Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed several new features Tuesday aimed at enabling small and midsized businesses to make their goods available for sale online, with the bulk of their brick-and-mortar locations shuttered due to Covid-19.
The highlight of Zuckerberg’s Facebook Live presentation was Facebook Shops, which enable businesses to set up a single online store accessible via Facebook and Instagram.
Businesses can feature products from their catalogs and customize their Facebook Shops with cover images and accent colors.
Shoppers can save items they are interested in and place orders directly via Facebook Shops if the business has Instagram Checkout enabled.
Messaging will be incorporated into the feature, so that shoppers can contact businesses via Instagram Direct, Messenger From Facebook or WhatsApp to perform tasks including asking questions, getting support and tracking deliveries.
Facebook Shops can be discovered via business’ Facebook pages and Instagram profiles, and they can be promoted via Stories and ads.
In the future, shoppers will be able to view Shops and make purchases directly via chats in its family of messaging applications. Facebook began rolling out Facebook Shops Tuesday, with wider availability in the coming months.
Sutton said activity within Facebook Shops will not be shared with friends or to users’ profiles or News Feed unless they choose to do so.
When a purchase is made, the business receives delivery and contact information, but Sutton clarified, “When you browse a business’ shop, we share aggregated insights with the business about shop performance and traffic, but we don’t share information that personally identifies you, such as your name or email address, which can be used by itself to identify or contact you, unless you give us permission to do so.”
She added that as with other parts of Facebook, activity from Facebook Shops may be used to personalize people’s experiences on its apps and show them more relevant content, including ads, explaining, “For example, if you look through collections of bicycles in Shops, you might see more content, including ads, about bicycles in News Feed, Stories, Explore and other places across our apps.”
Single shopping destination Instagram Shop will begin rolling out in the U.S. this summer.
Instagram Shop enables users to discover and buy products in the app’s Explore tab, see collections in the @shop account it debuted last May, browse selection from brands and creators and filter their searches by category.
A new Shop tab will be added to Instagram’s navigation bar later this year, providing one-tap access to Instagram Shop.
Usage of Facebook Live and Instagram Live has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, and the social network will begin testing a way for businesses to tag products from their Facebook Shops or catalogs prior to going live and discussing them, with those products being shown at the bottom of the video. This will roll out more broadly in the coming months.
Another shopping-related feature being tested by Facebook is the ability for people to connect their existing loyalty programs with businesses they frequent to their Facebook accounts.
The social network is also exploring ways to help small businesses create and manage loyalty programs on Facebook Shops.
Finally, Facebook said it is working with ecommerce partners including BigCommerce, Cafe24, CedCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, Feedonomics, Shopify, Tienda Nube and WooCommerce to provide support to SMBs looking to build and grow their Facebook Shops and take advantage of the social network’s other commerce tools.
Facebook said in a Newsroom post, “Right now, many small businesses are struggling, and with stores closing, more are looking to bring their business online. Our goal is to make shopping seamless and empower anyone from a small business owner to a global brand to use our apps to connect with customers. That’s why we’re launching Facebook Shops and investing in features across our apps that inspire people to shop and make buying and selling online easier.”