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F-commerce: Knowledge is power, but relevance is key

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25th Oct 2012
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More and more brands are considering whether social media is an appropriate channel for their business. Whilst Facebook is well established as a social network, it is still at an early stage of adoption as a sales channel. Richard McCrossan identifies some of the key barriers to successful f-commerce, and highlights how relevance is the key word for companies to remember.

According to Gartner, global revenues associated with social media will grow by more than 43% this year to a huge $16.9 billion. But what does that mean for customer service? In order for companies to reap those benefits, they must be tuned in to what their customers want, and what is relevant to them based on their purchase history and value to the company.

Purchase power

According to a study by Ecwid, UK consumers spent over £50bn on ecommerce purchases in 2011. And although only 4% of consumers in Great Britain have purchased goods through Facebook, the research showed that 40% would purchase products from Facebook if offered a similar experience to an online store.

But companies aren't yet sure how to best utilise social channels and make the most of this consumer interest. There is a distinct lack of joined-up thinking between different departments across the enterprise, which is hindering the deployment of integrated technologies that are capable of fuelling effective social media efforts.

Gaining and retaining customers

Many of the world's biggest brands – Coca-Cola, Warner Bros, Starbucks and Pampers to name just a few – are already using f-commerce, using Facebook as a platform for facilitating and executing sales transactions. These brands are offering friends, fans and followers a privileged and personal point of purchase on the world's largest social network. And they've certainly seen that it works.

But while some companies are investing resource and money trying to acquire new customers through social media, many are missing the opportunity to use that information to retain existing, loyal customers and give them a good experience via social media that they will recommend to their friends.

When a business uses its Facebook page to advertise a new product or service, it should not only look to build sales transactions, but should look at consumer reaction through comments posted on its wall in response to its advertising campaign and make appropriate responses to those comments, whether positive or negative. And this is now not down to the marketing department but a different department - the contact centre. 

Relevance is key

The key here is relevance. As well as ease of use and accessibility, the power of f-commerce lies in the ability to drive targeted deals and promotions to consumers who are most likely to purchase.

Customer service agents can know straight away whether a product is relevant to a customer based on their previous interaction and purchase history. A lot of the time, the marketing department doesn't have access to this information, and so can't deliver the level of relevance required.

However, for many companies, social media efforts are still evolving, and processes are often fragmented. The result is that, instead of optimising communication with customers via social media, companies are missing valuable opportunities to target the right consumer at the right time, with an offer which is particularly relevant to them.

Facebook uses social knowledge to see what's relevant for its users, but that's only part of the story. The company needs to take what it knows about each individual customer, and put the two together to build a relevant customer interaction history.

By creating a Facebook page and 'store' in which a 'like' can provide value to consumers, businesses ensure a more engaged customer who is not only likely to purchase more, but also to recommend their experience to their friends.

So is f-commerce the future?

The Ecwid study shows that f-commerce has the potential to grow massively. If f-commerce is to have any chance of succeeding, businesses need to adopt a new strategy: one that integrates social media operations with customer service in order to leverage the existing information which is on file for each customer. Customer data integration can mean great promise to organisations that seize this opportunity.

Richard McCrossan, strategic business director at Genesys.

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