Alongside its unveiling of Graph Search, Facebook this week also launched its Retail Centre for small businesses. The platform has been developed to target the small businesses that use Facebook for promotional purposes to market themselves and grow customers.
Felicity McCarthy, EMEA SMB marketing manager at Facebook’s Retail Centre, answered some questions following the launch.
Why has Facebook gone about developing the Retail Centre?
This is part of our commitment to work with our SME businesses. A lot of our clients are in the retail sector and it’s a tough time for retail. They are having to be innovative and creative in order to think about how they can drive growth in their businesses and using technology in order to do so.
SMEs have so many demands of their time, they have to run a business, stock a shop, they’re behind a counter – they have to do everything. What we wanted to do was to pull together all of the content we offer them. Some of it has been available to them in the past, some of it not so much, but [we wanted] to put it in one place and make it easily accessible and digestible. We also needed to not just combine instructions, but to bring that together with success stories of retailers of different sizes in the UK who are doing a great job at this. We need to allow businesses to try and learn from each other and get some inspiration and hopefully take some ideas from seeing what other companies are doing as well.
And you’re doing that through The Five Steps to Retail Success Guide?
The five steps for retail success show them how to do the basics well, such as investing time in your page to ensure that it is completely up-to-date. What is important about this for retailers is that once they’ve got their page set up, someone on their mobile phone can search for a nearby business that their friends may have already ‘Liked’ or ‘Checked in’ to – then that will surface.
Using our pages allows retailers to build their connections with their customers and use the page to post deals and special offers, posts about new products being launched or even asking customers to vote in order to gain interaction and get a real sense of what customers are looking for and what they will buy from you in the future.
What are you hearing from businesses that made this platform necessary?
A lot of the businesses that are trying to make Facebook work for them, they’re interested to know the stats, which is why we’ve posted the UK user statistics to help them see who is using Facebook and why it is an opportunity for them. That is an important part of helping businesses to understand the opportunity there is for them. We’ve also introduced more products that technically make it easier for them to manage their page presence, including the introduction of a mobile phone app so effectively they can manage their page on the go, which for SMEs is perfect as they are not going to be based at a desk for most of the day. So they can respond to comments on the page and manage their page through their phone.
We’ve also introduced Promoted Posts, which means you can now promote your posts to fans or friends of those fans to reach a larger audience as quickly as possible and it’s much easier to do so.
With the Pages manager app that is now available for Android or Apple you can work on pages on the go.
Offers allows a retailer to create a coupon that they can place on their website, or they can also give them a barcode to redeem in-store, which effectively drives the distribution of the offer on Facebook and to drive footfall into the store while having a barcode that can attribute to sales and show what redemptions were received against that offer. It can really help retailers link their offline activity online and find out what is actually driving the bottom line.
How will this be commercialised by Facebook?
Our product is a combination of both free products and paid-for products. For example, our pages product is completely free and it doesn’t cost anything to be found on Nearby. So in order to be found on Nearby all you need to do is have your page up-to-date, make sure all the details are accurate, make sure if you’re a restaurant, if you’re a boutique - whatever the sector is - make sure it’s accurate so that if someone searches for a restaurant in this area that my friends have liked your business will come up in the right category. That’s all completely free. Posting to their page, getting insights on their page by asking questions of people and voting, all of that is free and it’s up to the page owner how frequently they do it. I’d recommend that they be somewhat regular in pace, so if they’re going to be posting to the page once a week, twice a week or every day - make sure it’s pretty consistent.
If they want to promote a post or promote an offer on their page, that’s where they get into the paid products. With that they can pay as little as $5 to boost their offer. Within the interface, if you put in an amount of money, it will predict the amount of people that will reach on Facebook, so they can decide if they want to take that up or test an amount before going back and creating another offer or they can promote a post or different offer with different amounts or different targeting such as what goes to fans or what friends found - so they can target different strategies. Test different options - so test an offer or a promoted post and see how that works or test page ‘Like’ ads which are the traditional Facebook ads on the right hand side of the Newsfeed. All of those together will give them a sense of what is actually working. I’m not necessarily saying triple their budget to test all three - divide their budget to test all each one and that way they will actually learn what is working for them.
How many people are using the service?
Globally there are 12.8m local businesses, small sized business using Facebook pages which is the right place to start and to build that out and to start to get people to connect to that. Even for example, put a page and put up a sign for people to Like your page and to Check-in while they’re in your shop - these are the types of activities that don’t cost anything and will start building brand awareness and some viral activity on your business. From there you can start to decide where to build your fan base by investing in products to get more distribution of the message.
Retailers are clearly having a tough time at the moment - do you get any sense that they are starting to understand the real value of being online?
Where we see great success is where we see people embracing the technology and really using it to make their efforts more effective. For example, we’re working with a cheesecake company on the Retail Centre on Facebook who had started a shop. They started to drive footfall into their shop using their Facebook page by posting what their flavours and products were. They also used it to gain insight, so for example with their gluten-free options they really expanded their product base from that, they then built an online store to take online orders because they realised the online presence was growing very quickly. And even subsequent to that, in order to shorten the amount of clicks from when someone sees an advert on Facebook to get them to the e-commerce platform, they’ve actually put an e-commerce app on their Facebook page to shorten the purchase journey. They’ve really built out their strategy but it’s been a journey for them too and I’m sure they’ve learned lots along the way, but these are the types of business who are trying lots of different things. Some things that they’ve tried that has been very effective, they’ve tried lots of different targeting types, they’ve tried lots of different methods, they’ve tried lots of different images and types of posts to really understand what the audience is responding to. All of that combined has helped them to understand their audience and really help them to tap into that opportunity and community of advocates.