Rob Blackie quote

Facebook’s latest attempt to move into e-commerce offers fmcg brands a great opportunity to build brand awareness and drive direct sales through social selling. 

However, Facebook has already had several abortive attempts at social selling and failed on this platform before; not because people aren’t influenced to buy on social platforms, but because they tend to convert from smartphones to other channels such as laptops. About 80% of Facebook use is on smartphone, and on a practical level people hate filling in forms on a small screen.

Mobile conversion is possible, though, as long as brands think first and foremost about the user’s experience. Uber and Ocado in the UK have managed to create an experience for the customer that means they want to keep coming back. The main reason? They’ve saved people’s payment details. Once this happens and repeat shopping needs no more than a pin code to complete a purchase, then shopping rates increase dramatically.

Consumers are reluctant to give their payment details to social platforms due to the proposed security risk, so this is one of the first hurdles: consumer confidence.

There are two routes that can potentially deliver great customer experience. One route is a third-party site such as Apple or Amazon. The danger in this route is that all the data and customer relationships stay with retailers, meaning fmcg brands are as vulnerable as they’ve always been with big traditional retailers.

The more ambitious route is to build direct routes to customers. Most brands won’t have a strong enough offering to persuade customers to enter their payment details on mobile for one-off purchases, so they must deliver a tempting long-term proposition.

If the first challenge for Facebook is to entice customers to enter payment details, then it’s up to the brands (including fmcg brands) to sell directly to consumers. If the user experience is slick and seamless and their content and product is on point, then brands will have large groups of warm consumers directly engaging with their Facebook feeds, ready to purchase.

Rob Blackie is head of social at OgilvyOne