At first glance, the Facebook Permissions request can look like an intimidating hurdle for users of Facebook applications. The assumption often made about the Facebook Permissions request is that it asks for information users are not willing to share, that users are put off due to privacy concerns, and therefore that they opt-in at lower rates.
We wanted to find out for ourselves, and recently wrapped up an in-house study that indicates this assumption simply isn’t true. Our research found that users authorize Facebook Permissions at a much higher rate than people imagine – more than 50% of the time on average.
Facebook Permission Screen on Backcountry.com
To evaluate the likelihood that a shopper on an ecommerce site will share their Facebook data, we measured the percentage of users who accepted the Facebook Permissions when prompted by a Facebook ‘request for permissions’ dialog (shown at right). The data set comprised Facebook Permissions accept/decline rates for 1.2 million unique ecommerce site visitors who were served 42 different social applications from March to November 2011.
For the 42 applications, we found that the Facebook Permissions authorization rate was 56% on average. The median rate was 58%, and the first and third quartiles were 50% and 66% respectively. Users authorized the use of their social data by clicking “allow” on the permissions request dialog.
These results provide compelling evidence that shoppers on ecommerce sites are willing to share their Facebook social data in exchange for utilizing engaging social features.
We found that higher opt-in rates for Facebook Permissions were generated when the social applications had any of the following characteristics:
- Great Value to the User. The more perceived value to the user of the social application, the higher the likelihood they were willing to share their Facebook data. An example is an application that gives the user an incentive when their Facebook friends participate. When the application needs to know who your friends are in order to credit you, you are more likely to opt-in.
- High Brand Trust. Higher user trust in a brand results in higher opt-in rates. Users with pre-existing relationships with an ecommerce brand opted-in at greater rates. Sites where traffic is largely being driven via SEO and SEM efforts tended to have lower opt-in rates.
- Lower Number of Permissions. The more permissions asked for in the request dialog, the lower the opt-in rate. The best practice in driving permission acceptance is to only serve permissions that are necessary to the application.
The great promise of personalization based on the social graph hinges on whether consumers are willing to share their personal social data with online retailers. We believe that while this technology is new, the adoption rates are already quite promising. Facebook Permissions authorization rates nearing 60% demonstrate that users are willing to share their information in exchange for a better user experience. It’s now up to us as designers, developers, and site owners to create the compelling social experiences that compel users to participate at even higher rates.
I am excited to announce the newest member of the Sociable Labs team, James Donelan. As our new VP of Engineering, James brings more than 15 years of technology and software engineering leadership experience to the company. He comes to Sociable Labs by way of Lithium Technologies, where he was the VP of Engineering, responsible for managing architecture and engineering for their enterprise platform which hosts more than 250 social communities with billions of transactions per month.
We are at an inflection point in the industry when online retailers and consumers can now reap really meaningful benefits from consumer-to-consumer social marketing. As a result, our company is growing rapidly to meet the need, especially in engineering. James is a great leader of fast growing development organizations, and has an outstanding track record leading successful enterprise-level social commerce projects. The fit couldn't be better, and we're looking forward to his leadership as we scale!
We just issued a press release announcing James' appointment, which can be viewed here.
This “Social Commerce Roundup” features the most insightful and evocative studies and thought leadership posts curated by Sociable Labs on the topic of social commerce.
Today’s roundup brings together four articles that provide new research and best practices to inform your social commerce strategies throughout the holiday months and into 2012. You’ll find comprehensive social media statistics in Advertising Age, best practices on social media engagement in ClickZ, fresh insight from Business2Community about the new ways customers are impacting marketing strategies and Sociable Labs’ most recent social design study (featured in TechCrunch) on Facebook login rates that could change the way retailers engage and convert customers.
50 Social Media Stats to Kick-start Your Day, Advertising Age—Effusive blogger Sarah Evans shares 50 compelling new social media statistics. The highlights? 43% of all online consumers are social media fans or followers, and 56% of consumers said they are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend after becoming a fan on Facebook.
11 Ways to Leverage the Power of Social Media for the 2011 Holiday Season, ClickZ—In addition to listing 11 ways retailers can fine tune their social media strategies to drive sales in the holiday months, this piece advises readers to socialize key touch points to take full advantage of social media. In true holiday spirit, this reporter explains that social media is the gift that “keeps on giving.”
Your Customer Is More Persuasive Than Your Copywriter, Business2Community—Although this article was published in October, it had our team talking throughout the month. The author argues that brands should be turning to their customers as their biggest catalysts for success: With a recent study stating that 62% of people trust reviews from their friends, family and colleagues most, the customer-in-the-driver-seat trend certainly isn’t going away anytime soon.
50% Of Ecommerce Site Visitors Are Logged In To Facebook, TechCrunch (featuring Sociable Labs’ recent social design study) — As retailers enter the holiday season, our team did a deep analysis of millions of online shopper visits that indicated that a critical mass of consumers are logged into Facebook while shopping online – big news for retailers in the intersection of social and shopping. For more details on our study, please check out our blog here.
Every day at Sociable Labs, our team has the opportunity to discuss social strategy with leaders from some of the most exciting brands in ecommerce. Most executives we talk with are actively involved in social media. However, when we discuss on-site social applications and strategy with potential customers, one question comes up again and again:
“We know Facebook has a ton of users. And, we know many of our customers are on Facebook. But, what percent of our customers are likely to be interested in social features based on Facebook?”
Luckily, at Sociable Labs, we have a great “laboratory” for answering such questions at the intersection of ecommerce and social. In fact, we can go one better than answering what percent of customers may be interested. We can tell you what percent of your customers are actually logged in to Facebook while visiting your site. Utilizing our unique social analytics platform, we wanted to publicly answer this question and several related questions in order to help educate you on the Facebook state of your customers.
Sociable Labs’ applications receive tens of millions of visits a month. To support these deployments and our customers’ broader on-site social strategies, we developed a sophisticated social analytics platform. For every visitor that interacts with Sociable Labs’ technology, this platform checks their Facebook login status (i.e. whether a user is logged into Facebook or not, while on our customers’ sites). We receive this information directly from Facebook through accessing a Facebook API, called FB.getLoginStatus().
“How much of our traffic can we expect to be logged in to Facebook while shopping on our site?”
Admittedly, this question is an important one for those seeking higher ROI and engagement through on-site social features based on Facebook. In addition to being a benchmark for interest in social sharing and features, this metric also reveals the number of users who can most easily engage with these features, due to their logged in status.
While we can’t share statistics from particular customers, we can share overall statistics across our customer deployments. On average in October, 50.8% of traffic was logged into Facebook while visiting our customers’ ecommerce sites. Across all customers, this rate ranged from approximately 40% to 60%.
So, the short answer to this question is that, depending on your target consumer, you can expect about half of your traffic to be logged in to Facebook while visiting your site. However, in the real world, short answers rarely adequately answer important questions, leading us to the typical follow-up questions.
“That’s great, but our most important days of the week are…”
Based on market segment and retailing strategy, companies may have different weekly highpoints in traffic and sales. Naturally, after hearing the answer to the first question above, potential clients often want to know if their users will be logged into Facebook during the busiest days of their week. Using our client pool as the sample, below is a table that demonstrates the answer to this question.
While there is a day-of-the-week effect, one could hardly call it significant. If yours is an ecommerce company, you can expect a large portion of your site’s traffic to be logged in to Facebook no matter the day of the week.
“Interesting! We do most of our business when people are at work or school. Are our customers logged in to Facebook then?”
Yes, absolutely. While users on our clients’ sites are logged in to Facebook slightly less during the workday and slightly more during the evening, the percentage of logged in users is still very high during the workday. For example, during the work week of October 17 to 21st, on average 51% of users on our e-commerce deployments were logged in to Facebook from 9AM to 7PM.
“Great, so… How much more likely is it that users will interact with a social feature if they are logged into Facebook?”
This topic deserves its own blog post. However, a recent sampling of a few social application deployments revealed that click-through rates were at least 1.9x higher for those logged in to Facebook.
Hopefully, the statistics above help clear up a few common questions that most ecommerce executives have about the Facebook state of their customers. When it comes to Facebook login status, just remember 50% all week long and odds are you’ll be pretty close.
[btw... TechCrunch just covered this study - read more about it here.]
Remarking to a roomful of retailers that the state of ecommerce has changed in the last five years is like announcing that Jimi Hendrix was a “pretty decent guitar player” at a Woodstock reunion: it’s an understatement that just might get you escorted out of the building. As more and more consumers fall into lockstep with the Internet, retailers are racing to keep up with the rapidly evolving needs and demands of increasingly empowered shoppers. Buyers today have more options, more knowledge, and more control over their purchasing decisions than ever before. Retailers with their eye on the ball are taking a good look around them and realizing that what worked in traditional commerce ten years ago just doesn’t work in today’s virtual marketplace. Fortunately, companies like ours are helping level the playing field by sparking innovation within the industry. Just like their customers, retailers now have a greater array of tools, technologies and data at their service than ever before.
With such a wealth of information on the web available to us about the new rules of the game, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This is our humble attempt to narrow down the literally dozens of great resources that we turn to on a regular basis to a short list of 10. We believe these online resources are the best of the best when it comes to arming us with the latest news, practical advice and insight that is so critical to our success, as well as the success of our customers.
Without further ado, here’s Sociable Lab’s list of favorite resources, in two buckets: (1) resources for ecommerce and marketing practitioners, and (2) resources for social commerce specialists and developers. (both listed in alphabetical order)
For Ecommerce and Marketing Practitioners
1. AdAge CMO Strategy and Digital columns
The leading global source of news, intelligence and conversation for marketing and media communities, Advertising Age also has a fantastic CMO Strategy section which offers viewpoints from industry leading CMO’s and pundits. The Digital section of the site is also an excellent one-stop-shop for the latest digital marketing news.
2. AllthingsD – eCommerce
With Tricia Duryee offering razor sharp insights on the state of commerce (and all things social, digital, and media for that matter) AllthingsD is a great place to monitor collective industry disruptions.
3. Fast Company
As a startup, it’s always inspiring to us to learn about what the most innovative business leaders are doing to shake things up in their respective industries. Fast Company is chock full of astute articles about leadership, marketing, and one of their writers, Lydia Dishman, is particularly fascinating for us to follow as she covers innovation, entrepreneurship and retail.
4. Forbes Social Markets
Tomio Geron pens this perceptive column for Forbes.com that focuses on all things social, and helps us stay in the know on the latest and greatest companies and innovations impacting social media.
5. Social Commerce Today
Social Commerce Today takes a deep dive into the applications and strategies being implemented on social commerce by the early adopters. Edited by digital ethnographer Paul Marsden, this site covers the range of tools designed to help people connect where they buy and buy where they connect. From simple share with/forward to a friend buttons to real time social shopping social solutions, Social Commerce Today covers all that is related to “the creation of places where people can collaborate online, get advice from trusted individuals, find goods and services and then purchase them” (Steve Rubel’s plain English definition of social commerce).
For Social Commerce Specialists and Developers
6. All Facebook
David Cohen and other writers at All Facebook are a great resource on Facebook-related news. They focus more on writing for the developer audience.
7. Bokardo, by Joshua Porter
Joshua Porter is an interface designer, author of the best-selling Designing for the Social Web, and the man behind Bokardo, one of our favorite blogs. Porter may be an interface designer by trade, but he’s a writer at heart and his blog is an artful mix of interface and industry viewpoints that appeals to our technical and non-technical teams alike.
8. Facebook + Commerce
It’s only fitting that one of the best how-to-guides for Facebook commerce partners is hosted by Facebook itself. Visitors to the official Facebook page can learn about the best practices and tools available to help increase registration, conversions and cart size. The page’s mission? To help commerce partners use Facebook to create social and personalized experiences.
9. Inside Facebook
A site devoted to, you guessed it, Facebook, Inside Facebook provides daily news and analysis for developers, marketers and investors on Facebook-related business. A must read for all of us here at Sociable Labs. The founder Justin Smith wrote the Facebook Marketing Bible, the most widely referenced book on Facebook marketing today. His team of writers including Josh Constine is incredibly well versed in Facebook marketing strategies, and we consider them to be a great resource.
10. Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab
Forbes selected Dr.BJ Fogg, the man behind the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab as one of “Ten New Gurus You Should Know” and we couldn’t agree more. As a pioneer in the field of captology, the study of computers as persuasive technologies, Dr. Fogg and his team provide incredible insights from the intersections of applied science and behavior. The SPTL also regularly focuses on the psychology of Facebook, making the site a must read for our Sociable Lab innovators. Follow BJ on Twitter @bjfogg.
And there you have it: 10 of the most informative ecommerce and social commerce news sites and blogs that we read on a regular basis. What did we miss? Any recommendations of sites to add?
There are a few times in your professional life you believe you’ve witnessed the future… through a pivotal presentation or a critical book that changed your outlook. For me those books were “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman and “The Facebook Era” by Clara Shih. Last week at the Forrester Consumer Forum, that presentation for me was The Disruptor’s Handbook: How To Reinvent Your Products Before Someone Else Does by Dr. James McQuivey, where I experienced a new level of insight, inspiration and inevitability about the future of commerce. You can get a sense for the tenets of his predictions from his blog post – Meet the Digital Disruptors.
The two key elements of McQuivey’s vision that left an indelible impression on my mind are Empowered Consumers and Digital Disruptors.
1. At the center of McQuivey’s vision is Empowered Consumers – today’s consumers who are connected to a wide network of friends and who access the opinions their friends and like-minded consumers before they make a purchase. McQuivey suggests that this empowerment of the individual consumer and the power of the connected human network effectively obsoletes all previous sources of competitive advantage.
2. Digital Disruptors are driving the shift from people merely “adopting” a new technology to actually “internalizing” it. Moving from “doing old things in new ways” (adopting technology) to “inventing new things to do” (internalizing technology). McQuivey suggests that disruptors are both technologies, platforms employing them, consumers who use them and consumers who turn into competitors by internalizing them and inventing new products or companies. Barriers to entry are falling everywhere, and disruptors are fully empowered, right along with consumers.
Since witnessing McQuivey’s keynote I have reflected back on recent examples that substantiate the existence of the empowered consumer and the “social revolution”.
- The “Occupy” movement of empowered, disenfranchised citizens fed up with financial institutions and markets
- Bank of America’s reversal of the $5 monthly debit card charge
- Netflix’ dramatic loss of customers from their recent price hike
There is no CMO (or Chief Product Officer) who has escaped the social revolution in commerce. Many CMOs are seeking to “engage” their customers and “activate” their advocates, but are utilizing old-school B2C techniques with new world communities (e.g. running contests and messaging to fans on Facebook pages), which inherently miss the fundamental need of the Empowered Consumer – to hear “the truth” directly from their peers. And in the process, sales generated from these efforts have been disappointing, with very low conversion rates on traffic from these social media marketing efforts.
Consumer empowerment, together with disruptive competition, create an urgency for brands and retailers to “disrupt themselves” before they get disrupted by others, a key tenet of McQuivey’s prediction. Here’s what he says you need to do. Soon.
- Harness the power of digital disruptors: Invent the new applications enabled by disruptive technologies, such as new hardware platforms like the 40 million iPads worldwide, or social networking platforms like Facebook Connect and the new Google Plus API.
- Develop new products or experiences “adjacent” to you: Develop the most wanted capabilities or experiences that you are well positioned to deliver immediately.
- Create total product experiences: Dig deep into the consumer’s core needs and deliver the full set of benefits the consumer is seeking, be they products, services or new ways to shop.
- Get ready to measure early and often.
- Partner to enable fast action.
- Then Act!
Net-net – Act – Measure – Improve. And keep iterating! Be willing to accept early failures – as long as you have an iterative process in place and a top-down mandate to experiment and innovate. This is the new formula for how commerce can scale with the realities of today’s increasingly social consumer and web.
Dr. McQuivey offers a starting point for you – a Digital Readiness Test – forr.com/digitalreadiness. Go!
(And if you’re interested using a “test-and-learn” approach to harnessing social on your ecommerce site, I invite you to learn about our ROI-Guided Social Design solution.)
I’m pleased to announce that today marks the public launch of Sociable Labs. You can read all about our new ROI-Guided Social Design solution and the $7 million round of funding we raised from Battery Ventures in the press releases issued today, but I’d like to share with you what inspired me to found the company.
The idea for Sociable Labs came about from my experience developing an application on Facebook called Party Buzz. Party Buzz helped people discover the best local events via their Facebook friends. It developed a small but active user base in San Francisco. One night I was at an art show that I had discovered via Party Buzz. As I was gazing at a painting, a couple next to me began talking about how fantastic this event was. Then to my surprise, they commented on how they had both found out about it via Party Buzz, from a mutual friend who recommended the event. At this point I had to interject and introduce myself. After all, the odds of this occurrence were so improbable, that I could only interpret the encounter as a sign from a higher power! We began talking about how useful it was to discover information via friends, and how Party Buzz had made the process so easy.
My adrenaline still rushing from my pleasantly freakish encounter at the art gallery got me thinking about the broader applicability for this type of technology. Friend influence is a key factor in the discovery and purchase process for so many types of products and services, yet most of this occurs offline. I knew there had to be a better way to access my friends’ opinions without having to email them or call them all individually. What if I could go to an e-commerce website and quickly see which products my friends had purchased or recommended? It would be a much more efficient replica of the process that people were using offline. That’s when the idea for Sociable Labs was first born. All of my experience working in the Facebook ecosystem led me to believe that the idea had great merit as a business opportunity.
I started creating Facebook apps in late 2007 when the Facebook Platform was released. It was a very exciting time, as Facebook had just opened its user base to third party applications. For the next two years, the most successful applications were clearly about entertainment, things that would get a rise from friends and give the user some instant gratification. In doing significant user research and testing during this phase, I found that the way people used Facebook was not conducive to context switching. Users on Facebook were clearly there to kill time and be entertained; apps that tried to context switch to other tasks failed to gain traction.
As this was going on, businesses were being told by “social media experts” that social media marketing was about gaining Facebook fans and Twitter followers. This became the de facto model for how businesses could “engage in the conversation” in social. I believe this model of Facebook fan pages was flawed to begin with for the purpose of e-commerce, as its roots were based on replicating the very successful model that MySpace had established with music bands. However, a music band trying to gain a following is a very different goal than say, Dell trying to sell more computers. Businesses trying to leverage social media marketing to drive sales were struggling. Even the best examples, such as Dell heralding the several million in sales they achieved via their followers/fans, was miniscule compared to their total sales volume, especially given the investments they had made to acquire a very large amount of fans/followers.
Both of these problems had been gnawing at me. On the one hand, businesses looking to leverage social to drive sales were failing. On the other hand, Facebook users were fatigued by the novelty of Facebook apps, and were ripe for innovative uses of the social graph to enrich their lives in new ways.
The key technology enabler to solve both these problems came in 2009, when Facebook Connect was released and began to show traction with both users and businesses. Facebook Connect was a groundbreaking technology, as it had made the social graph and access to Facebook communication channels accessible by third party domains for the first time. While Facebook Platform had been around for nearly 2 years at this point, this was the first time you could utilize a user’s Facebook data off of Facebook itself. This created the opportunity for a whole new set of social experiences because it would finally be possible to know that two unique visitors to a website were friends with each other.
The portability of the social graph now meant that users didn’t have to context switch on Facebook.com itself, instead we could apply the social graph into other contexts for them. Businesses could now shift their attention from fan page marketing to creating authentic word-of-mouth marketing from their own websites. Dell for example, could get a much bigger bang for their social media investment by focusing on social graph integration on Dell.com, which has more than 10X the monthly site traffic (~10M UVs) as compared to their 700,000 fans on Facebook. A true “win-win” for both consumers and marketers.
As I discovered at that fateful art show, it is a thrilling experience to help connect people with information that can make their lives better in a small, but meaningful way. Whether that’s helping them discover a great event, find the perfect dress, or pick the right camera. Sociable Labs is helping people discover and harness friend opinions’ easier and more efficiently online, right at the point of purchase. I believe that’s the future of social commerce, and the vision that compelled me to start Sociable Labs.