Facebook Shops allows businesses to upload their catalogue directly to Facebook and attach a shopping function to their page all for free. Consumers will be able to shop directly through Facebook without needing to visit a separate website.
Currently, it’s only available in the US to brands with a Facebook Shop page, but is expected to roll out to more areas and companies in the near future.
Facebook has just made one of its biggest additions in years.
In 2015, a statement from the platform read
“On Facebook we’ve seen that people are coming to our platform not only to connect with friends and family but also with products and brands. In fact, a survey suggested that nearly half of people come to Facebook to actively look for products, with a majority of them discovering new products in News Feed, Pages, and Groups.
This behavior—that’s already happening on Facebook—gives us a chance to make people and marketers’ experiences better. We want to build native experiences that make it easier for both people to discover products on mobile and businesses to drive more sales. Some of our efforts are fully launched and are already creating value for people and businesses. Others are in early test phases. These tests will evolve as we get more feedback.”
Thus, the idea of Shops was born, and Facebook’s trek into becoming the all-inclusive, one-stop platform for everything made a massive leap in progress.
“Facebook has always been about connecting you to what you love,” they write. “That means friends and family, but also products, brands and businesses. For years, people have used our apps to buy and sell things from the early days of posting a photo of a bicycle with the caption “for sale,” to selling your coffee table on Marketplace and now shopping styles from your favorite brands and influencers on Instagram. It was the people who use our apps who envisioned social commerce. We’re helping them make it a reality.”
Facebook has always been about connecting people together (at least on the surface), and with COVID-19 disrupting that alongside people’s businesses and income, the social giant wanted to make a difference.
“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.”
Good news for businesses, good news for marketers, and good news for Facebook.
How does it work?
Businesses will be provided with a new Shop Builder option which attaches onto your page. From here, you can then upload all of your products, descriptions, prices, and whatever else needed, similar to Shopify (who Facebook are working alongside for this project, as well as BigCommerce, WooCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube and Feedonomic).
And here’s what it looks like:
You can then upload a catalogue of your products for your audience to browse and purchase - all through Facebook directly.
On Instagram, a Shop button will appear, making it easier for brands and influencers to sell and promote products across both platforms. In fact, influencer marketing may become far more useful, with more trackable features and a smoother journey from post to product.
“Facebook is also letting brands and creators who use its livestreaming tools tag products in their videos, allowing for the possibility [of] QVC-style shopping channels on Facebook and Instagram and letting influencers plug their sponsors when they go live.”
Eventually, the function will make its way onto messenger and WhatsApp, too, but for now, the apps will mainly be used for customer service (as they already have been for a lot of businesses).
Can’t you already shop on Facebook?
Yes, kind of.
Facebook marketplace has been around for a while, allowing individuals to sell their new and used products similar to eBay, and Checkout for Instagram which is only available for a select number of businesses in the US.
Plus, there’s Whatsapp Business, allowing companies to create a storefront within the app and upload their catalogue. Though, transactions still took place outside of the app on the brand’s website.
Facebook Shop is more inclusive, removing the requirement to visit an external website in order to make a purchase which is a necessity for the shop tab.
Why is it happening?
The main driver behind this update (apart from increasing user time and spend) is simplicity. They want small and large businesses alike to be able to advertise, inform, and sell their products as easily as possible, whilst making the user journey for purchasing more straightforward.
“If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people. We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time,” Zuckerberg said on his livestream.
We already know how influential social media can be to promote purchases (otherwise we wouldn’t have a job), and now, you won’t even need to send them off-site. Better UX, faster purchasing, and a smoother ride all around.
Also, very recently, Google made it free to list products on Google Shopping in the US - another feature that was sped up due to coronavirus. Whilst PPC is a different kettle of fish with different variables and levels of intent, it’s still a competitor to Facebook - and Facebook doesn’t like competition.
In a few years, it wouldn’t be unheard of for Facebook to merge all of their platforms into one: entertainment, news, messaging, and shopping all in one place. If they were to bring out a gaming service (which isn’t far fetched considering they own Oculus VR among other companies in the industry), there would be little need to go anywhere else. Plus, Zuckerberg even said “it would be good” to host and help restaurant delivery services, putting them up against the likes of Deliveroo and UberEats.
Facebook is leading Social Commerce in the West - something that’s existed elsewhere with the likes of WeChat, but has never become fully-fledged over here until now. They can put themselves as the saviour of small business, whilst expanding their web dominance, accelerating their position toward being a complete provider, reducing drop-off, improving customer loyalty, and improving the efficiency and efficacy of their advertising platform.
Win. Win. Win. Win. Win.
When’s it happening?
Unfortunately, it’s unclear. All we have so far is:
"This summer, starting in the US, we’re introducing Instagram Shop, a new way to discover and buy products you love in Instagram Explore. You can get inspired by collections from @shop, browse selections from your favorite brands and creators, filter by categories like beauty and home, and purchase the looks you love all in one place. And later this year, we’re adding a new shop tab in the navigation bar, so you can get to Instagram Shop in just one tap.
Starting today, we will begin a phased roll out of shops to all businesses globally on Facebook and Instagram Shopping. We will start with eligible businesses who use Instagram Profile Shops and will expand access over the next few months. Eligible businesses will receive an email when their shop is ready to start customizing.”
So, there’s no word on the official start date beyond ‘summer’. However, we can expect it to be pretty soon as part of the reason for the quick launch is because of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, it does look like it’s US only for the time-being, but we can’t imagine it’ll be long before it’s rolled out to other countries and in particular, the UK. Also, initially, it will only be available to people who already have a fb shop page.
Why will Facebook succeed?
Firstly, the demand is there. More than 160 million small businesses use Facebook around the world - the majority for free, and now, 31% of small businesses have stopped operating according to a Facebook survey.
Also, similarity. People know Facebook more than they know sites like Shopify, and the idea of migrating a small shop online in the face of COVID and learning a new platform at the same time can be quite daunting. Attaching their shop to a Facebook page with a pre-existing following is far more appealing.
Equally, there are already a wealth of articles on how to get started on Facebook and Instagram (for free), as well as how to build a following and make progress, so the barrier to entry is much lower.
And lastly, because Facebook always does - whether it’s in the short term or the long term. Facebook has enough revenue that it can afford to take some big losses just to get some learnings from their audience. Facebook Shops isn’t a new idea - it’s been around for years, gradually making its way onto the platform bit by bit. They’ve been hitting, missing, learning, and developing for the past few years, and this is the clean, slick, and desirable result.
Is Facebook the next Amazon? Maybe - but not in the near future.
Amazon have enough in their pocket to be able to develop and fight against the Facebook machine for years to come.
In fact, Amazon are one of the businesses profiting from this period, with their shares increasing by $800 since mid march.
However, the businesses that may need to be worried are the traditional department stores and providers. ASOS, Etsy, Deliveroo, and similar businesses that may no longer need to be the middle-man between creators and buyers.
If the hype is to be believed (and it often is when it comes to Facebook developments), the impact on social will be unmatched. Easy and more direct customer journeys will boost the efficacy of ads tenfold, and if businesses are making more money, that means faster development, higher spends, and increased purchases.
Generally, when Facebook wins, we all win.
If you want to get your foot in the door ahead of time and start utilising this period of online popularity to the max, get in touch, and we can discuss your game plan going forward.