Facebook said Tuesday that users will be able to shop without leaving the social network by visiting a business’ Facebook page or Instagram profile, a move that comes as more people turn to e-commerce because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In the future, users will also be able to shop through the company’s messaging services, including Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct, the company said.
Taking on tech giants like Amazon, Facebook is making a stronger e-commerce push with the release of a tool called Shops. These online shops could also get users to spend more time on the world’s largest social network. Helping small businesses benefits Facebook because the company makes money through ad dollars. The move shows how Facebook is integrating e-commerce across all the apps it owns.
Facebook already offers various ways for businesses to sell their products through ads or on their pages. The social network has a feature called Marketplace that allows users to buy and sell new and used goods. Instagram, owned by Facebook, has a tool called Checkout that lets you buy items featured in a post. With Facebook Shops, though, businesses will be able to create one shop that appears across apps that Facebook owns, making it easier to manage potential sales. Businesses can also customize how their online shop looks by changing a cover image and different colors. Users can message a business through WhatsApp, Instagram Direct or Messenger to ask questions or track their order. Users will also be able to find a shop through an ad or stories, a feature that lets users post photos and images that vanish in 24 hours.
“Right now many small businesses are struggling, and with stores closing, more are looking to bring their business online,” Facebook said in a blog post. “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.”
The social network, though, could face challenges as it tries to get people to shop on the social network. Users could be hesitant about providing more data to a social network that has been plagued by numerous privacy scandals.
Some businesses have also been wary about relying too much on the social network for online sales. Retailers such as Nordstrom and Macy’s, for example, have a “Shop Now” option on their Facebook pages but it takes users to the businesses’ websites and off the social network. About 160 million businesses around the world use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger. Creating a Facebook Shop is free, the company said.
Facebook said that it’s rolling out its Shops feature today and it will be more widely available in the coming months. The company is starting with a global test of almost 1 million businesses before a broader release. In the summer, starting in the US, Instagram Shops will let users buy products on Instagram Explore, a page that displays posts from users that you don’t follow yet based on your past likes and interests. The photo app is adding a shop tab in the navigation bar later this year. Sellers will also be able to tag products from their Facebook Shops before they stream a live video and these items will show up at the bottom of their broadcast.
Facebook said it’s also testing a way for users to see and keep track of rewards they earn from businesses for their purchases.
Outside of releasing new tools for businesses, Facebook is also offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in more than 30 countries.