Social Commerce or Ecommerce Facebook Spam?

So I read this morning about FirstMark Capital leading a $7.5 million round in social shopping start up, Sneakpeeq.  I decided to go to the site and check it out.  Sneakpeeq aims to replicate the experience of flipping over a price tag when shopping for items in a retail store.  Sneakpeeq doesn’t tell you the price instantly when you visit a product’s landing page instead you have to click a “Peeq” button to find the price. The site features items that are similar to what you would find at Fab.com.  At first I couldn’t figure out why they would have you “Peeq” each time you wanted to see a price.  Why would you want to replicate an experience of fishing for a price tag?  That is a barrier to a purchase decision not an enabler.   And then the light bulb went off!  They were using the Peeq button to basically get you to post to your Facebook feed to create virality.  Let me walk you through what they are doing:

Step 1 – You have to use Facebook Connect to Join SneakPeeq.  No other option!

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Step 2 – You are then told that you are going to get Discounts for Sharing with your Friends

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Step 3 – They give you a Badge that gives you a $10 Credit once you join.

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Step 4 – You have to hit the “Peeq” button to see the price.  Since you just got a  $10 credit, you want to see what you can get for super cheap.  I check out 10 products just to see how cheap I can get it.

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Step 5 – Everytime I hit the Peeq button, I didn’t realize that I posted it in my Facebook feed each time!  I just posted 10 items in my feed.  Remember I had to use FB connect to use the site.  Most likely at least 1 of my friends will join and do the same exact thing to their friends.  Let the virality begin!

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If you understand the viral coefficient or K factor, the goal is to get to >1.  That means for every person that you get to use your site, they will refer at least 1 other person who joins.  If you can’t get to >1 then it is not truly viral.  If you get it >1 and especially > 1.3, your site will grow very quickly.  To get there, you need to try to “infect” as many people as possible.  For a site that means you need to get some kind of messaging to as many users as possible as often as possible.  This is the problem with the usual implementation of the “Share” button.  When people shop they rarely share therefore it never really goes viral.  However, in this “Peeq” mechanic they are making you basically share everytime you check out the price.  You are basically sharing whether you really intended to or not (and most likely you didn’t intend to in this mechanic).

So did it work for Sneakpeeq?  Well based on this Compete traffic chart it looks like they made some of these changes at the end of last year and it is working.

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We saw a very similar tactic used by Pinterest.  If you have used Pinterest which most of you have, you had to join by using Facebook Connect.  At that point, everytime you pinned it would show up in your feed.  Probably not a surprise that FirstMark is an investor in both Pinterest and now SneakPeeq and they understand this mechanic very well.  This is not meant to be disparaging to FirstMark.  They are a very good venture capital firm.  I hold them in very high regard.  However, has SneakPeeq crossed the line here?  Is this really social commerce or is this just using Facebook to spam your friends.? I am not saying it’s not a good short tem marketing tactic.  Zynga built their business on spamming Facebook users and getting to a level of scale where when Facebook shut those channels down, they were left as the kings that no one could dethrone.  They are now a $10 billion market cap company so its hard to argue that it wasn’t worth it.  I have a feeling we are going to see a lot more of these type of tactics this year.  Remember seeing Farmville and other games in your feed.  Get ready for tons of ecommerce posts from your friends and they didn’t even realize they were doing it.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Social Commerce or Ecommerce Facebook Spam?

  1. Hey Ben,
    Nice post… This almost feels analogous to content sites trying to build up page-views with no regards for the user experience. I imagine this tactic will succeed in the short term, but bigger picture, only products that people love will succeed.

    • Ben Sun

      Amit – if you look at recent history. Zynga did a very similar if not more aggressive spamming on Facebook on the early days. It gave them so much scale and make so much money that they were able to hire a ton of folks and really built out a world calls game development company. As the spam was not allowed, they would win on existing audience but also more and better games. This to me feels like a land grab play directed at Fab.com. This ecommerce category is a big one and they are trying to catch up in scale to compete with Fab.

  2. Excellent post Ben. If this is very successful then, just like in Zynga, Facebook will shut it down. If you find other “loopholes” in social commerce please let me know before you publish.

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