Practical Ecommerce

Selling on Facebook Easier for Smaller Merchants

The merits of selling goods on Facebook are a topic of much debate. Several large retailers, including GameStop, Gap, jcpenney, and Nordstrom, experienced disappointing results and shut down their Facebook stores within months.

But according to Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester, small businesses are achieving sales success on Facebook. She told The New York Times that companies that do well on Facebook usually have less than $100,000 in annual revenue and fewer than 10 employees. Some use Facebook to supplement sales at physical local outlets, while others are strictly ecommerce merchants and use Facebook to augment sales from their websites and eBay. According to a survey conducted by solution provider Payvment in March 2012, Facebook is the sole sales channel for 37 percent of sellers — 63 percent also have their own website. Merchants also use other channels with 29 percent selling on eBay, 21 percent selling on Etsy, and 15 percent using Amazon.

End of Facebook Shopping Carts?

Shopping carts adapted for social commerce have provided the infrastructure for Facebook stores. Some of them are free — TabJuice is one — but have been criticized by merchants for lack of customer support. BigCommerce SocialShop, Shop Tab and Payvment are among the most popular. Payvment at one time said it had 200,000 clients but recently revealed that it is shutting down its platform this month and is transferring its customers to Ecwid, a Russian shopping cart provider that also offers Facebook storefronts. Intuit is reportedly purchasing Payvment’s technology and patents.

A new player in the Facebook sales arena is Soldsie, which helps very small merchants with the billing component of Facebook sales without requiring a shopping cart.

Enter Soldsie

Based in San Francisco, Soldsie started out as a website builder for small merchants. Finding that most small merchants already had websites but wanted to sell goods via social media, the company switched gears and in May 2012 did a soft launch of its current service. It gained enough traction to fully launch in September. While co-founder Chris Bennett did not provide figures for Soldsie’s total revenues, he said the company had more than $1 million in transactions from May through September and garnered more than 2,000 registered users. It has roughly 100 merchant clients, according to Bennett. FundersClub, which earlier this month provided Soldsie with $425,000 in angel funding, stated that Soldsie’s revenues are doubling monthly and transactional volume grew quickly from five to six to seven digits.

Soldsie integrates with Facebook's Like and commenting features to facilitate sales.

Soldsie integrates with Facebook’s Like and commenting features to facilitate sales.

How Soldsie Works

Soldsie is a Facebook application that merchants install on their Facebook pages. To get started, merchants go to the Soldsie website, retrieve the application, and install it on their Facebook page. Merchants also need a PayPal account. Soldsie recommends that clients have a minimum of 500 Likes for their page. Merchants receive a 14-day free trial period. Customers indicate their intent to purchase by clicking on a picture of an item and commenting with the phrase “sold” or some other phrase the seller selects. Buyers then provide their email address in the comments so the invoice can be sent, or they can register their payment information with Soldsie. A “Send invoice” button is on the comments section. Merchants can manage invoices and payment status from Soldsie’s dashboard.

Rather than a fixed monthly fee, which is the business model for Facebook storefronts, Soldsie takes a percentage of revenue. Sellers with less than $700 in monthly sales pay no fee. Merchants with revenues of between $700 and $80,000 per month pay Soldsie three percent of their sales. Those with over that amount can negotiate an enterprise package. Payment processing fees are extra. Customers can pay via PayPal, and for credit cards sales, Soldsie now integrates with WePay, a payment platform. Soldsie is working on fully automated invoicing, enabling invoices to be sent to customers as they comment without Soldsie’s clients having to get involved.

Soldsie Clients

Elizabeth Barnwell-Meier and Cate Biggs, co-founders of jewelry retailer Glam Grab started their company last year but found the manual invoicing to be tedious and time-consuming. They became enthusiastic Soldsie users because they appreciate the immediate and streamlined invoicing/payment options that Soldsie provides. “Now I want Soldsie to integrate with shipping,” says Barnwell-Meier.

Glam Grab, a jewelry retailer, uses Soldsie.

Glam Grab, a jewelry retailer, uses Soldsie.

A New F-Commerce Model?

Some pundits have said that the Payvment shutdown signals the end of ecommerce on Facebook. But it could be that the social media sales model is simply changing. Another start-up, Ribbon, announced earlier this month that it is launching functionality that, like Soldsie, does not require a shopping cart. It lets buyers purchase directly from the Facebook news feed. Ribbon is streamlining digital payments by introducing a one-page checkout system that can be linked to from web, email and social media sites.

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Marcia Kaplan
Marcia Kaplan
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Comments ( 9 )

  1. Brad Moyers February 9, 2013 Reply

    You might want to consider an article about http://www.PageHogs.com. They’ve made it easy and safe for people to buy and sell actual Facebook and Twitter pages.

  2. Mike Darnell February 10, 2013 Reply

    Soldsie seems to have a very sound business model. The flexible pricing model seems to be very well thought through. I wonder if they have thought about integration with product video.

  3. Mike-Carol Davis Sonnier February 12, 2013 Reply

    As an online merchant for years, Ribbon sounds attractive UNTIL you see that the money is sent to your bank account "at the end of the month". Selling items all month long and not reaping the cash flow for up to 30 days is ludicrous! Most home-based businesses can’t survive that way. Furthermore, the idea of financing another business with my funds for 30 days, with nothing more than their word and anticipation that I’ll be paid at all, doesn’t set well.

  4. danielbru February 14, 2013 Reply

    Hi Mike-Carol,

    My name is Daniel and I head up Business Development and Growth at Ribbon. First of all, I appreciate your comments. It’s because of users like you that we can make our product better. The reason we do pay-outs at the end of month is for fraud detection, among other reasons. It’s not good for you or I if a stolen credit card is used to buy a product, so we want to make sure any fraudulent activities come up, we can detect those, and take care of it.

    Once a full month passes, you will be able to get paid out every two weeks.

    Again, I really appreciate your feedback, and would love to see you sell some items on Ribbon. If I can of any assistant at any time, my email is daniel @ ribbon.co. I’m here to help you, and want help you grow your business, as well.

    Best,

    Daniel Brusilovsky
    Head of Business Development & Growth, Ribbon
    daniel @ ribbon.co

  5. Richard Huang July 9, 2013 Reply

    Some apps offer features on selling through Facebook but most of them charge more on transactions and hold your fund for more than two weeks. That means you can’t control your payment account directly. In addition, buyers may have complicated procedures to place order.

    However, there is a FREE app which not just let sellers control their payment accounts, but also provide useful features for merchants (inventory control to order tracking). Furthermore, buyers can just place order by one click.

    If you are interested, you can go check it out.

    https://likepaid.com

  6. Tim Chan July 18, 2013 Reply

    My personal experiences is that it takes too much a hassle to sell on established sites like ebay and it’s just too technical to set up our own virtual cart. As a result of my own needs and experiences, I’ve set up an app to sell on facebook timeline feed without the need of any cart.

    There’s always advantages and disadvantages in selling on via facebook. Advantage is that we are selling to people we know and trust and the disadvantages are limited exposure of our sales advert. Overall, I think for small businesses like ourselves it’s always good to consider multiple platforms… as long as it is easy, simple, fast, non-technical and affordable.

    By the way, I invite everyone to visit my app site and your feedbacks are surely appreciated and valued.

    http://www.teenyweeny.biz

  7. Melissa Whidjaya August 11, 2013 Reply

    For creatives types who prefer to spend more time getting paint on their hands than updating product listings, selling on Facebook or your existing blog just makes sense. Not every business model needs an online store, or suits being part of a large marketplace with disparate themes. Many creators don’t have time to manage a website as well as their social media accounts, and really, social media is where conversations happen and people engage with you and your work. I work for http://www.selz.com and we’ve got a very engaged creative community full of people that do what they do because they love it. Battling ecommerce tools just isn’t something they are interested in so we endeavour to make it as easy as possible. And because the majority of their fan engagement comes from social media, this selling model works for them.

  8. Jonathan September 19, 2013 Reply

    PayStand alos lets buyers purchase directly from the Facebook news feed. PayStand is streamlining digital payments by introducing a one-page checkout system that can be linked to from web, email and social media sites.

    http://www.paystand.com/?signup=pec

  9. Jim January 14, 2014 Reply

    I am looking into using PayStand or Selltag for my online retail business – Oohyey.com

    Anyone had experience with either or both of these?

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