Facebook is the largest and most popular online social network and almost all businesses have a Facebook page now. If you’ve really spent time building a large and engaged audience on Facebook you’ve probably tried to sell your products to your Facebook fans at one time or another. Posting a photo of your newest and hottest selling product along with a link can sometimes work, but it requires your fans to click over to another site in order to complete their purchases. Very often they don’t click over and the sale never happens.
I recently began following Mei Pack on Facebook and noticed that she was selling her polymer clay jewelry directly to her Facebook followers, right on Facebook, each week through flash sales. Looking at her feed I could tell that these sales were tremendously successful. She was selling out of charms each week, leveraging all the effort she has put in over the last few years in building an engaged following there.
Scented bomb pop necklace by Mei Pack of Tiny Hands.
Mei is the proprietor of a handmade jewelry business called Tiny Hands. She lives in Minneapolis where she makes incredibly detailed scented food jewelry. Mei is a savvy business woman so I reached out to her to find out more about selling through Facebook.
It’s important to note that Mei is active on all of the social networks, posting relevant content every day and interacting with her fans and customers, and she’s especially active on Facebook. She currently has 10,700 Facebook fans and she posts many times each day, linking to things she finds that are cute and fun that she thinks her followers would appreciate. She also links to her own shop, but until now “getting followers to click a link and buy something off the social site has been pretty tricky,” she said. “It doesn’t convert very well in general and only few people ever click the links.”
A few months ago Mei began using an app called Soldsie to help her hold weekly flash sales right on her Facebook page. Launched in May of 2012, Soldsie is designed for small merchants, like Tiny Hands, and is especially well suited to flash sales in what’s known as “f commerce” or selling on Facebook.
To set up a sale, Mei posts a photo and description of the item as a Facebook update and asks her fans to type “sold” as a comment. An invoice is then automatically emailed to them, turning Facebook into a direct point-of-sale.
A few hours before the sale goes live, Mei posts some teasers and asks her fans to set up an account with Soldsie. They only have to do this one time and it’s super easy. I did it from my phone and it took less than 10 seconds (just type in your email address). Customers can pay their invoice using either PayPal or a credit card.
Why does this kind flash sale work so well? It’s urgent because a flash sale only lasts for a limited time, or until supplies run out. And it’s social. “When people see others commenting ‘sold’, they feel like they need to jump in and join the bandwagon or miss out on the fun,” Mei says. And buying this way fits right in with how people are already using Facebook, so it’s also very familiar. “Soldsie has put the products right in front of my fans, so they never have to leave Facebook” Mei explains. “They don’t have to click a link, or add stuff to a shopping cart, or log in to my website (because they’re already logged into Facebook).”
“Where I would normally make a few hundred dollars via Facebook to my website per month, I’m now making several thousand dollars doing these weekly sales.”
Scented snow cone necklace by Mei Pack of Tiny Hands.
I wondered how many of Mei’s clients have difficulty with the process, either with understanding how to register or completing their registration in advance of the sale. I also wondered how many customers actually follow through with paying their invoices.
“So far there have only been one or two people who haven’t quite understood how it works, but it seems like most of my fans have no trouble learning the system,” Mei says. “Out of 428 invoices, only 86 have been canceled, either by missing the payment deadline (you can set how many hours you give your customers to pay up) or by changing their mind. That’s almost an 80% conversion rate who pay – or 20% of people who don’t pay.” Soldsie’s marketing materials indicate that overall 70% of those who comment “sold” actually pay for their items.
I wondered if Mei felt that specific products or price points would do especially well on Facebook. Mei explained, “The general rule is that items under $50 work well, because that tends to fall under impulse purchasing.”
Soldsie isn’t free and the rates are not prominently listed on their website. I reached out to Candice Nobles, Head of Marketing for Soldie, to get the low down. “We charge from 3-6% of sales with a 6 month agreement. We ask clients for $299/month upfront to pre-pay for fees, so it is $1800 to get started ($299/month X 6 months = $1,800) due at signing.”
At first that seemed like a big investment for small, handmade businesses to make, but Mei assures me it has really paid off for her. “It’s definitely very worth it for me,” Mei says. “I’m only 3 months into my contract and it’s already made me 10 times my six-month investment. If the trend continues, I’d make 20 times back my money by the end of my contract and I’ll definitely be renewing.”