As of May 2020, social media users will be able to browse and buy products straight from a business’ Facebook Page. While Facebook and Instagram have long supported aspects of e-commerce, including through Facebook’s Marketplace, the budding Libra cryptocurrency initiative, and Instagram’s featured product tags in posts and ads, this is the first introduction of a fully kitted-out online storefront on the platforms.
Facebook’s timing of the launch is surely ideal
With COVID-19 stay-at-home and business closure orders still in place across much of the country, consumers are turning to brands’ Facebook and Instagram profiles as a key source of information about available products and services. If a local store has had to change its hours or move to online deliveries, for example, there’s little doubt that it has announced the change across its social media platforms.
In a Facebook Live session, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg characterized the new social media feature as a two-pronged change. Firstly, streamlining the way shoppers can purchase products and services from local businesses is sure to provide a boost to companies struggling due to COVID-19, though Zuckerberg admits that the tool will not “undo all the economic damage.”
Moreover, Zuckerberg views the Shop feature as a sign of the times, pandemic or no pandemic. “I do think we’re going to continue living more of our lives online and doing more business online,” he said.
Some one million businesses have already signed up to the Facebook and Instagram Shop feature, with those taking part of the initial global test able to create a Facebook Shop for free
All they have to do is upload their store catalogue, choose the products they want featured in their Shop, and customize the cover image and colors of the online store. Online shoppers can then browse and order products in real-time, or even save them for later.
While the introduction of Shops will no doubt be a much-needed boost to businesses forced to go online almost overnight, the feature is also expected to be a boon for Facebook in the form of increased advertising revenues. A parallel feature for Instagram, in which Shops will mirror their Facebook counterpart and allow users to browse products via Instagram Explore, is set to be launched later this summer.
The announcement has also been a leg-up for a number of burgeoning third-party e-commerce platforms, with Facebook partnering with BigCommerce, Woo, Channel Advisor, Cafe24, Tienda Nube, Feedonomics and Shopify, as part of its new storefront roll-out. Businesses will be able to use these platforms to manage their respective Facebook Shops, as well as their advertising campaigns.
In a classic 21st century twist, Facebook is also apparently working on methods of selling products in real-time through Facebook Live
Businesses have long used live video on Facebook and Instagram to showcase their products and, when this service is launched, customers will have the chance to shop for products in real-time.
As the worlds of e-commerce and digital marketing continue to converge, the number of tools available for brands only seems to be growing. A piece of good news for an otherwise gloomy start to the year!