Facebook is traditionally used as a platform to build an audience and raise awareness of your off-site content. What if, however, you want to base yourself squarely on the platform and avoid the hassle of an off-site commerce setup? You can create an entirely Facebook-based online store and use that as a base of operations. The process is surprisingly easy.
Step 1: Create a Facebook Page
If you’re considering using Facebook to sell products, you need to comply with the Facebook terms of service. That means you specifically need a Facebook business page, not a personal Facebook profile.
Additionally, using a page is the only way to customize your tabs such that you have a place for a shop. Personal profiles don’t give you the option. Of course, in order to set up a store tab, you need a store. That’s where landing page apps come in.
Step 2: Create a Shop Landing Page
Now, you can work with a designer to code your own storefront and landing page. This is a perfectly acceptable option, with one drawback; the expense. It costs both time and money to design your own storefront from the ground up. Instead, you can use one of the several excellent landing page apps available.
Using a third party storefront app provides value in a few ways. First, it’s easy to set up and customize your shop in a matter of hours. You don’t need to be a designer or a coder, you just need a sense of aesthetics and the ability to streamline the shopping process. Colors, graphics, layout; everything can be customized to match your website and your Facebook page, for maximum continuity.
Additionally, using a third party app comes with built-in SSL security. SSL is incredibly important for securing the payment and order data of your customers. If you design your own storefront, you’ll have to pay for your own SSL certificate, which can be quite the ongoing expense. You’ll also need to set it up yourself, which is more complicated than using the third party apps. So, which app do you choose? You have a few options.
- Ecwid is a fully featured shopping app with nearly complete customization for your Facebook-based store. It has a number of selling points, including the ability to handle both digital and physical products. It works for mobile platforms as well as desktop PCs. Perhaps its most important feature, however, is the ability to sync with an existing storefront. If you have a store on your website, you can easily sync product data between Ecwid and your page, to keep product data the same in both places. Basic stores with only a few products are free, and you can transition to a paid plan as your needs grow.
- StoreYa has a free plan with room for up to 50 products, making it ideal for small, focused businesses. Its main selling point is the ability to import store data from a wide range of different sources, including Amazon and Shopify. It also allows you to create sub-stores with different assigned managers, for instances where you may run geographically distinct franchises or chains. StoreYa also comes with a suite of marketing tools for added value.
- Bigcommerce contains most of the same features as the other landing page solutions, but it costs a bit more. The reason for this is a suite of built-in SEO tools to help you with search placement for your Facebook shop. Additionally, they offer sub-apps to integrate various business platforms, including Constant Contact and Survey Monkey.
- Shopify goes in the other direction, with a simple, lightweight shop for $30 per month. Try it out with a two-week free trial and see how it works out. Even the basic tier allows unlimited products, but storage space is limited to a single gigabyte. Additionally, the lower tiers charge transaction fees, while the unlimited tier does not.
There are other apps you can use to drive traffic to your off-site storefront. An app such as ShortStack allows you to display your products and prices, but requires a visit to your off-site shop to purchase. These apps are outside the scope of this list, however, as it’s focused on selling directly through Facebook.
Step 3: Promote your Shop on Facebook
Once you have a storefront set up and publicly available, it’s time to promote it. With it centered on Facebook, using Facebook itself is a natural place to begin. One easy and highly visible way to promote your shop is with your Facebook page cover photo.
The cover photo is the large banner at the top of your page, and you’re free to change it at will. Treat it like a billboard or a large banner advertisement, enticing users to click the banner itself. This brings up the Facebook image window, where users can see your caption, like, share or comment on the picture. Make sure your caption provides information about your advertisement and a link to your new store landing page.
You should occasionally change up your cover photo to advertise different products. Product launches, seasonal sales and clearance events are all good times to change. Remember, each time you change the photo, it appears in the news feeds of your followers.
Don’t let your cover photo stagnate, either. You can occasionally copy the URL of the photo and share it as a post. This makes it show up as a new post on your user feeds, but keeps them visiting the same image page for accumulated shares and comments.
Of course, your cover photo is just one of many ways to promote your shop on Facebook. Share links to new and popular products. Make sure it includes a link to the product and an image of the product, for maximum attention. Product announcements, sales and coupons are all advertising you can do through Facebook posts as well.
Step 4: Promote your Shop off Facebook
You don’t need to do all your advertising on Facebook. Just like marketing anything else, using your blog, a Twitter account, a newsletter and any other marketing channel brings users to your Facebook page. You can link them directly to your profile or you can guide them to specific image posts or landing pages.
If you have a Facebook storefront and an off-site storefront, you will have to make the decision which to guide your users towards. Your off-site storefront may be more convenient, but if your users already have Facebook accounts, they may find it easier to purchase through the platform. You can take advantage of having two platforms to test different forms of advertising, as well. If you only have one storefront, on Facebook, the decision is obviously much simpler. Just guide them to your Facebook page and let your marketing do the rest.