe’s of Maine is also incorporating Facebook into its online reviews, which are run by PowerReviews, a San Francisco-based social commerce solutions company. When the retailer prompts shoppers to submit a review, people can share it with others on Facebook by posting it to their wall. 

CUSTOM: Another growing Facebook trend is custom-designed welcome pages. 

“Since Facebook is phasing out its former FBML (Facebook Markup Language) in lieu of more detailed JavaScript and XML-enabled code base, pages will have a lot more functionality in the months to come,” McKenna said. 

This means that Facebook members will be arriving at beautiful, custom-designed pages that serve as a second homepage and act more as a gateway to e-commerce sites. 1-800-Flowers and Pizza Hut are already doing this, with fan pages that allow users to place orders directly from Facebook. 

Merchants such as Best Buy, Old Navy and Urban Outfitters are also featuring products on Facebook with a “Buy Now” button that sends users to the product page on the brand’s site to make a purchase. This trend is becoming increasingly popular among those who shop the Web. 

According to a recent report by Portland, Ore.-based Webtrends, Facebook stores now have the same sales conversion rates as e-commerce sites, and they are “efficient at acquiring visitors cheaply” through wall posts that promote products.

Wall posts tend to generate on average 1,673% spikes in Web store traffic, the report said, and the average order value coming from Facebook is around $104, with 24% growth month over month.

“[There is] a gradual shift in traffic from a brand’s website to its Facebook page, hence the need for marketers to closely measure their Facebook activity,” the report said.

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