Today (Wednesday 20th May here in Australia) Facebook has launched Facebook Shops.
A new tool for businesses which allows them to set up a shop to sell via both Facebook and Instagram from today with Messenger and WhatsApp to follow.
Shops were in the pipeline but Mark Zuckerberg today announced they moved up the launch date due to the effect of Covid-19 on business “I think this particularly important right now because so many small businesses are moving online to deal with the economic fallout from Covid-19. “
What are they?
Although Facebook already have the shop tab and Instagram shopping it seems the Facebook Shop rollout will be more of a built in eCommerce function of Facebook and Instagram.
You will be able to set a cover image and choose an accent colour to showcase your brand.
Your shop will be accessible on your Facebook page, Instagram profile and also linked to through stories and ads. Customers will be able to browse, save products they like and place an order. At this stage it seems the checkout process will need to go through your website unless you are in the US.
Although this is a fantastic opportunity for businesses without a website to start selling online, I don’t think it will be a suitable solution until the ability to process the transaction within the app is rolled out globally. If you still need to link to your website for checkout then it does not remove the need for one at all.
What do they look like?
Facebook’s official announcement gave a glimpse into the setup process and what the shops will look like.
Just like an eCommerce store would have a popup chat, your Facebook Shop will have a message button allowing customers to contact you through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct. They foresee customers getting their tracking updates via these platforms as well.
In App Purchasing
Facebook has stated, “in the future, you’ll be able to view a business’ shop and make purchases right within a chat in WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct.”
This may solve the problem of needing a website to link to for smaller businesses.
If you think you spend a lot of time on social media already, Facebook are working to increase this time even more!
Live shopping is a feature due to be added which will allow brands and influencers to tag a product from their Shop before going live on Facebook or Instagram. This will then show a link at the bottom of their video so viewers can click to learn more or purchase. This will be fantastic for product showcases, unboxing videos and reviews. This feature is being tested now and will be rolled out more broadly in the coming months.
Facebook has invested a lot of time and money into AI and augmented reality technology. In the future they plan to integrate this with their shopping platform to create “better shopping experiences” Mark says “We’ll automatically identify and tag products in feeds so people can easily click-through to purchase when they find things they like. Small businesses will also be able to personalize their storefronts to first show products that are most relevant to you and use augmented reality to let you virtually try on things like sunglasses, lipstick or makeup to see how they might look on you before buying, or what furniture might look like in your room.”
Welcome to the new world of online shopping!
Facebook are also testing the ability to integrate your rewards programs within your Facebook shop. They are also “exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”
Starting in the US (why never Aus?!) they will be introducing Instagram Shop. Imagine scrolling through your pretty Instagram feed, but in this tab everything is for sale!
I spent a lot of time on Instagram tracking down the items in the photos I like and figuring out where to buy them, so this sounds like an exciting addition to me.
You will be able to browse based on your favourite accounts or filter by category. When released there will be a new Shop tab in the top of the Instagram navigation bar so you can browse and shop all from the one app.
How do you get one?
Although Facebook Shops are destined to be available for all businesses, today they have started to be rolled out to eligible businesses who already use Instagram Profile Shops and/or Facebook Page Shops. They will be rolling out globally in stages for both Facebook and Instagram shops over the coming months.
I think this is building to be an exciting addition to the Facebook platform. I don’t think it will ever remove the need for a website of your own where you have full control but will be a nice complementary medium for people to discover your products and a great way to start out for small businesses, once Facebook fix the in app transactions.
Given data breaches in the past and ongoing privacy concerns, I think there may be some hesitation for users to check out within Facebook and trust the platform with their secure payment information. On the other hand, businesses that have seen their ad accounts shut down because a robot deemed their account violated their T&Cs might be skeptical to invest too much energy into hosting a shop on the same platform that could close it in an instant.
However, if they can get it right, with their inclusions of the latest in AI and augmented reality and the sheer amount of time people already spend on their platforms, this could revolutionize the way people shop.
Written by Karyn Parkinson
Karyn AKA Karyn with a Y is an eCommerce marketing specialist specialising in Facebook ad funnels and website optimisation.
When she's not behind the computer you'll find her at the beach with her fur babies or on the roller derby track as Pink Fury!