Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

The below blog post has been put written by Simon Jones, VP of Strategic Solutions at Plimus, a robust service platform for e-businesses selling digital products, who is speaking at Affiliate Management Days (San Francisco 2012) on the principles of building a flexible online payment system [more]

For a surprising proportion of online sellers, payment is still pretty much a black box.  Sure, we’re hard at work optimizing our SEO, analyzing traffic trends to within a fare-thee-well, and multi-variate-testing campaigns using algorithms that may as well have been created by Nobel Prize-winning scientists.  But once we drag our customers into the purchasing process, as often as not we are entering the Twilight Zone.

It turns out, though, that that last step — where the customer actually pays up — is not only more complex than it looks, but also more understandable than many expect.  And if we know nothing else about marketing online, it’s that something we can quantify is something we can tune and improve.

Let me give you a simple example: credit cards process more successfully in their own region than in another.  So, for instance, a US credit card will process more successfully in the US than in Europe; and a UK credit card will process more successfully in Europe than in the US.  The difference can be somewhere in the range of 8% – 10%; if someone proposed a change to landing pages that pretty uniformly offered that kind of difference, there aren’t many of us who would ignore it.  Now, to take advantage of this knowledge means deploying a more sophisticated payment plan than ‘sign up with PayPal’, but there are few serious online players who don’t have the chops for this.

What makes this matter all the more is the reality that the way consumers are using the Internet is changing in real and significant ways today.  The proportion of online buyers using mobile devices, for instance, has gone from an interesting side note to a reality: at Plimus, we see somewhere in the range of 15% – 20% of our traffic coming from mobile devices.

Similarly, in some demographics, the social web has become the primary interface to the outside world — folks search within Facebook instead of through Google.  Online sellers who can’t provide a seamless, appropriately-designed, checkout experience in environments other than a straight-up web page are missing a trick…and potentially a significant income opportunity.

The payments world is only becoming more complicated, with the expansion of the Payment Service Provider (PSP) model in the credit card arena, and the introduction of more payment methods than you can shake a stick at.  Don’t be put off by the noise, but rather see this as the right point to become educated before it gets any harder to gain a firm grounding!  With as much as half of your revenue likely coming from apps and social networks by next year, and the increasing benefits of offering worldwide consumers truly local checkout experiences, this could be make-or-break.

A simple starting point is simply this: ensure that every consumer who ever tries to buy from you (or from the partners consuming your traffic) is offered an experience that is tuned to them.  There are three simple rules:

  1. If they come from a non English-speaking country, offer their language; offer them their currency; and offer them payment methods that they recognize as locally relevant.
  2. Ensure that the experience makes sense for the device they are using – there’s no point in having dozens of data fields if they’re on a smartphone.
  3. Confirm that the payment is being processed in the region where the card, or other payment instrument, was originally issued.

There’s plenty more to do — but if you can check off those three starting points, you’re already in the top echelon of payment tuning.  And making the most out of your traffic.

Simon Jones is a Silicon Valley veteran who has worked with software companies like Interwoven, Hyperion and Adobe for over a dozen years in a variety of strategic marketing, sales and development roles. At Plimus, Simon ensures that solutions are developed and strategically positioned to meet the needs of e-commerce 3.0 and the evolving e-commerce marketplace. Come hear him speak on Sellers Changing the Way They Do Business on March 8 at AM Days SF 2012.

Over the past few days we’ve seen a number of articles on how major brands were pulling their Facebook storefronts out, being disappointed with the results, and seeing no future in F-commerce.

It all started with this Bloomberg story where the world’s leading news source on business and finance talked about “cracks in the model” which made companies like Gap, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom and Gamestop close their Facebook stores.

A few days later Barry Silverstein of ReveNews published his reaction to Bloomberg’s story, summarizing: “At this stage, it may be that social media users are just that – users, and maybe prospects, but not necessarily buyers, at least not yet.”

On the same day Linda Bustos, who will be speaking at our upcoming San Francisco conference, published her take on the topic. I am a big fan of Linda’s writing, and I love her train of thought there. She wrote: “Simply plugging a catalog into a Fan page is not social commerce. It’s just commerce inside a social network” and no one said that a simple plug-n-play is all that’s required to succeed in selling with/on Facebook. In her post Linda illustrated how “F-stores don’t have to be catalogs” and should, in fact, “be anything but your full catalog”. If there’s “something that your customers want, that you can provide and add value to in Facebook,” then do use the platform to satisfy the need. If not, don’t bother.

The fact that the above-quoted brands shut their “Facebook stores” is in no way indicative of an unsuitable platform. It might indeed had been that “the model” used was what had “cracks”. Yes, the end-goal was to land that sale, but was the plug-in store really the best means to achieve the goal in this particular context?

Social media is already synonymous with “connecting” and “conversing”, “interacting” and “designing conversations“. As Chris Brogan wrote (on same day that the Barry and Linda posted their reactions to the Bloomberg article): “We seek to connect with people. We want to reach them … in a meaningful way that benefits our mutual needs that should be the goal” and it is “never about the delivery mechanism” itself [emphasis added]. So, if you can use Facebook to connect with your customers (current or prospective) in a meaningful way (read: creating a truly useful customer experience) — do find a way to use it. Same with Twitter. Same with Google+… The name of the medium is irrelevant. It is just your “delivery mechanism”, and you want to use it in a way that’s coherent with how your end-consumer uses it.

Finally, all of the above buzz about F-commerce is, actually, very timely. We are going to have a session on this very topic at AM Days San Francisco 2012. On the morning (10:15-11:00 am) of March 8 we will have a session by Marc Phillips where he is going to discuss how merchants can employ a combination of affiliate marketing and Facebook — to increase sales, driven to their online stores via affiliates who are active on the major social network. Here’s that session’s description:

One of the biggest revenue growth opportunities for merchants and affiliate managers is monetization on Facebook. Set to reap over $5 billion from their upcoming IPO, Facebook’s 845 million visitors present opportunities for merchants to sell more products and services. Affiliate managers are challenged with identifying and implementing various social commerce programs for merchants. As Facebook’s platform moves beyond “likes” with new shopping actions such as ‘want’ ‘wish’ and ‘own’, merchant’s Facebook offerings will need to embrace social affiliate marketing. With F-Commerce still in it’s infancy, merchants are looking to implement programs on Facebook to expose their product feeds and generate customer wishlists. This session will provides insights into the social commerce opportunities for merchants, challenges faced by affiliate managers and give insights into how Facebook can be leveraged as a new affiliate system.

So, there are also ways to leverage Facebook “as a new affiliate system” — especially if you are an online retailer. Come to AM Days SF to learn how.

By the way, on March 9 we will also have a session on integrating “mobile and social media campaigns into existing traditional affiliate programs” [more here] — a task, clearly, intertwined with the whole above-mentioned topic.

See you in San Francisco in just two weeks!