Content Merchandising on Facebook: Where Is It?

Every time I say “content merchandising on Facebook,” I hear crickets. In my poking around stores on the social site, I rarely see a compellingly merchandised product. (Unless you count a “Like” from Justin Bieber as compelling. This might work well in the short term, but probably isn’t a good long-term merchandising strategy.) If you think that F-commerce will take off without good content, let me offer you this little nugget I found on Best Buy‘s Facebook store while hunting wild product content:

Who doesn’t want a SKU 2945034? Love that product! This is one of the many reasons good content has to come first, before vendors expect their fans to purchase from them through the social commerce site. Justin Bieber can like this product all he wants; you’ll still get only about half as many purchases as you would if consumers knew what it was. Retailers cannot have a “lets-do-stuff-and-when-we’re-successful-we’ll-pimp-it-out” mentality if Facebook is to be Amazon‘s new competitor.

The E-Commerce Past Determines the F-Commerce Future

Consumers have grown used to fully operational websites and quality content when they buy things online, and they will not switch to purchasing on Facebook unless it becomes better than the competition. Currently, convenience and novelty are in Facebook’s favor, but that’s ultimately not enough to propel consumers from information-rich, established sites to a fledgling trying to fly from the nest. A Facebook store without well-developed content is as useless as a diamond planet in outer space. (Come on, it’s only 4,000 light years away! It’s not like a black hole tunneling an inescapable rift through your marriage or anything.) Consumers will not switch shopping platforms, no matter how convenient, if they cannot learn what they need to know about the product before spending their hard-earned cash.

Selling on Facebook is certainly not as risky as hurricane surfing, and although I’m sure the rush of adrenaline cannot compare, the danger is that it will not create any waves. F-commerce will get swept away unless it gets its content feet underneath. But can this be done? How? (I bet Justin Bieber knows; he can do everything, even shameless self-branding.)

In order to get any Facebook-sales adrenaline pumping, we have to look at the way products are merchandised. To do that, we have to step back to look at how the content is published on the social site.

Set Up a Facebook Store and Earn, Earn, Earn

Products and associated content are published on Facebook through an API. This stands for Application Programming Interface; if that doesn’t make immediate sense to you, don’t worry about it. It is essentially any interface a retailer uses to display its content on Facebook, and it’s usually created by third-party companies.

Now, on the one hand, we have Amazon’s one consistent platform for all products. On the other hand, there are numerous interfaces running amok on Facebook, creating an inconsistent (to say the least) look and function. Will F-commerce take off with this kind of variety, or does it need a single look and feel for every store? This is something Facebook will need to grapple with, and something we will address in an upcoming post.

While there are plenty of companies that will gladly suck your products into their system and spit them out on Facebook, are any of them remotely successful at merchandising? Come with me as I find out. (Don’t panic–I am only going to look at three of the hundreds of API options out there.)


I checked out one of the Facebook stores created by Wishpond‘s RetailConnect service, and found this:

How big is “small”? What is it made of? Can it go in the oven? The microwave? And the holy grail of cookware information: Can I put it in my dishwasher?

Not only is this description not up to good product page standards, it seems to be pleading the Fifth. Perhaps it is guilty of not being dishwasher-safe. (Actually, it can go in the dishwasher, oven, and microwave. It says so on Pro Kitchen Gear‘s website. But based on this Facebook-hosted product description, I am likely to assume it cannot do anything but look blue.)

However, it is possible to add content with this platform. If you look up the Campbell Cameras Sony AX-200 Turkey Filming Package, details abound. Conclusion? It is up to the retailer to make sure content comes across.


Success–Ecwid is a great content option! It is stolen straight from other sites, so content does not have to be created for more than one platform. Here is a stunning example of some dinosaur skin (bet you never thought you’d be able to touch and feel the hide of a T-Rex, no matter what Jurassic Park made you believe…):

Look at that, it’s even got a “What’s in the Box”-type list. What a jaw-droppingly beautiful product page with knockout content taken from ThinkGeek. Excessive adjectives aside, there is one downside to this store.

None of it’s real. ThinkGeek has a separate F-commerce solution that sends you straight to their product landing page before a even drop of merchandising sweetens the water. The Facebook page is simply a demo of what could be.

Still, while it’s true that this is not currently a functioning store, it is something to be excited about. Someday, Ecwid might grow up to be a real boy (you’ll know the baby’s grown when it’s immortalized in the holy hallways of Glee à la The Justin Bieber Experience). Until then, we’ll wait and watch.


Let’s look into the fish tank of Payvment‘s API:

Now, I’m not a lover of exclamation marks or beginning sentences with a conjunction. But Payvment lets you import your own content! This handy little API accepts .CSV files for product info.

Don’t get too excited–there’s still a Debbie Downer moment, where the imperfect comes to light. Grab yourself a cuddly puppy and a box of tissues, because even Payvment only imports some of the content. Below, chiasso‘s web page offers more details, such as size and inventory status.

If you dreamed of setting up a new home for your 14-inch goldfish, the time has come to rethink. Turns out the tank is only 7.75 inches wide, and Bruce’s little fin would barely fit. Also, why is this luxury fish apartment cheaper through their regular website? Could it be that the Facebook information is not up to date? Keeping products current on one platform is a hassle; doing it for one more platform is a time-sucking nightmare.

While Payvment does not gather all available information, it does have the valuable addition of letting vendors integrate external data, such as return and shipping information. If your regular online store offers this information, why would consumers switch to shopping on a store platform that doesn’t offer all this information?

To Evolve, F-Commerce Needs Content

Conclusion? Content options are out there. For the purposes of this post, I walked through only three of a plethora of APIs (thank me with flowers–but don’t do it on Facebook–or by following us on Twitter, if you must). Yet there is currently no easy way to bring all your product information straight to your Facebook store and keep it up to date.

The fact is, most of the platforms I’ve found for individual brands are still swimming around in the primordial soup, waiting to grow legs. As online commerce continues to evolve, content and other useful information will continue to be the legs on which it moves. Without a way to inform and influence consumers, social commerce will be lost along the way. Current APIs do not have a lot of options for additional images or anything fancy, but there may be enough there to make sure F-commerce will not be swept under the waves, after all. It’s up to the vendors to make sure their content is compelling enough for consumers to switch from clicking “Like” to entering their credit card info.

The Takeaway

If you have or plan to have a Facebook store, it’s up to you to make sure your content comes across. Don’t wait for the perfect interface; take charge now.


You may also be interested in: Does Facebook Stand a Chance? or F-Commerce: How are we Doing?

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