With over 500 million “friends”, Facebook is the most powerful of the social networks out there today. Online retailers are discovering new ways to harness this power not only to increase their sales, but also to influence buyers through a virtual “word-of-mouth” known as the ‘Like’ feature.
The way it works is simple. Individuals, companies, or groups create ‘Fan’ pages on Facebook where they can post updates. Facebook “friends” can become a fan by simply clicking the ‘Like’
button ( ) located on the fan page. Fans then receive updates posted by the owners of the Fan page. Companies have begun to integrate this feature into their own websites allowing them more exposure through this social network. This is an efficient way for retailers and manufacturers to let their customers/fans know about product releases/updates, events, and special offers/coupons. The added benefit to retailers is that anyone connected to the person who liked the item will also be exposed to the product via Facebook’s ‘News Feed’ feature. This allows consumers who may have not previously considered an item/brand to have easy access to that retailer via their Facebook “friend”.
Up until a few months ago, retailers only went as far as allowing users to become fans of the brand as a whole. Companies such as Levi’s and Amazon, however, have taken this feature a step further by utilizing the ‘Like’ feature at a product level. How does this work and what does it mean for you as an online retailer? Let’s look at Levis.com first.
In the screenshot example above, Levi’s has integrated Facebook’s ‘Like’ feature into the product information for each listed item. They also show how many people have ‘Liked’ each pair of jeans to the right of the ‘Like’ button. By displaying the number of users who ‘Like’ a pair of jeans, Levi’s is betting that you, as a consumer, will be more influenced to look at and buy those jeans. After conducting an internal study of this feature, we discovered that it did, indeed, influence users’ shopping experience. We observed that jeans with a higher number of ‘Likes’ got more views than those with a lower number, at least initially. While users stated they would ultimately select a pair of jeans based on their personal style, they also spent time investigating the products with more likes to find out why they were more popular.
In order to use this feature, Facebook users must allow Levi’s to utilize some of their Facebook information, such as:
- Their friends’ birthdays,
- The display of their friends’ Facebook profile picture on the Levi’s website if they ‘Like’ a product, and
- Post information on their Facebook Wall when they select to ‘Like’ and/or comment on something.
Below is an example screenshot of what would typically appear on a fan’s Facebook Wall if they liked and commented on a Levi’s product:
During our internal study, users enjoyed seeing a product on their Facebook Profile page when they commented on a ‘Liked’ product, as well seeing a product they simply ‘Liked’. These same users also stated that if they saw a pair of jeans that a Facebook friend liked or commented on, they would be more inclined to click on that product, driving them back to the Levi’s website. Think about that. Users who may have never considered visiting the Levi’s website are now exposed to and driven to the site via a single product they saw on a friend’s profile page. When you breakdown the numbers, if only 0.25% of Facebook’s 500 million friends visited the Levi’s site, that would still amount to an additional 1.25 million visits!
So what’s the down-side? That depends on how much of a stickler you are for privacy and what you’re comfortable with people knowing about you. In the case of Levi’s, the one drawback we heard from users was that they may not necessarily want to display the types of clothes they liked for fear of criticism. The main deterrents when it came to announcing their clothing styles were:
- Body-type & Size
Conversely, users felt they would be more inclined to display their likes when it came to the following product types:
- Electronics (i.e. TVs, Digital Cameras, Video Games, etc.)
- Accessories (i.e. Purses, Jewelry, Sunglasses, etc.)
- Special Offers & Coupons
Enter Amazon.com. In late July, Amazon partnered with Facebook to create a personalized shopping experience for consumers based on their Facebook ‘Likes’ and their friends ‘Likes’. Amazon accesses your Facebook account, with your permission, to gather the following information:
Once you’ve allowed Amazon to access this information, they use it to recommend products based on your ‘likes’ as well as your friends ‘likes’. Aside from displaying your friends’ profile pictures for products they’ve liked, it also shows your friends with upcoming birthdays. Based on their ‘likes’, Amazon provides ‘gift suggestions’ for these friends. Levis.com displays friends with upcoming birthdays as well, but it does not provide product suggestions. Below is a screenshot of what Amazon presents as ‘Your Amazon Facebook Page’:
This type of integration allows Amazon, as well as other e-commerce sites who adopt this feature, to gain key insights into how product sales relate to social recommendations -- a metric which, up to this point, has not been easily measured. Based on this data, e-commerce sites can build models to show how financially valuable it is to have users ‘like’ a product or brand and truly gauge the impact of social network marketing. It is necessary that we continue to observe the evolution of this integration to evaluate opportunities for improvement and to optimize the experience for end users. Now is the time for the creation of Best Practices for designers to consider when integrating this feature into a website to ensure its intuitiveness and ease of use.
Overall, this marriage between social networking sites and online retailers seems to have a bright future. As more and more people utilize Facebook to keep up with friends, trends, gossip, etc., the potential for online retailers is great and will only continue to grow. So evaluate if your retail website is the type that could benefit from integrating Facebook’s ‘Like’ feature and ensure plenty of user experience testing is conducted to make certain the functionality is intuitive for users. It could impact your site more than you think! We hope this article was helpful and would ‘Like’ any feedback and questions you, as a reader, may have regarding this topic!
- Tony Moreno, Usability Analyst