Online Vouchers! Is There a Facebook Solution?

Facebook’s Covid19 community hub is mainly a community service page, featuring relevant news on Covid19, and links and posts from relevant charities and health. However, Facebook recently announced that they are planning to expand the Covid19 hub to include a new feature; a way for businesses to sell vouchers to their customers through the Facebook channel. While details are vague, it appears to be tailored for businesses in the catering, food & drink, and hospitality sectors particularly, who are currently not trading in any capacity; including through delivery.

Facebook are partnering with LayLop, an Irish company that designs gift cards and other voucher-based systems for companies. The idea: Customers would purchase vouchers now, for example a over-night stay at their favourite hotel, in exchange for the product and/or service when the business reopens. For businesses who are currently closed, I think this is good news and they should certainly consider selling vouchers of this kind. Especially as many of their competitors may not be availing of these channels, and therefore they present a unique opportunity to not simply get much needed cash-flow, but also secure new customers.

That said, vouchers are not without their problems.

When several countries announced lockdown measures, some consultants suggested, as a way of keeping business afloat, that customers purchase vouchers in advance. Since then, some have suggested that purchasing vouchers for goods and services, especially services like restaurant tables, so far in advance, and with so many unknowns, just wasn’t tenable. Also, in the coming months the economic price of lockdown will become clearer and people are likely to be more discretionary in their spending and therefore potentially less likely to purchase vouchers in advance.

While these concerns are well founded, I would advise businesses to embrace all aspects of selling online. Covid19 or no Covid19, online channels like Facebook can open your business to new customers, reach customers that would not otherwise be reached, and provide you with an invaluable platform through which you can promote and advocate for your business. Also, don't forget, in the age of the ‘brand ambassador’, a platform for your loyal customers to promote and advocate for you.

In addition to the voucher feature in development, there are other ways businesses can utilise online channels like Facebook and Instagram. Many of these are, I would argue, more long-lasting and more suitable for a greater variety of businesses.

Facebook have recently relaxed their rules on fundraising pages. Whereas before, to create a fundraising page that generated donations, you had to be a registered charity. Now, in light of Covid19, Facebook have relaxed this rule and this may benefit some businesses, social enterprises or enterprises with a social or community element in particular.

Facebook also recently announced a $100 grant programme to help stimulate SMEs.

Instagram Shooper is a very useful tool for promoting small businessess.

They are also many already existing e-commerce platforms, that not only provide your existing customers with a new way of making purchases, but, if used correctly, would help you secure new customers.

For example, an Instagram shopping site, which can be set up now, allows businesses to sell their products directly through Instagram. If, for example, you are a furniture store, you can display your furniture on Instagram, and make direct sales through the platform.

Instagram shopper generates customer interest and is useful in all stages of the customer journey, particularly the earlier, 'awareness' stages; making people aware of what your business does and sells; your ethos, brand and why they should shop with you. I think this is particularly important during these times, as many potential customers will not be aware you are open and still trading. Also, many of your competitors may not be open, and this is therefore a great opportunity to secure new loyal customers. Instagram shopper provides a more convenient way for your customers to purchase your products in these difficult times, but it can also be an effective way of securing new customers!

Keep in mind, not all businesses are applicable for Instagram shopping. Find a list of criteria below.

If I can help your business with setting up an Instagram shopper account, and securing more customers through channels such as Facebook or Instagram, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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