“Peer-to-Peer Retail”: Social marketing/commerce is not just about ‘likes’

Owjo, the social commerce startup where I worked as evangelist/marketer/product guy, had a big problem. Its offering was so big, and so potentially transformative, that prospective customers couldn’t get a quick grasp of it. Part of my job was to break the product down, so that discrete offerings could be orientated to specific markets. The first fruit of my labour to be released is the concept of “Peer-to-Peer Retail”. It is being introduced in my piece “Peer-to-Peer Retail / The power of sharing” in this coming issue of the quarterly Contagious Magazine (out this week). The concept behind Peer-to-Peer Retail is that social marketing and commerce should not just be about likes, they should be about an entirely new system of retail distribution and customer acquisition, driven by more by the customer than the brand itself. This is not a small idea.

ComScore’s recent report The Power of Like  showed that when a brand succeeds in getting many ‘likes’ on Facebook this translates into sales. The researchers gathered data to show that Starbucks fans and their friends spend more in the cafe than average, and that fans and friends of fans of Southwest Airlines, another surveyed brand, were far more likely to visit its official site than the general internet population. The third brand surveyed, Bing, was used 68 percent more times by fans than non- fans. The message is that getting ‘liked’ by users on Facebook translates to sales. But this is only half of the equation. The idea behind ‘Peer-to-Peer Retail’, and which I saw within Owjo’s technology the first moment I was introduced to it, is that marketing must go beyond what ComScore call ‘The Power of Like’ to ‘The Power of Share’.

The editors have asked that I not post, so I am limiting what I excerpt here. The complete article is in the current issue of Contagious Magazine. A note on Contagious Magazine: The magazine has klout. Contagious is an influencer of advertising and creative agencies, who pay just over £250 (or $400) per issue for its trend-spotting content.

The gyst of the piece is that consumers should be enabled to ‘share’ fully-functioning instances of the retail store on behalf of the brand.

Owjo, the company I work for, has developed an illustration of this: Owjo-powered stores enable any Facebook user to share fully functioning instances of a brand’s official store on the users’ own Walls and News Feeds. Here is how this works: When a Facebook user shares an item that they like from a brand’s official Facebook store, the item appears within a fully functioning store on the user’s own Wall. These new instances of the brand’s store also appear in the News Feed of the user’s friends on Facebook. Each of these new points of sale functions identically to the original store, enabling users to browse the brand’s entire inventory, checkout in situ, and further share among their friends. Empowering fans to virally distribute points of sale among their peers on Facebook is a fundamental shift in how we market and sell to each other. I call it ‘Peer-To-Peer Retail’.

I think of this as a decentralization of retail on Facebook in which the driving force is sharing by consumers. I used the example of Victoria’s Secret in the article. Victoria’s Secret currently has 14.7 million fans on Facebook, but has no in situ retail capability. In other words it does not have a store on Facebook that allows customers to complete the entire purchase process on the platform, without being pushed off to another site to complete checkout. However, if the brand enabled fans to share items using Peer-to-Peer Retail stores, its sales and marketing reach would be massively extended. Almost 150,000 instances of the Victoria’s Secret store would be created on Walls across Facebook if only 1% of its fans shared items using Peer-to-Peer Retail, and a further 19.1 million fully functioning stores would appear in the News Feeds of the friends of the fans who had shared the store (based on Facebook’s statistic that each user has an average of 130 friends). Now, here is where the numbers get really big. If one percent of this new audience also shared an item, then almost 200,000 new instances of the brand’s store would be visible to a further 24.8 million friends via the News Feed. If one percent of this additional audience also shared, the result would be a further quarter of a million new stores, and 32.2 million new News Feed appearances, and so on.

Event ‘shares’ of a brand’s Peer-to-Peer Retail stores on Facebook initial ‘likes’ on Facebook potential eyeballs/customers
NORMAL (without Peer-to-Peer Retail)

(brand’s own official store)



1% of fans ‘share’ in Q1



1% of fans ‘share’ in Q2



1% of fans ‘share’ in Q3



As the table shows, the ‘power of share’ (shown in grey) is potentially far more significant than the power of ‘like’. In this example it creates a six-fold increase in the number of potential customers, assuming that only 1% of the fan base share an item each quarter. This is a conservative estimate – these figures could scale far higher.

The figures are astronomical, but their enormity tallies with Facebook’s own statistics about sharing activity: over 30 billion items of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) are shared by users each month. The only difference here is that what is shared is not merely a link or a photo, but a working point of sale. Sharing is the essence of Facebook, and it has the potential to dramatically upset how we market and retail to each other forever.

2 thoughts on ““Peer-to-Peer Retail”: Social marketing/commerce is not just about ‘likes’

  1. Hi Johnny,

    Thanks for the overview. One factor to consider in your analysis is % of fans that actually see the post from a fan page. Typically this number ranges from 6%-9% depending on the size of the fan base. This means that the potential eyeballs is lower for fan page posts. Additionally, considering the % of friends that see a status update is important.

    Overall, I agree with your thesis about peer-to-peer retail. Take a look at Karmaloop and Sneaqpeek for a few interesting examples.


    1. Thanks Erik – do you mean Facebook’s Edgerank? I agree, it’s impossible to fully predict what will appear in a News Feed. What I do not understand is how retailers have not yet properly embraced to use this approach. Even if the percentage of sales on Facebook are slow to grow, there is strong likelihood that they will scale rapidly – provided the product is attractive.

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