Facebook has announced the launch of Shops, a feature that allows businesses to set up free storefronts on both Facebook and Instagram.
The shops will be powered by third party affiliates; Shopify, Big Commerce and Woo with the aim of turning the social media apps into a top tier shopping destination for users.
Mark Zuckerberg announced this in a livestream and indicated that expanding e-commerce was one way of rebuilding the economy during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had small businesses get online for the first time,” he said.
The launch of Shops comes at a strategic time when home orders related to the Coronavirus pandemic have been on an increase with more calls to stay at home and avoid crowded places. The pandemic has also seen small businesses suffer with 31 percent reported to have closed shop in a survey conducted by Facebook. Another 11 percent said there was a high chance of them failing within the next three months if the situation continued.
Online businesses have been working for delivery companies such as Sendy and e-commerce retailers like Jumia, during the crisis. The online boom has also seen an influx of new businesses such as those selling hand sanitizers and face masks.
The new Shops feature, will be free for business, but is bound to create additional revenue for Facebook from advertising and other services. Businesses will still need to buy advertisements for their Shops and for consumers who shop using the feature, Facebook will charge a fee once they click on ‘checkout.’
With about 160 million businesses already on the social media apps, Facebook intends to improve the standard e-commerce experience by storing users’ payments credentials in a single place to allow them seamless transactions from either the Facebook or Instagram storefronts.
Shops are found in the Business section of Facebook and Instagram profiles. They can also appear in the stories or be promoted ads. Available items for purchase from a business with a storefront will appear within the shop for users to save or place an order. Some businesses will allow you to complete the transaction on the app while for others, you will be taken to the business website to complete the transaction.
Business can also handle their customer support through Whatsapp, messenger and Instagram. The feature is developing a way to also allow customers shop directly from the chat window. It also plans to enable shopping on live streams whereby brands can tag their items to appear on the bottom as they go live.
In addition to these, Facebook is also working on integrating a loyalty program with Shops.
“You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards,” Facebook said in a blog post “And we’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”