Going shopping on Facebook is catching on.
Retailers are recognizing the power of a place where hundreds of millions of people hang out and talk, and that means businesses are increasingly selling from Facebook pages. It's popular enough that it's now known as "F-commerce."
Here are 10 important questions to answer before you open up a Facebook storefront.
1. Why open a Facebook storefront? It's important to decide if your small business is a good fit for Facebook.
"I find events sell better than products, and services sell the least, because most people are still used to going to a good old-fashioned secure website to buy things," says Wendy Manganaro, founder of Social Abundance Marketing.
"Just like a regular web storefront, just because you build it, they will not necessarily come."
2. Should you keep two storefronts? Is Facebook going to be your only shop or will you also have another e-commerce platform? Is it possible to manage sales in two places or will all sales efforts be devoted to the Facebook store?
3. What is the best Facebook application for the business? There are multiple applications available to set up a Facebook storefront. The applications range from full e-commerce storefronts to apps that direct shoppers to a separate site to complete transactions.
"All Facebook storefront applications vary in their functionality," said Michelle Miller, owner of SonShine Wear Christian-themed apparel. "Some offer extensive social plug-in options while others offer more flexibility in terms of customization."
Miller says customization includes things like adding graphics and promotional banners to a storefront.
4. How will you promote your storefront? At its core, Facebook is social media and a small business has to be social to reach potential customers.
"If you are doing just straight sales promotion and do not engage your fans on your Facebook page, no matter how many discounts you offer your fans still won't be buying," says Manganaro.
Manganaro uses selling tea as an example of how to promote. She says the tea seller should post a status update asking customers their favorite tea to have for breakfast. After a few answers, the tea seller can respond by thanking everyone for the comments and mentioning that the favorites listed are in stock in the Facebook store and provide a link to click and buy.
5. Will you post content that supports purchasing? It's not going to be enough to post a few digital images of your products and some pricing information.
"Most social storefronts don't hold enough information into their formats," says Jordan Brannon, marketing director for Coalition Technologies, a digital design and marketing firm.
"Support that with photo galleries of products, videos of products in use and testimonials. Give the customer all the information they would want to see and hear in a normal shopping experience."
6. Can you fight the ads? No matter how you set up and customize your Facebook storefront, your customers will still see targeted ads from other e-tailers on the side of the page while they are browsing your merchandise. Is that too distracting?
7. Will you resist giving away the store? Don't let your enthusiasm for your new storefront spur you into offering the deepest of discounts.
"Too many social media managers encourage giveaway after giveaway," says Brannon. "It devalues your product and trains your audience to look for the next freebie. Try using creative promotions that require purchasing as the first step."
8. Can you make it easy to order? Buying an item from your Facebook storefront should be a piece of cake for your customers. The application you choose will determine how many clicks it will take to get from item selection to credit card payment.
Miller, with SonShine Wear, maintains a standard e-commerce site along with a Facebook storefront. She says to make sure you know an item has been purchased on Facebook so that you can ship it in a timely manner.
"It is imperative that you understand the notification process used by the application to let you know that an order has been placed in your store," Miller said. "The ordering process should appear seamless for your customers."
9. Can you offer secure shopping? Make sure that you are following industry best practices for offering a shopping experience that is safe and secure. Consumers have become accustomed to making purchases through secure websites and expect that same level of security in any online transaction.
10. Are you willing to take a chance? Opening up a Facebook storefront could be the best thing, the worst thing or something in between for your small business. But you'll never know unless you give it a try.
Carla Turchetti is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who likes to break a topic down and keep her copy tight. That's why this bio is so brief! Carla blogs via Contently.com.