Readers’ Questions are in partnership with Emanaged and Online Seller Consulting.
I’m in need of some advice. I sell vintage cowboy boots, traditionally on eBay, but I’m now interested in selling them on Facebook, Instagram, any other similar social selling sites you might know of, and my own ecom site which is due to launch in the next month.
[a] What multichannel listing software will allow me to sell on Facebook and Instagram, as well as pushing the listings to eBay and to my ecom site? I have about 4,000 Facebook followers on my biz page but rarely any sales there.
[b] Is it best to start a blog attached to my ecom site, or use an independent hosting site for a blog?
— Tracy, Minneapolis, MN
Let’s go west
I’ll do my best to avoid cliche remarks about Cowboys, the west and what-not. My dad is from Texas, and owns a stetson hat, so I kind of have a blood right to have fun here… I’ll try.
Great idea to expand out on new channels. That is always a strategy we promote. Great idea to plug in some technology to support it. A core strategy we always suggest for long term scalability!
Let’s B-line that blog first…
To get the most out of your blog hoedown energy, you usually want it on your website. The regular readers will boost site traffic and it will make user navigation cleaner.
However a blog and an ecommerce website do work differently in terms of technical architecture and page display. The technology you use might be different between the two, given not all ecommerce platforms have the best built-in blog technology. Not knowing your website platform, it’s hard to advise much further on what to lasso into the picture.
I’m completely failing with the cheesy slang… So let’s just embrace from here til sundown my failure to collect my thoughts without a high-noon shootout of old west themes.
Right, blogs… Make sure that from a user perspective, the main site and blog are naturally linked via menus, with a consistent design and overall presentation. Whether they are on the blog or ecommerce site, they should know visually.
However, are you sure you want a blog? Here’s the thing about blogs – they take a lot of time. Routine time. You’ll need someone adding relevant posts on a weekly basis, and you want that content to be relevant and engaging. You could use humor, industry knowledge or simply adopt a relatable tone yourself. But the blog only has value if it has ongoing constant updates.
As you already have an engaged base on social media, what is your goal for the blog? I would make sure you have a clear idea what this blog is supposed to achieve, and then ask yourself if that goal will be possible with the energy and time you can give it. Blogs take a while to grow, so you’ll have to do a lot of work for minimal results initially, otherwise it might fade into the sunset.
Long story short, the technology of the blog is the easy part. Make sure the users know the connection visually and via an easy navigation. But don’t do all this work unless you have a clear goal and the time to spend on it. The best blogs tell insightful or funny stories, or have ongoing topics that breed discussion. They don’t sell products so much as information, or have a “style” which can indirectly sell your wares.
A-dressing the channels… let’s rant about setup first
Some channel management systems connect to some website platforms in some ways. They don’t all connect with each other, and some connections are better than others. They also flow in different ways, much like the Rio Grande (I can’t help myself), depending on how north or south you are.
Some systems assume you will use your website to handle all order updates, stock and product data. The channel tool simply acts a connection gateway between your website administration area and the marketplaces.
In contrast, other systems expect you to make their platform the new central point, and a website connection is treated as another channel you manage via their system.
I can’t tell you which is right for you. Sorry, I’m a failure. I need to know more about your set-up without leading you down a rabbit path. Assuming it’s the website you want in control, you might not use one channel management system for all three channels. You might use between one and three plugins for eBay, Instagram and Facebook, each corralling data for their territory only. Sounds messy, but don’t shoot from the hip on this topic.
Let’s remember; you have already identified the Facebook conversion gap. I wouldn’t worry too much about picking a system that 100% connects all storefronts. Nice to have, but focus on a good system to handle eBay and your website primarily.
Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento and the big website platforms all have cheap simple modules you can add on, and allow you to sell on Facebook directly. Similar case for Instagram.
Social media mediating social retail?
Most systems do not support social channels for inventory / storefronts yet. That’s really because the social channels have not proven they can bridge the gap between the social side of things and actually selling product.
However, China’s online retail ecosphere proves social media and online retail can, and likely will, combine more as the ecommerce landscape expands, evolves and adapts. But for now, social media and buying stuff online are still separate in the mindset of us Westerners.
Facebook for example has had storefronts for a long while, but most of what you find on there are small boutique sellers, or nearby yard sales. A few big brands have taken the plunge, but results have been mixed. Some brands, knowing their core demographic is young, have done very well, but less by using the storefront on social media and more by simply promoting a brand, lifestyle or product to the right audience. They still push the buyers to their site at the end of the day.
There are the typical big success stories, but they are often product or lifestyle-driven, not organically grown with repeated effort. I have yet to hear of a Facebook Store steadily grow in sales to become the company’s main source of revenue. I’m sure it’s happened to a few companies out there, but it’s not typical. Facebook ads are where you can drive new traffic, but that’s usually towards your website.
I admittedly have my doubts that Instagram converts a buyer directly, but it’s certainly a good avenue to get brand and product awareness, usually via lifestyle-themed images. I certainly see the validity in having a unified voice and strategy for Instagram and a blog, for example. But both can lead the potential buyer back to your existing website.
What in tarnation am I trying to say here?
Well, your website and eBay are natural places to convert buyers and reach an audience with “I gotta get me new boots for the barn dance” in their mind.
Social media is more about wasting time, spying on ex-partners and checking out the latest memes. People on social media aren’t really thinking about buying gator knee-highs yet. For that reason, make sure you have a slick website and eBay store, connected together via a tool.
But for social media, don’t worry as much. If convenient, use a simple tool which you can piggyback on the website for now. See how it goes. Mostly, use social media to sell your image – the brand, the tone, the lifestyle, the specific new product. It’s about getting the word out on these channels. But once found, it’s the website you want them purchasing from.
Do get that Facebook storefront up, by all means, just don’t waste too much time getting it all perfect for now is all I am trying to say.
When you start a blog, keep it going and use it in conjunction with social media. The power of social media is that you can read the voice of your audience and get real time feedback. Blogs can be focused on what you learn about your demographic. Both can be used to keep you in the minds of buyers, so when they want to buy, you are easy to find.
Thanks @ Matthew Ferguson for a great article.
We are finding a lot of our UK customers who sell Clothing & Apparel are achieving huge success in the traffic they generate from Facebook Dynamic Ads.
But, you certainly do need a well performing website to make it work.