Online retail and e-commerce environments in general have rapidly changed within the
last few years. Users have changed from simple buyers to fully immersing themselves
within company-consumer interactions through recommending products, leaving
comments, rating vendors or publishing wish lists. Recently, a new format of online
commerce appeared called social commerce or social shopping, leading to more
customer satisfaction, user participation and social interaction notably through social
networks such as Facebook.
To date, lots has been said about Facebook as a communications medium and
recently about its retail marketing potential, very often offering anecdotal or
exaggerated speculative forecasts. This is shown through Rzezniczek’s (2008)
argument that Facebook will become a major new retailing channel, defining a more
social consumption model based on friends’ recommendations and e-WOMs.
However, little academic research exists to either define or explain social-commerce
norms in addition to disproving or supporting the claims of Facebook adoption by UK
retailers. This dissertation aims to redress this current imbalance by presenting a
comprehensive and rigorous review of UK major retailers’ Facebook adoption
according to their retail activity. A sampling frame of 82 very large UK retailers were
used with each website and Facebook page individually inspected to classify the range
of Facebook features adopted through usage of a quantitative pro-forma.
This study’s findings indicated that, despite the hype, the majority of retail
organisations surveyed have not yet opened fully integrated stores within Facebook.
Moreover, if almost all retailers have a Facebook page, the vast majority of retailers
and especially the largest ones in terms of turnover and number of employees are
using it primarily as a communications tool to promote corporate or product
information, rather than to support direct sales.
In conclusion, the implications of these current levels of Facebook activity for the
future of retail marketing are summarised.