Sunday, November 18, 2012

Facebook Store

I've written several times on this blog about my frustration with the use of (or lack thereof) technology in the fashion industry.  It is always important to me that technology be used for the right reasons and not just for the sake of technology.  Which is why I'm always curious to learn about new developments and why they might make sense for Zoe.

My original goal this year was to implement ecommerce on Zoe's website by the end of the First Quarter.  Everything seemed to be lining up - I had Intern Anna working with me at the store from January - March, the months of January and February are fairly quiet, and I wanted to have something to launch in conjunction with Zoe's first birthday!  I approached my Point of Sale system sales rep with questions and a request for a quote.  And then things stagnated.  By the time I finally got my questions answered and got a quote in hand, Intern Anna had graduated and I was reconsidering where to best spend my money on publicizing the store.

I continued to toy with the idea of pulling the trigger on the ecommerce solution when I started meeting with the young lady who now manages Zoe's social media.  She introduced the concept of a Facebook Store to me.  I think I had vaguely heard of the concept but had never investigated it or had any idea how it worked.  It was intriguing to me because not only did it expose your brand and your offerings to a wider audience, but by incorporating it with your Facebook page, you were introducing the items in your store to a group of people who had already indicated that they wanted to be connected with your brands.

Some very large corporations (who already have a significant ecommerce presence) tried a Facebook store and then retired it.  Speculation is that it was because they basically mimicked the items they already had on their well-known, well-trafficked websites.  Many of the most popular Facebooks sites with Facebook Stores are related to musicians (think Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber). 

Because I was curious to see how it would work in a retail environment, the young lady who manages Zoe's social media found and showed me some examples of stores (such as one that sells baby items).  It was clean and easy to use/follow.  So then I asked her to provide me with a breakdown on potential Facebook Store software solution providers and costs.  Just as I would expect when researching any vendor, she provided three potential solutions, the pluses, the minuses, and the costs of each.  After review and back and forth questions, I selected Payvment as the solution for Zoe's store.

While the interface is fairly easy to use and understand, there are many areas that must be configured properly in order for everything to work together - think shipping policies, tax policies, sizes, colors.  And not to mention pictures and descriptions.  She had to go through quite a bit to get it all set up and working together (plus having me asking a million questions as I reviewed/testing items!)  It is easily as detailed as setting up a traditional ecommerce site.

As fate would have it, we launched the Facebook Store publicly on October 29th - the day that Hurricane Sandy was moving into our area!  We continue to grow the inventory on the store as we receive new merchandise and she is able to snap more pictures.  We've really tried to promote it through a series of Zoe Thanksgiving posts on Facebook - each day, I write about something I am thankful for in my life and then tie it to an item in the store - we offer a discount on the item in store but an even deeper discount on the Facebook Store! 

This week, we started to see some of the fruits of our labors!  We had a new customer who had seen an ad in a magazine for an item and then went to our Facebook page to investigate.  When she found our Facebook Store, she selected two additional items, called the store, and placed an order over the phone.  We also had an existing customer contacted us via a Facebook message when she ran into an issue using the store and then came in the next day and purchased the item.  We hope this is just the beginning of a building momentum!

We plan to utilize the store to offer the same Black Friday prices (at the same intervals) that we will offer in the store.  And for the first time, Zoe will be able to participate in Cyber Monday by offering a coupon code for the Facebook Store. 

Those who know me know that I am rarely on the bleeding edge of technology.  And while I don't think this is bleeding edge, I haven't seen a lot of boutique type stores put together this kind of offering.  I definitely don't mind trying it and learning from it.  I'd love to know what you think of the concept.  Take a look at the store at this LINK.

Next up:  Babysitting Zoe

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