Facebook has launched a new feature aimed to help small businesses during the pandemic.
Launched yesterday (May 19), ‘Shops’ allows businesses to set up free storefront on Facebook and Instagram and sell products directly from these platforms.
Facebook’s chief exec, Mark Zuckerberg, is positioning Shops as a tool for small businesses, many of which have had to close their doors and move online due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Facebook currently allows sales on the platform through Marketplace, which was launched in 2016 and allows users to sell personal belongings to each other.
Shops, however, is aimed primarily at businesses, allowing them to sell to customers on the app.
The new feature, which will be powered by third-party services, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo, has been designed to turn the social network into a top-tier shopping destination.
The move to build up e-commerce offerings follows Facebook’s launch last year of limited shopping options on Instagram and WhatsApp.
Facebook Shops will tie at least some of those efforts together, enabling businesses to set up a single online store accessible via both Facebook and Instagram. A checkout feature will enable in-app purchases.
“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,” Zuckerberg said in a live stream announcing the new product.
“If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he continued. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.”
As with Facebook’s other e-commerce features, Shops will be free for businesses to access, with the expectation that the tool will boost consumer engagement and ad sales.
“Our business model here is ads,” Zuckerberg said. “So rather than charge businesses for Shops, we know that Shops are valuable for businesses. They’re going to in general bid more for ads and we’ll eventually make money that way.”
Zuckerberg says Shops will improve on the standard web commerce experience by storing users’ payment credentials in a single place that they can then use on any Facebook or Instagram storefront.
Shops can be found on businesses’ Facebook pages and Instagram profiles, and they can also appear in stories or be promoted in ads. Items that businesses have made available for purchase will appear within the shop, and users can either save items or place an order. Some businesses will enable users to make purchases directly on Facebook, while others will take customers to their e-commerce website to complete the transaction.
The launch of Shops comes as stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to record sales for e-commerce companies.
Facebook is also rolling out a tool to connect loyalty programs and a shopping feature showing product tags underneath live videos, allowing viewers to make purchases directly while watching.
Facebook Shops is available in some locations now and will roll out globally over the coming months.