In my last post I gave 9 Pragmatic Recommendations for a Wine Facebook Page – the first of which was to have an integrated store. In this post I review Facebook store software.
I have two Facebook store software recommendations for a wine retailer
I’ll look at why I selected these in a little more depth later on in this post as well as cover these vendors in less detail:
- Off the Wall
- Storefront Social
- Commerce Social
- BigCommerce and Volusion etc (“etc” being eCommerce companies that have a Facebook app)
You can also see my working notes in my Facebook discussion topic Wine Facebook eCommerce Stores.
But first let’s be clear who this is for – a small company, specifically a small wine retailer. To do this I’ve drawn on my previous research into wine eCommerce.
In a previous series on wine eCommerce I set out an eCommerce Requirements Document. This document has Must Have, Should Have, and Nice to Have columns. At the time I wanted to show how different size wine retailers’ requirements are different depending on their size, budgets and motivation – despite all of them being in the same business of selling wine. Here’s a quick summary of that post.
The very small wine retailer
Is owner operated. He is really busy just keeping the business running. If he has a way to keep costs down he’ll take it, despite being really busy already. Most of his customers are local and repeat regardless of whether he has website or not. He is happy with using the internet but it is not his expertise. His expertise is wine and retailing.
The very large wine retailer
Has a 1000 staff with a sales and marketing team of 100 people including an internet marketing team of 5. The team is led by a smart marketing expert. She has a large marketing budget and is willing to try all sorts of marketing campaigns to boost sales, many of which will be handled by ad agencies.
Her team minimizes risks and maximise chances to achieve marketing success. They have to communicate and cooperate with other teams throughout the company (including a very risk adverse IT team). They need to integrate with all sorts of systems so any eCommerce project is likely to be decided by recommendation from a committee made up of all the departments.
Their wine eCommerce requirements are very different
- The small retailer’s key requirement is to have more cash come in versus out. The small retailer’s Must Haves are based on a simple calculation of net margin i.e. sales margin less expenses. If a requirement’s expense does not outweigh its cost then it’s not needed.
- The large company’s key requirement is to minimise risks and maximise brand exposure. The large companies Must Haves are all of these plus more to do with the technical specification of integrating systems.
There are of course many different combinations for each individual retailer but these requirements are a good indication dependent on store size.
A medium – large retailer is probably in a sweet spot. They are not too big to be driven by organizational co-ordination nor too small to lack budget for a eCommerce marketing tools and the professional team. Their key requirement is to measure everything in a never ending race to find the best drivers of sales.
A small-medium retailers probably also wants to have all the marketing tools that the medium-large retailers have – but they don’t have the budget or time.
Applied to Facebook
Facebook Stores are not quite there, yet.
My original intention was to use these requirements documents to look at each of the Facebook eCommerce vendor options. It became apparent that all of them are struggling to meet the Must Have requirements for a very small retailer, much less a large one! Also given that this blog is for small wine retailers it makes sense to just look at their requirements.
Must Have Requirements for a Very Small Wine Retailer
- Price per month is Low
- Price of Set up is Low
- Support is industry average (e.g. < 2 business days)
- Set up: Design: Limited Selection + Logo
- Set up: Hosted (Software as a Service)
- Set up: Sales Tax
- Set up: Legal Compliance: age
- User Experience: Content Pages (CMS): text
- Catalog: Category Management
- Catalog: Product Management
- Catalog: Product in multiple categories
- Catalog: Inventory: Low/No Inventory Notification
- Catalog: Inventory: Display Out of Stock, or Remove
- Shopping Cart: Confirm Age at Checkout
- Shopping Cart: Promo: free shipping
- Shopping Cart: Payment methods: PayPal Standard
- Shopping Cart: Payment methods: Pick up & Pay
- Shopping Cart: Security: secure check out (SSL)
- Shopping Cart: Security: credit card rule compliance (PCI)
- Shopping Cart: Security: expert server administration
- Shopping Cart: Security: regular eCommerce software upgrades
- Order Management: Shipping: Pick up
- Order Management: Good Invoice / Credit process
- Order Management: Flat rate shipping
- Order Management: Table rate shipping
- Order Management: Weight rate shipping
- Order Management: Email System for Customer Support
- Order Management: Email notifications of orders
- Order Management: Tax rates per location
- Order Management: Export: orders and customers into CSV formats
- Support: Email (business hours)
- Support: FAQs, Documentation
- Price: Hosting Included
- Price: SSL included
None of the options I looked at were perfect but some were close. Let’s look at the results and analysis.
Wine eCommerce and Facebook Vendor Software
Specifically for smaller retailers whose key requirement is to have more cash come in versus out.
A key element of my analysis is Price
Which excludes the following Facebook store apps as they are too expensive:
- Off the Wall
I controversially also only want stores that complete transactions without leaving Facebook
I say “controversially” because a reasonable vendor could make a reasonable argument against this. They would say that it is much easier to have one eCommerce store to administer, than two (feel free to make counter arguments in the comments below by the way).
What partly integrated Facebook stores do is list products with a simple Buy Now button that directs the customer off Facebook onto the normal wine ecommerce site. There are many ways to do this. Not just through eCommerce companies like BigCommerce but also through standalone Facebook apps like ShopTab.
Here’s what Paul Marsden says in “Social Commerce: Monetizing Social Media” in support of staying on Facebook (I’d embed the slide show but, well, the front cover is damn close to being pornographic),
There are esentially two social commerce strategies – ‘putting water coolers next to tills’ (helping people connect where they buy’), and ‘putting tills next to water coolers’ (helping people buy where they connect).
Here’s what one of the Milyoni guys said in a Practical eCommerce webinar,
Think of it like when you were a teenager going to the mall to hang out with friends. You’re there to socialize, if you walk into the store and find yourself a mile down the street then its very disruptive. Point being they want to stay where they want to stay – on FB, not on your website.
In my previous post I also covered the Disadvantages of leaving Facebook to complete a transaction. The key points were,
- Clicking off Facebook is a serious interruption
- Will lose the conversation between fans
- Having a FB Page enables impulse purchases
So it’s a social environment – we want to be part of conversation, not to interrupt it.
I’ve excluded these Facebook store apps on the basis that they link out to stores (see my Facebook discussion for links):
- BigCommerce and Volusion etc (eCommerce companies that have a Facebook app)
The Final Few
That leaves me with Facebook store software that is neither expensive nor leaves the Facebook environment.
These stores are:
- Storefront Social
- Commerce Social
Here is why I excluded Vendorshop, Storefront Social, and Commerce Social.
Seems to be in the very early stages of development with some missing key features such as sales tax and a good bulk exporter/importer. Team is good at responding to requests but often have to say the feature is coming. One to follow and check out again in the future.
Looks promising but hard to make a call when so little info is available from their website and Page, and the forums are so light. Storefront, if you’re reading this, you need to provide more information like your competitors.
CommerceSocial looks promising though it won’t work on an iPhone (uses flash). Like Storefront Social it doesn’t have much information so it’s hard to find detailed answers. I imagine it does have good shipping and tax – it’s just hard to be sure.
Which brings me back to the two recommendations
Payvment and Ecwid. Here’re my working notes for the last five. Note that these could go out of date very quickly (up to date as at 26-Sep-10).
There is still some gaps in the analysis, I’ll fill those once I do a full trial of the systems, but I can see enough of each system to make a call.
What I like
- It’s free! – for a while at least
- It handles the basics well enough – the catalog, shipping, tax, secure payment
- It incentivizes browsers to become Fans through a “Fan Discount” option
- It has a large user base of 30,000
- It has a perpetual cart, which remains open regardless of whether the customers leaves the page (arguably reduces shopping cart abandonment)
- It can be connected to your normal eCommerce website
- It can be your normal eCommerce website
What I dislike
- It only has PayPal as an option (indeed PayPal is integral to its offering)
- It does not have a good bulk exporter of customers, inventory and products but rather uses the more complex REST system
- It cannot have products in multiple categories e.g. a Merlot in a Merlot category and a Napa category
- It doesn’t (yet) have a Checkbox at purchase to confirm that the customer agrees to terms and conditions and is of minimum age to buy alcohol (note the minimum age issue can arguably be resolved by ensuring your Facebook Page Settings Age Restrictions are set to “Alcohol-Related”)
- I can’t see any sensible way to have a Pick Up option (important for a local retailer)
- Some people may dislike the forum only support
- I’m fine with forum only support as long as they answer questions within 2 business days – most of the time they do but they could do better (it is free software though!)
Payvment is making big waves in the Facebook eCommerce world and is one to at least watch if not use.
Also this YouTube video: Adding Ecwid to WordPress
What I like
- It not only works on Facebook but other websites as well from blogs to twitter to myspace.
- Has backing from a large ecommerce provider (X-Cart) but is still independent.
- It has a pick-up option which I believe is essential for a local retailer due to delivery costs.
- It says it can have products in multiple categories e.g. a Merlot in a Merlot category and a Napa category.
- It says it can have a checkout box asking for confirmation that a person is of legal age and accepts terms and conditions.
- It can use different Payment systems such as PayPal, Google Checkout and Authorize.Net
What I dislike
- It’s not completely free. Though it does have a good free option, then a fair value one with a few more features for US$17 per month, then a $950 pa for a more customized version.
- Some people may dislike the forum only support
- I’m fine with forum only support as long as they answer questions within 2 business days – which they seem to most of the time
Ecwid has far less coverage than Payvment in the media. Maybe because it’s Russian, without Payvment’s easy access to San Francisco media? Or maybe because I’m missing something? Please comment if you have any insight!
If Ecwid is as good as it seems then they have a marketing problem they need to address. I suggest they go on a media blitz in the States.
A Final Recommendation
If I didn’t have the luxury of trying both?
Ecwid. I’m just plain nervous about the lack of media coverage of what seems to be such a good system. Very odd.
So what’s your thoughts?
a) the requirements – do you agree with my bare minimum Must Haves?
b) how I’ve analyzed the different software – have I got something wrong or is it mostly right?
c) my commentary and recommendations – do you agree or disagree?
I encourage any constructive criticism, please comment below…
Photos courtesy of : Num lock, A Terrible Accident With An Old Cash Register And A Broom Handle, A Dye-transfer Copying Machine
Disclosure: I do not have any commercial relationships with any of these companies.