What does Facebook's app store mean for retailers?

By Mike Wittenstein

Facebook is launching its own App Store. Opening an online Web service that extends the company's products, functionality, and services will create new revenue streams for the company as it goes public ($77-$96 billion initial valuation expected according to Reuters). The bottom line for retailers is this: Now, the way Facebook works can be customized to lift sales.

Retailers dedicated to winning the most advantage will adjust the way their stores operate to match the huge potential Facebook brings to retail. Retailers who just think in terms of "selling more" will miss the proverbial boat. Those willing to discover new ways to deliver value to clients outside of "traditional" retail will become massive winners. That's what this Facebook opportunity brings.

Opportunities


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Slight adjustments to operations may allow retailers to set and achieve these goals very quickly and at much lower cost than with traditional approaches:

  • Tighter integration with existing on-line catalogs
  • Lower operating costs
  • Additional points of presence
  • Better tracking of social selling behaviors
  • Easier market segmentation with lower per-segment marketing costs
  • Higher Net Promoter scores
  • Tapping into crowd-sourced innovation and strategy (from customers)
  • On-demand, custom offers across multiplemanufacturers
  • Better visibility into customers' future needs

Once retailers make their own brands more "shoppable" on Facebook's new App Store, customers may enjoy these lifts to their retail experiences:

  • Wish lists that cross between merchants
  • Notifications that bring the best deals to them
  • Mall- or location-based shopping suggestions ("If you're going to be near the area, you might want to check on these brand new items similar to what's on your wish list..."
  • Routing optimization (especially useful during the holidays) that squeezes more shopping into the same time
  • Technology that intuitively anticipates what they really want (especially with the wave of voice control apps surging quickly)
  • The ability to get more of what they want on the terms most important to them will become easier

Retailers shouldn't wait. Nobody is going to build the perfect Facebook app just for them. (If someone did, and retailers adopted it, the level of sameness would continue with advantage belonging to nobody.)

Recommendations

Larger retailers should look for breakthrough opportunities to meet customers' needs with technology that reduces effort, excites the senses, and saves them money. They should start by selecting a cross-functional team of people to look at what Facebook apps might do for customers, employees, and shareholders. Ideas that yield a benefit for all three groups at the same time should be routed to the top of the list.

Smaller retailers should look for applications they can tailor to their brands with little to no programming that enhance services, adapt better to customers' changing needs, and reduce the effort required to shop.

Summary

Retailers should jump onto Facebook with quick adoption and the intent to play and learn for the longer term in mind. Why? Most of any retailer's customers are already on Facebook and the products they sell already comprise much of what customers talk about. How can retailers not play this new game?

Mike Wittenstein is a designer of customer experiences for retailers globally. He can be reached at mike@MikeWittenstein.com.

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