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Online Retailers Can Tap Social Media Market-But Need Fans First

07 June 2010 - 11:58 by Simon Crisp

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It is not just virtual goods for which sales are being driven by social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. The growing trend, long predicted by industry experts but now confirmed by sources including the Wall Street Journal, is for online retailers to use social media sites as a sales channel, augmenting other online sales and marketing endeavours.

Many of those engaging in safe shopping online will be regular users of Facebook and other sites in the social media space. The idea here is that consumers can simply add items to their baskets via brand outlets on the various social networking sites and then hop over to the retailers' primary website to complete the safe shopping online experience.

However, online retailers cannot simply expect to create a Facebook or MySpace page and then have the masses start tearing products from their virtual shelves. Driving e-commerce via social networks requires traffic and this means building a fan base who follow the retailers' social media activity and are thus likely to start buying products or services as and when they appear.

Online retailers are thus being told that they should first concentrate on amassing fans -which is likely to require heavily promoting their fan pages, since as experts from New York's Pace University have pointed out, few consumers are going to head to a page frequented by no-one else.

Commerce network Alvenda, a firm that specialises in creating Facebook and other social networking apps for online retailers to use, is confident that the future for e-commerce will see the majority of online retail purchases happening off-site via social media.

As social media competition continues to grow, ever more innovative mechanisms in attracting and building loyal fans will doubtless emerge.